All There in the Manual: A whole side story involving the royal family plays out through their in-game character profiles and bar rumours. Events such as King Ondoria's death, and Queen Louveria's power grab, and questions over Prince Orinus' legitimacy have ripple effects through the plot but are only referenced in passing and are completely missable if you're not constantly checking the Brave Story and every other bar you visit.
The game can't decide whether Ajora is a man or a woman. There's also lingering questions over whether or not Ajora and Ultima are separate entities or are the same being. History records Ajora as being a man, yet he Body Surfs into Alma's body then transforms into the visibly female Ultima.
Gameplay-wise, Ramza and Cloud are this, with good stats for males and females. And the ability to use some items that they shouldn't be able to, like the beret and ribbon accessories. In Cloud's case, it could simply be an over-elaborate Shout Out to a certain infamous minigame in Final Fantasy VII. (Given that Cloud is able to equip the Ribbon in ALL his appearances outside FFVII, it's probably a Shout Out.)
Ancient Conspiracy: The titular War of the Lions is meticulously manipulated by the Lucavi in order to ensure maximum bloodshed, brutality, and carnage in order to pave the way for Ultima's resurrection.
Anti-Grinding: If you level up too much early in the game, the gear will eventually outclass gear that you can get in stores. Eventually, however, you will encounter humans in random battles with much more appropriate (and sometimes top-class) equipment that you can then steal from them. Still, this is much more tedious than simply advancing the plot and buying the weapons as they become available.
Arbitrary Head Count Limit: You can only take five members (including Ramza) to form a party, sometimes four in certain story mode battles, and your overworld group can't hold more than sixteen characters total, including Ramza. Capacity is bumped to 24 in the remake.
Arbitrary Minimum Range: bowguns, crossbows, and guns have an arbitrary minimum range, but you can get around this restriction by aiming and then firing in the same direction as the target.
Artificial Brilliance: The game's AI can be scarily good at times. Best of all, you can exploit it by setting your units in autobattle mode. No more spending a whole minute scanning the field to figuring out what to input for your calculator - the computer does it for you in a few seconds!
Aristocrats Are Evil: Most story enemies are nobles; some are also transformed into hellspawn (some willingly, some not).
Awesome, but Impractical: By making use of the reaction ability Critical Quick and toying with the Brave and Faith values of the playable characters, one can set up a "Quickening Loop" wherein the party can have infinite turns, without the enemy getting a single one in between. While this makes the party nigh-invulnerable, finishing a battle using this trick could take ages, as opposed to just smacking the enemy outright and winning in a matter of minutes.
Also, the Iaido or Draw Out ability of the Samurai has some of the most potent damage in the game, especially from the rare (One of a kind) katanas such as Masamune or Chirijiraden. However, the skill can also easily break these insanely powerful weapons.
Summons can be absurdly powerful, as always. However, the really powerful ones (Bahamut, etc) also take a long time to charge, meaning your target might not even be in the area of effect when it goes off. Zodiark gets special mention for not only being the strongest summon, but being the hardest to get.
The remake adds the Dark Knight Class. While its stats and abilities are extremely powerful the prerequisites are so ridiculously huge by the time you unlock the class for one unit you could have already beat more than half the game with much more practical and easy to access classes. The Onion Knight from the remake could also count as it potentially has the highest stats in the game and its exclusive onion equipment makes them practically invincible. But to get those stats you need to master almost every class in the game and go through lots of multiplayer battles with no guarantee you will see the onion equipment and without these the Onion Knight is pretty much a Joke Character. The Onion Knight also cannot equip any abilities so it's limited to only using attack with all the downsides of that.
In the War of the Lions remake, Argath. Just so you get the pleasure of killing him again.
Malak is immediately revived by a Zodiac Stone.
Back Stab: Characters are usually easier to hit from the sides or behind. It doesn't deal any more damage though. The side your character is attacked on determines which of his dodge bonuses apply: Class dodge rate applies only to frontal attacks, shield applies to the front and sides, capes and reaction abilities apply everywhere. This only applies for physical attacks, magic can be defended against equally well in all directions.
Badass Grandpa: Cidolfus Orlandeau (Thunder God Cid) is 58 years old. Not that a silly thing like age will keep him from totally destroying anyone who gets in his way.
Pretty self-explanatory: Monks fight unarmed and their damage formula involves squaring their strength score (Most classes use weapon attack to determine damage). This means that every extra point of PA is worth exponentially more. As it's possible to get up to +7 PA (a base score of 13 is standard for high level fighters), the Monk can be capable of one-hitting mostcommon enemies and maybe even a few bosses.
And that's before you give them Dual Wield, which lets them wield two punches (or better yet, just give a Ninja Martial Arts).
The Samurai's reaction skill "Blade Grasp" / "Shirihadori"; a Good Bad Bug interprets the reaction skill to be applicable to all physical attacks, so a character equipped with this can also Arrow Catch and Bullet Catch. The chances of an attack hitting are equal to 100-target's Brave, and Brave can max out at a base of 97.
Thieves can also catch anything thrown at them for damage, which (since this is Final Fantasy) includes shuriken, swords, bombs and more esoteric weapons like handbags and bolts of cloth. However, this is an intentional skill.
Batman-Gambit: While playing everyone else around him coldly and unflinchingly, Delita specifically counted on Ramza's unimpeachable character so he would get rid of the nastier elements threatening Ivalice.
Belated Happy Ending: Various item descriptions in Vagrant Story mention the Zodiac Brave Story, naming Agrias, Orlandu and several others as well-known heroes. That means the Durai report from Tactics, containing a true account of what happened during the war, was eventually accepted as historical canon.
