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Fanfic / Farce of the Three Kingdoms

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Artist's impression.

"This is a serious work of literature!"
Li Ru

Farce of the Three Kingdoms is a satirical Alternative Character Interpretation of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, found on Saxo Dramaticus. 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:

  • Aborted Arc: Lampshaded with Guan Yu's backstory in chapter 1, even if in-story it's not quite the case...
  • Accent Slip-Up: Sima Yan sometimes slips into his father's Black Speech when he's upset.
  • 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.
  • A Child Shall Lead Them: Emperor Bian is enthroned at the age of thirteen. Not that he's actually got power...
    • Said emperor is then deposed and his even younger brother is put on the throne. Deconstructed, given that the new emperor is, well, eight, and is right-out stated to not really be in power.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: After his initial shock, Cao Cao finds Chen Lin's anti-Cao Cao propaganda hilarious.
  • Adaptational Dumbass: Xu Shu. In the original, he's portrayed as second only to Zhuge Liang in intelligence. In Farce of the Three Kingdoms... not so much.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Without changing any actual actions, only the motivations behind them. Shu is made up of power-hungry hypocrites, dupes, and Zhao Yun.
  • Affectionate Parody
  • Anticlimax: Most of the cliffhangers end this way.
  • Anachronism Stew: Due to Rule of Funny being in force. YouTube apparently exists, as do email, cars, Linked In, job fairs, startups, resumes, microwaves, and superpowers. However, these never actually affect the plot.
  • Annoying Arrows: Zhuge Ke goes through most of Chapter 108 with an arrow sticking out of his head. He's only able to do this because he makes a deal with one of the death scene judges, though, and under other circumstances arrows are fairly deadly.
  • 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.
    • He Jin poisons Empress Dong...and then doesn't attend her funeral. Rude.
  • "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.
  • Asshole Victim: Guan Yu's pre-story victim "was a dick".
  • As You Know: Lady Wu (Sr.) gets a truly egregious one.
    Lady Wu: You know how your father married both me and my sister, so your stepmother is also your aunt and it’s really awkward?
    Sun Quan: Of course I know, I’ve lived with you guys my entire life.
    Lady Wu: Shhh, son. It’s exposition.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Cao Cao, who can't seem to focus on one target at a time and needs to be constantly reminded by his advisors.
  • Badass Boast: Common, but they usually aren't very accurate.
    Cao Cao: Bad? I’m the baddest dude around. My enemies scatter in front of me like rats. I mow them down like weeds. Come, see, conquer is my order of business. All who oppose me perish. Understand?
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Diao Chan, not that either Lu Bu or Dong Zhuo notice.
  • Bad Boss: Yuan Shao, who changes his mind every two seconds and is prone to executing people on a whim.
    • Dong Zhuo.
    • Lu Bu, who kills a lot of underlings.
    • Zhuge Liang is (usually) a decent Dragon-in-Chief to Liu Bei and Liu Shan, but to his underlings on the other hand...
  • 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.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Zhuge Ke wants to finish his war, get a more dramatic death scene, and have some memorable last words. Since the Third Judge is a Jackass Genie, he loses the war, gets an absurdly long-drawn and over-the-top death scene, and his last words are ''Why am I in a frog’s body? Why am I in a maid outfit?"
  • Berserk Button: Eventually, calling Liu Bei the hero becomes this for Cao Cao.
    • Many battles and sieges reach a deadlock until one side finds the opposing general's Berserk Button. These range from childish (mooning) to understandable (telling Lady Zhurong to make you a sandwich) to bizarre (watching wrestling in the presence of Zhang He.)
  • Better than a Bare Bulb: The narration lampshades a ton of stuff.
  • Black Comedy
  • Blood Knight: Jiang Wei. He doesn't seem to understand the meaning of caution, patience, or peace.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Chapter 91. To calm down some spirits, you have to sacrifice a black ox, a white goat...and a few humans. No biggie.
  • 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.
  • Brick Joke: Guan Yu is introduced fleeing a murder charge, which no one seems to care about at all. Then, in Chapter 77, Transverse-Peace holds Guan Yu's ghost accountable for the murder of a large number of generals, as well as "that guy at the beginning no one ever talks about."
