Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors: An extremely complex web, constantly changing with technology. Factors for any military unit include firepower, mobility, survivability and dozens of niche roles. Most units are able to counter their counters as well, and are highly versatile.
Teaser Equipment: Expensive cars, houses, jewelry, and the like will not be within your price range when you first start out. Particularly egregious examples require that you take several levels in certain Prestige Classes to be able to afford them. Thankfully, much of these items fall into Bragging Rights Reward.
It is possible (about a 1% chance, depending on which server you play on) to start the game with high enough Wealth and Privilege stats to afford some of this prestige equipment.
Tech Tree: Gigantic, intricate, messy, and the structure of it isn't fully understood.
Terminally Dependent Society: The human race is basically helpless without technology. Take internet, electricity or water supply out of the picture, and a huge crisis would ensue. Still, the human race survived several disasters, and after the immediate shock, people will surely find a way to restore those things, or set up replacements.
Timed Mission: Each human has, on average, 66.12 years to live. This time limit can be extended if you're healthy enough. Unfortunately, it's also luck based, as your time limit can be drastically reduced depending on where your character lives; for example, a character based in Africa is likely to have a lower time limit than one in Europe. Sometimes your characters time limit is unexpectedly ended by just plain unfair things, like being hit by a car. There are entire character classes (doctors, surgeons, etc.) dedicated to extending play time.
Time for Plan B: Because Plan A doesn't always go off without a hitch, having a decent backup plan in reserve is a good idea.
Took a Level in Badass: Played straight by countless individuals, but can also happen on a larger scale, up to and including an entire species. Fan favorite moments include the Agricultural, Industrial, and Digital Revolutions. Rumor has it that North American Cockroaches are in the middle of doing this, by developing poison glands.
Tournament Arc: There are events that players around the world attend to compete with each other. Most notable are the Olympics, held every four seasons.
Tragic Hero: Many characters suffer from their flaws or choices. Whether it's drug or alcohol addictions, anger management issues, pride, greed, ambition...
Travel Cool: A lot of the human race's engineering efforts yield cool machines to suit their Badass Normal style. The higher-level examples of the Cool Starship, however, have not yet been unlocked as nobody has the cash for that expansion pack yet.
Unobtainium: Oil, uranium, gold, diamond, and lots more (depending on what you want, where you are, and what you can give for it). An extreme case would be antimatter, which is extremely difficult to create and annihilates anything it touches into pure energy (and hence must be stored in electromagnetic fields). Nicely subverted with pure aluminum, which used to be more valuable than gold and is now used to store cheap beverages. In fact, Real Life is the Trope Namer. "Unobtainium" was first used as an alternate name for titanium by the U.S. during the Cold War arc, the largest deposits being in the Soviet Union.
The Unreveal: We never learned the identity of Jack The Ripper.
Or the Zodiac Killer, or D.B. Cooper.
Unstable Equilibrium: Criticized as a huge balance problem. Some servers try to fight it by increasing taxes on the rich and giving it directly to the poor in theory, but in practice, the rich can easily transfer to a server of their choice using in-game money, and even when they are taxed, the money tends to trickle back into clans that they're a part of instead of the needy. The degree of Rules Lawyering in this area needs to be seen to be believed.
Unstoppable Rage: Subverted, time and time again. Giving in to your primal rage in a modern day society always, always, makes things worse.
On the other hand, back in the Viking arc, there existed warriors who were well-known for using this trope to devastating effect, as well as wearing serks (a type of garment) made of bear skin. They were so notorious for this that their name lives on to this day in the word "berserk".
Urban Legend of Zelda: Dungeons & Dragons takes over your life and drives you insane (no more addictive than any other hobby). Yukon Territory of Canada and Siberia are Grim Up North (rather pleasant in spring/summer, and polar bears hang around way farther north). Also, Urban Legends, natch.
Useless Useful Spell: Nukes. Everyone is so afraid of automatic counterattacks for using just one that they remain stuck in the inventory.
Not to mention that these automatic counterstrikes may cause the servers for the game to permanently crash.
Vaporware: Fusion reactors, flying cars, nanobots, etc. The slower-than-expected development of some things, though, is counterbalanced by surprise inventions like cheese, nuclear bombs, the internet and lasers. Flying cars have been completed, but they turn out to be nothing more than Awesome but Impractical gimmicks. They're still being worked on, alongside Orbital Tourism.