Big Bad: Because there are so many groups working to manipulate each other, it is difficult to tell who the primary villain is until near the end of the game. Folmarv/Vormav, the leader of the Knights Templar, is revealed to be at the heart of the conspiracy. He is actually possessed by the demon Hashmal, who is working to revive Ultima, the leader of the Lucavi. Although Ultima is the final boss, she does nothing during the game, and thus would not be the main villain. She could be considered the Bigger Bad, though.
Big Damn Heroes: Played with: Ramza tries to storm the castle he thinks Princess Ovelia is held in, except he runs into Agrias, who managed to escape by herself; a subsequent rescue attempt turns out to be a trap. Throughout the plot, Ramza pretty much either stumbles into rescue missions by accident or arrives too late to do anything.
Ramza's own allies show up to support him after the Duel Boss battle against Wiegraf, so Belias summons his own team of demons to even things up.
Big Damn Villains: Delita kicks off the plot by abducting Ovelia from the protagonists who were unwittingly going to take her to her death.
Blade on a Stick: The entire point of the Lancer class. Well, that and the jumping.
"Blind Idiot" Translation: In the PS1 version, while the translation is workable for Chapter 1 to Chapter 3 (beyond a few bits in item/ability descriptions), it falls completely apart in chapter 4. The tutorial given by Professor Daravon is also notoriously poor in its translation, which make no sense whatsoever, and fails to teach you anything about the game.
Let's not forget the first two tracks of the soundtrack: "Title Back (Bland Logo)" and "Backborn Story". "Opening Title" and "Background Story" would make a lot more sense. Interestingly, these are all among the tracks that don't have names in Japanese characters, just (bad) English. Other tracks show Japanese and English names. Possibly the most weirdest one is possibly Bloody Excrement.
Although often considered Good Bad Translation, the term Zodiac Brave is likely an example of this. Yuusha, literally "brave person", but more along the lines of "Hero" or the descriptive title "The Brave" is frequently mistranslated as "Brave", particularly when a native Japanese speaker is trying to translate it to English. However, since "brave" can also be a noun in English (often used to refer to a Native American warrior), it isn't entirely inaccurate.
Bonus Boss: Zodiark/Elidibus, the most difficult boss of the game, who resides in...
Bonus Dungeon: ... Deep Dungeon, ten excruciating levels of high-level enemies who you have to fight in almost complete darkness. And the kicker? You can't progress to the next level unless you step on a certain randomly (chosen from only five squares, fortunately) placed square on the current level.
Book Ends: The game (Not chronologically) begins and ends at Orbonne Monastery.
Boring, but Practical: You may spend a lot of time in the first few areas level grinding. Why? Because the amount of exp and skill points you get don't depend on where and what monsters you fight, but almost entirely on the actions you perform. Might as well stick with goblins.
Also true of most levelling methods in the game, such as the early skill "accumulate", which lets the character increase their physical attack and gain xp for it, or hurting your own party members and healing them after, only to beat on them more.
The Duel Boss against Gafgarion is quite difficult. Sure, you could open the gate and reunite with your team, but since they have their own problem to deal with, why not just break or steal Gafgarion's sword, rendering him completely impotent?
Boss Banter: Most of the boss battles will consist of the enemy taunting you every few turns until you defeat them. If you let the dialogue keep running, though, sooner or later Ramza may pull a Shut Up, Hannibal!, or get subjected to Shut Up, Kirk! because his enemies find his idealism so irritating.
Brown Note: Harps and Books do damage by being played/read from.
Calling Your Attacks: Though you only actually see the incantations on-screen 10% of the time or so, every spell in the game and many other abilities have incantations that end in the spell's or move's name. Only the original PlayStation version has this, though, possibly because of the Engrish.
The Cameo: Luso and Balthier both show up in the remake, and it's lampshaded by the latter, who still thinks of himself as the "leading man" but concedes this adventure has more the feel of a cameo role.
Cast Herd: Ramza's group, the two opposing sides of the Lion War, and the Corrupt Church are the three major players. La Résistance plays a minor role in Chapter One and then pretty much loses all relevance.
The dialogue at the end of Chapter 1 seems to imply that the Beoulves and Hokuten wiped them out.
Charged Attack: Some high level skills, spells, and the Charge ability are useless because your target will simply move out of the way. You can directly target the enemy instead of the area but they might move next to the caster hit them or KO them with their own attack.
Time magic can speed up charging and slow down enemies. Also, many quick/instant skills can immobilize a target.
"Always check the AT list! It's the shortcut to victory!"
Chekhov's Gun: In the PSP version, a short intermission between Ovelia and Agrias near the endgame has the latter give the former a knife to defend herself with, should the need arise.
Fat lot of good it does her...
The Chessmaster: So, so many. In the later chapters, it takes a very good mind to figure out who's playing whom. Let's give it a try!
Prince Larg - Plans on executing or otherwise "disappearing" Princess Ovelia, allowing him to rule through his sister, the Queen, as the regent of his infant nephew.
Prince Goltana - Plans on arresting the Queen for having the King killed (Which is as likely as not to be true) and executing her, and disinheriting the prince as a bastard child (Also as likely as not). Will then rule through Princess Ovelia, a cousin of the dead king who was adopted as a daughter when he wasn't producing healthy children. She's not the real Ovelia at all, to her own surprise. Goltana is aware and unconcerned.
The Glabados Church - Subtly pushes the war and unhappiness amongst the peasantry. Hopes both sides will bleed each other dry so the Church can step in as peacemakers. Has assassins in place to kill both Larg and Goltana, along with their closest supporters, in case neither side is willing to bleed themselves white. Also hopes to use the Temple Knights as new Zodiac Braves, using the old tale to gain popular support amongst the commoners when they take over.
The Temple Knights - Functions as The Church's legbreakers, mostly gathering Zodiac Stones and destroying small-time interlopers into the Lion War. Most of the leaders are possessed by or allied with the Lucavi. Also part of the "assassinate Larg and Goltana" plot.
