Manhua: Ravages Of Time

Frenzy depicts this era.

The Ravages of Time (火鳳燎原, Huo Feng Liao Yuan, lit. The Fire Phoenix Scorches the Plains) is a manhua series, created by Chinese artist and writer Chen Mou (陳某), retelling the same events as Romance of the Three Kingdoms. As in most modern retellings, the characters are drawn larger than life, but without fantastic magic or explicit superpowers. They probably include more Chess Masters than any other adaption, since the plot puts a good deal of focus on the politics and warfare of the Three Kingdoms period, and some of the main attractions of the series are the associated mind games, military strategies and battlefield tactics. Naturally this leads to chapter after chapter of ploys and deceptions, using almost every trope possible from the Gambit Index.

While the strategists plot, one-man-armies kill their way wantonly through lots and lots of soldiers, and the plot regularly zooms in on the personal development of the main protagonists, detailing their dynamic responses and attitudes to the events unfolding around them.

The story, at the beginning at least, mainly revolves around Sima Yi. He is the head of the Sima Clan, a rich merchant family, and the leader of the Crippled Legion, a bunch of Handicapped Badasses who assassinate people on his behalf. Soon, events conspire to sweep him up in almost every major conflict as narrated in Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

The Ravages of Time is currently serialised in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan, with compiled volumes published in China, Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore. It is one of the few manhua of its format to reach such an extensive foreign market.

Considering the source material this series is adapted from and its approaching Door Stopper status, it is suggested that you be wary of unwhited spoilers from here on out.


The Ravages of Time provides examples of:

    A to E 
  • Achilles' Heel: Cao Cao have both ferocious generals and talented advisers serving under him. He himself is a liberal and broad-minded ruler and he has the backing of the Han Emperor. His armies have gone through numerous baptisms by fire - first Lu Bu, then Yuan Shao and have came up top. His forces are nigh unbeatable, except for one fatal flaw — underestimating the enemy, which happens to be Zhuge Liang's favourite exploit.
  • Action Girl: Sun Shu and Xiao Meng (who might disagree, but no one cares). However, while both prove to be competent fighters capable of holding their own, Ravages also does not let us forget that no matter how good they are, male fighters always hold the physical advantage and things can quickly go to hell if their opponent decide not to fight fair (which, given this setting, is not a reasonable expectation). In an earlier volume, Sun Shu gets a bitter taste of her medicine when she tries to take on too many men and nearly gets raped. And there's hardly any mission that Xiao Meng is not at risk of grievous injury, rape or kidnapping, prompting Huo to put his life on the line to save him. And sure enough, he's badly wounded and goes MIA in volume 18 after engaging Gan Ning in direct combat, despite Huo's best efforts to rescue him.
  • Action Prologue: In the first few pages, the reader is treated to a Curb-Stomp Battle initiated by a monstrous man on the Imperial Guard's various lines of defense. Welcoming him is the Palace's the Grand Tutor, who was abusing a young Emperor and commanding his sons to occupy the throne, and it ends with them both being grotesquely impaled to death. This turns out to be All Just a Dream from the perspective of the series protagonist. Also, unknown to us at that time, it establishes the eponymous duo of the series.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The series goes into more detail on pretty much everyone who appears in the original Romance of the Three Kingdoms. While it seems that Chen Mou made some of it up on the spot, other characters are well-researched, based on their biographies. One example is Gao Shun; in the manhua he thrashed Xiahou Dun and Xiahou Yuan, which matches the historical record. Of course, the details are embellished.
    • The side-story novel series is this to the manhua; but there are also enough significant changes to make some readers deny its canonity and consider in some sort of Alternate Continuity. In case you're wondering, the characters in the novels are portrayed as having far more emotional issues and being much more broken than their manhua counterparts (Xiao Meng and Sun Ce are blatant examples), certain important events are changed in details (like the circumstance of Guo Jia's death and the aftermath of Dian Wei's death), significant additions are made in the character set (specifically, the current Crippled Legion has a sixth member). Oh, and the author also pulls no punches when he describes the stark reality of war and the misery of common people, which aren't shown in explicit detail in the manhua, making the novels even Darker and Edgier than the original adaptation.
    • The Hua Rong arc, which began just after the end of Chibi, did this to the entire time when Cao Cao was retreating via. the titular Hua Rong valley. Instead of just Cao Cao and a few hundred men pathetically making their way back to Xuchang, it became a battle of wits between Zhuge Liang and Zhou Yu, a mind-blowing betrayal (and double betrayal) committed by Zuo Ci and Sima Yi, which somehow led to the latter cementing his power base in the Cao faction. Finally, there was to be a titanic showdown between Zhuge Liang and Sima Yi as the former made use of snow and flood to trapped Cao Cao at Hua Rong. To top it off, Guan Yu was leading the final assault on the Cao's camp.
  • A Father to His Men: Almost every notable general. Subverted with Lu Bu, who is a good boss enough to talents like Zhang Liao, Gao Shun or Chen Gong, but thinks of his mooks as little more than disposable pawns.
    • A defining trait of Zhang Liao, who is always the last to leave and the first to defend his brothers-in-arms' line of retreat. Shortly after the capitulation to Cao Cao, he's willing to commit insubordination in the prelude to Guandu, refusing to leave camp just to stay behind to dig up their slain brothers' remains. Then he beats the hell out of Yuan Tan's routed army for disrupting the exhumations.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation: In-Universe, Up to Eleven. For some examples, Zhao Yun starts out as Sima Yi's assassin under the alias Liaoyuan Huo, while Diaochan is merely a cover identity of the eunuch assassin Xiao Meng, and Dong Zhuo is actually an Anti-Hero of sorts — or at least he plays one in public, anyway. For more, see below.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Chen Mou really loves doing this In-Universe. Every dead villain gets at least a chapter for an eulogy, yes, even Yuan Shu. And if you never thought you'd feel sympathy for the One-Man Army Lu Bu, you might change your mind after reading about his downfall.
  • Anachronism Stew: Paper books (and probably kunais) are yet to be existed during later Han and Three Kingdoms era.
  • Animal Motif:
    • The protagonist Sima Yi has two. He's always compared to a wolf because no one can be really sure about which side he's on, his strategies always leave room for the best offense and defense (like how a wolf can bite even when it retreats), and like his historical and ROTK counterpart he also has a neck that can turn around 180 degree. His other animal motif is the phoenix, which foreshadows his future rivalry with Zhuge Liang and his bloodline's eventual victory over the lords of Three Kingdoms.
    • The crane for Yuan Fang, associated with him by his father Yuan Shao for its symbolization of fortune and longevity.
    • Guo Jia is the crow, and earlier they even appear alongside him in many scenes. In his death, it's remarked that the crow is also known for being a filial bird with its behavior of feeding its parents, similar to how Guo Jia sacrifices everything to save the country.
    • True to his title of Fledgling Phoenix Pang Tong's is also the phoenix, though it's downplayed a lot compared to Sima Yi.
    • Zhuge Liang becomes associated with the dragon after he wins the title of Crouching Dragon from his teacher, which is only given to the best of the Eight Geniuses.
    • Sun Ce is the tiger.
    • Liu Bei once compared himself to a fish that hasn't found its 'water'. Once when Xiahou Dun rescues him from under a pile of corpses, Xiahou Dun catches the visage of a fish as he pulls Liu Bei out.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: "Is it all right to die like this ?" - from any character who believes in living to fight another day, but most prominently Liu Bei who talks Zhang Liao into surrendering to Cao Cao instead of choosing execution with this line. Later Zhang Liao reiterates this to convince Guan Yu to raise the white flag to Cao army.
  • Art Evolution: Inevitable as the volume count rose to the double digit.
  • Attack Pattern Alpha: Those inevitably comes up when two big forces face off with each other. There has even been a 'clash of formations' in certain cases. Some of those formations are not strict arrangement of troops, but rather principles for the troops to stick to (how aggressive they are supposed to be and whether they should be holding ground).