  • Brief Accent Imitation: Jia Chong somehow manages to do this to Sima Zhao.
    Jia Chong: What do you mean, N̉ͤ̈͆a͇͉͛ͮ͐͑͗̌̋̂̄̍͋h͇̬̲̼̀ ̨̙͉̣̘̤͕̂̾̎?
  • Bring My Brown Pants: Often.
  • The Bus Came Back: Sun Ce, in chapter 15.
  • Bus Crash: Near the end of the novel many characters start dying unceremoniously offscreen. People will only find out when they make a plan involving them or wondering where they are, only for them to be notified that they died somewhere during the novel.
  • Butt-Monkey: Lu Su.
  • 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.
  • Cassandra Truth: Everyone who tells Liu Zhang not to trust Liu Bei. In Liu Zhang's defense, they tell him while doing the worm, biting his clothes, and jumping off the city walls.
    Liu Zhang: These anti-Liu Bei guys are making the worst possible case for themselves.
  • Cat Fight: Empress He and Empress Dong.
  • 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.
  • Cliffhanger Copout: Most of the cliffhangers are anticlimactic, but some of them are downright absurd.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Jiang Wei drops one when he realizes that he just sent a known traitor to cut off his own retreat. Sima Zhao gets another due to sheer frustration at the existence of Shu.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Frequently.
  • Confucian Confusion: Inevitable.
    Liu Bei: Confucius says, "Thunderbolt and lightning, very very frightening."
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Invoked when Zhao Yun stands alone against several thousand of Cao Cao's redshirts. They work out that he wouldn't dare do so unless he was a main character, and thus, they're screwed.
  • 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.
  • Dastardly Whiplash: Sima Yi.
  • 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?
  • Deus ex Machina: Usually delivered by random old men. Cao Cao apparently has a subscription with Deus Ex Machina Services, Inc.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Jiang Wei's plan to capture his archenemy Deng Ai requires him to give a known double agent command of Shu's supply line and place said double agent between the main army and their home base. This ends exactly well as one would expect.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Characters (Cao Cao in particular) will often get quite mouthy with the narrator.
  • 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.
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": After his coronation as "First Emperor", Liu Bei tries to enforce his name taboo for a while. No one pays the slightest attention.
  • Double Entendre: There are several involving Dong Zhuo being, well, a dong.
    • The narrator eventually told them to knock it off.
  • Dragon-in-Chief: A typical route to power. Cao Cao is this to Liu Xie, and Zhuge Liang is to Liu Shan and Liu Bei. This is mainly due to Genre Savvy - characters who take the throne end up in hot water.
  • Dramatic Drop: Liu Bei, when Cao Cao calls him a hero.
  • Dramatic Thunder: At one point, Cao Cao attempts to make a villainous speech from a mountaintop over the field of battle. The thunder interrupts him so much that he gives up in frustration.
  • The Dreaded: In the Southlands, Lady Wu.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Well, dropped a stone on him in Sun Jian's case. It's even lampshaded.
  • Dumb Muscle: Lu Bu, who at one point leads a horse into a living room while taking Dong Zhuo's order seriously.
  • 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.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Sima Zhao appears to be one. As usual, no one finds this particularly strange.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Lampshaded for Cao Cao in Chapter 4.
    Cao Cao: Hang on, I feel an iconic, character-defining quote coming on...Better I betray the world than the world betray me!
  • Eunuchs Are Evil: The other characters all agree on this, and blame them for the downfall of the Han empire. However, they mostly come across as Harmless Villains unless you're He Jin, and are easily dealt with in the first few chapters.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Pretty much everyone. Cao Cao is very close to several of his people, most notably Dian Wei and Guo Jia. He also insists on leaving legacies to his concubines, despite it being the third century. Liu Bei genuinely cares for his brothers, Zhao Yun, and Zhuge Liang. Even Dong Zhuo loved his mother and Diao Chan.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Zhuge Liang crosses many, many lines in his campaign against the Mang, but he balks at Blackface.
  • Evil Is Petty: The narrator describes Cao Cao as such, for executing Yang Xiu. Cao Cao disagrees, arguing that he did it for completely logical (albeit evil) reasons. One of those reasons is stealing Cao Cao's lunch, but the rest are more valid.
  • Evil Overlord List: Guo Jia made Cao Cao read it.