The Lucavi - Also see the Temple Knights. The Lucavi want to use the terrible bloodshed of the Lion War to resurrect their leader, which should be prevented .
Delita - Seeks to remind everyone that only pawns can be promoted. Supposed operative of the Church, who intend to use him to attack Goltana. He outsmarts them, and everyone else. One of the few that know about the Zodiac Brave plan and the Lucavi, and basically steers Ramza in to removing them for him, destroying both the demon problem and undermining the Church's plans. Marries Oveila, becomes new King of Ivalice, ends the Lion War.
Church Militant: The Glabados Church has a standing army of its own, in addition to the Knights Templar.
Specifically, the Southern Sky has a dark color scheme, the church has a red scheme, the Northern Sky has a blue/white scheme, Ramza officially came from the Northern Sky so that's why your units have a similar scheme, and "brigand" enemies have green schemes, like the thief class.
Computers Are Fast: Waste about an hour figuring out the best way to use your calculator to destroy most of the map, or set them to auto-battle and have it done after a small bit of lag. Decisions decisions...
Corrupt Church: The Church of Glabados is probably one of the most developed examples in gaming, being far more complex in motivation and method than just "control the world". The only non-corrupt clergy you meet are naturally killed by corrupt clergy.
Crystal Dragon Jesus: The church's vibe is heavily based on a kind of theme-park Christianity, chiefly in organization, appearance and backstory (a wandering prophet figure betrayed by a follower for money and executed). For the details given 'Jesus' could be replaced with 'St. Ajora' and 'Judas' with 'Geromonka' and you're done. Which would be effectively true were the whole thing not a massive ploy by a cabal of demons to set the world ablaze with war for their own ends by building a religion around rebranding a professional spy as a martyr.
Cutscene Incompetence: It amusingly bleeds into gameplay. The remake has a cutscene before the battle to recruit Balthier where a Monk attacks Ramza with a sword. Monks are far better with fisticuffs than any other weapon. When the battle begins, it averts Gameplay and Story Segregation by leaving the Monk equipped with a sword.
Cutscene Power to the Max: Inverted: Beyond the involvement of the Zodiac Braves in the storyline, the superhuman abilities thrown about with reckless abandon in battle are absent from the scripted story sections.
Played straight in that everyone can teleport in cutscenes, even if they never display that ability in battle and especially if it makes no sense for them to have that ability.
Cynicism Catalyst: Zalbag's willing sacrifice of Teta/Tietra to Delita, and Miluda/Milleuda's death to Wiegraf.
The Dark Side Will Make You Forget: Wiegraf started out as a Hero Antagonist, who fought against the nobility to get recognition for the Death Corps/Corpse Brigade's services in the war (and their back pay), and later to avenge his dead little sister. By his third encounter, he's undergone Demonic Possession, and when Ramza calls him out, he states that he doesn't give a damn about Miluda anymore, he just wants to hear the screams of humans.
Dead Character Walking: If a confused Heaven or Hell knight kills themselves with a spell before finishing to cast it, they will stand up from their KO animation to cast the remaining charges and drop down again afterwards.
Destroyable Items: Knights get several equipment breaking moves, as do some bosses. Thankfully preventable by a support ability.
The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: Boco, the Chocobo accompanying Wiegraf during Ramza's first encounter with the Corpse Brigade commander, is flagged "immortal", a special parameter usually reserved for guests that prevents any character's permanent death by any means. This is to prevent a paradox when you later encounter the same Chocobo by itself in chapter 2.
Bows are fired at an arc, allowing them to circumvent terrain and other characters on the way to the target only if it was fired at a sufficient height to clear any obstructions. What's more, a bow's range increases with its owner's elevation.
Some monster species tower over the human characters. This is pretty handy when they're allies, as they make useful stepping stools for reaching heights a character could not otherwise.
There are spirte sheets for all of the NPCs in the game no matter how briefly they may appear in cutscenes; there's even one huge sprite sheet for unique characters and/or animations.
Deus ex Machina: Having previously seen every encounter with a Zodiac Stone end in disaster, the one Rafa was carrying begins to glow while she mourns the death of her brother, and the player braces for a Zodiac Monster battle... except then a bright light comes from above and resurrects Malak. Ramza is forced to reevaluate his opinion of Zodiac Stones yet again. This is right after a Zodiac Monster AND a hellish Escort Mission.
To be fair, all the other Zodiac Stone wielders succumbed to Lucavi due to their lust for power. Malak was oblivious to their backstory and how Barinten raped Rafa, but didn't think twice before turning on him once the truth came up. Rafa only meant well to her brother, thus summoning the good power of the Zodiac Stone.
Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Ramza and his team murder their way up the demon hierarchy until they reach Bloody Angel Ultima/Altima and kick her ass too; Alma, supposedly the vessel for Altima, manages to undo the Grand Theft Me and reject Altima from her body because of the Power of Love.
Distressed Damsel: Delita's sister in the first chapter. Ramza's sister Alma, for the majority of the game. Princess Ovelia in Chapter Two. Subverted in that the player never rescues Ovelia, but Delita manipulates his way into her captors' ranks and subtly removes her from harm's way. Also, in a new mission for the PSP version, Reis is kidnapped and has to be rescued.
Does This Remind You of Anything?: The entire plot is, essentially, the Pharisee theory regarding Jesus, and their questioning whether his powers were truly divine in origin. They even included the part about the temple crumbling at the moment of St. Ajora's death.
The Dog Bites Back: Ramza spends about half the game being fooled into aiding the antagonists and then being forgotten as an ignorable pawn. Most said antagonists spend the other half of the story being stabbed in the face by Ramza. As the pile of dead soldiers and Eldritch Abominations left in his wake kept rising, Vormav/Folmarv should have figured out Ramza was a tad more dangerous than the average schmuck.
Downer Ending: Ovelia, having never had any freedom or happiness in her life, dies after stabbing Delita, who has also never known true happiness and lost everyone that ever meant anything to him; including Ovelia if you believe that he truly loved her. Olan/Orran is burned at the stake. And depending on how you interpret the ending, your entire main party died too. At least you still managed to save the world... except the Corrupt Church is still around and abusing power left and right—including by suppressing the story of how you saved the world—they just don't have demons to do it with any more. The official history, in fact, records you as the villain.
Enter Vagrant Story, which actually implies that the truth did out in the end. It just took centuries.
Dual Wielding: An innate ability of the Ninja class, purchasable as a support ability. (Giving a Bare-Fisted Monk the ability to punch twice? Yes, please and thank you!)
Duel Boss: Ramza gets the privilege of not one, but two duels. (Versus Gafgarion, though you can open the gate and have your party help you, and later against Wiegraf, who can easily become That One Boss.
Eleventh Hour Super Power: The reward for the penultimate battle in the game (part of a sequence that leads right to the end with no pause) is the Ragnarok knight sword.
Emergency Impersonation: In a cutscene, it's revealed that Ovelia's an unaware version of this; the real Ovelia either died a long time ago or just plain didn't exist.
Everything's Better with Princesses: Averted. Princess Ovelia's life kind of sucks, and she's treated as nothing more than a living MacGuffin by basically everyone. She spends only a very short period of time in the company of Ramza, the sole person in the game that treats her as a person, rather than as a princess.
Exact Eaves Dropping: Ovelia pretends to go to her room, but remains just barely out of sight to eavesdrop on Delita the one time he's discussing something pertinent to his nefarious plans; similarly, Zalbag eavesdrops on Dycedarg through a crack in the door while he's meeting with one of his co-conspirators. (Vaguely justified in that both were shown to have doubts earlier.)
Faking the Dead: A stand-in is executed in Orlandu's place so that he can safely join Ramza's party without fear of being hunted down.
There's also questions regarding whether or not Ramza and Alma survived the final battle and somehow returned to Ivalice. The simple answer is to write it off as Orran hallucinating them being alive, yet the entire ending cinematic is comprised of them riding around the now-peaceful countryside.
Flashback: The first chapter is a flashback (the tutorial battle at the beginning of the game takes place at least a year after those events, and chapter 2, taking place in the "present", takes place mere moments after Princess Ovelia is abducted); moreover, the entire story is told from a couple hundred years after the fact.
Friendly Fireproof: Averted: most spells are area-effect, meaning they will affect anyone standing within their influence, and shame on you if you accidentally kill an NPC in an Escort Mission by flinging spells on top of them. Played straight by summons and samurai class' releases, whose Damage Discrimination prevents them from hitting the "wrong" targets.
One very convenient side effect of this is that it allows you to level up more easily: neutralize the final remaining enemy on the field without killing it, then simply have your party hit and heal each other to gain experience and job points.
Game Mod: Fan-made mods generally come in the following flavors...
"Rebalanced": Attempts to nerf the more powerful job classes and/or buff the ones that lose relevance later on in the game.
"Hard Mode": The AI is given more tools against the player, sometimes to the point of outright cheating.
"Another Story": Instead of telling the original story, the plot is now either a continuation or a semi-related side story.
Or some or all of the above.
Gameplay and Story Integration: Delita will actually go right for Algus/Argath at the end of Chapter 1. Reason being? The latter just shot Delita's sister.
Rapha also runs right at Elmdore and his assassins at the end of Chapter 3. Again, for what reason? Elmdore just murdered the man who murdered her brother (and spent the past ten years ritualistically raping her). Robbed of her chance at revenge, she instead decides to commit Suicide by Cop.
Orlandeau, who is described in the backstory as jaw-droppingly powerful and skilled enough to defeat entire armies... and, well, when you get him on your side, he is—and unlike the other characters who join your party at a set level, he is always at the party level the game uses to calculate random encounters (so if your 4 + Ramza is maxed out at 99...)
Gameplay and Story Segregation: No matter how over-leveled you are, cutscenes will still play out exactly as scripted, and no amount of Phoenix Downs will save Teta/Tietra or Malak/Marach.
The fact that phoenix downs cannot save dead people in-story is justified. Phoenix downs can only revive incapacitated people, not revive the dead. This is shown in an optional cutscene when Mustadio is knocked out and Ramza yells for a phoenix down, and also in gameplay, where you have three turns to revive incapacitated allies or they're dead.
Alma notes she wishs she was a man when Ramza tells her to hide before going into a fight. 1: At this point Ramza has at least four One-Man Army units with him that he could leave to protect her rather than holding the Idiot Ball so blatantly 2: The player's army and indeed, a decent number of the generic enemies are always, can be female.
The reason that nobody appears alongside Ramza and Alma in the ending - besides that they might have all gone their separate ways, is because besides those two, you may not even have the others in your party, whether or not you even recruited them to begin with.
Geo Effects: How the Geomancers' abilities work. Ice spells also work better in snow-based fields, Lightning spells are more effective in the rain, and fire spells may be better in volcanoes and deserts.
Glass Cannon: Ninjas, Calculators, Black Mages and Summoners, at least in their default configuration. The game's flexibility is such that you can modify just about any class to strengthen its shortcomings.
Guide Dang It: Good luck trying to find some of the optional characters and subquests without a walkthrough.
And some of the rarer items. And if you're especially unfortunate or frustrated, some of the character job classes—though at least the game provides the prerequisites for a job class once you've unlocked it on at least one character.
Half-Human Hybrid: Reis, as described in her job class's description, is human, but descended from dragons.
This probably explains why she keeps her awesome dragon-breath abilities when she is turned back into a human.