    • Lu Meng has peculiar one which deals with "leaving a dump for the enemy". It is unnamed, though.
    • Jia Xu is reputedly the "King of Formations". However, besides the mention of a "Night Travel Formation" which speeds up troop mobilisation in darkness, he wasn't showed using any other named ones.
    • In the battle between Guo Jia and Yuan Shao, a few more surface - Sun Tzu's Encirclement Formation, Laozi's Formation, Army Organization and Guan Zhong. The author pointed out those were named in ancient Chinese texts.
    • There is even supposedly a 'lost formation'. Yuan Fang used the "Eight Formation Diagram" against Guo Jia and won decisively.
    • During the battle of Guandu, one of Yuan Shao's generals remarked that though Cao Cao has less soldiers, everyone of them are drilled in at least eight or more formation, making them adaptable in battle, and eight years later at Changban it's Liu Bei who remarks that Cao Cao's army was able to adopt the Eight Formation Diagram, whereas it took years for Yuan Fang's troops to do so.
  • Author Tract: Chan Mou's Word of God has it that "history" is an artificial construct, a work of fiction Written by the Winners, so merging the fables and novels with history books could be more credible than official history, and justifies Alternate Character Interpretation. This view is expressed more than once by the characters:
    • While Lu Bu was fighting off Yuan Shu, a historian from Cao Cao arrived to observe the battle. He was writing up to the part of how Dong Zhuo was killednote  and he said that whether to credit Lu Bu for it would depend on his performance in the battle with Yuan Shao.
      • Then slightly subverted when the historian sees LŁ Bu fighting and concedes that he could never write about him as anything but a great warrior.
    • Liu Bei scoffed at the idea that the last emperors of any dynasty were corrupt or useless, saying that the winners chose to portray them that way to justify their claiming power for themselves.
  • Bad Ass: Pretty much every main character.
    • Back-to-Back Badasses:
      • Liaoyuan Huo and Lu Bu teamed up to kill Dong Zhuo, who was one step ahead and ambushed them with a sizable force plus two skilled assassins from Xiliang. By the time reinforcements arrive, all the ambushers are dead.
      • Liaoyun Huo and Sun Ce faced off an entire army back to back. Or rather, Liaoyuan Huo and 'Sun Ce', a.k.a. Ling Cao.
      • Gan Ning and Huang Zhong against about 5 very pissed off elite generals of Sun clan. And Huang Zhong gets them both out of it with some helps from the sideline and the spirit of camaraderie.
    • Badass Army: The series feature various groups of elite troops that are a cut above the rest.
      • Cao Cao's troops are so badass that a couple thousands of them managed to beat Li Jue's tens of thousands through Divide and Conquer.
      • Gao Shun's elite troops defeated Xiahou Dun, drove off Xiahou Yuan for second helping, and then proceed to attack Cao Cao's main camp during the battle of Xuzhou.
    • Badass and Baby: Liaoyuan Huo fighting Cao Cao's forces while protecting Liu Bei's infant son.
    • Badass Beard: Guan Yu, given his fame in Ro TK, but really he holds no candle to Huang Zhong.
    • Badass Boast: Zhang Liao - "No one has ever passed the range of my swords".
      • Avert with several minor characters (Ji Ling) who got chopped off immediately after. If you are minor character and said (or being praised) like "I'm better than Lu Bu." or "He's a heavenly warrior.", prepare to be dissected in three pages.
    • Badass Cape
    • Badass Grandpa: Several characters, but most notably Cheng Pu and the two Huangs: Gai and Zhong
    • Badass Family: The Cao clan and Sun clan.
    • Badass In Charge: Lu Bu, Sun Ce, Liaoyuan Huo, Zhang Liao,..
    • Break the Badass: Lu Bu and Sun Ce, who invoke this against almost every badass they meet.
    • Four-Star Badass
  • The Bait: Becomes increasingly abused in the Xanatos Gambit of later major campaigns.
    • This combined with Thanatos Gambit is essentially Jia Xu's favorite killer tactic. This is how the Genius Bruiser Lu Bu is manipulated into his demise, by falling for Jia Xu's murders of his lords and pretense of threat to Sima Yi's life.
    • Ling Cao willingly becomes a bait to trick Yuan Shu into thinking he has successfully murdered Sun Ce. By the time Yuan Shu realizes, Sun Ce has already escaped to where he can't reach.
    • What the decisive battle of Guandu arc boils down to is a tit-for-tat exchange of The Bait between Yuan Fang and Guo Jia and their trying their damnedest to make the other fall for theirs first. To sum it up: Guo Jia sends Sima Yi to dig information and get Xu You, who gives them the wrong intelligence because that's Fang's designated role for him since the beginning. Fang is certain to win once Cao Cao, acting on said intelligence, is tricked from Wuchao to Gushi just to walk into Fang's fire-plus-deadly-formation trap. But Guo Jia gets the last laugh when it's revealed that both Sima Yi and Cao Cao falling for the trap were just baits. His real line of attack is The Mole Yang Xiu, under the masquerade of Fang's trusted confidant Yang Qing, who burns Fang's rations and assassinates him once the battle with Cao Cao is over.
    • This pattern repeats in the battle of Chibi. For all the subterfuge it took to get him to Cao Cao's side, The Mole Kan Ze turns out to be just a sacrifice (though it ends non-fatally for him this time) to hide the tracks of the real spies, and somehow set up Xun You and Jia Xu's defeat on Chibi river.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: The Sima clan saves people like Huo, Xiao Meng and the Clear Wind Triad from destitution and death on the street, so all of them are willing to go to the bitter end for the clan. Chen Deng, who starts out as a business partner, becomes one of their major allies after Huo shows up to save his city from Guo Jia. And because Liu Bei & co. saves his life many times, Huo goes out of his way to repay their favors, eventually contracting a case of Becoming the Mask and adopting his Zhao Yun persona to stay at Liu Bei's side for good.
  • Being Good Sucks: Because most characters in this story are involved in a no-holds-barred power struggle for political hegemony, chances are you have to play the game or you die. Kindness will be ruthlessly exploited, decency will be taken advantages of, and messianic qualities will likely get you killed.
    • Sun Jian, the series' shining example of a classic virtuous man, tries to protect the Imperial Seal from ambitious usurpers as a show of loyalty to the Emperor. This act lands him into a death trap that he does not get out of alive, threatens his family and instigates his son's Start of Darkness.
    • Liu Bei is one of the nicest guys Huo comes across. He's also a destitute and powerless lord, frequently falls victim to others' manipulations and schemes, and gets himself kicked out of the first power base that his followers worked so hard to get for him because he wants to believe the best of Lu Bu. His quest to restore glory of the Imperial family goes nowhere because none of the resident Mary Tzu Eight Geniuses (who have divergent opinions about the future ruler) will lift a finger to help him — the one who sympathises with his cause, Zhuge Liang, also demands that he be prepared to go the distances before Liang can offer his service to him.
  • Berserk Button: Don't hurt Xiao Meng when Huo's around, and don't trample on his remains. Don't mention the grudge of his father's death in front of Xu Chu. If you kill Lu Bu's beloved daughter, be prepared for one of the most painful and one-sided thrashing ever, even if you are Cao Cao's top general, and there are many of you. Apparently the only time Yuan Fang's Berserk Button was pressed was when he found out his father killed his fianceť, and years later he did try to kill the man responsible.
  • Big Eater: Ma Teng is rarely (if ever) seen without his bowl of noodles.
    • Liaoyuan Huo turned into this when injured.
  • Big Screwed-Up Family: Most notably, the Liu clan with a powerless teenage Emperor and way too many royal relatives with too much powers on their hands who only look out for their own selfish interests. The Yuan clan is also a prime example, due to the constant in-fightings between the three Yuan brothers and the fourth illegitimate brother, Yuan Fang.
  • Body-Count Competition: An archery match between Xiao Meng and Gan Ning in volume 18 evolves into this. We never get to see the end (though it seems that Xiao Meng is winning), because after a while Gan Ning decides that his mission to annihilate Xiao Meng's troops take priority.
  • Book Ends: The series begins with the death of Sima Yi, then at the heights of power as the de facto leader of Cao Wei and lording over Cao Cao's grandson. If you look closely, the narrations in those black pages inserted at the end of every chapter, which foretells many major events and gives comments on the going-ons in the chapters in a memoir style, are implied to be written from the POV of either Sima Yi or Liaoyuan Huo, who kills and dies together with him on that day.
  • Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu:
    • Most fights against Lu Bu will end with the challenger(s) dead/incapacitated and Lu Bu walking away none the worse for wear.
    • It goes both way for the Lu Bu team and Dong Zhuo team at the end of Dong Zhuo's arc. Li Ru fails to stop Lu Bu's ascension to power and murder of Dong Zhuo; then he's lynched by Dong Zhuo's loyal subordinates whom Lu Bu manipulated into thinking he was the culprit and dies with his reputation tainted. In return, Lu Bu does not get to enjoy his victory for long: shortly after Jia Xu shows up seeking revenge and unceremoniously proceed to expose Lu Bu's deeds, destroy his credibility with the remaining Dong loyalist and strip him of his power base in Chang'an and Liangzhou, undoing everything Lu Bu has been scheming for so long to get.
    • Sima Yi tries to initiate a mutiny against Cao Cao to save his family from the inevitable retaliation of Cao camp after two of his former henchmen are tricked into assassinating Cao Cao. It doesn't help and all of them die anyway.
    • This is also the end of Sun Ce's quest to halt the expansion of the Taiping cult in the Eastern region: though he manages to destroy its grasp on his people, toast its entire army and capture its leader, he ends up getting assassinated by a vengeful Zuo Ci, the leader of Taiping cult in the North.
  • The Chessmaster: The whole series is full of them. Apart from the main characters, it is a recognised profession, and there are at least two organizations of strategists selling their services to the various warlords.
    • There is the Water Mirror's Eight Geniuses, consisting of various famous advisers in the era. Xun Yu, Guo Jia, Jia Xu, Zhou Yu, Pang Tong and Zhuge Liang, namely. Each of them is enough to change a no-good warlord into a soaring dragon.
    • A parallel group to the Eight Geniuses are the Eight Freaks, who used superstitions and medical knowledge to fool gullible commoners into believing that they know magic. The leaders of Taiping rebellion: the Zhang brothers, Yu Ji and Zuo Ci were from this society.
    • Adding to the mix are a strange breed of warriors who have the reputation of "Having courage but lacking in wits". However they turn out to be not just one-man-armies, but capable schemers in their own right (See Author Tract avobe). Zhang Fei, Wen Chou, Yan Liang and... Lu Bu, of all people, fall into this category.
    • There are also your usual mix of advisers who are capable, but will never out-shine the Eight Geniuses. Examples: Chen Gong, Lu Xun, Cheng Yu.
  • Call Back: As much as Chen Mou loves his Chekhov's Gun(s), Chekhov's Gunman(s) and Foreshadowing, he is also known for various calls-back across the span of ten or twenty volumes, or even more.
    • Every major character's death brings reminiscence about the point of their beginnings and sometimes mirrors them. And there are enough major characters to keep this list overpopulated.
      • Sun Ce's body double Ling Cao's death and the narration line hanging in that scene: nineteen volumes later, Sun Ce also meets his end with an arrow to the head in chapter 309, and that very same line was the last sane thought passing through his mind. Likewise, in chapter 171 when the song Ling Tong confronts him about desecrating Ling Cao's tomb and declares, "If there is justice, you will die a gruesome death," Sun Ce concedes that "If there is justice, I swear, when Heaven reprimands, pray that I will suffer a hundred days of pain before I die!" Sixteen volumes after that, chapter 310 is titled "A Hundred Days of Pain", and Sun Ce expires in chapter 316. Oh the irony.
      • At the execution ground of the White Gate Tower, just like what he once said to Cao Cao about giving up his dignity for the sake of staying alive, Lu Bu begs Cao Cao for his life and humiliates himself to humor the bystanders. In response, Cao Cao applauds him for making a sensible decision at the cost of worthless pride... but executes him anyway, since he's not about to risk a Lu Bu comeback.
      • Xiao Meng's death is a panel-for-panel call back to his parting with Liaoyuan Huo.
      • A decade later at Changban, when Liaoyuan Huo — or rather, Zhao Yun — is pressed on all sides by Cao soldiers with spears about to impale him, he has a vision of Xiao Mengnote  within the maze of spears reaching out to him.
      • You have to squint your eyes really hard for this: in their first meeting (occured in volume 12), Liaoyuan Huo was unable to stop Dian Wei from murdering Tao Qian, governor of Xuzhou and thus "swore to himself". At that point, it's unknown what exactly he promised to himself and the line is quickly forgettable. As hinted by the preview page for volume 23 and then shown by volume 23 itself, the promise was to kill Dian Wei, and Huo makes good on it.
    • Volume 15, titled "Golden sun shines on the Hegemon", marks Cao Cao's first step in his grand plan of a big showdown with the Yuan. Chapter 349, so similarly titled, marks Cao Cao's victory against Yuan Fang and thus an end to his year-long scheme.
    • Sima Yi's meeting with Guo Jia in volume 27 is a blatant call back to their first encounter in volume 13 - it rained both times, and in volume 27 Sima Yi wore a straw rain coat very similar to the one he put on to disguise as the rain god back in volume 13. Guo Jia's pissed off reaction indicated that he didn't miss the jab at all.
    • Sima Yi and Liaoyuan Huo's final talk, in which Huo's manners, words and overall appearance (draped in full-body cloak, a torn piece hanging over his left eye) bear an uncanny resemblance to the monster who appeared in Sima Yi's nightmare at the beginning of volume 1. The call back to that scene is extremely unnerving, because at that point, both Sima Yi and Liaoyuan Huo respectively already knew the identities of the monster who kills him and the old man whom he kills in the dream and Sima Yi is basically looking at his Grim Reaper in the face.
    • Sima Yi and Shan Wuling's intimate moment and running gag: "- clan is already near my lips" in volume 20 call back to a similar scene in volume 17.
    • Ma Chao's return in chapter 359 is a spectacular call back to Zhang Fei's beautifully illustrated curb-stomp battle on the Cao soldiers in volume 12, and at the same time is also a call forward to their clash in the future.
    • In Chapter 387, the story of Liaoyuan Huo's upbringing is a plot point: As an urchin boy he was brought in to the Sima clan by Liu Da, who "used a bun to buy a boy", but when Liu Da calls him out for his Face-Heel Turn at Changban, Liaoyuan tells him that "they say, it is better to value benevolence than to passively follow your teacher". When Liu Da, now holding Lady Mi and Adou (the future Liu Shan) hostage, balks at Huo's offer of "I'll let you live if you let them go," Huo's response is to stab him through Lady Mi... just like Liu Da once did to him when he was a boy to kill an enemy behind Huo. Liu Da gets it, accepts it as Liaoyuan Huo having surpassed him and praises what Huo — now having fully internalized the Zhao Yun persona — and even tells his men, "You all must learn from him!"
  • Call Forward: Let's count -
    • Guo Jia, to the Cao army - "I will pit one against a hundred in the battle of Guandu".
    • A literal call forward - "I remember the day I met him again... there were a hundred times more corpses floating down the river."
    • "Only two.. of the Eight Geniuses use [the Eight Position Diagram] formation".