  • Eye Beams: Xu Chu has them. Ma Chao complains that this is out of genre.
  • Eye Scream: Sima Shi's eye becomes infected after he has his tumour removed. Eventually it causes his head to explode.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: The deposed Emperor Biao is murdered for...writing mildly emo poetry.
    • Liu Zhang murdered Zhang Lu's mother and brother because he was annoyed that Zhang Lu's mail kept getting misdelivered to him.
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: Cao Cao denies believing in the supernatural, despite encountering it numerous times.
    Sima Yi: "You don’t remember Chapter 68?"
    Cao Cao: "I refuse to acknowledge Chapter 68."
  • Foreshadowing: Constantly. Also constantly lampshaded.
  • Foe Romance Subtext: Jiang Wei and Deng Ai.
  • Forgot I Could Fly: When Sima Zhao and his army are trapped without water, Sima Zhao completely forgets that he's an Eldritch Abomination with vaguely-defined powers - but one of his officers points this out to him, and he produces water very easily.
  • 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.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Xu Chu on occasion, for good reason - his Gag Penis can be used as a weapon.
  • 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 Blind: Referenced during Cao Song's death, as he and his concubine unfortunately chose to hide in the bathroom, having never seen a horror movie.
  • General Failure: Jiang Wei is a frothing warmonger who runs Shu's economy into the ground with his endless failed campaigns against Wei. Most of them are either hopeless to begin with, or ruined by his incompetence.
  • 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.
  • Glowing Eyes: Ma Chao's eyes glow different colors depending on his emotional state.
  • Gone Horribly Right: In Chapter 99. Sima Yi points out that taking over two cities in a day requires a lot of administrative and logistical work, and banks on Zhuge Liang being busy with this. Zhuge Liang, however, considers himself above boring work, so he's ready for the attack.
  • Grande Dame: Lady Wu. Lady Sun takes after her.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: You know what language you wouldn’t expect in a Chinese story told in English? French. And yet phrases show up anyway.
  • Gray-and-Gray Morality: Neither the "hero" nor the "villain" are particularly nice people, and the villain is arguably a better person.
  • Groin Attack: Zhang Liao dies of one.
    Zhang Liao: "I can't live without it."
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Zhang Fei, who is often told to calm his tits.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Sima Yan and Sima You are half human and half... Sima Zhao. Possibly Sima Zhao himself, given that he's supposedly Sima Yi's son.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Very occasionally, verbatim quotes from the 1925 Brewitt-Taylor translation are used, usually for this reason.
    Xu Shu, to Liu Bei: "Unhappily I have to break our intercourse in the middle."
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: The entire cast is constantly switching sides, betraying each other, deciding one is a dick and they'd rather not be allies, etc.
  • Here We Go Again!: Implied by the ending. note 
  • Historical In-Joke: The offscreen events of Real Concubines of Wu are real. That includes Sun Quan piling up dirt in front of Zhang Zhao's front door.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Ma Su camps on a hill with no water supply and allows himself to be surrounded because that's what he's read in books. It ends poorly.
  • Honor Before Reason: Xu Shu's reason for staying with Cao Cao. No one else can work out how that makes any sense.
  • 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.
  • Hot Skitty-on-Wailord Action: Sima Zhao marries a normal human woman.
  • Human Mail: Zhong Hui does this to Zhuge Xu, mostly to annoy Deng Ai.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Dian Wei to Cao Cao, at least on the battlefield. He saves him a LOT.
  • Hypocrite: Everyone, at one point or another - but even in this cast, Shu manages to make it their Hat.
  • Idiot Ball: Chapter 14 is titled: "In which Zhang Fei catches the Idiot Ball."
  • If My Calculations Are Correct: Zhuge Liang gets out a calculator to figure out if he can make forty-nine human sacrifices and stay on the right side of the Moral Event Horizon. He can't.
  • Ignored Epiphany: Guan Yu has one after his death, when Transverse-Peace points out that he had just as much blood on his hands as Lu Meng. Guan Yu is chastened... and then proceeds to commit a couple more murders anyway.
  • I'll Be in My Bunk: Zhuge Liang has this reaction to Jiang Wei attempting to set him on fire.
  • Impossibly Cool Weapon: Several weapons break the laws of physics and/or common sense but are still incredibly lethal.