The Interstellar space expansion pack has been in development since the 1950s, funding and development issues have meant the only avaliable content is the earth orbit, the moon and whatever shuttles and probes we can afford to send. The shuttle equipment is being removed from the game pending updates, although the Mars mission pack has been put off until the 2020s at least.
The 'End of Times' campaign event that's supposed to wrap up Real Life has been announced many, many times - but never, and this is worthy of note, directly by the developers. Loudly announced release dates within living memory include August 8, 1988; December 31, 1999-2001 inclusively; and December 12, 2012. In general it's best to assume any new release dates for this event are Fan Wank unless you can get Word of Saint Paul confirmation.
Violation of Common Sense: Laws don't stop people from doing bad or completely stupid things. In fact, the Darwin Awards exist to reward blatant violations. Also most of Quantum Physics and Relativity — evidently, the Universe doesn't bother about complying to the common sense of those insignificant little humans on their tiny pale blue bit of dust called Earth.
Vitriolic Best Buds: The UK and Australia have a relationship characterised by years of "hatred". But if you were to declare war on either of them, the other would respond withoverwhelmingforce. The same can be said for Canada and the United States.
Wacky Wayside Tribe: You'll run across more than a few of these during the game, although they'll seem more important at the time than they really turn out to be.
Wakeup Makeup: It's possible to get eyeliner, lip liner and full lipstick tattooed on. Initially painful, and reduces makeup options later, but more and more military women find it to be worthwhile.
War Is Hell: Played straight. The combat engine avoids any Acceptable Breaks from Reality. Ammo is full weight, status conditions have very long durations (and are sometimes permanent), and there are complete and very debilitating systems for fatigue, temperature, infection and disease. All the dull logistics involved in getting your fighters to the correct spot at the correct time with all their gear must be dealt with, and failure means an automatic loss. As noted elsewhere, you get no bonus lives and the healing rules are so strict that even if your character makes it back to a hospital it can take months or longer to regain full health - if you ever do. Defense items lag far behind the damage output of common weapons, and fog of war and friendly fire are hard-coded. Even if you emerge unwounded, it's possible to develop psychological debuffs. In short, the combat system is so bad that most characters will go to great lengths to prevent a war from starting.
Weakened by the Light: If you stay out in the sun for too long you will get really bad sunburns and possibly skin cancer.
Taken to a new level with the sun itself, the sun occasionally sends out bursts of plasma that can severely damage our magnetic field which is our only defense against it and all the cosmic debris in space, yet the sun is our only source of outer warmth and is needed for life.
It's surprising how many dictators had strange phobias. For example, Adolf Hitler was afraid of cats. This was never exploited, though, possibly because of the difficulty of finding any cats that could make it through paratrooper training.
We ARE Struggling Together: Subverted in the Libyan portion of the Arab Spring arc. The rebels started out unable to agree on the simplest things, but quickly worked out that they needed to pull together to get anything done, put their differences aside, and kicked Gadaffi out.
The year 1939 all the way to the end of World War II.
The terrorist attacks in America during September 11, 2001.
System-wide wham episodes occur just often enough to keep Real Life from ever growing too stable, including mass extinctions, sudden outbreaks of war, terrorist attacks, and plagues. More happily, events like the discovery of the New World, the development of penicillin and the release of the Beatles' first album opened up gameplay rather than punishing players. Individual characters can have all sorts of unexpected campaign events, generally as the unanticipated result of another player's progress in their campaign.
Wham Line: Numerous, depending on your playthrough. Can include such classics as:
"Your test results are in."
"Will you marry me?" (And, absolutely any response to the question qualifies.)
What Does This Button Do?: Depending on the button, anything from "nothing" to "nuclear Armageddon, God help us all." The number of safeguards on a button is a rough (but inexact) guide to how big a thing would happen if you pushed it.
What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Cultural example: In most European countries rats are considered to be pests and unclean. In India there is a 600-year-old temple of clean rats, with every generation free of disease, that are friendly with people. Anthropomorphic faced animal vs. non-anthropomorphic/fuzzy animal example: Pandas have billions of dollars spent on their survival and they don't contribute greatly as a species, while other very important insects and other critically endangered species are ignored massively in comparison, even though it will actually cause big problems to see them go.