    • In volume 24, chapter 192, Yuan Fang has a discussion with Chen, an apprentice historian, in which he ponders the longevity of life and how its unpredictibility can thwart the most meticulous plan. Chen agrees that by Yuan Fang's advice, he will name his son "Shou" (longevity). Chen Shou is the very historian who penned Records of the Three Kingdom, one of the very few historical text recording this era left til today.
    • Volume 37, chapter 307 alone has two such calls:
    Lu Meng, to Sun Ce on Guan Yu blocking Sun Ce from pursuing Cao Cao: I swear to the Heavens that one day I shall bring down Guan Yu.
    Zhang Liao, having switching out his headband for Lu Bu's after Taishi Ci and Zhou Tai withdraw: Hear me now - if you return to Hefei, you will face a different Zhang Liao!
    • Said chapter 359 doesn't only call forward to the famous Zhang Fei vs. Ma Chao battle, but also to the equally reputed Guan Yu vs. Pang De battle.
  • Cast of Snowflakes: Applied to male characters only.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Ravages of Time sleeps with this trope and makes it its bitch. And if you think for once that you've counted all of them, think again: another might be waiting for you somewhere for another re-reading. Remember: "Eons of Cultivation For Use in a Single Moment" is pretty much the motto of any genius-level strategist when it comes to armies, resources, and even relationships.
    • Chekhov's Army: Guo Jia is crazily prepared (see below) but Xun Yu takes the prize for being able to think long term by fielding two Chekhov's Armies on different occasions. Count: The ex-Yellow Turban troops he recruited for Cao Cao, the outlaws he place in Xuzhou to be used as pawns in the battle of wit between Zhang Fei and Lu Bu.
    • Chekhov's Boomerang: None takes the cake other than that scene in volume 1, where Sima Yi suggested that his family should invest in rebuilding Luoyang, which was bound to be burnt down by Dong Zhuo, whom Sima Yi correctly surmised to be preparing to leave Luoyang because he didn't have the funds to camp there. It becomes a key point in his next plan of rescuing his brother, then turns up again as a key point that leads to another chessmaster's plan for hostage rescue in volume 3. Fourty-four volumes later, we finally see for ourself what has become of that reconstruction project.
    • Chekhov's Classroom: Pang Tong's hilarious as hell teaching session in volume 20. Turns out his students can get what he was talking about, after all.
    • Chekhov's Gag: Cao Cao's generals don't find his idea of training troops funny.
    • Chekhov's Gunman: Xu Lin, Shan Wu Ling, Sun Ce, Sun Quan, Huo Xiong's three subordinates, the legendary one-eyed leader of Crippled Legion...
    • Chekhov's News: In volume 16: "Looks like our lord [Yuan Shu] has found another investor..." He learns in volume 34 that it's not a good idea to let the Sima clan, a vassal of Cao Cao, build his capital.
    • Chekhov's Skill: Yu Jin's famous in the Cao army for being the general who is always tardy because of his cautiousness, and the one whose troops always place first in Cao Cao's training sessions. His cautiousness helps.
    • Forbidden Chekhov's Gun: A warlord's rebellious act of capturing the Emperor and installing himself as the regent chancellor.
    • Meaningful Echo: A damn lot. See the character page for more details.
    • Shan Wu Ling's passing line in volume 17: "After lord Sun Jianís unfortunate death, his descendants came to the Shan clan to avoid their enemies", which is revealed in volume 33 that she wasn't just talking about Sun Ce here. Sima Yi's dream in volume 1, which turns up in volume 13, can also be counted as one.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Lots of examples, undestandably, but Lu Bu is once again on the top of the pile, topping his feats of backstabbing in the original Romance Of The Three Kingdoms by far.
    • None of the warlord alliances in this series lasts longer than a few volume, and being engaged in one never stops any of these guys from trying to one-up the other.
    • Lu Bu holds no candle to Yuan Fang, who manages to turn on nearly every alleged allies of his (to be fair, only a handful of his allies are not manipulated as Unwitting Pawn for his scheme in one way or another) and Sima Yi, who does this to Cao Cao on a daily basis.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Part of Huo's infiltration mission in volume 7 is getting captured and subjected to one, courtesy of Dong Zhuo's Xiliang men, though it hardly hinders him due to his handicap. This scene is given a minor Call Back in volume 45 when Jia Xu, also from Xiliang and is the sworn brother of Huo's interrogator Li Ru, is called an expert at this type of interrogation technique.
  • The Consigliere: Jia Xu to the commanding officers who assumed Dong Zhuo's position after his death. His job tenure does not last, because sans the unfortunately short-lived Niu Fu the rest are either stupid, incompetent or stupid and incompetent. The point is driven home once they try to kill him after he just saves their lives from Ma Teng, and he quickly abandons them.
  • Cool Mask: All of the Eight Geniuses must wear masks to prevent their identity from being revealed until they have 'graduated'. The rationale for this is because they are the best strategists of the time and every warlord wants them to lead their armies.
  • Crapsack World: The author goes out of his way to mention this. For example you would be lucky to live up to 30 during this time and betrayal runs rampant.
    Shan Wuling/Zhang Chunhua: In this day and age, more than half of the population die on the battlefield. Only three men out of every ten may live past the age of forty.
    • Played Up to Eleven, if that's even possible, in the novels.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Guo Jia is supposed to have a back-up plan for every situation. Yes, even for the events after his death!
    • And Sima Yi, who is such a crazily prepared chessmaster that people can never, ever, know exactly how many back-up moves he has up his sleeves. No less than three Geniuses (Xun Yu, Guo Jia, Jia Xu) and one Cao Cao has lampshaded it at several points.
  • Cultured Warrior: Again, this is ancient China where aristocratic warriors were expected to be cultured (if often Wicked Cultured) WarriorPoets:
    • Believe it or not, Zhang Fei is an accomplished artist, skilled at painting landscapes and imitating anyone's handwriting, both of which come into play during the would-be relief of Tao Qian's force.
    • Cao Cao and his sons were renowned poets, and founded one of the major styles of poetry of the time.
    • Ji Ling just loves to quote the sages and from history books. Zhang Liao called him "a good student" on a battlefield once when Ji Ling was lecturing all of them.
    • Notable subversion in Lu Meng, who's fond of shitting on everything under the sun. Knowing the source material, however, it was only a matter of time before he turned into one, and at Sun Ce's deathbed he recites the Spring and Autumn Annals to demonstrate to the dying Sun Ce — and to Sun Quan at his side that Lu Meng's become more "civilized" and cultured.
    • Even (and especially) Lu Bu gets in on this trope, complete with name-dropping Mencius, citing the place of Mount Tai in Chinese lore, and taunting Cao Cao with the stories of Goujian and Han Xin. (This last one backfires on him years later, when he's the one begging for his life, with Cao Cao citing Goujian right back at Lu Bu to reveal that he knows what's really going onnote .)
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Usually happens when it is Lu Bu vs. anyone.
    • During the Battle of Puyang, Lu Bu fight Dian Wei, Xu Zhu, Han Hao, Cao Hong and Yu Jin all the same time, and thrashed them.
    • Then there's Sun Ce, who kicks Zhang Liao's ass, then the legion of foot soldiers between him and Cao Cao, then Cao Cao's entire prized Tiger and Leopard Cavalry.
    • You don't want to face Zhou Yu in a naval battle, even if you are the 3rd Genius Jia Xu.
  • Derivative Works: The novel series penned by Wang Yi Xing, which so far has featured Liaoyuan Huo ("Crippled Legion"), Xiao Meng ("Xiao Meng"), Lu Bu ("Feng Xian"), Zhang Fei ("Yi De"), Sun Ce ("Bo Fu"), Yuan Fang ("Yuan Fang"), Guo Jia ("Feng Xiao"), Dian Wei ("Defeated General") and the Zhang brothers ("Yellow Turbans"), each with their respective side stories with the contents approved by the author. Whether the series is considered canon remains to be seen, what with its addition of details not included in the main story (which fuels much fan rage to the possibility of Recursive Adaptation), its changes of some plot points and its take on the character's inner turmoils bordering on Flanderization.
  • Destructive Saviour:
    • Liu Bei once organized a raid on a small city to save the civilians from the normal Rape, Pillage, and Burn routine of a bigger army (never mind the fact that this army is affliated with the supposed "good guys" Yuan Shao and his Guandong Alliance at that point; the soldiers were gonna do what they gonna do), then he gave the loots to the people who just lost their homes to Dong Zhuo. It's the first act that netted him the The Messiah reputation that he built his empire on later.
    • A much darker example occurred later on with Guo Jia and Cao Cao, after the former talked the latter into a Face-Heel Turn: in the first Xuzhou campaign, Guo Jia massacred an entire city to force ten other cities into surrendering, thus sparing them of being annihilated by his army anyway during the conquest.
  • Diminishing Villain Threat:
    • Lu Bu shocked the entire warlord alliance when he successfully murdered Dong Zhuo, wrested powers from the Dong loyalists and became the Emperor's trusted right-hand-man. Then Jia Xu whooped in and in one volume completely destroyed his credibility and military strength, forcing him on permanent exile. Even with the help of Old Master Chen Gong, Lu Bu had to struggle for years to finally gain a foothold in Xuzhou, and even then he was unable to expand his base because Xuzhou did not come with the strategic advantages for that, and the fact that he treacherously took it from Liu Bei by force did not endear him at all to the populace who adored Liu Bei. Though he remained a fearsome warrior, his strength as a warlord was subpar at best and only Chen Gong's genius helped him from being swiftly crushed by Cao Cao's army within a few months of the second Xuzhou arc.
    • At one point in the story, Yuan Shu held enough powers and resources to compete authority with his elder brother Yuan Shao, head of the clan. From the point he chose to crown himself Emperor, it's one defeat after another for him, until Liu Bei's ragtag army of borrowed troops and drafted civilians crushed his troops and he lost his "Imperial seat". He was swiftly assassinated by Sima Yi while reduced to tatters, putting a quiet end to his arc.
  • Discussed Trope: Chen Mou loves to do this. Sometimes, the tropes in discussion might even be shown to be invoked, averted or subverted at the same times.
    • Because Destiny Says So: As put by Xu Lin in the beginning chapters and echoed several times by other characters, once even by the author himself in an interview - "Those who are fated to die will die. Those who are fated to live will live."
    • Cruel to Be Kind: How Cao Cao, Guo Jia and Jia Xu see their brutal methods as - they're willing to tell anyone who would listen that they're for the sake of wiping out the villains who corrupt the country and bring peace to the people. And given the setting, these arguments actually make a lot of sense.
    • Genius Bruiser: Chen Gong, as do many other wise strategists, believe - and tell others to convince themselves to believe - that every warrior who is in a command position of an army is one. They are.
      • Correspondingly, one of the sayings in the story is that if the enemy general wins, call him brash and reckless; if he wins again, blame one's own military advisors; if he is ever victorious, call him valiant but lacking wits... better for morale for the troops to believe that they're against Dumb Muscle than a Genius Bruiser.
    • Honor Before Reason and Face Death with Dignity: Discussed and defied by several characters, most notably Lu Bu, who value their lives more than superficial pride since they believe there's always a chance for comebacks as long as they're alive.
    • Undying Loyalty: Discussed as a powerful and much despised means of literati and conquerors to subjugate their servants.
    • Written by the Winners: See Author Tract above.
  • The Dog Bites Back:
    • After suffering the humiliation of serving Yuan Shu, the man who indirectly killed his father, planned the disintegration of his clan and would have eventually murdered him, once Sun Ce got his army back he immediately took over many military bases belonging to Yuan Shu and dealt him several critical blows like tricking his men into in-fightings, forcing one to defect with his sizeable troops and luring him into a long-term scuffle with the neighbor warlord Liu Biao. He also sees his ditching the Imperial Seal to Yuan Shu as one, since it signifies his (inner) denouncement of loyaly to Imperial Han, the Deadly Decadent Court that his father loyally served and died for.
    • Pang Tong enforced this trope when he hired to rogue assassins from the Crippled Legion to assassinate Cao Cao to force their master Sima Yi into a mutiny to avoid complete annihilation of his clan when Cao Cao connected the obvious dots and believed this trope is at play, since he had been extorting money from Sima Yi and in increasingly outrageous amount. The end result is deaths to virtually all off-screen Sima clansmen, due to their being hopelessly outclassed and outgunned by the Cao army. Then Pang Tong himself got a taste of it when Sima Yi ordered the assassination of his lord, Liu Chong, in revenge and to win back Cao Cao's favour.
    • Lu Bu finally got done in by Song Xian, Hou Zheng and Wei Xu, the three subordinates of Huo Xiong whom he had Zhang Liao murdered earlier in the story and roped into serving him. At his execution site, Liu Bei - who he forcibly removed from the governor seat of Xuzhou in an earlier military coup - talked Cao Cao into killing him instead of letting him live to serve.
    • Years since Yuan Shao killed his beloved fianceť and set him on the path of a Bastard Bastard usurper, Yuan Fang orderd his father's death in Wuchao to complete his takeover of Yuan clan. Ironically, Yuan Fang was soon later offed by Yang Xiu, himself another dog that had been waiting for his chance to bite back: his father was a court official who was persecuted by Yuan Shao due to his (unwilling) service to Dong Zhuo, which forced him - a cousin of Yuan Fang through his mother's side - to seek refuge at Water-Mirror's school for years in anonimity.
  • Do Not Go Gentle: Lu Bu, at the moment of his death, broke out of the rope binding and asphyxiating him and tried an epic Grasp the Sun. Note that three best generals of Cao Cao has tried to throttle him at this point, and they couldn't kill him. It took a beheading from Xiahou Dun to finally put him down.
  • Doomed by Canon: Every single character, so don't get too attached to anyone. They will die when their times come.
  • Double Reverse Quadruple Agent: Whenever The Mole, Reverse Mole, and Double Agent get used, it sometimes turns into this.
  • Enemy Civil War: Given that any player worth their salts are on the lookout for their own goods, it happens quite a lot with the bigger clans. Things can get ugly pretty quick if the clanshead cannot find a way to rein in the opposing chessmasters. Or even uglier, if said head saw the civil war coming, was ahead of it, but would rather sit back and move his own pieces to reap the benefits from it.
    • What ended Dong Zhuo's faction was not the combined force of 18 Guandong warlord, but the power fights between his adopted son Lu Bu and his son-in-law Li Ru, who was trying to keep Lu Bu from usurping Dong Zhuo as head of the clan. What definitely put an end to his legacy was the interminable in-fightings between Li Jue and Guo Si, the final commanding officers of his army.
    • Yuan Shu and Yuan Shao were implied to be more subtle with their rivalry, but the fightings between Yuan Shao's three sons (and his bastard son, who were more or less pulling the strings) for everything from their father's favour to a lady's hand in marriage really blew everything out of the water.

    F to K 
  • Faking the Dead: Often employed to lull an enemy into a false sense of security.
    • Lu Bu faked death numerous times by sacrificing substitutes. He even once asked his subordinates, "So, how many times I have 'died'?"
    • Cao Cao, in the battle of Puyang, faked his death to draw Lu Bu out. And was assassinated again, but was saved by Dian Wei, but told Dian Wei to spread news that he died.
    • Sun Ce faked death numerous times. Ling Cao willingly pretended to be Sun Ce and serve Yuan Shu, and 'died' so Sun Ce could escape.
  • Foregone Conclusion: As the beginning chapter shows, Sima Yi will be the winner and reign over Cao Cao's descendants. And he will be killed by a monster on fire, who is later revealed to be Liaoyuan Huo.
  • Foreshadowing: Ravages of Time is practically married to this trope and has dropped hints, both obvious and subtle, for the ending of many characters since chapter one, but it will take a long time for a lot of them to make sense to readers since they predict events very far into the future, while the manhua's plot barely covers a third of the novel at the moment. A few spectacular examples would be:
    • Sima Yi's dream in the 1st chapter, which foreshadows his death in a fashion markedly different from historical records and the novel. Later revealed to be a foreshadowing of Liaoyuan Huo aka Zhao Yun's ending in Chen Mou's original plot, as well.
    • In volume 21, when Ling Tong calls Sun Ce out for desecrating his father Ling Cao's tomb to provoke his army, Sun Ce admits he knows what he does is wrong, and that if there's divine justice, he "will die in extreme agony". And he does, for roughly a hundred days, suffer delirium and excruciating pains from a poisonous arrow before dying.
    • In volume 27, upon discovering Pang Tong is traveling across a river, Liaoyuan Huo prepares to shoot him with an arrow to avenge the Sima clan, but eventually doesn't because he wants to leave the favor to Sima Yi. Chen Mou's brilliance will hit you in the face if you remember that in the novel, Pang Tong will be killed by arrows when he's caught amidst a battle, and Chen Mou just spoils for you just who is exactly the culprit behind his death in this version of Romance of Three Kingdoms.
    • In volume 41, upon learning that Liu Bei treasures his sworn brothers more than his own dead child, Guan Yu laments that "[Liu Bei's] sentiment over brotherhood will ruin their ideal". And that's how after Guan Yu's death, the remaining two figureheads of Shu will die, greatly undermining Shu's strength and leaving it to Liu Bei's inexperienced son to govern.
    • In volume 43, during his extermination of Yuan Fang's moles in the courts, Xun Yu once again swears his loyalty to Emperor, and that the Emperor will be safe on his throne "as long as he remains". According to the novel, because his loyalty ultimately lies with the Emperor rather than Cao Cao, Xun Yu will become a thorn in Cao Cao's side, despite being one of his best and most trusted advisors, and lose his life for it.
    • See also Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism below, for Sima Yi's prediction of how the era of Three Kingdoms will end, and Zhuge Liang's prediction of how the era of Sima Yi's descendants will end.
    • Sun Quan's genius in raising the value of capital is a nod to his talent in administration of the Wu kingdom in the future.
  • Gambit Pileup: Happens in almost every major arc. Usually, the case is: a warlord sets up plan to fulfill his agenda, which happens to clash with another warlord's plan pursuing a different goal because hey, the world is a small place for a series full of chessmasters. And let's not count the third parties, who want to see them up against each other to gain some benefits from it, and utilize other plan(s) of their own.
    • The hostage rescue arc in volume 1-5, in which Yuan Fang and Dong Zhuo exchange blows, the former with the purpose of taking over Luoyang and rescuing the Guandong hostages and the latter with the purpose of using the hostages and Luoyang as bait to kill Yuan Shao. Meanwhile, the Crippled Legion members infiltrate both side to carry out a rescue mission of their own. In the end, neither Yuan Fang nor Dong Zhuo achieve their desired goals, and the ultimate winner is the Crippled Legion, who not only successfully rescues Sima Lang but also saves Yuan Fang's and Yuan Shao's lives after they fail to save the hostages and fall into Dong Zhuo's hands.
    • Cao Cao's first Xuzhou campaign. At first it looks like one of his attempt to gain control of a big territory, which is then thwarted by repeated counter plans from Liaoyuan Huo, Sima Yi and Zhuge Liang. But then it turns out that Lu Bu has been eyeing Xuzhou and Cao Cao's homebase as well and chooses this moment to step into the scene, and Guo Jia reveals that baiting Lu Bu is what he's been aiming at ever since the beginning of this campaign. This arc culminates in an all-out battle between Cao Cao and Lu Bu, and Cao Cao wins with the involvement of the Crippled Legion and Sima Yi.
    • The Rise of Sun Ce arc. The main players are Yuan Shu, who wants to obtain the Imperial seal the Sun clan has been hiding, and Sun Ce, who wants to gain military supports from Yuan Shu to return to the Eastern region. Behind the scene is Cao Cao, who has instructed the Shan clan and Sima clan to help Sun Ce, so that Yuan Shu's force will be diminished and thus eliminates another threat on his side.
    • A minor one is Lu Bu's takeover of Xuzhou. Zhang Fei and Lu Bu duke it out in a ferocious battle of wits, and Zhang Fei loses. But it's only because he wants to leave Xuzhou from the beginning, and essentially loses to Lu Bu on purpose. Then it's revealed that Cao Cao has been funding them both in the hope that they will kill each other and save him a big load of trouble, and that's why they didn't use military force, because neither side want to play into Cao Cao's hands. Yuan Shu is no mere spectator to this play either, he helps Lu Bu deal with Liu Bei's main force, since he doesn't want Liu Bei, a royal relative, to interfere with his ascension plan.
    • The Sun Ce vs. Taiping cult arc. At first it's only between Sun Ce and Yu Ji, then Pang Tong gets involved to help Sun Ce by orders of his teacher who hates Yu Ji's guts, then Cao Cao gets involved to help Yu Ji because he thinks Sun Ce's getting out of control. Zhou Yu even solicits the aids of Yuan Fang to prepare for a surprise attack on Cao Cao's force. The outcome of this battle is a bitter victory for both sides: Sun Ce defeats Yu Ji and his Taiping army but gets assassinated by Zuo Ci, another leader of Taiping cult and subordinate of Yuan Fang, while the Taiping cult manages to kill Sun Ce but loses Yu Ji, meaning their whole plan to take over the Eastern region is doomed.
  • Genre Shift: The series originally started with more combat, feats of exaggerated prowess (such as Zhang Fei hurling a man over a city wall), and wuxia elements, such as SignatureMoves and Calling Your Attacks. However, over time the author found fans more receptive to the mind games, and the action of the series toned down after the fourth volume.
    • With nearly every significant character getting upgraded to strategists on top of the actual strategists in the source material, this is unavoidable.
  • Gray and Grey Morality: There are no real "good guys". Even the best characters have plenty of I Did What I Had to Do moments. Every single warlord of the era has their own rationalisation for plunging into war against the others.
    • Yuan Shu believes by declaring his own kingdom he can protect the commoners within his domain from more warfare.
    • Yuan Shao wants to root out the other 'corrupted' dukes so that the Han Dynasty will be strong.
    • Cao Cao claims by seizing power for himself, he's helping the Emperor to rule the kingdom.
    • Liu Bei wants to set to an example to discourage others from overthrowing rulers through warfare and armed rebellion.
    • Well, Dong Zhuo and Lu Bu pretty much wanted to take over China because they liked power, so make it Grey and Black Morality.
  • Handicapped Badass: There is the Crippled Legion, a group of assassins who are all handicapped in one way or another. People tend to over-look them when assessing threats. Averted with Liaoyuan Huo who, even though he's their leader, is not handicapped. PSYCHE! It's a Double Subversion, Liaoyuan Huo DOES have a handicap: Chronic Anesthesia, he's completely insensible to pain. Which is kind of a useful "handicap" for one who earns his living through violence.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Partly an artifact of cultural and language translation, but for example:
    • "Three Legs, One Knife".
    • "Repugnant Insects And The Empire".
    • "The Golden Oriole From Behind".
  • I Know You Know I Know: The series is full of those. One strategist would lay out a plan, and in the end would say, "Of course, if the enemy strategist is any good, he would know that I will be planning this, so...".
    • Chapter 177 plays this up to at least fifteen layers deep. Zhang Fei and Chen Gong were scheming against each other; the former was trying to lure Lu Bu to Xiapi to kill him while the latter wish to drive out Zhang Fei to take Xiapi. Both of them outlines their plans, and the narrative switch back and forth between them anticipating each other.