  • Insufferable Genius: Zhuge Liang. Even on his own side, no one actually likes him except Liu Bei.
  • Internal Retcon: Zhuge Liang offhandedly declares that the duel between Zhang He and Zhang Fei in Chapter 70 was a legendary duel for the ages. The redshirts, who were there, point out that it was actually a drunken brawl where no one got hurt except a scarecrow, but Zhuge Liang overrules them.
  • Interspecies Romance: Sima Zhao and his wife Lady Wang, a normal human. Possibly Sima Yi and his wife, as Sima Yi, the father of the aforementioned Sima Zhao, is a normal human.
  • In Which a Trope Is Described: All of the chapter titles use this format, though how much of the chapter they actually describe varies.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One: Sun Chen calls Sun Liang "evil, weak, stupid, and a pervert," upon which Huan Yi indignantly defends his Emperor, insisting that he's not stupid.
  • Jackass Genie: The third death scene judge turns out to be one.
  • Jerkass: Zhuge Liang, in spades.
  • Joke Item: The flying fork.
  • 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.)
  • Killed Offscreen: Too many characters to count, even very important ones like Lu Su and Zhao Yun.
  • Kill It with Fire: Zhuge Liang's main strategy.
  • Lame Pun Reaction: Guan Yu randomly starts making dad jokes in Chapter 74, much to Guan Ping's annoyance.
  • Last Disrespects: Zhuge Liang shows up at Zhou Yu's funeral in order to deliver an astoundingly backhanded eulogy. Lu Su manages to keep the peace, though.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: On Liu Bei's side, Zhang Fei. On Cao Cao's side, Cao Hong. He even shouts "Leeeeroy Jenkins!" at one point.
    • Jiang Wei manages to put both of them to shame.
  • 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.
  • Lemony Narrator: Downplayed. The narrator is quite snarky and often lampshades things.
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: Cao Ren and Zhang Fei's solution to the Cliffhanger Copout of Chapter 41. Cao Cao also refuses to talk about Chapter 68.
  • Long-Lasting Last Words: Cao Cao takes so long setting his affairs in order on his deathbed that the narrator eventually steps in and makes him get on with it.
  • Long-Lived: Liao Hua. He first shows up (as an adult) in Chapter 27 and lasts until Chapter 119, long after all of his peers in Liu Bei's old guard are dead and Liu Shan (unborn in Chapter 27) is a grandfather. By the later chapters, other characters are often shocked that he's still alive, and Jia Chong refuses to execute him in the hopes that he'll set a record.
  • Love at First Punch: Sun Ce and Taishi Ci.
  • Love at First Sight: Sun Quan and Lu Su.
  • Ludicrous Precision: Guan Yu knows exactly how many hairs there are in his beard.
  • MacGuffin: The Imperial Hereditary Seal. Sun Ce openly refers to it as a Plot Device, and everyone treats it as though it is important, although it really doesn't bestow anything. Later the narrator steals it from Cao Cao's effects in order to use it to legitimize Liu Bei.
  • Magitek: Guan Lu has a Magical Computer, which makes his prophecies unusually clear and reliable. Even Cao Cao is impressed.
  • Mama's Boy: Sun Quan is very much his Aunt Stepmom's Boy.
  • Medium Awareness: The characters typically refer to events by chapter.
    • Deng Ai complains about how difficult it is to read Sima Zhao's writing.
  • 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.
  • Mushroom Samba: Lu Xun has one briefly after stumbling into Zhuge Liang's hotbox megalith.
  • Musical Episode: Chapter 37. Everybody finds this rather irritating.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Cao Cao has a moment like this after Big Xun commits suicide after his nudging.
    • Liu Bei also appears to react like this after executing Liu Feng, but he refuses to admit it.
  • 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.
  • No Name Given: To minor characters. Thankfully.
  • Noodle Incident: Whatever happened in Wu during the ten year Time Skip. It involved the heir to the throne changing twice, the Empress being mysteriously murdered, and an Escalating Prank War between Sun Quan and Zhang Zhao that got all the way up to arson. It was apparently a popular TV drama in Wei, but we never get to see it, because the narrator didn't care.
  • Notice This: The Imperial Hereditary Seal glows, which causes everyone to instantly realize that it's an important MacGuffin.
