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Fanfic / Farce of the Three Kingdoms

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Artist's impression.

Li Ru: This is a serious work of literature!

Farce of the Three Kingdoms is a satirical Alternative Character Interpretation of Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Aside from gags, none of the major (or even minor) events are changed, and it usually follows the original almost line by line. Except...

Everybody is completely insane.

No, more than the original.

Cao Cao is poised to take over the country. He's brilliant, determined, and a phenomenal leader; he just has one little problem. He's the villain. And the ever-present thorn in his side is The Hero, Liu Bei. He might be a cowardly, lying, narcissistic jerk, but he's still the hero...


Farce of the Three Kingdoms provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Accidental Truth: Zhuge Liang spins a completely implausible story that Cao Cao's motivation for invading the South is his obsession with the Qiao sisters. It isn't, but Cao Cao turns out to be rather creepily obsessed with them.
  • Anticlimax: Most of the cliffhangers end this way.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: The whole work is basically a flip of the standard interpretation. Liu Bei is a slimy, cowardly, treacherous jerk, and Zhuge Liang is even worse. Cao Cao is still a Magnificent Bastard, but he's much more humanized and often sympathetic. Sun Quan is simply a Nice Guy.
  • Anti-Hero: Cao Cao. Or, possibly, Anti-Villain.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The book opens with horrible omens from heaven: namely, a giant snake monster, earthquakes, and transgender chickens. Naturally, the court finds the last one most concerning.
  • "Ass" in Ambassador: Mi Heng, of course, but Zhuge Liang as well. Chapter 43 is titled "In which Zhuge Liang puts the “Ass” in “Ambassador."
    • This strategy backfires spectacularly on Zhang Song, who's shocked that it didn't work.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Cao Cao, although Big Xun and Little Xun usually keep him on track.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Diao Chan, not that either Lu Bu or Dong Zhuo notice.
  • Bad Boss: Yuan Shao.
  • Bathe Him And Bring Him To Me: Cao Cao loves this, although he never does more than look.
  • Battle Strip: Xu Chu does this. In Romance of the Three Kingdoms, it's to intimidate Ma Chao. Here, it's so he can put his Naughty Tentacle to combat use.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Everyone knows perfectly well they're in a book. They will occasionally address the narrator (and he also may step in when things are getting too silly.) At one point, the characters even pull out the book to work out a Continuity Snarl. They decide to ignore it and pretend it never happened.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: Often.
  • Butt-Monkey: Lu Su.
    • Cao Cao as well. In the chapter titles alone, he gets multiple bad haircuts, is beaned by an old lady, and is chased by a zombie army. And that's aside from the whole being-the-villain issue.
  • Captain Oblivious: Liu Biao persists in believing that Liu Bei is a good person, despite his wife's pointing out all of Liu Bei's misdeeds and suspicious behaviour. Liu Zhang is even worse.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Everyone is well aware who the villain is, including Cao Cao himself. He sometimes chafes against this.
  • Chainmail Bikini: Huang Gai.
  • Chewbacca Defense: Zhuge Liang's main debate tactic against the scholars of the South. He leaves them stunned into silence, not because he debated circles round them, but because there is no useful response to "You’re just a regular bird, so you can’t possibly understand dignified, majestic cranes like us."
  • Childhood Brain Damage: In the original, Liu Bei throws his infant son aside after Zhao Yun risks his life to retrieve the baby. It may be a coincidence that Liu Shan grows up to be known for his lack of intelligence, but not in this version.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Cao Cao will always strip defeated enemies... then offer them a nice job.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Frequently.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Cao Hong.
  • Cut-and-Paste Note: One is made from letters written by Xu Shu’s mother to deceive Xu Shu into leaving Liu Bei for Cao Cao.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Lampshaded frequently.
    Villager: "Can we have Liu Bei back? He was a great mayor."
    Cao Cao: "You realize the guy eats people, right?"
  • Dirty Coward: Liu Bei.
  • Disposable Woman: It's the third century, after all. Zhao Yun is nice enough to try to avert this, but Lady Mi insists.
  • The Ditz: Cao Hong.
  • Double Entendre: Until the narrator told them to knock it off.
  • The Dreaded: In the Southlands, Lady Wu.
  • Easily Forgiven: Cao Cao lets Guan Yu off after killing several of his employees, because he likes him. Their former coworkers do not take this well.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: Cao Cao is prone to this.
  • Everyone Is Gay: Or rather, the Ho Yay in the original is dialed up.
  • Evil Overlord List: Guo Jia made Cao Cao read it.
  • Frequently-Broken Unbreakable Vow: Liu Bei and co. never intended to keep their promise to give Jingzhou back to Sun Quan, and every time they are asked to, they move the goalposts.
  • Fun with Homophones: When Xu Shunote  pisses off Zhuge Liang, the latter tells him to shoo.
  • Gallows Humor: The long-running Death Scene Competition.
  • Genre Savvy: Liu Bei is The Hero, Cao Cao is the villain. Everybody knows this. And yet Cao Cao is *still* able to use this to his own advantage.
    • All the characters know they are in a book, and therefore are able to anticipate genre conventions. Unless they're Wrong Genre Savvy, like Lu Su or Li Ru.
  • Grande Dame: Lady Wu. Lady Sun takes after her.
  • Gray and Gray Morality: Neither the "hero" nor the "villain" are particularly nice people, and the villain is arguably a better person.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Lu Su, who persists in believing that Liu Bei and Zhuge Liang are honourable people long after everyone else in the South catches onto them.
    • Liu Zhang is catastrophically bad at spotting traitors and liars.