    • According to Pang Tong, the ultimate strategy is to "Let your opponent know your next step. Even more brilliant is to let your opponent know your next two steps." (And then, the next three...)
  • Kansas City Shuffle: Guo Jia played this one straight beautifully in the battle to take Xiapi. He had dug a series of pit traps to ambush Lu Bu's powerful cavalry. To avoid the traps, the cavalry pulled back from the area. When the rainy season comes, Guo Jia connected those pits traps to form a drain which divert the rain water to submerge Xiapi. He managed to do it because Lu Bu's troops pulled out of the area!
  • Killed Off for Real: This manhua does not shrink from killing off characters, although that goes hand in hand with one of the series' mottos ("Those who are fated to die will die, those who are fated to live will live").
  • Kill Them All: It's a Foregone Conclusion, considering the source material, but the series doesn't shy away from making important characters' deaths devastating.

    L to Q 
  • Lantern Jaw of Justice: Lu Bu has what can only be described as chin buttcheeks.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Considering the source material, this is to be expected, and the author throws in new characters, some of whom play significant roles, such as Yuan Fang, Yuan Shao's bastard son.
  • Long Runner: As of early 2013 it's up to 48 volumes and chapter 389 yet we're only up to the Battle of Changban! Heck, it took until chapter 380note  at the Longzhong visit, released in late 2012!
  • Low Fantasy
  • Mr. Fanservice: Any male character who isn't drawn as a Gonk and is important enough to the plot to star in a volume or two.
  • Nightmare Sequence: The prologue.
  • No One Could Survive That: Liaoyuan Huo and Dian Wei has been stabbed through, cut, smashed and generally endured enough abuse to kill any other man ten times over. Helps that the former does not feel pain. The latter's just a berserker.
    • Crosses over into Artistic License - Biology at times though. Not feeling pain doesn't change the fact that a certain fatal blow is fatal.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Zhang Fei
    • Listed with the character above are also Lu Bu, :Yan Liang and :Wen Chou; at least one character voices a belief that they deliberately cultivate such a reputation to surprise the enemy, in keeping with third part of On Morale (specifically "if the enemy general is ever-victorious, call him brave but lacking wits").
  • One-Man Army: Plenty of these too.
    • Lu Bu single-handedly tried to break through the siege of Xiapi with his daughter strapped to his back. Mooks swarmed him, and he was outnumbered at least 100 to 1. He still managed to take out all of Cao Cao's generals who took him onnote , then single-handedly broke through Cao Cao's army to Cao Cao — rescuing Gao Shun in the process — and Lu Bu was only beaten by Zhang Fei when he was exhausted and already wounded.
    • Liaoyuan Huo and Zhang Liao tore through Yuan Tan's elite forces like hot knife through butter.
    • Sun Ce was trapped behind enemy lines, got all his troops killed and still survived.
    • Basically any fighter worth anything could take on at least 20 or more regular soldiers. Top fighters could charge into armies and slaughter them with ease.
  • Only Six Faces: The female characters in this series have very similar designs with only different hairstyles, a fact many fans are not happy about.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: Zhou Yu, anyone? He is a certified Magnificent Bastard with his fair share of the spotlight in the Sun faction, but Sun Ce is just... man.
    • Plot and scene time wise, Cao Cao, Li Ru, and Yuan Shao suffer a lot from this. Li Ru himself even said it outright in the end of vol 10.
  • Pen Name: Chen Mou (陳某) is a pseudonym meaning Mr. Chen. Given how common the surname Chen is in China, it is roughly the equivalent of calling himself Mr. Smith.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: Of wiseman Xu Lin, a fictional advisor on Dong Zhuo's side, orchestrated by Sima Yi and executed by Liaoyuan Huo. It serves as the catapult that flung the Sima clan into the conflicts among warlords... and the cause of Xu Chu and Xu Ding swearing vengeance against the Sima clan.
  • The Power of Friendship - The Peach Garden Trio (Liu Bei, Guan Yu, Zhang Fei) are the most famous, but quite a few groups of people are also bound to their friendship to each other. (However, the former classmates that are the Eight Geniuses consider each other rivals and pretty much go their own way to serve different lords.)
    • Guan Yu surrendered to Cao Cao in exchange for safety for his elder brother's family : Guo Jia went on to poison Liu Bei's young son but made it look like he died from illness. Guan Yu was too ashamed to return to his brother. Liu Bei's reply: "If my son is dead, I can beget another. If my brother leaves, how can I replace a missing arm?"
  • Progressively Prettier: Given the art revolution this series undergoes in 40+ volumes, this is to be expected of anybody, but Guo Jia's case seems to be most apparent to the readers. Just read these comments.

    R to Z 
  • Rain of Arrows. Expect to see some of these whenever 2 large forces fight.
  • Red Shirt Army. Huge armies clash, but most of the common soldiers seem to exist only to die under the blades of the heroic characters.
  • Rotating Protagonist
  • Sacrificial Lion:
    • 'Sun Ce', though his last words also immediately reveal that he's a fake.
    • The Sima clan, sans Sima Yi and his brothers.
    • Yuan Fang dies to stage the entrance of a new threat to Cao Cao and Sima Yi, Yang Xiu.
    • In the Chibi arc, we get Kan Ze, because apparently the death of Sun Ce was not enough of a Wham Episode to establish Zuo Ci's status as one of the most dangerous villains in Ravages. Averted when it turns out his death was faked.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!:
    • Lu Bu's troops are always quick to abandon him when he's down for the count. In his final arc, when they realize that his days are numbered after he fell for Guo Jia's Kansas City Shuffle, even those who has stayed with him since Dong Zhuo scramble to defect to Cao Cao's camp, and those who do not only do so because Zhang Liao convinces them to.
    • The next time we see Yuan Shu after he loses his capital, his best generals, his troops and even the backing of his older brother, the scattered few that remain of his once mighty army are trying to run away from him.
    • Gan Ning finally goes over to Sun Quan when he sees Cao Cao coming for Jingzhou, and its lord Liu Biao and his boss Huang Zu are instead focusing on how to resolve the Liu sons' inheritance problem.
  • Secret Identity: The Eights' only unveil theirs once they choose a lord, and after 52 volumes we still don't know who the last Genius is. Huo's secret identity is Zhao Yun, though as he takes on this later role more often his real name and assassin job become his secret identity. The young Sun cousin in volume 16 Sun Fu is actually Sun Ce in disguise. His brother Sun Quan is Shan Wuling's little brother in volume 6. The latest example is Yang Qing/Yang Xiu.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: In-story, political viewpoints of Zhuge Liang and Sima Yi are (as usual for Rot 3 K adaptations) positioned on the opposing ends of the scale. Zhuge Liang belives at using his talents to raise a morally upstanding leader to the throne, while Sima Yi's plan from the very beginning of civil wars is to support whatever warlord is most capable, to end the chaos quickly, and then to take over the resulting regime. What is unusual, both are portrayed as having valid points. Sima Yi's plan was the one that succeeded in the end and led to unification of China. However, Zhuge Liang pointed out that a ruler sets an example for their subjects, so a regime established by a Machiavellian schemer, whose decisions are based solely on political expediency, will be inherently corrupt and unstable... and indeed, historically the rule of Sima clan was neither prosperous nor longnote .
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Despite trying to humanize several characters, Chen Mou has a bad habit of highlight some of his favorite and dumb down others. Although it should be note that he usually comes up with good backstories to keep them from being full-blown Mary Sues. For Example:
    • Lu Bu: Despite being one of the most well-written characters in this series, it cannot be denied that he got a lot of Character Focus after he appears that you could rename the first thirty-two volumes as 'Lu Bu: God of War'. His moral issues and inability to predict a long-term strategy is still there but dumbed down somewhat since no one seems to call him on it (at least until he's about to abandon his men). Chen Mou even saved his dignity somewhat on execution scene (strangling, which is an execution save for woman) by doing that to every single one of his soldiers, and in Cao Cao non-sarcastically praising Lu Bu's last-ditch tactic before having him executed. Still, Chen Mou developed his character well enough that he become one of the most favorite characters.