  • "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: A quick “yes” is added in brackets after the mention of a rebel leader named He Man.
    • Chapter 102. In which Zhuge Liang builds an army of robot cows (yes, really.)
  • Not So Above It All: Zhang Zhao may be the dignified elder statesman of Wu, but he got completely wasted at at least one office New Years party. The narrator has photographic evidence.
  • Obviously Evil: Dong Zhuo, whose attempt to hire Cai Yong as good PR does nothing for him.
    • The Sima family are basically cartoon villains.
  • Offing the Offspring: Liu Bei throws his biological son on the ground regardless of the fact that that could easily kill an infant, and later executes his adopted son. Later in the book, his grandson Liu Chen takes after him.
  • Off with His Head!: He Jin and Ding Yuan in the same chapter.
    • Frankly, it's a pretty common thing.
  • Ominous Foreshadowing: Generally lampshaded. Characters who foreshadow their own defeat or death generally receive facepalms and comments about their idiocy. In Chapter 91, Zhao Yun actually gets his way by threatening to foreshadow defeat for Shu.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: Cai Yong is forever remembered as "the transgender chicken guy."
  • 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.
    • Kong Rong has shades of this as well.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Parodied. Cao Cao's courtiers know something's wrong when they see him panic and drop a pen. They've seen him panic and overreact countless times - but they've never specifically seen him drop a pen before.
  • 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.
  • Pals with Jesus: Zhuge Liang appears to be pals with the narrator.
  • Pass the Popcorn: A common reaction to epic duels.
  • Pater Familicide: Liu Chen kills his entire family as a political statement. Given the death scene competition, they're all quite enthusiastic about it. However, it proves to be too much even for the death scene judges.
  • Plot Hole: Minor character Zhu Bao falls into one in Chapter 87.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: Both the Yuans. At one point, Shao dismisses a plan for being "too sensible."
  • Poison Is Corrosive: Much to the shock of the doctor who prepared it.
    Ji Ping: I have a degree in chemistry. That makes no sense.
    Cao Cao: Sorry, this book runs on the laws of drama, not physics.
  • The Pollyanna: Lu Su.
  • Portentof Doom: The transgender chickens.
  • Pretty Princess Powerhouse: Lady Sun, although her sharpest weapon is her tongue.
  • Pretty Spry for a Dead Guy: Zhuge Liang leaves behind several body doubles to scare his enemies. Deng Ai is unperturbed.
    Deng Ai: So what if he’s alive? Or a ghost, or a zombie, or a sexy vampire for all I care.
  • Pronouncing My Name for You: Cao Cao snaps "It's pronounced Tsow Tsow" at Mi Heng, who likely pronounced it Cow Cow.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Lampshaded.
  • Psychopomp: The death scene judges.
  • Punny Title: Chapter 3. In which the court loses the eunuch problem and gains a massive Dong problem.
  • Put on a Bus: Sun Ce in chapter 7, who disappears from the narrative for a while.
  • Pyromaniac: Zhuge Liang. He likes to burn things.
  • Race Lift: The result of the Black Spring, although we never see it do its work.
  • Randomly Gifted: A few characters, notably Sun Qian and Xu Chu, have superpowers for no apparent reason.
  • Real Joke Name: Everyone mocks the poor souls whose names look silly transliterated into English. He Man is well-known, but there are also He He, Lady Wang, and Dong Tuna. No one believes Quin Quington's name is even real.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Jiang Wei and Xiahou Ba, respectively.
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder: Jiang Wei tries "What did Zhuge Liang ever do to you?" on Wei Yan, who curtly points out that Zhuge Liang had sent him into a minefield only two chapters prior.
  • Running Gag:
    • Sun Qian teleports:
      Everyone who sees him: Gah!
    • "Liu Bei burst into tears."
    • "It's the third century."
    • "Zhang Fei, calm your tits."
    • Anticlimactic responses to cliffhangers. This is even lampshaded in chapter 4 as a forthcoming running gag.
    • Every time minor characters bite the dust onscreen, three judges show up to give them scores. They are aware that this happens and often try to one-up each other,
  • 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.
  • Sarcasm Mode: The title of Chapter 90: In Which Zhuge Liang wins hearts and minds.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Chen Gong ditching Cao Cao in Chapter 4.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Lu Bu. More than once.
  • 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.
    • Cao Cao quotes the famous "You killed my father. Prepare to die!" line, only to be told that it was low-hanging fruit.
    • In Chapter 5, an advisor suggests leaving someone to "go all 300" on the enemy.
    • Chapter 15 has one in which Sun Ce's cadre suggests calling him "The Little Prince". Why? Because clearly he's from another planet.
  • Shown Their Work: A lot of the gags, including the names that sound out of place like Quin Quington, lampshading the plot and the story, and even lampshading the War of the Eight Princes that happens shortly after the book.
  • Show Within a Show: Real Concubines of Wu, which the Wei and Shu characters can watch, but not us.
  • 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.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: "I, Sima Yi, Imperial Commander of the Flying Cavalry, Commander of the Forces of Xizhou and Xiliang, declare that Cao Rui sucks massive donkey balls!"
  • Stalker with a Crush: Liu Bei for Zhuge Liang. Also Zhou Cang for Guan Yu.
  • Stupid Crooks: It's a wonder any of the ill-fated conspiracies go unnoticed even as long as they do.
  • Stupidity-Inducing Attack: The Dumb Spring. note 
  • Suicide as Comedy: Well, it's hard to take suicides seriously when the characters in question tend to get up and debate the judges about their score afterwards.
  • Talk Like a Pirate: Gan Ning, of course.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Zhong Hui and Deng Ai.
  • Tempting Fate: Sun Jian really should have known better than to foreshadow his own death.
  • That Came Out Wrong: Zhuge Liang has a moment like this as he delivers his "eulogy" for Zhou Yu.
    Zhuge Liang: I miss the grace of your manhood. Er, that came out wrong. You were married to a girl, and she was hot – I mean, you were a cute couple – you know what, I’ll quit while I’m ahead here.
  • The Comically Serious: Cao Ren, Wei's Only Sane Man.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Cao Cao delivers one to the narrator on his deathbed.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Zhuge Liang weaponizes this with his manila envelopes, although several characters suspect he's just being dramatic.
  • 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.
    • Zhang Fei has the same issue; he's also quite bizarre-looking.
    • No one finds it at all odd that Sun Qian can teleport, although they may be startled.
    • Averted when Ma Chao gets shot by Xu Chu's Eye Beams. He declares them, as well as Xu Chu's other, er, superpower to be cheating, and backs out of the fight.
    • No one is particularly perturbed by Sima Zhao. They definitely notice that he's a monster, but for the most part just roll with it.
  • Uriah Gambit: Heavily implied to be the case when Zhuge Liang orders Wei Yan to lead Sima Yi into a minefield (without informing Wei Yan that it's a minefield). Both survive due to a freak rainstorm, and Wei Yan is not amused.
  • 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.
  • Villainy Discretion Shot: Liu Bei has figured out how to do these.
    Liu Bei: It doesn't count if it's offscreen.
  • 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.
  • We Win, Because You Didn't: Every time Shu invades Wei, they win several battles but end up shooting themselves in the foot, usually in some very predictable way.
  • What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: Frequently, usually when the flaws of the plan are astoundingly obvious.
    Advisor: “You know what you could do? You could not give him any food, call off his backup, and leave him to go all 300 on the enemy. We’re just holding a shaky alliance together against a ruthless common foe, what’s the worst that could happen?”
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: At one point, Xu Shu points out that no one seems to care about the lives of all the redshirts. Pang Tong responds: "That’s uncomfortably true, so I’ll ignore it."
  • 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.
  • World of Badass: While everyone's competence may be in question, their badassery is not.
  • World of Ham: Starts where Romance leaves off and continues from there.
  • World of Snark: A large part of this parody is that many things are deconstructed as snarkily as possible.
  • 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.
  • Wrongfully Attributed: Confucius definitely didn't say any of the quotes attributed to him.
  • Your Mom: In chapter 3, He Jin refuses Cao Cao’s help while mentioning that his grandfather was a eunuch.
    • This is also a standard battle tactic.
  • Zany Scheme: Zhuge Liang's other main strategy besides Kill It with Fire. They include building a replica of Stonehenge and hotboxing it, and performing an exorcism with tortellini.