Heel-Face Turn: Meliadoul changes sides when she realizes that 1) your party didn't murder her brother, her father did; and 2) said father, Vormav, has been taken over by a Demon.
Zalbaag also comes around when he realizes that Dycedarg killed their father and Ramza was right all along. But unlike Meliaduol, he's killed before he can join your party. He gets better... No, he gets worse.
You can also recruit enemies with the Mediator's "Invite" ability or temporarily woo enemies to your side via the Thief's "Steal Heart" ability.
Rapha and her brother also start out as enemies before they join your side.
Hero Antagonist: Wiegraf is a rare example of one turned evil. Meliadoul is a type 2. Also Izlude.
He Who Fights Monsters: Wiegraf, who hates the Church at first, and then you kill his sister. Then he's helping the Church so that he'll have the power necessary to kill you.
Hyperactive Sprite: When not attacking, everyone is always walking (or in the case of Dancers and Bards, dancing or singing) in place unless they are using an ability that takes charge time, in which case they either squat or keep their arms raised in the air.
An Ice Gun: The Glacier Gun, incorrectly called Blaze Gun in the PSX version due to a bug.
Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Rapha and Malak, who has area of effect spells that randomly hit up to six times, though you can improve the odds of striking an enemy by careful placement. Reis (as a human) also has something similar, except it fires only up to four times over an area of 13 tiles max, which means that it'll be a miracle if it actually hits ANYTHING at all. The Tiamat monster class also has abilities that work this way, which are much better because it's much easier to limit the area of effect of those spells.
Improbable Weapon User: Characters can use Instruments, Dictionaries, Handbags, and Bolts of Cloth to attack (and the Ninja class can use the Throw command for any equippable weapon).
Inconsistent Dub: White Mage and Black Mage are known as "Priest" and "Wizard" in the PS1 version, but are called White Mage and Black Mage in attract mode. More famously, Altima/Ultima both getting used in the same scene.
In the Hood: The White Mage class (though the males don't wear theirs), Orlandu, Meliadoul, Rafa, Gafgarian, while pretending to be an executioner, Zalmo (but he doesn't wear his, either), Cardinal Draclau, and Rofel.
Early on (second battle in the game) Ramza demands the gang of torturednote pathetic thieves to either surrender or die in obscurity. The thieves choose to die in obscurity rather than surrender. Guess which path Ramza takes later in life when facing a grand conspiracy...
Jerkass: Algus/Argath. SERIOUSLY. He is so reviled that he was placed in a second battle in War of the Lions, just so you could kill him again, and then in a Bonus Mission where you kill ten of him. Also usually named are Dycedarg, Delita, and Gaffgarion. Barrington is possibly even worse, but most don't bother to remember him.
Job System: One of the reasons the game has so much depth is that it gives you 20 classes and the ability to mix-and-match skills from them. Every class has at least one useful skill, even mage classes when paired with high MA.
Agrias:Lord Dycedarg and the duke would use her as a pawn in their game of thrones! Just as the two of them now use you! Is a man like you not ashamed to be no more than a pawn in their game? Have you no pride—no honor?
Lady of War: Several, not counting the player's ability to make female Generics into this: Agrias Oaks, Holy Knight and commander of the Lionsguard (personal bodyguards of the Royal Family.) Meliadoul Tengille, Divine Knight and daughter of Vormarv.
Lazy Backup: If all five members of your party are down (via K.O. or being Taken for Granite), it's Game Over regardless of how many other people you didn't take with you into battle.
Laser-Guided Karma: Partially. Being good doesn't necessarily mean you'll get a good ending, but if you're evil, some way or another, you will pay. Holy shit, you will pay.
Level Grinding: Taken to absolutely obscene extremes with the Deep Dungeon's Degenerator floor panels, which take you DOWN a level. The goal is to "make a profit" with your levels, so you would level up as normal in a job which has superior stat growth and then change jobs to something inferior to step on the Degenerator. Only for the hardest hardcore, because characters are already pretty powerful, especially unique units.
Level Scaling: The game bases non-story battles on your party's levels, which can be a problem, because while monsters gain almost all of their stats from leveling up, humans, especially melee fighters, gain most of their stats from equipment.
Loads And Loads Of Sidequests: The subseries is centred around a large number of sidequests. In the first two games, most of the sidequests were "Dispatch" missions where the player takes the right unit for the job, and then sends them off to take care of business while they went about on their own. Final Fantasy Tactics A2, on the other hand, made things get nutty by making nearly all of the several-hundred-strong sidequests directly playable.
Lonely at the Top: Delita destroys everything and everyone close to him in his bid to become king and finishes the game kneeling near the corpse of his wife (who he just killed in self-defense) wounded and wondering aloud who got the better end, he or his supposedly dead, ex-best friend Ramza.
Lost Forever: Characters who stay dead too long turn into crystals. Also, if your allies Brave levels are too low or Faith is too high, they'll leave the party.
You can also use "luck" to your advantage by using a low health character as a decoy.
Any mission that ends if a particular character (Algus, Rafa) dies. Said character can start in the middle of a pack of enemies and you just have to pray the CPU is smart enough to have the character run from danger before they're killed.
Magic Dance: The aptly-named "Dance" ability owned by the aptly-named Dancer class. Ironically, the Dancer class is a physical class, not a magical one.
Magic Knight: Half the hero characters, and you can even make your own generic ones.
Magikarp Power: The Calculator/Arithmetician class can be deadly if trained properly, as can a Dancer/Ninja combination.
Dancers go straight into Game Breaker territory when paired with Mimes, who will automatically mimic all ally actions: they have an all-enemy HP-damaging ability that usually goes off twice before anyone else can have a turn, and every battle starts with the enemy on the other side of the field.
To elaborate, Calculators are very slow and weak, but their ability lets them cast spells from other casting classes for free, with no charge time, under certain parameters. After purchasing all of these, as well as all of the usable spells, they are very good characters, but this is very time consuming. The ninja class has a reaction ability that turns them invisible, making the computer unable to see where they are (or at least, preventing the computer from actively targeting them), but this status is broken by any action. Once a dancer starts a dance command, they will continue to perform it until another order is given. In combination, dancer starts a dance, gets hit, triggering the invisibility, which then remains as the dancer only waits each turn even though the dance continues, doing such things as damaging every enemy on the field.
Meaningful Echo: When Delita first appears in chapter 2, he identifies himself as "Human, just like you", a nod to Miluda's earlier line "We're not animals! We're human, just like you! There's no difference among us other than our families!".
Mechanically Unusual Class: Calculators/Arithmetician are very slow and weak, but their ability lets them cast spells from other casting classes for free, with no charge time, under certain (numerical, hence the name) parameters. After purchasing all of these, as well as all of the usable spells, they are very good characters, but this is very time consuming.
And then there's all of the unique job classes such as Holy Swordsman, Assassin, Engineer, etc.
Memento MacGuffin: The grass whistle/reed flute, which binds Ramza and Delita to their younger, happier days (and to each other,) and which Ramza tries to teach to Ovelia. Eventually, Delita does teach her to do it in the PSP version.
Morale Mechanic: The game did include "Bravery" as a morale mechanic in combat; if dropped to single digits, the unit would literally turn into a chicken and avoid battle; a player character whose out-of-battle Bravery was dropped too low would leave the party forever (except Ramza).
I'm Meliadoul! I'm coming here to avenge my brother!
Narrator All Along: A variation. We know the narrator's identity from the beginning, but his relation to the cast is only revealed at the end.
Nemean Skinning: You can instantly skin a monster upon killing them with the right support ability equipped.
Played with, more like. You can't do a strict Nemean skinning and immediately use the item you just poached, but the body of the monster/animal does disappear from the field immediately instead of counting down to death like every other combatant. However, if a curative item made from the body of a monster appears in a treasure chest left by a dead animal, you can use that immediately. I depends on whether you think chocobos naturally grow one ready-to-use phoenix down or not.
Nice Hat: The Black Mages get the classical Robe and Wizard Hat, the Time Mages a pointy pope-esque hat, the Oracles' hat make them look like learned men of the far east (fitting since their job class involves eastern mysticism), and the Summoners' headbands are positively Freudian. On the non-caster side, Lancers get pretty nice helmets, Male Ninjas have a funky tortoise-shell hat/face-cover thing, Male Squires look like they're wearing a yarmulke, Mediator hats look like a pillow (complete with tassles), and Male Samurais have helmets evocative of Sherlock Holmes' deerstalker.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Ramza is conned quite a few times into making things worse for himself. Example: Handing Ovelia over to a duplicitous member of the Corrupt Church, who then hands her over to the Manipulative Bastard, who put her on the throne and start the very war Ramza was trying to avoid in her name.
Non Standard Game Over: It is technically possible to fail the first battle by going after Gafgarion and breaking his sword in the process. It is very difficult and requires a lot of luck to pull off (as the odds are overwhelmingly against you), but the designers of the game did not plan for this. It causes a game lock up that cannot be recovered. You can also simply lose the first battle to a lucky string of bad rolls and since none of the characters except yours are controllable, the AI can shaft you (very rarely, but its technically possible).
Non Standard Skill Learning: Ramza's skillset gets larger over the course of the game. There's also the Ultima spell (learnable only by Ramza and Alma, and only during two storyline fights) and the Zodiac summon (learnable only by summoners, during one optional fight), which are taught by being hit with (and surviving) the skill in combat, as opposed to most skill which are purchased with JP.
The Noseless: A facet of Akihiko Yoshida's Ivalice characters is that they lack visible noses. This carries over into the CG sequences in The War of the Lions which were done in Yoshida's style. Also of note, the character portraits in Final Fantasy XII (also done by Yoshida) also lack noses.
The Not-Love Interest: Alma. Really if you weren't told that she and Ramza were brother and sister, you'd never know.
Onmyodo: A possible job class (called the Oracle in the original English version and Mystic in the remake).
Optional Party Member: You can refuse to let any story member join your party; furthermore, you gain Worker/Construct 8, Beowulf, Reis, and Cloud via optional sidequests. In the PSP version, Balthier and Luso are also available to be recruited. While you need to go looking for Balthier, the game practically hands you Luso.
Point of No Return: Aside from a few temporary ones here and there, that lock you into a series of battles without giving you a chance to escape or level grind, there's also a true point of no return: the Orbonne Monastery at the end of Chapter 4.
Purposefully Overpowered : Orlandu, to match up to the story that seems to imply him as someone who is extremely powerful. When you get him, hes possibly the best character you can have assuming your playing in normal pace and comes with ridiculously powerful equips that can last you to the end of the game.
Some of the Guest Star Party Members are interesting examples. While all of them don't have particularly high stats that makes them completely broken in combat, they have some of the most overpowered abilities in the game. Amongst them, Alma and Ovelia have a Status Buff spell that puts Protect, Shell, Haste, Regen, AND Reraise on another character, with casting speed as fast as the the first tier of Fire. Orran has a global skill on every enemy that inflicts Stop, Disable, and Immobilize instantly. Safe to say that had any one of them (or even better all three of them) been allowed to join your team, they would have become complete Game Breakers in one way or another.
Grand Duke Barrington:*chuckle* You cannot [kill me]. Do you know why? The flesh remembers, Rapha. It remembers fear, cold and trembling. But it will not always be so. In time, your fear will blossom into another flower - and I shall have that one as well.
Required Party Member: You're forced to play most of Chapter One denied of one slot of your five member party limit; in two instances, one of these slots is occupied by a deadNPC who can't be revived at all ( Teta/Tietra in the final battle of Chapter One and Malak/Marach in the Riovanes rooftop battle, and in a third, Boco the Chocobo takes up the slot as a Guest for the enemy.
Retcon: Parts of the story have been edited in the PSP version to fit in better with the The Ivalice Alliance that spawned from it.
Revive Kills Zombie: This IS a Final Fantasy game, after all—but note that only the Phoenix Down and Life 2 spells are instant kills (regular flavored Revive only does the same damage that it would have granted as healing magic).
Robe and Wizard Hat: Standard gear for all of the magician classes, most obviously the Black Mage.
Rush Boss: Most Lucavi, especially Velius, can be killed relatively quickly, but can, on the other hand, very quickly obliterate you.
Scream Discretion Shot: Played straight except when Delita seems like he's about to kill Balmafula when the "camera" jumps away and Balmafula screams, but she later turns up alive.
Sealed Evil in a Can: The demons seem to be inhabiting the Zodiac Stones but, after Malak is resurrected by one, Ramza wonders if it's just a portal to either Heaven or Hell.
Self-Imposed Challenge: The Straight Character Challenge, which involves picking one class. You then play through the game using only the Action, Reaction, Support, and Movement abilities of a single job-class. And in a strange move, the FAQ for the challenge specifically calls anyone who whines about people who bend the rules for tough fights an arse. Better than it sounds, as it breathes completely new life into the game.
Not to mention Solo Straight Character Challenges, with all the constraints of the SCC with the additional difficulty of only using Ramza, Level 1 challenges, and a variety of other suggested challenges pioneered at the GameFAQs board. The depth of the job system and the AI quirks of the enemies make it possible to beat the game with almost any set of characters given adequate preparation and lots of free time.
Similarly, only playing required battles without grinding, or only playing with Auto-battle for an entire game are fun challenges.
Self-Made Man: Delita claws his way up from an orphaned stableboy to the King of Ivalice by selling out everyone who cared about him.
Shoot the Dog: Moments after Zalbag realizes that Dycedarg is up to no good, he is turned into a zombie and you have to kill him.
Shoot the Hostage: After Algus/Argath's defection to Zalbag's knights, he shoots and kills Delita's sister before shooting Golagros/Gragoroth at Zeakden Fortress. This was set up earlier in the chapter, as Algus is of noble birth and has grown to hate all commoners, including Ramza's Unlucky Childhood Friend, Delita.
The treasures and lands you unlock in the bar are mostly callbacks to previous Final Fantasy titles. There's also a Shout Out to Breath of Fire with the Zenny Sword, described as 'a sword made of foreign coins'.
Extremely subtle, and maybe not even intentional, but one secret battle in the Yuguo Woods pits you against seven samurai.
It's pretty clear Joseph Reeder is a fan of George R. R. Martin. Aside from the blatantly obvious "game of thrones" line, there's also the term used to refer to Agrias and her knights, the "Lionsguard", which sounds pretty inspired by "Kingsguard."
In the remake, when Ramza lands the killing blow on Gaffgarion, the latter's last words are "I feel... cold."
Smug Snake: Dycedarg, who's not aware that he himself is an Unwitting Pawn while he attempts to manipulate events in his favor (including poisoning his own father to death) and not smart enough to close the door while having discussions with his co-conspirators.
So Long, and Thanks for All the Gear: When GafgarionFace Heel Turns in Chapter Two, he fights you with whatever equipment you bought for him. Snatching his sword will prevent him from using his sword-based techniques against you, making the fight much easier.
You can also change his character's class just prior to the battle. This can result in some hilarious situations such as fighting Gafgarion, the naked White Mage.
Not to mention that he is using equipment one step better than you can buy. Taking all of his equipment saves you a lot of money and turns him from a pain in the butt to a slaughter-in-waiting.
In the PS1 version, the same character also causes a reverse Wutai theft - when you beat him, you get whatever he was equipped with at the beginning of the battle. If you stole everything during the fight, it magically doubles.
And, as mentioned below, you can recruit new Player Mooks just to strip them of their gear and kick them out of the party naked.
Spell My Name with an S: Ultima/Altima, among other things. In the original, names are sometimes spelled differently in the same conversation. The remake confuses things even further, with some names correcting obvious translation errors and others seemingly changed just for the sake of changing them.
Stalker with a Crush: Delita. Not to love, but to protect. Does one honestly think he met with Ramza in Warjillas by chance? He said in text that he was basically stalking him, and, in an indirect way, trying to protect him as well. Afterall:
Averted with most of the Job outfits, which are usually sensible across both genders. The only outfits that show a lot of skin are the male Monk, who wears a loose vest with no shirt, and the male Geomancer and the female-only Dancer, who Bare Their Midriffs.
Succession Crisis: The titular War of the Lions is kicked off over this. Being a thinly veiled version of the War of the Roses, this shouldn't be a suprise.
Super Power Meltdown: The Lucavi explode when they die leaving behind only their (supposedly benign) Zodiac Stone.
Suspicious Video Game Generosity: Seemingly played straight and then horribly subverted. After completing the battle in front of Riovanes Castle, the game benignly offers to let you save your progress. If you're playing the game for the first time, you have no idea that you're about to be immediately thrust into Ramza's duel with Wiegraf, and once you save you can't go back. If Ramza's level/skill/equipment set isn't up to snuff, and you don't have another save to fall back on, you are screwed.
Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors: Some monsters take more damage against varying elemental spells, and Zodiac compatibilities follow a fairly complicated chart of affinities and weaknesses. (At least the game is nice enough to show you how much potential damage you can do at what success rate before you commit to doing anything - if you could actively tag the target with whatever you're doing, that is.)
Take That, Us: The mediator ability "Mimic Daravon" puts targets to sleep. Daravon is the name of the instructor in the tutorials.
Take Your Time: Despite an In-Universe Game Clock that advances one day for each location you pass through, and has an effect on your characters depending on what Zodiac sign they are, your characters can literally spend years before finishing the game. (Additionally, regardless of how long it takes to finish a battle, the game always considers you to have spent a full day in that location.)
Not to mention that the game explicitly jumps one full year between all of the chapters but the last. At the start of Chapter 1, Ramza's 16. By the time Chapter 3 rolls around, Ramza's 18... If not older, thanks to the aforementioned one day per location. This can lead to very strange ages in the game's encyclopedia section if a person plays enough: My perfect file lists Ramza as being a healthy young man of 43 years.
Talking the Monster to Death: The Mediator job class has "Death Sentence", an ability that can cause the enemy to die in three turns if successful; it also has the ability "Mimic Daravon", which causes the "Sleep" status ailment if successful.
Transformation Sequence: The Lucavi follow the Monstrous Transformation type to fully bond with their hosts. You see usually the same one every time you fight them Altima/Ultima gets special mention for not only getting a unique transformation sequence before her fight, but doing ANOTHER ONE after already summoned.
Transhuman Treachery: The Lucavi appear to merge with their hosts into an unholy Lich King-like amalgamation of man and demon. While the original personality of the host remains intact, they immediately cast off their humanity.
Tutorial Failure: As a result of its horrible translation, the tutorial fails to teach anything. It's actually Lampshaded in-game: one of the Mediator class's abilities is called "Mimic Daravon," a technique that puts enemies to sleep by supposedly imitating the game's comically obtuse tutorial instructor character.
Unwinnable: Go into the duel with Wiegraf without the proper equipment and abilities, and you'll wish you had a back-up save. This can even lead to a meta Hope Spot, because it's entirely possible to be capable of winning the duel with Wiegraf and then be incapable of winning the fight that happens immediately after.
Characters will die permanently after three rounds of KO status; people have been known to restart a battle just to avoid losing one of their generics.
For many, this was just because dead units take their experience with them; losing a party member meant either a) turning to a much weaker party member you haven't played with for a while and is thus less useful, or b) recruiting and training a new member from level 1. It simply wasn't worth it.
There was also c) mentioned below, wherein you deliberately train units to be killed and have their skills absorbed by a level 1 character. Also, thanks to the idea that generics can represent several players seated on a couch and shouting instructions at each other while waiting for the controller to be passed around when their turn is up, this would be equivalent to a tabletop RPG session suffering the loss of a player until a new one is rolled. Said multiplayer method allows for each person to control a generic each and play like an online game.
Video Game Cruelty Potential: Using Rock Throw on your own allies in the early parts of the game to gain JP; you can also go for total enemy kill in the "Kill X" missions, which makes for a bit of Gameplay and Story Segregation in the first battle against Miluda when Ramza will say: "Surrender and we'll spare you" even if you've wiped out her entire party. You can also kill your own monsters (with a certain supporting ability equipped) to sell their pelts or absorb your own allies' soul crystals to pick up the abilities they learned, or Invite enemy characters just to strip them of their equipment and kick them out of the party immediately afterward. Furthermore, you can Level Grind your party to ridiculous amounts, making any story-based battle massively one-sided.
Weaksauce Weakness - The final boss takes absurd damage from Drain, the cheapest ability available to Oracles. It also forces said boss to immediately switch tactics to completely deplete the magic points of any Oracle, to the exclusion of anything else.
Every boss is weak to that spell however, due to its damage being equal to 1/4 of an enemies life, while still having a success rate averaging 60%-70%. Technically Altima is resistant to the spell, as max damage is 999 and thus is taking only about 1/6th of its life per casting.
The bosses are also just as susceptible to the stat break skills as anything else. Bring in a team of knights and you can reduce pretty much any boss to a pile of hit points that almost never gets a turn and does absolutely pathetic damage with its attacks.
The in-game animation shows them simply opening the book to inflict pain, so it could be a case of literally weapons-grade words.
We Cannot Go On Without You: The game ends if Ramza dies and turns into a crystal. The trope fits very well with the rooftop mission with the assassins as mentioned before; if one of your guest party members die in that battle, Game Over. A few other battles also end the game prematurely if a key character is killed.
Western Zodiac: The holy stones are all named after the constellations, and a Bonus Boss is the "thirteenth", Serpentarius. Each Zodiac has a specific set of affinities and weaknesses as well.
Wham Episode: So, so many. In Chapter 2 alone, each third battle or so sends the plot moving in a completely different direction.
Characters of sufficiently high Faith will also complain at the end of every battle about the necessity of slaughtering everyone and everything you come across. If a character's faith passes 95 they'll abandon your party and devote their life to religious pursuits.
What You Are in the Dark: Ramza again. He doesn't care that he's sacrificing himself for nothing and that history will remember him as a villain (until the Brave Story is revealed). He'll know, and the world will be saved.
Written by the Winners - History turned Delita into the hero and Ramza a murderous heretic;. The Durai Scriptures, the supposedly true story that you play through in the game, has still survived, though.
Xanatos Speed Chess: Regardless of who won the War of the Lions, the Church would come out on top. And it did, but only because Delita needed it to —with all of its leaders and Temple Knights dead, it's not in as good of shape as it imagined it would). The same applies for the Lucavi.
You Bastard: The entire point of Chapter 1 is getting you to hate the system Ivalice runs on and question why you (Ramza) are even a part of it, in order to prepare you for when it starts to put the screws to you.
You Can't Go Home Again: Matsuno's tweet on Valentine's Day 2012 confirmed that Ramza and Alma survived the ending but had to flee Ivalice and move to another country.