    • Yuan Fang: An Original Character who is a bastard son of Yuan Shao, learns from both Sima Hui and Eight Freaks, and he considers Zhuge Liang to be his competitor. Outshines his father completely to the point that Yuan Shao specifically considers him his true successor, although that's at least in part because of how lowly he viewed his other two sons. Not to mention that some theorize that his 'Northern Kingdom' is a foundation for barbarian force that would invade Jin dynasty later.
    • With their capacity for game-changing Xanatos Gambit and Chen Mou's penchant to let them take all credits for the most brilliant strategies, the Eight Geniuses and Sima Yi definitely qualify.
  • Tearjerker: Pretty much any major character's death is this. See the Tear Jerker page for more info.
  • Thanatos Gambit: Several times. Notably, two of Dong Zhuo's underlings sacrifice themselves within a short period of time to set traps for Lu Bu in revenge for their lord's death. Lu Bu falls for it both timesnote  but he only realizes what's happened upon the second time — by which "his" forces are already storming his headquarters.
  • The Dark Side Will Make You Forget: Leader of Eastern Taiping cult, Yu Ji, was once an incredible doctor devoted to saving life and passed his skills to Huo Tuo, who was later hailed as having godly medical knowledge. He turned evil once he was at the top of an Evil Religion and amassed the powers to make even warlords bow to him.
  • Took a Level in Badass. Happens to many, during the course of the story. Take note that many of those people were Badass to begin with, so it is more properly titled as "took ''another'' level in badass".
    • Liu Bei. After Lu Bu took Xiapi from him, Liu Bei became more pragmatic and less idealistic. He sided with Cao Cao when the latter attacked Xuzhou in order to get close to the Emperor, and eventually persuaded Cao Cao to kill Lu Bu.
    • Liaoyuan Huo. To protect his clan, Sima Yi tragically betrays Xiao Meng, causing his death. He apologises to Liaoyuan Huo for having lost control of the situation, and swears he will never make such a mistake again. Huo replies, "And I, from now on, will be undefeatable", leading to his You Shall Not Pass moment, where he went in search of Xiao Meng's body, and slaughtered Yuan Tan's elite officers with a hoe... then gets on a horse, grabs a spear and literally routs Yuan Tan's army by himself.
    • Zhang Liao, after being defeated by Sun Ce.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Ma Teng loves Xi Liang Noodles (with or without meat) to the point of using noodle terms as political metaphors; Liaoyuan Huo loves mantou (steamed buns) to the point of owning his own store.
  • Undying Loyalty: If the lord is even remotely decent or charismatic, expect his followers to show a lot of this. Lu Bu, however, is contemptuous of this trope (though, ironically, he has his own undying loyal retainer in Zhang Liao), and his defiance of this trope highlights another aspect of his "unhuman" characteristics as regarded by the common men.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Lu Bu flies into one when Xu Chu kills his daughter, and the result is one of the worse Curb-Stomp Battle Cao Cao's best generals ever experienced since their first taste of it (also at Lu Bu's hands) in volume 14. Yuan Tan's men makes Huo flip it when they trample on what is possibly Xiao Meng's remains, and when Yuan Tan is about to do the same to the graves of Zhang Liao's fallen comrades he gets the same reaction.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: This manhua is fairly no-holds-barred in assuming familiarity with Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Confucian philosophy, the writings of Mencius, and so on. Understanding the plot requires considerable concentration and re-reading too.
  • Villainous Friendship: Dong Zhuo and his son-in-law Li Ru are very close; in fact outside of his nefarious reputation and villainy he maintains a loving relationship with his nephew (though that didn't stop him from making the poor man a sacrificial lamb), daughters and sons-in-law. Yuan Shao is a long-time friend of Taiping cult's leader Zuo Ci, who even mentors his beloved son and later seeks revenge for Yuan Shao's and Yuan Fang's death.
  • The Worf Effect. The best way establish you are somebody within the Three Kingdoms era? Beat up one of these guys.
    • Xiahou Dun and Xiahou Yuan (and their squad) have been thrashed rather consistently to establish how Bad Ass Cao Cao's various enemies are, though Dun at least would recover somewhat as a "tunnel rat" during the Battle of Guandu.
    • Lampshaded when Zhang Fei and Guan Yu 'cheated' to help Liu Bei win in a duel against Lu Bu. Liu Bei's fame immediately skyrocketed — just as Zhang Fei and Guan Yu had intended..
    • If a named character who hadn't appeared is the Romance of the Three Kingdoms is presented as smart or powerful, you can be fairly certain, that he will be used by one of the original/historical characters as a stepping stone. Handicapped Warriors seem to be a major exception to that, until we learn that Liaoyuan Huo actually is Zhao Yun.
    • On the advisor front, you know that the shit has gotten real when your Water-Mirror Geniuses get outwitted routinely by a single guy... though at least that single guy is the first Water-Mirror Genius, Yuan Fang.
  • Wham Line: A-plenty. Even the normal lines can become legitimate Wham Lines for those who has read the novel and recognizes a Foreshadowing for future events the author has casually dropped there.
    • Whenever one of the Eight Geniuses reveals his identity to be a famous military advisor of the Three Kingdom period, a Wham Line is delivered, usually with much fanfare.
    • Also happens during the revelation of a tie-in between an original character and a historical one.
      • From volume 1 - Xiao Meng, the eunuch on being commissioned by Sima Yi for a rescue operation: "I am... Diaochan?"
      • From volume 4 - Liu Bei, interpreting Liaoyuan Huo's silent answer for an earlier question about his name: "Is he Zhao Huo? Zhao Tian? Or... Zhao Yun?"
    • In volume 13, when the subject of Sima Yi's dream (of him sitting on the throne and abusing a young Emperor) is brought up for the first time after its mention in volume 1, Yi's friend Liaoyuan Huo discloses another dream that has recently clouded his heart: "In that dream, I was in so much rage... that I just wanted to kill that man on the throne".
    • Sun Fu, a cousin of Sun Ce in the death of Sun Ce climax of volume 17 - "I, Sun Ce, now understand the meaning of propagation."
    • From volume 24, the annihilation of Sima clan started with the new Crippled Legion leader announcing his identity to be Xu Ding, older brother of Xu Chu and son of Xu Lin, a wiseman the Sima clan and Liaoyuan Huo had disposed of in volume 1.
    • The Sun family just loves to do this. In volume 33, you sense something is amiss when Shan Wu Ling's (unnamed) little brother, who has been Put on a Bus from volume 6, now returns and speaks of his departure. Then, at the end of this chapter, when he bids his sister and teacher farewell... "Oath-sister, master. Zhongmounote  is leaving."
    • At the beginning of the Guandu arc, "Master.. the bond between the Eight Geniuses is no more."
    • From volume 43, one of the last things Yuan Fang heard was: "A word from Guo Jia. You have Xu You. I have Yang Qing". And the revelation of the deliverer Yang Qing's identity to be Yang Xiu.
    • At the end of volume 46 : "Liang, is coming", from the 7th Genius Zhuge Liang to Liu Bei.
  • Chapter 423: "Having defected for all these years, Lord Yuan, Fang-er, I have finally avenged your deaths!" - from Zuo Ci.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Too many to keep it within reasonable length in this trope page.
  • You Shall Not Pass: When an one-man army turns their mind away from offense to defence, this happens. (Usually coupled with some Badass Boast.)
    • Zhang Liao: "No one yet has passed the reach of my sword." He repeated this feat at least four times.
    • Guan Yu: "Those who dare to step through this circle of blood, will suffer the same fate."
    • Liaoyuan Huo: "I'm in a bad mood today. Scram!"