"What Now?" Ending: Pretty much every ending in Real Life that doesn't involve you actually dying is of this nature.
What the Fu Are You Doing?: Some players have a rather inflated view of their own "martial arts skills." Some end up featured in YouTube videos where they manage to nunchuk themselves in the groin or the face, or otherwise end up looking like jackasses.
Wide Open Sandbox: The effective playing area is a single small planet that requires immense resources even to leave for a few days, so almost no one does. Thanks to the planet's transparent atmosphere, you can see immense distances into the Wide Open Sandbox; you just can't get there. May be a Broken Bridge, or the content just hasn't been added yet. Well, technically you can get there if you're willing to wait for ages. And if warp drives are ever invented, the Sandbox is effectively opened.
Life itself is a Wide Open Sandbox... at least after you clear the Tutorial Stage.
The planet is not small from the perspective of the player. It can take days, even weeks, just to circle the map and wind up where you began — and that's only if you've maxed out your running/swimming/climbing/jumping stats.
Not to mention many that occur outside of spring break. Doing this without permission can have unpleasant results for the one responsible. (For example, it may result in receiving the "grounded" status effect.) This does not stop some people.
With This Herring: Everyone starts off naked, with no equipment and no skills. If you're lucky, your parents may provide you with a few items to get started, but YPMV.
Wizard Needs Food Badly: Although players can go days to weeks (it varies) without consuming food, hunger kicks in after only a few hours (it varies also).
Word of God: Too many to count. For the Abrahamaic religions, the Bible (in whole or part, the Torah). For Catholics, also the Pope (under certain circumstances) and the Orthodox church has its Patriarchs. For Muslims, the Qur'an and Hadith. For still others, the voices inside their head. The difficulty of proving one knows the author(s) means that for all we know this is Word of Dante or even Fanon.
World Half Empty/A World Half Full: Players, audiences, and readers alike are all split between just how lovely the world is, and just how shitty it is. It seems to vary based on server location, the luck skill of the individual players, and random events, especially during char gen. Readers usually are split, based on which novel they started out on, and filmgoers tend to base their own opinions on other films and filmgoers. There's a stereotype (and noticeable trend) that many "serious" audiences view the shared world as crappy.
The World Is Just Awesome: Say what you will about the other player characters; you cannot deny that Reality has some pretty kickass graphics!
World of Ham: Particularly in the Acting, Singing and Politics subclasses.
World of Snark: Most prevalent in the internet, but easy to find anywhere.
Wrong Genre Savvy: The number of divorces testifies to the amount of people who truly believe they are in a romantic comedy.
Wutai: Thailand, China, and Japan are the Trope Codifiers. Also: many large cities in the North America region (and London) have a "Chinatown". Korea and Vietnam have been getting more prominence since their war arcs ended (or put on hiatus in Korea's case). And India's becoming extremely popular. Lima, Peru has a Chinatown of its own, called the "barrio chino" or, in English, "Chinese neighborhood". Brazil has a sizable Japanese population, enough to have a burgeoning Japantown and Japanese culture get to some players.
Yellow Brick Road: Depending on your beliefs, this may be played straight or subverted/averted as far as life is concerned. That being said, there are literal walkways in the world that are designed with yellow bricks, but those are just for decorative purposes as opposed to serving as roadways to special destinations.
You Have Researched Breathing: Subverted; you don't need to know how something works to use it, but if you want to research your bodily functions, go ahead. Played straight in the Science Class, Metal Shop, and Small-Engine Repair Shop levels and Firearms/ Driver's Licence minigames, on the ground that you may hurt yourselfor others if you don't know what you're doing.
Well, in the Infant stage, you have to research such skills as Walking or Using Tools. There are also the Epileptic Trees that one of the first skills to be achieved is Vision.
You Kill It, You Bought It: The implied purpose of every war in history. If those in charge claim they're fighting for something else, they're either lying or misinformed.
You Require More Vespene Gas: While most structures do involve certain amounts of special materials, Oil is such an important source of both Energy and Raw Materials that players have gone to ridiculous extremes to access it or deny others access to it.