  • Idiot Ball: Chapter 14 is titled: "In which Zhang Fei catches the Idiot Ball."
  • Jerkass: Zhuge Liang, in spades.
  • Karma Houdini: Guan Yu completely gets away with murdering six TSA agents (not to mention the murder charge he is fleeing at the very beginning.)
  • Kill It with Fire: Zhuge Liang's main strategy.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: On Liu Bei's side, Zhang Fei. On Cao Cao's side, Cao Hong. He even shouts "Leeeeroy Jenkins!" at one point.
  • Leitmotif: Cao Cao's is Yakety Sax. Liu Bei gets suspicious at one point because he doesn't hear it when Cao Cao is supposedly around.
  • Mama's Boy: Sun Quan is very much his Aunt Stepmom's Boy.
  • Medium Awareness: Constantly.
  • Mood-Swinger: Liu Bei, who responds to most situations by crying. Eventually Zhuge Liang gives up on changing this, and instead focuses on using Liu Bei's crocodile tears to manipulate people.
  • Musical Episode: Chapter 37. Everybody finds this rather irritating.
  • Naughty Tentacles: Xu Chu has exactly one. He only uses it for completely practical things.
  • Nice Guy: Lu Su. The heroes take full advantage of this.
  • No Fourth Wall: Characters will frequently refer to events by chapter, and the narrator occasionally steps into the action.
  • "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: A quick “yes” is added in brackets after the mention of a rebel leader named He Man.
  • One Steve Limit: Cao Cao is understandably confused by Xun Yu and Xun You, so he dubs them "Big Xun" and "Little Xun."
  • Only Sane Man
    • Zhou Yu is the only person to really reject the "Hero and Villain" idea, although he isn't exactly sane either.
    • Lu Su is probably the only really well-adjusted character. And among the Big Three, Sun Quan is far saner than Cao Cao or Liu Bei.
  • Orgasmic Combat: Sun Ce and Taishi Ci's fistfight is filled with innuendo. It's heavily implied that they bang for real when Taishi Ci surrenders.
  • Pet the Dog: Cao Cao makes this his official policy, hoping to become a Villain with Good Publicity. He has some success, but no one really changes their mind about him being the villain.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: Both the Yuans. At one point, Shao dismisses a plan for being "too sensible."
  • Pretty Princess Powerhouse: Lady Sun, although her sharpest weapon is her tongue.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Lampshaded.
  • Pyro Maniac: Zhuge Liang. He likes to burn things.
  • Running Gag: "Liu Bei burst into tears."
  • Same Surname Means Related: Liu Bei claims this, usually when it's convenient for him. This doesn't stop him from backstabbing other Lius, it only keeps him from attacking them openly. Most of the time.
  • Shaking Her Hair Loose: Except with Guan Yu's beard.
  • Shameful Strip: Cao Cao loves these.
  • Shout-Out: Several to Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: Sun Quan and Lu Su.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Jian Yong is quite bitter about his status as a minor character.
  • Smug Snake: Zhuge Liang. Cao Cao has moments where he is like this, but it's Zhuge Liang's default.
  • The Sociopath: Zhuge Liang. He doesn't give a damn about morality, only about winning. Liu Bei, at least, has some conscience.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Liu Bei for Zhuge Liang. Also Zhou Cang for Guan Yu.
  • Stalking Is Love: Liu Bei gains Zhuge Liang's undying loyalty by being extremely creepy.
  • Stupid Crooks: It's a wonder any of the ill-fated conspiracies go unnoticed even as long as they do.
  • Talk Like a Pirate: Gan Ning, of course.
  • Tempting Fate: Sun Jian really should have known better than to foreshadow his own death.
  • Then Let Me Be Evil: Cao Cao has shades of this,since he's the Designated Villain, regardless of what he does.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: Li Jue and Guo Si.
  • Token Good Teammate: Zhao Yun is the only genuinely nice person on Liu Bei's side.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Dong Zhuo interprets an escalating list of very clearly bad omens as signs that he will be crowned Emperor.
    • Sun Ce misses all the hints that he should be nice to Yu Ji.
    • Liu Zhang invites Liu Bei into his kingdom despite every indication that that is a horrible idea.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Cao Cao has a couple.
  • Troll: Mi Heng (who sings the Trololo song) is the first and most memorable, but Zhuge Liang is nearly as good. He does troll Zhou Yu to death, after all.
  • Twice-Told Tale
  • Unreliable Narrator: The narrator is in fact a minor character. He is indeed unreliable, not because he is deceptive, but because of his pro-Liu Bei bias.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight
    • The first chapter mentions Liu Bei's physical description in the novel, claiming he has shoulder length ears and eyes that can look behind those ears, and how nobody in the story ever comments on this.
    • No one finds it at all odd that Sun Qian can teleport, although they may be startled.
  • Villain Has a Point: Cao Cao's entire shtick.
    • The Cais aren't very nice people, but their suspicion towards Liu Bei is entirely justified, and what they fear (his taking over) does in fact come to pass.
  • Villain Protagonist: Either way you look at it. Liu Bei is clearly a hero In Name Only, and while Cao Cao is much more likable (or at least, more entertaining), he is not remotely a good person.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Cao Cao tries to be this. Liu Bei succeeds.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Cao Cao is just as ruthless in the original, and will sometimes use his status as the villain to justify his actions - but he's not wrong that the country would have been torn into pieces by civil war without him.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: While talking to Han Sui in Chapter 59, Cao Cao does the math and figures out that the ages of the Ma family make no sense whatsoever.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Parodied. Liu Bei isn't called out for his cannibalism, or abandoning his family, or dropping his baby son - but his friends scold him for planting a garden in his backyard and making a silly hat.
  • Your Mom: In chapter 3, He Jin refuses Cao Cao’s help while mentioning that his grandfather was a eunuch.

Example of: