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"At this time I would like to announce the first content expansion for SAO. The system for simulating Thaumaturgy has been enabled. That is to say, the skills of manifesting mysteries and wonders, individually called [Spells], are now available. It is complete and accurate to the best of my ability as a simulator."
Kayaba Akihiko

Fate Revelation Online by Daniel-Gudman is a crossover of the Sword Art Online universe with Fate/stay night.

Following the Fifth Holy Grail War, Ilya is living happily with Shirou and has decided to spend her remaining months enjoying modern media. Shirou is willing to indulge her and has been shanghaied into playing with her in the next big game: Sword Art Online. Upon the Official Launch, they find themselves trapped in the game along with ten thousand others. Shirou resolves to do everything in his power to save as many people as possible.

But this is more than just a sadistic death game. On launch, Kayaba Akihiko announces a "thaumaturgy patch" so that players may learn magecraft. Ilya and Shirou immediately realize that the game's magic is perfectly accurate to the real world. Kayaba has broken some of the most important laws of the Moonlit World by revealing magic to normal people, and worse he has done it in such a way that the players are not just victims, but collaborators. If the Enforcers find out about this, they will slaughter everyone to keep the secret safe.

In order to save as many people as possible, Ilya and Shirou are forced to play the game. Along the way, they teach the players what magecraft they can, all the while knowing that if something doesn't change, then even upon finishing the game, everyone will still find themselves criminals for violating laws they didn't even know existed.

And beyond it all, underlying every moment in the game, is the all-important question. The question Kayaba himself encouraged everyone to ponder:

Why did Kayaba do this?

It can also be found on Sufficient Velocity.

Tropes found in this fanfiction:

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  • Absurdly High-Stakes Game: Subverted from canon. Ilya discovers early on that the "dead" players are not being killed; the only way to die is being physically disconnected. Despite Kayaba's warning, defeated players are used for testing purposes. Unfortunately, there's an entirely different stake that only the real mages know about: If they don't figure out what exactly Kayaba is doing and why, then the inevitable result of all this is that once they get out, the Enforcers will slaughter everyone for their part in breaking the masquerade.
  • The Ace:
    • Shirou is considered this due to his skill when it comes to the game's magic and combat systems, as well as discovering how to make steel early on. Shirou's reputation grows to the point that some of his exploits are told jestingly because they're too outrageous to believe, such as essentially soloing a field boss and later soloing a floor boss.
    • Ilya also gets this treatment, because of her knowledge and ability to use Alchemy to make the Sorcery Trait for Mystic Eyes of Binding when it hasn't been unlocked yet. Diabel notes she's not really better than a lot of the players in combat; she simply doesn't hesitate when attacking.
    • They're actually so strong and knowledgeable about magecraft it leads to suspicion among some players that Ilya and Shirou are alpha testers, in league with Kayaba, or even outright AI. For Ilya, one, if not two, of those rumors is even true.
  • Action Girl: Ilya gets this early on. Asuna does too, as per canon.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • In canon, the guild Fuumaningun only showed up briefly to antagonize Argo. Here, the guild Fuumanin are not only wholly subordinate to Diabel, but a proud Front Liner scouting guild.
    • In canon, there were hints that Diabel had real leadership potential and the best interests of the other players at heart, but he got killed trying to steal the Last Attack on the first boss. Here, being saved by Shirou gives him a chance to develop into a real leader.
    • Kuradeel was introduced as a mole for Laughing Coffin in the Knights of the Blood Oath, and gleefully murdered someone for no real reason before getting killed himself. Here, while he clearly has the seed of resentment, getting recruited by Ilya does wonders for his self-esteem, and he even gets a decent reputation among the Front Liners for going embarrassingly far on Shirou's fetch quest.
    • While Rosalia is already a criminal by the time she is introduced, Ilya forcibly recruiting her turns her into a hero almost against her will. Likewise, her guild gets turned into a subordinate guild of the BSM, rather than a mid-tier thief guild.
    • The Front Liners in general, really. In canon, the Clearing Guilds were little more than a collection of the strongest players vaguely united in a common goal. They were in constant competition, could barely agree on strategy, and at least once a major decision was decided by a duel rather than, y'know, democracy. Here, due to Diabel keeping them working together, they are the paragons of the players, with everyone seeing them as the heroes working to keep the rest of them safe.
  • Adorably Precocious Child:
    • The avatar that Ilya originally made for Shirou, deliberately designed to match his real life appearance when younger, makes him seem like this while it lasts.
    • Agatha, the NPC on the fifth-floor quest. She's based on Sakura Matou as a child and Kirito hands her over to Zolgen, who's based on Zouken. "Ellis Bell" brings her along when he gives Shirou a quest to move them to the 25th floor.
  • Adventure-Friendly World:
    • It was meant to be an MMO, after all. Kirito notes that the only part of the game which isn't friendly is the thaumaturgy system, whose complex rules, limitations, and eccentricities are too messy and cumbersome for a game.
    • Orange players benefit from this in their own way, as Cardinal develops special content for them due to being locked out of most activities and towns.
  • Alchemy Is Magic: Alchemy eventually gets patched into the game. Shirou explains to Argo that there are two types of alchemy: Physical Alchemy (which is basically just chemistry by way of magecraft), and Spiritual Alchemy (which involves transmutation of the soul). Physical Alchemy is extremely dangerous if you don't have the periodic table memorized, but is generally looked down on because it has no chance to reach the Root, the end goal of all magecraft. Shirou warns Argo not to bring this up to Ilya, as it's a sore spot. Argo, who still doesn't know that magic is real outside the game, doesn't understand why Ilya would get so bent out of shape over a piece of game lore. Shirou doesn't explain that Ilya is a homunculus and thus a product of Physical Alchemy.
  • Always Night: The 25th floor is a single flat plain of mud and grass with no natural light, exactly one type of monster (which spawns in the darkness in response to light), and bosses that can cancel player lights. Oh, and there's some effect on maps that makes it very easy to get lost. Players with the ether element have dousing and can easily find their way back to the capital, but everyone else has a lot more trouble.
  • Always Someone Better: The fic is about the Sword Art Online characters learning magecraft under the belief that it's just a game. They advance quickly, and many of them are capable of truly impressive feats. Then there are Ilya and Shirou, who were not only aware of magecraft before the game, but had just won a magical death tournament. Ilya has literal orders of magnitude more magical power than anyone else in the game and is an expert on most magic systems, while Shirou is a genius swordsman who can copy the powers of legendary heroes in true emergencies. After both of them separately solo a raid boss, the AI in charge of game balance gives up and declares them exempt from balancing.
  • Anachronism Stew: Ye Olde Chymistry Shoppe is run by a classic fairy tale witch wearing a white lab coat and lab gloves over her black dress. The shop's construction is Middle Ages-quality but all of her equipment and procedures are up to modern laboratory standards.
  • Animal-Eared Headband:
    • Silica wears one to match her Element and serve as an aid to enter [Mindset of the Beast].
    • The Black Cats use these as a substitute for guild-themed costumes but eventually get rid of them.
  • Animate Inanimate Object: Keita's familiars are furniture that move around in a cross between doll-making and carpentry.
  • Annoying Arrows: Unsurprisingly averted once ranged weapons are patched in; this is half the reason they were removed to begin with. Shirou at one point manages to kill a floor boss with only two arrows.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Standard, of course, due to the game setting. The game goes to a lot of effort to balance realism and convenience.
    • In restaurants, there are NPC waiters and chefs. But you place the order using a menu, and the waiter instantly spawns and brings your food to you. Kirito likes a specific restaurant because it's too out of the way to bother with waiters, so food just spawns directly at your table.
    • Fall damage is negated entirely if someone catches you, no matter the height. As Kirito says, it's easier on the system this way too, as rather than dealing with pitons and other safety gear (which the system would have to keep track of), they just need a friend ready to catch them.
    • Subverted as they go up the floors, when patches start adding more realism in order to teach players how to use magic more realistically. This includes healing magic going from just basic refilling a health bar to having to learn how to regenerate flesh and blood. Diabel realizes that if some of their basic [Menu] features disappear, they'll be practically helpless, and quietly starts a think-tank to come up with alternative mapping and communications spells.
  • Antlion Monster: The quest-boss on the third floor, [Hungry Antlion], is one. It even has the ability to leech the MP and HP from others and is considered a raid-class boss. Grimlock explains how to exploit its Logical Weakness, so his party win despite having few members.
  • Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: Downplayed. At the beach party after beating the 20th floor, everyone is in swimsuits, and Kirito tries very hard to keep his eyes on Asuna's face (and to not ask why her bikini includes his own color scheme). He doesn't understand why Asuna seems annoyed at him.
  • Arrow Catch: Shirou manages this during his duel with the Black Cats.
  • Artificial Intelligence: Yui, from SAO canon, shows up, in addition to the far more powerful Cardinal system that manages game balance. Yui is a Turing-capable AI, which allows her to process natural language and fuzzy data far better than Cardinal despite having less processing power. For reasons Yui doesn't understand, only Turing-capable AIs are deletion-accepted and deletion-enabled. While she was originally created as a mental counseling AI, she is retasked as a Psychopomp for the dead players, putting them to work testing game features. The "mental" conflict between what she was designed for and what she is doing now is, like in canon, creating errors / issues for her.
  • Audience Participation: Ideas and drafts of chapters are posted to a separate forum allowing critique and discussion by other forum-goers. Some ideas in the story originated from or were modified through these discussions.
    • In the original version of One Snow and Itagaki's deaths, early readers noted that the setup felt heavy-handed and their actions amounted to a "super death flag". The chapter was subsequently revised to make their deaths more unexpected.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis:
    • Shirou's Structural Analysis. He's so good at it that he manages to accidentally go into the system and discover how to make steel. Outside of his magecraft, Shirou's skill in analyzing his opponent's style allows him to custom-tailor weapons perfectly suited to them.
    • Grimlock is exceptionally skilled with magecraft and can easily identify ways to improve or counter any spells he encounters. As a magus he has experience, and he can determine the weakness in a quest boss's bounded field as well as point out how his party could have killed it instantly with a curse.
  • Background Magic Field: "Mana" is the life energy of the planet; when it is processed inside a person's magic circuits, it becomes "prana," which can be used for magecraft. This is mostly the same as canon, though the terminology differs. However, because it's inside a game, the rules are a little different. Not only is the mana density much higher than it is in the real world, it's almost all pure mana, which everyone can safely use. In the real world, mana almost always has an element, and anyone not affiliated with that element will hurt themselves trying to use it. As with everything else, elemental mana starts appearing later on in the game, as Kayaba slowly ramps up the realism to train players in real magecraft.
  • Barrier Change Boss: The [Prismatic Duke] field boss on the fourth floor can shift between the various slime monster colors and abilities. See Colour-Coded for Your Convenience for details.
  • Beach Episode: Diabel and Thinker compare the 20th floor as such, making them worried that the genre of the game is changing and that it's the calm before the storm. Ilya meanwhile forces her guild to wear armored swimsuits.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: Kayaba is, of course. Only Ilya, who is helping him, and Diabel, who learns through a PM he sent, are aware.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Shirou bolsters his [AGI] stat solely so he can pull this off early on, as his increased speed allows him to quickly reach people in danger.
  • Black Knight: [Kari-Ya the Fettered] is this after his One-Winged Angel change.
  • The Blacksmith:
    • After the players become organized enough that the Sixth Ranger is no longer needed, Shirou turns to blacksmithing as a way to help people. Lisbeth is rather depressed when she realizes he can easily outdo her when crafting a sword.
    • Grimlock is primarily a blacksmith until his wife convinces him to start actively playing. He's one of the first blacksmiths able to make steel weapons. He still crafts some weapons to order even after the steel market crashes, specializing in mystic codes.
  • Blob Monster: Slimes are amorphous blobs, which renders them highly resistant to purely physical attacks.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Due to the game engine, it's merely a red line and blood isn't shown... at first. Averted later on as the graphics upgrade into further realism on the fifth floor.
  • Body-Count Competition: Ilya proposes the party members she brought with her compete to kill the most mobs while they search for the field boss.
  • Body Horror: Players who reincarnate as monsters often suffer severe issues dealing with the more exotic bodies they're given.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: Sasha and Diabel disagree over Boarding School's children learning magecraft. Sasha argues that it's a step towards turning them into Child Soldiers participating in the Death Game which has already left some emotionally scarred. Diabel counters that he merely wants them to contribute in a research role to support the children who are still fighting and paying for their school. Unspoken is his fear that Kayaba may interfere if more players don't participate.
  • Breakable Weapons: Any weapon that takes too much damage breaks.
  • Breather Episode: In-universe, which worries the Front Liners. Floor 20 is an endless series of islands, basically just a massive tropical paradise. Even the monsters have lower levels than would be expected, and the Floor Boss appears to be a rather straightforward tank and spank—which doesn't matter, because it's an open-air fight and the players manage to cheese it with the construction rules. Diabel and the others suggest this might be a sign that things are going to get bad soon. Notably, the next floor we see, Floor 25, is a perpetually dark nightmare floor that 90% of the playerbase has quite a lot of difficulty even navigating.
  • Brick Joke:
    • Yona, while testing the construction module, develops a deep hatred for the "Griefer Wolves" that harass him, swearing to drop every last one of them into a lava pit. When the content goes live it includes a "Wolf Trap rule" to prevent exactly that.
    • While explaining the Chain of Deals quest type to Asuna, the rest of the party poses a theoretical example where you need spark plugs to fix a car as the starting point. Several chapters later, Lizbeth is having a seemingly serious discussion with Shirou in the background only for him to suddenly ask if the quest was to fix Merlin's car.
  • Broken Masquerade: Discussed. Players who know of the existence of thaumaturgy worry that the development of thaumaturgy in-game will cause this, prompting the Magus Association to kill the players. Kayaba's ultimate goal is to cause this by actually training the players as magi.
  • Can't Catch Up:
    • Argo worries she'll fall further and further behind other players and as an information broker due to possessing no magic circuits. Shirou's intervention alleviates that.
    • Kirito begins worrying about this as players display more and more powerful magecraft whereas his own lags behind.
    • Leviathan's "blood" element is useless until the anatomy update introduces blood. He thinks that this starting penalty will keep him from ever making it to the front line until Ilya recruits him. Even after that he's very conscious of how different his experience and ability are in comparison to his guild mates.
  • Car Fu: Klein's guild kill a boss by ramming their rocket-propelled boat into it at over 300 kmph and making the boat explode on it.
  • Cast from Hit Points: Magic spells will cause an HP penalty if the player casts them beyond their limits. Given that healing spells are one of the most useful and easiest to cast, many players kill themselves early in the game without noticing their HP gauge sapping to zero.
  • Chainmail Bikini: On the 20th Floor Ilya forces her party to wear armored swimsuits in place of their standard outfits. While they do provide some protection, the overall amount is lower than standard armor.
  • Chain of Deals:
    • Asuna and her friends end up trapped in one of these, using the travel time to chat about the quest logic and boys. They try to explain the concept to Asuna using the example of getting spark plugs to repair a car and building a series of deals for that. Soon they're confusing which step in the example came where and wish they hadn't taken it to begin with. The girls eventually realize it's a Gift of the Magi Plot but end up failing it due to Zolgen eating the wife.
    • Liz is telling the story to Shirou later on, who ends up thinking they were trying to fix Merlin's car.
  • Cheese Strategy: In-Universe.
    • As explained during the raid against the first boss, raids max out at 60 players, and bosses are balanced for that. However, since it's a death game, and the next floor will open up for everyone as long as someone kills the boss, the players just accept everyone who is strong enough and go into the fight with almost a hundred people. Sure, this means they'll get less experience and money overall, but that can just be made up with Level Grinding on the next floor.
    • Griselda's party faces an Antlion Monster with a Mana Drain field effect. However, monsters suffer the same dangers from the magic system as players do; Grimlock instructs their party to break their prana potions, pushing the monster over its maximum, which both damages it and interrupts its spell, causing further damage from the spell failure. In the end, a small party kills a boss estimated to have been intended for a raid with minimal risk.
    • The players try this with Moby Roc, a Giant Flier boss, using traps and lures to bring it to the ground. It proves too strong and just flies off again. Shirou ends up killing it in two shots with sword-arrows.
    • King Krab is a Giant Mook sitting out in the open on an island. The players use the construction rules to set up bunkers around the boss arena, then ram it with a rocket-powered yacht.
  • Child Soldiers: As Diabel puts it in Chapter 14.3, there are children on the front, middle, and rear lines facing various levels of danger voluntarily. Several children under Sasha's care were originally active players but now suffer from night terrors due to their bad experiences.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: The slime monsters on the fourth floor come in all colors of the rainbow: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet.
  • Competitive Balance:
    • This is one of Cardinal's primary purposes, populating the world with enemies and rewards to create a balanced and enjoyable experience. This is also why Diabel is worried about Shirou and Ilya; if they are so much more powerful than the rest of the players, then they will either be nerfed (which is unlikely since they are using skills they obtained from outside the game) or the world will become tougher to compensate—which will make the lives of everyone else much, much more difficult. Cardinal eventually solves this paradox by naming them [Titled Players], exempt from normal game balance.
    • When Klein's guild manage to One-Hit Kill a boss, there is a discussion on why this didn't grant anyone a [Title]. Kirito points out that the system isn't about really strong players, it's about players who are too strong for the system to handle. Klein's trick was situational, required his entire guild to help, and technically anyone could use it. By contrast, most of what Shirou and Ilya do is completely unique to them and can't be taught or shared. Klein can be balanced, Shirou and Ilya can't, so Klein doesn't get a title.
  • Continuity Nod: Early on Grimlock lectures his guildmates that fictional substances like mithril will not exist in Aincrad and Axer makes a bet that it will exist. Much later the guild are on a quest to find mithril and Axer says Grimlock will owe her 500 col if they succeed.
  • Critical Hit: Any damage that would normally be fatal registers as a critical hit, and if it passes a threshold it can sever a limb.
  • Crutch Character:
    • Shirou serves as this during the beginning of the game since he is miles ahead of other combatants for the majority of the early boss battles and knows what he's doing as a magecraft-user to a better extent than most others. The fact that the first, third, and (fake) fifth boss battles end without causalities is because he directly intervenes.
    • Ilya is one, as she knows more about magecraft than anyone else and can easily curbstomp a boss while having a greater capacity than anyone else. She's just more subdued about it.
    • For Griselda's party, Grimlock is cited to know all the information and methods to improve magecraft once someone gets him talking. His knowledge basically makes what is supposed to be a raid-sized boss a very easy kill. Which only makes sense, as he is an actual magus.
  • Culture Clash: The difference between the Front-Liners and everyone else slowly widens as the game progresses. For example, the Inheritance System allows someone to learn a spell by sharing sensations, watching how a spell is cast from inside someone who already understands it. Front-Liners use this casually; Kirito learned the basic [Cure] spell from the best healer in the game this way. To everyone else, this is an extremely intimate procedure that, at best, should only be done with your own guildmates. So everyone is a little weirded out when he casually teaches Sacchi a spell this way.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The only way to describe the fifth floor's boss battle, both of them. Shirou manhandles [Kari-Ya The Fettered] and Ilya completely takes apart [Worm Master Zolgen].
  • Cycle of Revenge: Johnny Black intentionally promotes this with Lux after Xaxa kills Rossa, stating that if Lux wants revenge to come at them as a challenge. When later asked why he did it, his answer boils down to It Amused Me.
  • A Death in the Limelight: This sadly happens to One Snow and Itagaki.
  • Difficulty Spike: In-Universe. As the game progresses, in line with Kayaba's goal of training them to be actual magi, it becomes more difficult. Even something like healing evolves from "filling HP bar" to "generating new flesh to stop bleeding" on the fifth floor and will require the players to research further, just to survive the later floors.
  • Driven to Suicide: Several players, much like in SAO, have thrown themselves off the edge of Aincrad. Shirou recalls one in specific whom he desperately tried to save but was unable to.
  • Dungeon Bypass:
    • Ilya's new castle requires her to do a long quest to get the keys to it. Her solution is to use her [Mystic Eyes of Enchantment] to have the NPC trade it instead. She states she does it pretty regularly. Her senior apprentice is the first one to use it that way on-screen - by forcing the NPC to enter into marriage with him.
    • On the 12th floor the [DDA] use jetpacks to bypass the complicated bridge and cavern system Kirito is slogging through.
    • Grimlock does the same in Chapter 14.4, circumventing a long quest chain by having one of his wife's friends douse for the wife of the missing person and working from that direction.
  • Elemental Crafting: Certain materials used in forging have benefits, like silver against spiritual beings.
  • Elemental Powers: Courtesy of one's elemental alignment. There are the Chinese and Western basics, as well as rare elements:
  • Encounter Bait: [Lure Tinctures] are made using a drop of a mob and lure in specific monsters that eat that mob. They're great for grinding.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: Since the death game uses real magic, the few real magi stuck in the game look absolutely bizarrely competent to everyone else, and all sorts of theories pop up around them.
    • Ilya has an encyclopedic knowledge of the magic system, stupidly overpowered magic circuits, and is collecting players with Rare Elements. Several people theorize that she is working with Kayaba and received some benefits from that. She is working with Kayaba, but that's unrelated to everything else. As a homunculus purpose-built for the Holy Grail War, she's one of the strongest and most knowledgable combat mages in the world. People also notice that sometimes her childish mask slips, and theorize that the "magic mirror" that revealed everyone's true appearances didn't work right on her because Kayaba programmed in an exception. She is Older Than They Look, but again, it has nothing to do with Kayaba.
    • Shirou has a knowledge of the magic system almost as good as Ilya, and he has ridiculous skills and reflexes far beyond any other player, and perhaps beyond the human limit. There are two competing theories: That he was an "alpha tester" who played the magic system before launch, or that he's a player who died early on and received Brain Uploading. The truth, of course, is that he's a low-tier mage who has managed to put all of his pitiful magical power into combat, combined with an impossible will to save everyone.
    • Combining the two, Diabel is careful about using Shirou to control Ilya because he doesn't know their exact relationship. At worst, Shirou might be an AI programmed to help Ilya while seemingly disagreeing with her, and pushing too hard will just reveal the lie. At best, their relationship is too complex for Diabel to understand. He considers using Shirou in any way to be a last resort, even though Shirou is unfailingly helpful.
  • Equivalent Exchange: In accordance to Nasuverse rules due to the crossover nature, you pay for your magecraft no matter what.
  • Escort Mission:
    • Kirito has to escort the defenseless (and adorable) Agatha through the hostile fifth floor to her doctor, Zolgen.
    • A group of front liners decide to use a cow-type mob from the second floor as a lure for the tenth floor boss. They fail to account for the fact that, being underleveled, it will lure in mobs, making getting the bait into position an impromptu escort mission. Kirito is delighted when the boss snatches it.
  • Expy: Several NPCs are based on the Tohsaka and Matou families: [Agatha] is based on Sakura, [Zolgen] is based on Zouken, and [Kari-Ya the Fettered] is based on a mix of Kariya and Berserker!Lancelot whereas [Omi the Fool] is Tokiomi.
  • Eye Scream:
    • During beta testing and before they were patched out, Ilya at one point amused herself by shooting arrows into other players' eyes. Since pain wasn't enabled it didn't hurt, but as a curious Kirito found out, it is not a pleasant sensation.
    • While dueling the entire Black Cats guild, Shirou catches an arrow and then stabs it into a player's eye.
  • Fake Boss: [Kari-Ya the Fettered] is this on the fifth floor as he's the field boss instead of the floor boss.
  • Famed In-Story: Aside from Shirou and Ilya, many of the more prominent front liners such as Diabel are well-known and respected by the player base.
  • Fast Ball Special: Johnny Black and several orcs get into a safe zone by getting thrown by an ogre.
  • Fate Worse than Death:
    • Some players are reincarnated as monsters upon their death, to be killed and respawned endlessly in order to play-test upcoming content patches and avoid additional scrutiny due to a higher death toll among players. The stress of their situation is so bad that many develop serious mental issues such as paranoia and schizophrenia.
    • Also rather hilariously subverted: The one player we see subjected to this fate takes his continual reincarnation as a challenge and promptly starts using the new building construction rules to play Dwarf Fortress with his tormentors.
    • Players who choose to "die" after dying in-game are used as test subjects-slash-specimens for Kayaba Akihiko's experiments, where their very souls are operated upon. Yet others are used as magic circuits inside monsters.
  • Fetch Quest: Discussed by Argo, Liz, and Ilya in Chapter 13.4 as a way to keep casual players from mooching high-level weapons from Shirou, a policy adopted by 15.1. The annoyance factor typically associated with this trope is somewhat mitigated once the other players realize that the more effort they invest into collecting their materials, the better quality the final product will be.
  • Fix Fic: The author admits one of the goals in writing this story was to give Kayaba an actual reason for trapping the players in Aincrad.
  • Flat "What": Johnny Black responds this way in a hint corner chapter when Gilgamesh says Johnny shouldn't be there at the bad-guy hint corner.
  • Follow the Bouncing Ball: This is implemented in the UI to help players perform ritual chants. XaXa notes it really kills the whole "demonic summoning in the dead of night" vibe.
  • For Want Of A Nail: The presence of Shirou and Ilya changes more than a few parts of SAO canon.
    • Shirou saves Diabel during the fight against the First Floor boss, meaning Diabel goes on to lead the biggest guild in the game, and Kayaba doesn't need to get involved directly.
    • Ilya recruits Asuna and Kirito early on, so Asuna never joins the biggest guild, and Kirito is only a solo player for a couple weeks (though he doesn't officially join the guild, he's acknowledged to be effectively a member).
    • Ilya recruiting Rare Element holders means that Silica becomes a Front Liner, and Rosalia and Kuradeel get picked up before they can really become villains.
    • Grimlock being a magus in real life means he is more familiar with the idea of danger and is less of a coward, so he doesn't have as much of a problem with his wife becoming more assertive.
    • Kirito's Overshadowed by Awesome experiences mean he has less of a problem revealing his power level to the Moonlit Black Cats, and all the help he gives them means that they don't get killed when facing an unexpectedly powerful enemy.
  • Functional Magic: Nasuverse style magecraft:
    • Alchemy: Magecraft that focuses on acts instead of effects, anything done with it tends to be permanent because it's conversion rather than creation, closer to chemistry through the arcane. It's also dangerous since a poor conversion of metals can transmute your base metal into a lethal relative, especially with heavy metals, so it's essential to memorize the periodic table.
    • Dousing: A mystery that flows along the easiest path to what is desired, so in the case of fresh water it is a balance between the largest and the closest aquifer that draws in the spell. More often than not, it is performed to use a wand or rod as a conduit so that the spell effect can cause a physical effect. Yolko can use her lightning element to feel for electric fields.
    • Druidry: Magecraft centered around the use of nature and a variation of runic magecraft.
    • Formalcraft: Magecraft that uses rituals, it uses circles and draws from mana. It requires following instructions perfectly and most players aren't that well into it because it's too much work compared to other forms, but it scales well.
    • Onmyōdō: Japanese magecraft with the use of things native to the Far East, like an ofuda that can act as a Protective Charm.
    • Runes: Nordic magecraft using the letters of the Futhark system.
    • Gemcraft: The use of precious stones as Amplifier Artifacts.
    • Summoning Ritual: Rituals to summon spirits and demons, including the Bornless Ritual like out of Ars Goetia.
  • "Get Back Here!" Boss: The [Moby Roc] constantly circles high in the air, well out of reach of any offensive magecraft or archers. The only time it comes into range of the ground-based raid is when it dives for a One-Hit Kill. The original plan is to stake out its nest, but then Shirou kills it.
  • Gift of the Magi Plot: Asuna, Itagaki, Lisbeth, and Silica have a girls' night out that involves following a chain of deals to what they eventually make out is a "Gift of the Magi" Plot. They run out of time on the quest, however, and so never manage to complete it.
  • Hammerspace: As in the original light novel, items are stored in an inventory system rather than physically on the player. Each item has a weight, so the players can only carry as much as their STR allows.
    • In order to "increase realism", Kayaba eliminates one of the inventory tabs in Chapter 15.1, which creates fear among players that this trope will eventually be averted.
  • Harmful to Minors: Everyone is a part of the game, meaning even the children are at risk.
  • Have a Nice Death:
    • There are three reoccurring shows for non-canon deaths: Tiger Dojonote  for Shirou; Imouto Dojonote  for Kirito; and Kotomine's Church (for Bad Guys)note  for, well, bad guys. The hosts offer advice to the character... but also note that since it's a linear story there was no real choice to be made.
    • The Altar of Serious Businessnote  is a show hosted for actual deaths, primarily those who die mainly to escalate tension.
    • The Alley Cat Alliancenote  is based on the other shows and focuses on side characters. Instead of offering "advice", it acts as an outlet for minor characters to vent about being minor.
  • Healing Magic Is the Hardest: Healing magic is the first magecraft to get hit with the Difficulty Spike of increased realism. While it starts as simply filling up the HP bar, soon basic anatomy is introduced, requiring healers to seal up the wound and replace lost flesh manually. Then more anatomy is introduced, requiring more skill from the healers, so on and so on.
  • He Is Not My Boyfriend: This is Asuna's response to Ilya's teasing remarks about "equipping (Kirito) as a boyfriend". In response Asuna tries to invoke this trope from Ilya, but the latter innocently says that "Shirou is just her onii-chan"... and then her expression makes a 180 and assures Asuna that it's not like she and Shirou are related by blood or anything. Cue sputtering.
  • Helping Would Be Killstealing: Early on, Shirou focuses on a Fragile Speedster build, running to and fro saving players who are in over their heads. Unfortunately, because many of them don't realize they're in over their heads and he runs off again without explaining himself, he gets a reputation as a kill-stealing jackass. Things get better once he becomes more careful about letting the people he's saving get the final hit, and after the first couple weeks people are experienced enough that he doesn't need to constantly run around rescuing them anyway.
  • Hidden Agenda Villain: Kayaba Akihiko traps ten thousand people in a death game and introduces a [Thaumaturgy Patch] that creates a far more complex magic system than the bare-bones Low Fantasy version it had before. He invites everyone to find out why; "If you wish to uncover my motive, struggle to clear the game." No one understands why he would trap so many people, or place so much emphasis on the magic system. The few real mages in the game know full well that the magic system is a near-perfect simulation of real magecraft, but that just leaves even more questions. If he really does let them out at the end, all he's done is create ten thousand collaborators to his crime of breaking the masquerade, and they'll all be executed by the Enforcers. Argo, who was following the development of the game beforehand, thinks back to how Kayaba was revolutionizing not just the gaming industry, but software as a whole; she even started a forum thread on the topic that was featured on CNN. He has to have some plan, but no one knows what.
    Kayaba Akihiko threw away becoming bigger than Bill Gates to orchestrate this Death Game.
    Compared to that, what could he possibly be hoping to accomplish?
  • Honesty Aesop: Referenced; when an NPC asks what Kirito was promised a reward, Kirito recognizes it as an "honesty gate," and that lying will either result in a quest failure or seeming success, and will bite him later. The problem is, he genuinely doesn't remember how much he was promised, and he doesn't think the NPC is smart enough to accept that answer. Instead, he decides to ask for the random book on magic Numerology that he found while waiting. The NPC agrees, opening up a quest chain for Kirito to learn a new and complex brand of magecraft. It also turns out that this "NPC" is actually Kayaba Akihiko himself, the man who trapped them there in the first place. It's unclear if he always planned to teach Kirito Numerology or if this was just a coincidence that he took advantage of.
  • Hopeless with Tech: In the omakes Rin manages to kill Shirou twice, and gets Ilya as well the second time, due to having no clue how the NervGear works.
  • Hostile Show Takeover: During the second Tiger Dojo, Saber notes that traditionally a student can challenge the master of a dojo for their position. She manifests her armor and Excalibur before the omake cuts to black. On the show's next appearance, Saber is now master of the Lion Dojo while Taiga is the bloomers-wearing disciple.
  • Humble Hero: Shirou and Kirito are each one, as per their source materials.

    I - Q 

  • I Control My Minions Through...:
    • PoH controls the player-killer guild through a combination of them all being equally crazy, opportunities for both excitement and safety, and of course murdering people who threaten him.
    • Rosalia controls her guild through Pragmatic Villainy; they're not player-killers, but they are criminals, and she encourages them to keep their crimes light because when they escape the death game the actual murderers will likely get punished (even though she doesn't think Kayaba is actually killing people), while the thieves like them will be fine. However, above all else she just likes being in control, so she makes it so that her boys feel like they can't survive without her.
    • Ilya explains that you need to consider this with familiars. Since they are, by nature, entities that can make decisions independently of you, if you make them too smart they might realize they're slaves and turn against you. The standard familiar bond manipulates them emotionally, and she recommends keeping them less intelligent so they can't get out of it—though she also points out that, for all the flaws of Keita's animated furniture, they'll never turn against him. Of course, she herself is an Artificial Human who hates her family, so she would know.
    • On the more positive side, Diabel is the leader of the playerbase by dint of his reputation as the most reasonable, most effective leader they could possibly have. He puts almost as much effort into keeping the rest of the players engaged and productive as he does on making sure the Front Line is advancing steadily. He's worried that there will eventually be a Difficulty Spike that makes them stall, which could endanger everything. Their entire society is based on the Front Line advancing; people define their jobs and social standing on whether they are Front Liners, Mid Liners, Rear Liners, or Side Liners. If the Front Line fails to stay ahead of the Mid Line, then everything would fall apart.
  • I Kiss Your Hand: When Klein is formally introduced to Ilya, she "graciously allows" him to kiss her hand. Klein double-checks with Shirou that yes, this is really happening, then does so.
    Ilya: And my foot
    Shirou: Ilya.
    Ilya: I was just joking, Shirou!
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: The five basic elemental spells get named after bird-type attacks from other media and are cool... except for Ether being Psy-Duck. The joke is so lame it pretty much discredits the entire spell series.
  • Informed Attribute: Kirito is a hardcore soloer as in canon, but due to the story's design he's almost always shown in groups with other characters. An omake points out it takes 200,000 words before he gets his first solo chapter.
  • Innocent Innuendo: Chapter 6:2, though given who's talking it's debatable whether the innuendo is intentional or not:
    Ilya: Shirou! I absolutely won't allow you to cheat on me with any other [Guild Leaders]! Hurry up and become mine!
    Asuna: Ilya-chan... Couldn't you have phrased that in a less scandalous way?
  • Insistent Terminology:
    • NPCs and actual magi are very insistent on using the correct terms and will attempt to correct players who use the wrong word. Grimlock is especially picky here.
    • Diabel has the name of Sasha's orphanage changed to "Boarding School". He wants to keep people thinking of the children there as students and not orphans, as that could mess them up even more than they already will be when the game ends.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Well, teenage version. To kids, the difference between an eighteen year-old and a twelve year-old is huge, so Asuna sees her friendship with Ilya as something like this. Of course, the audience knows that Ilya really is eighteen (though she enjoys playing up her appearance a bit), so she has more in common with her than Asuna realizes. On the other hand, everyone assumes that Ilya and Silica are the same age so their friendship makes perfect sense, but in reality Ilya is at least six years older.
  • Invincible Hero:
    • Shirou's and Ilya's in-game reputations grow into this. In fact, a minor plot point in the story is the worry that the auto-balancing functions of the Cardinal system will lead to an inversion of Monster Threat Expiration and make the game harder for everyone else.
      Shirou: So it's a choice. Between saving people now and sacrificing people in the future, and sacrificing people now so that people in the future will be safe.
      Diabel: There is a third possibility. In gamer slang, you could call it the [Nerf Bat]. The rules of the game will beat down the nail that sticks up.
    • This reputation only grows when the game patches them into [Titled Players], with one of the perks being complete exclusion from the auto-balancing system, as its way of solving the issue.
  • Invisibility Cloak: Several guilds are excited at the possibility of making an invisibility cloak... and disappointed when they discover that while making a cloak that is invisible is easy, making anything that makes its wearer invisible is far harder. Some people do find uses for invisible lengths of fabric, though, especially when they are combined with enchantments that make them nigh-indestructible. One guild hangs them like sheets as an invisible shield, which monsters don't know how to deal with.
  • Invisibility with Drawbacks: By the time the players reach the ninth floor there are several versions of this spell running around, but each one has a huge flaw. Foreign prana washes away the invisibility and it only turns what the spell is cast on invisible, so an Invisibility Cloak will appear invisible but show the person beneath it.
  • Item Crafting: Blacksmith and Tailor players create weapons and clothing, respectively.
  • Item Farming: Gatherers do this, harvesting materials to give or sell to other players.
  • I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure: Subverted when Sasha believes Diabel intends to cut funding from the [Boarding School] if she doesn't go along with what he's suggesting. He points out that he'll simply fire her instead and let Yuiler take over with the [Church Aid Society].
  • Jetpack: By the twelfth floor, the [DDA] have a prototype combined with the Gravity-Reduction magic to completely go over the canyon that makes up the floor.
  • Joke and Receive: Cuvie facetiously calls Agil's flaming axe spell [Heat Hawk]. Agil is shocked that Cuvie knew the name.
  • Keep the Reward: Argo offers Shirou 50,000 Col for the secret of making steel, due to the Death Game making it difficult to get information that should have been gleaned off a wiki, but Shirou tells her to keep it as long as it goes in her (free) guidebook. Zig-Zagged, however, as this method also prevents her from making more money by charging others for the information, not that Shirou realizes this.
  • Land Mine Goes "Click!": The Paladins develop rune-based landmines by the fifth floor, and Laughing Coffin have a minefield of some form around their base.
  • Laser Blade: Shirou and Kirito have a prototype lightsaber by Chapter 15.3, but it can't cut anything due to a conflict caused by the creation method that can't be solved.
  • Lemony Narrator: The narration for the omake sequences is decidedly more playful than the standard narration, including comments on Saber nearly blowing the special effects budget and protests when the Alley Cat Alliance call their writer a hack.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang!: When one member of the [Sorcery Hunters] suggests doing this, Schmitt points out that's a horrible idea.
    Schmitt: That sounds most efficient but splitting the party against a horror-themed quest is asking for trouble.
  • Like an Old Married Couple: Asuna and Kirito. Even early on, Asuna specifically compares their interactions to her own parents; she finds something he said annoying, but just lets him talk rather than confronting him because he clearly needs to vent.
  • Linked List Clue Methodology:
    • This seems to be a common form of filler in quests, sent bouncing around the floors until you're inevitably right back where you started. Which is part of the reason that Ilya uses her Mystic Eyes of Binding to skip to the end as much as possible.
    • Asuna and her friends, while looking for an easy quest to kill time, end up with a Chain of Deals that Liz and Silica are pretty sure is going to end in a Gift of the Magi Plot. The reason why it's this trope is because the girls don't realize it's actually full of hints leading them to a much bigger plot. When they get to the end, they find that an essential NPC has disappeared, and dismiss the quest as Unwinnable by Mistake. If they had pushed harder, they would have discovered that the man they were talking to was the missing Floor Boss, and he ate the NPC they're looking for.
    • Griselda's guild takes a quest to track down a missing NPC. At each step they talk with another NPC who had worked with him and knows where he searched next. Partway through they decide not to bother with the breadcrumbs and just dowse for the man's location.
  • Logical Weakness: The Hungry Antlion has a bounded field that connects its magic circuits to the field and lets it leech prana from everything in it. Grimlock's solution is to simply let it drain as many Mana Potion items as it can handle until its body can't hold anymore. It can't limit the amount taken because of the bounded field and is overloaded with prana to the point its body is destroyed, as well as negating its own magic resistance to Curse magecraft.
  • Mad Scientist: [Slime Breeder] has some shades of this. He's obsessed with slimes, to the point that he's created both a two-colored and an albino slime, and has created the first [Grenades] in the game by refining and purifying their essence.
  • Magi Babble: Given the premise, the more advanced players delve into this more and more.
  • Magical Eye: Ilya and Hexadecimal have [Mystic Eyes of Binding]. Silica and Kuradeel get their own variation, as well, and Bel manages to create one that perceives sound.
  • Magical Flutist: The Pied Piper monster plays a magical flute.
  • Magically-Binding Contract: Part of the reason that Ilya doesn't just break out of Aincrad with her magic is that Kayaba bound everyone with a Contract at the same level as a Command Seal. It's not explained exactly how he bound them, but the most likely possibility is that he slipped it into the game's Terms of Service. Of course, Ilya is powerful enough and skilled enough that she could still break out, so Kayaba bribes her by promising to attempt to fix her flawed body and give her a full lifespan.
  • Magic Enhancement: The [Reinforcement] series of spells are the most basic, but there are others.
  • Maid Cafe: There's one on the first floor, for some reason.
  • The Masochism Tango: Word of God is that Pawnzer and Wonderful are a couple and genuinely like one another, but they're also individually nasty enough that the relationship is not a healthy one.
  • The Masquerade: So far, almost everybody still thinks that the thaumaturgy patch is merely an innovative expansion to the game.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters:
    • The familiar system is set up such that body parts from different creatures can be combined to create this.
    • The [Handy Hawks] on the twelfth floor are hawks with arms and hands for legs and feet... which they used to fire crossbows and wield swords.
  • The Mole: Diabel and the upper echelons of the [Paladins], as well as Argo, Kirito, and Asuna, suspect Ilya of being this. To be fair, they're Right for the Wrong Reasons. Diabel intends to turn Ilya to his side against Kayaba using her Pet the Dog moment.
  • Most Dangerous Video Game: Unlike the source work, it's subverted. Early on, Ilya is able to briefly connect with the outside world, and discovers that people who have died in the game have not died in the real world (though the ones who had their NerveGear removed really did die). This is an important enough secret that Kayaba Akahiko himself immediately contacts Ilya and makes a deal so that she will keep the secret; his experiment requires that the players truly believe they could die. Yui, the Mental Health AI, is using at least some of them to test new game features.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Ilya dislikes Visual Novels where sloppy writing makes the player think there is a flag for a route that simply doesn't exist.note 
    • PoH forcing the warlord to accept his duel challenge by moving its finger is a nod to Sleep PKing in Sword Art Online.
    • A character named Sacchi has massive prana reserves and a traumatic Origin.
      Argo: Isn't it sad, Sacchi?
      Sacchi: Please don't go there.
    • Diabel tries to guess Kayaba's motives in the fic and basically hits the motivations of both the canonical Kayaba and the antagonist from the Alfheim arc.
      Why? Diabel didn't know. Maybe he was experimenting on their brains to develop Mind Control Software. Maybe he was an egoist who genuinely wanted them to play his game.
  • Necromancer: One player is called this because he killed NPCs to make them into Familiars.
  • Ninja: Some players devote themselves to role-playing as ninja, building their stats and developing magecraft accordingly. They form a ninja guild, [Fuumanin], in the service of Diabel.
  • No "Arc" in "Archery": Averted. Arrows follow a trajectory when fired.
  • Non-Combat EXP: After the fight with the first Floor Boss, Shirou realizes that his experience gains from the battle vastly paled in comparison to his gains from inventing a new spell. He and Ilya realize that this means that Kayaba is encouraging players to focus on the magic system, almost to the exclusion of all else. From an in-game perspective, this is a good thing, as it allows non-combat players to stay competitive to at least some degree, letting the player base move forward in a more unified manner. From an out of game perspective, it's absolutely terrible, because when the Enforcers finally realize what is happening and come to execute Kayaba for revealing magic to the world, the players will not be "victims" but "collaborators." Unless something changes, they'll all be executed for crimes they didn't even know existed.
  • Not the Intended Use: Hexidecimal uses the marriage system when combined with [Mystic Eye of Binding] to force an NPC to marry him, giving him access to her excessively large inventory. Since inventories are shared between married couples, he can still access it in the field.
  • Obvious Rule Patch:
    • Cardinal automatically balances gameplay to ensure it remains challenging, leading to concerns that extraordinary players like Shirou will trigger an increase in difficulty. The Titled Player rule patches the auto-balancing feature to ignore such players while continuing to balance gameplay for the majority.
    • The Wolf Trap rule delays placement of structures while outside Safe Areas. This ensures the system can't be exploited to trap or kill enemies, as Yona apparently has been doing. The living players, of course, have no idea why it is labeled [Wolf Trap rule].
  • One-Hit Kill:
    • Had [Moby Roc] targeted any other player but Shirou, they would have been killed. It's explicitly mentioned that if Asuna hadn't slowed it down and he didn't have such a high agility score, he wouldn't have been able to activate [Ribs of Steel] in time and it still takes out half his health. A normal player would have been skewered and carried off if still alive. Shirou then kills it with a couple sword-arrow shots.
    • By later floors, Shirou's exploits have become famous enough that whenever a floor is cleared unusually quickly, the rumor is that Shirou one-shot the boss again. It's usually a case of Dungeon Bypass instead, though (such as when the DDA skipped a massive maze with their jetpacks).
    • Klein's rocket-powered yacht hits the 20th Floor Boss at more then three hundred kilometers per hour, at which point its entire fuel payload detonates, killing the Boss in one attack.
  • One-Winged Angel: A boss on the fifth floor changes form completely once its HP drops to a certain point.
  • Orphan's Ordeal: Many of the children Sasha has taken in have night terrors, either due to witnessing other players die or due to separation from their parents. Diabel is concerned their mental issues will be even worse if they come to identify themselves as "orphans" only to be reunited with their parents, so he has deliberately changed the Orphanage into a Boarding School.
  • Our Demons Are Different: In-game, the demons are bizarre, incapable of human speech, and controlled by Players who have died and are considered emotionally or mentally damaged by Yui.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Zombies are Familiars made from human corpses through [Hoodoo Magecraft]. Everything else is [The Dead]. Most of the players of course don't care, but the actual mages are rather snippy about it.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: Ilya is the best mage in the game bar none (and only slightly lower-ranked as a warrior), while Shirou is the best swordsman and blacksmith in the game bar none. Asuna and Kirito were two of the most famous players in canon, but since they're in Ilya's guild they're basically just seen as above-average.
  • The Perfectionist: Shirou becomes this as a blacksmith. If the sword he creates doesn't match what he envisioned, he immediately breaks it down and uses the materials to try again. Lisbeth doesn't understand how he can be so good at his job and yet, for quite a while, not produce a single sword he doesn't deem a failure.
  • Phlebotinum Analogy: Argo decides to explain magecraft in her guide using an ongoing analogy. Basically, how would each branch of magecraft create an explosion? It's simple, it's interesting, and almost every brand of magecraft can make explosions, so it's effective for explaining the system to beginners.
  • Player Killing: Diabel used to be a player killer in the beta test and Ilya was a monster by normal standards, to the point that Argo thought the police should keep a lookout.
  • Poison Is Evil: Only two players use poison, and both ended up being founding members of Laughing Coffin.
  • Power Glows: The sword arts make the user's weapon glow. Shirou glows when he's using Prana Burst.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Ilya learns early on that Kayaba is not actually killing the players who die in the game; Kayaba warns her not to mistake this for mercy. It is soon revealed that he is using them to beta test new features, and if they refuse to cooperate he uses them for direct soul experimentation. While no one else in the game knows Kayaba isn't killing anyone, Rosalia guesses that's the case, because it would be easier and safer. If people are constantly dying due to in-game deaths (as in canon), then the outside world would have a constant motivation to get the players out as fast as possible. If they're not dying, then it would be a much lower priority and Kayaba's experiment is more likely to continue unimpeded.
  • Primal Fear: Yolko is deathly afraid of bugs. This saves her entire guild when they get ambushed by [Worm Mage Zolgen]. She freaks out and blasts him away before he can finish his power-up sequence, letting them run from a fight they likely wouldn't have been able to win.
  • Psychometry: Kirito and Argo discover that at higher levels [Structural Grasp] (which is normally treated as a weak appraise spell that is quickly passed over and ignored) will give information on the history of the object. This isn't randomly generated fluff, either—it is perfectly accurate information on everything that has ever happened to this specific object. That would require an exponential amount of data storage that constantly increases, orders of magnitude more than the rest of the game combined. That would be crazy enough on its own, and then there's the fact that only three people in the game can actually access this information. The truth, of course, is that magic is real and they are unknowingly casting a real spell to read the game object's history. When Argo pushes hard enough, she overhears a couple programmers talking when the object was first coded, which understandably freaks her out.
  • Psychopomp: Early on, it is revealed that the "dead" players are not actually killed, but partitioned off into their own instances where they can't interact with the living players. The one who explains their situation and puts them to work testing new game features is the Turing-Capable AI Yui. She was originally designed as a [Mental Heath Counseling Program], but Kayaba forcibly redesignated her as a [Mental Heath Assessment Program] to emphasize that she was to make use of the dead players, rather than "waste" time just improving their mental states. She does her best to encourage and help them, but if they refuse to work, she has to designate them as "non-compliant" and give them off to other programs, which do... things to them.
    Tertiary Mission: Recovery of participation of Players (correction: [Specimens/Non-compliant]) that ceased cooperating with Project Bootstrap. Yui felt bad enough about encouraging and cheering on Players (correction: [Specimens/Non-compliant]) that were just bored, or felt that their portion of Project Bootstrap was pointless.
    But the Players (correction: [Specimens/Non-compliant]) that had grown suspicious of the goals of Project Bootstrap and decided not to participate as a moral objection, when they decided to engage in passive resistance, that was the worst.
    [Specimens/Non-compliant] that were not remediated were redesignated [Specimens/Passive]. Yui didn't know what happened after that. She didn't want to know. It was outside her encapsulated domain and she was afraid to even query.

    R - Z 
  • Ramming Always Works: Klein's guild uses their rocket-powered yacht, Boaty McBoatface 3, as an improvised missile against the 20th Floor Boss for a One-Hit Kill.
  • Red Baron: Shirou is initially called [The Sixth Ranger] as an insult because he swoops in to help people and then runs off, like an overpowered kill-stealing jackass from an anime. As the game wears on and players begin to understand that he's genuinely helping, it becomes a real honorific. And then the [Titled Player] system is implemented, exempting certain overpowered players from the game balance. Shirou's official name is changed to [The Sixth Ranger], and Ilya's becomes [The White Witch].
  • Resistant to Magic:
    • The only way to resist offensive spells and curses is to cycle prana through your magic circuits, wearing away the foreign magic until it breaks. The game made no attempt to point this out to players, and Diabel's entire party is almost killed on the first floor by one enemy with a paralysis spell before Shirou saves them. By later floors, everyone is experienced enough that a lot of tactics rely on taking advantage of the brief window a curse is active before the enemy can break it.
    • It should be noted that circulating prana through your circuits disrupts all foreign magic, including beneficial effects from friends. This is lessened when dealing with someone you trust, which Kirito considers an impressively subtle way of implementing Relationship Values.
  • Resort to Pouting: Ilya can evidently manipulate her brother this way.
    "Shirou!" Ilya was seriously pouting now, hands thrust down by her sides as she stood rigidly, "I don't like it when you tease me like this!" She had a tremulous, wide-eyed look as she stared at Shirou. Asuna thought she'd never looked more like a little girl than right now, reacting pitifully to getting teased.
    With a sigh that was kind rather than exasperated, Shirou reached out in front of him and decisively tapped a menu selection.
    "Hooray!" Ilya shouted, breaking forward as she half-ran and half-skipped to throw her arms around Shirou's neck and hug him.
  • The Roleplayer: One guild takes their Ninja personas very seriously, constantly treating Diabel as their lord and the other top players as his noble attendants. Diabel and the others find this rather uncomfortable, but they're genuinely good at their jobs, so everyone just puts up with it.
  • RPG Mechanics 'Verse: Kirito narrates events, even mundane conversations, as if he were in one. Which, y'know, he is, but talking about his [Social skill] is taking it a bit too far.
  • School Swimsuit: Ilya dons one on the 20th Floor.
  • Set Bonus: Blacksmiths can assign items to a "set" of armor, which grants a bonus when all slots of the armor are equipped. Multiple pieces can be assigned to the same set, allowing incremental upgrades without breaking the bonus.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Asuna and her friends take a Chain of Deals quest so a husband can get his wife a present. They determine it's a "Gift of the Magi" Plot but fail the quest due to Zolgen eating the wife. A follow-up quest has the husband going on an epic trek to find his wife only to also get eaten by Zolgen.
  • Shout-Out: Has its own page.
  • Shown Their Work: The third floor boss is based on the Mongolian Death Worm.
  • Sidetracked by the Analogy: Lizbeth explains to Shirou how a Chain of Deals quest works by using the example of getting spark plugs to fix a car. Shirou ends up asking if the quest was to fix Merlin's car.
  • Slave Race: During the otherwise Breather Beach Episode, Ilya casually points out that all Familiars are slaves, and if you make them too smart you have to worry about a Turned Against Their Masters situation. Silica is horrified at this, since she loves her animals, but Ilya counters that her animals never chose to love her back—Silica programmed them that way and still uses them as disposable tools that she can modify at a whim. Ilya, of course, doesn't see anything actually wrong with any of this.
  • Slave to PR: Diabel is well aware of this. He might be a Reasonable Authority Figure, but his unofficial control of the players is based entirely on him being the most effective, most efficient leader in bringing the game to a close. If the Front Line suffers a major stall, the players might begin to wonder if he should be in charge. He's especially worried because of some of the things he's deduced about Kayaba's priorities; he has to balance clearing the game with getting players more involved with the magic system (which is, for reasons Diabel doesn't understand, Kayaba's highest priority), all while hopefully not playing along too much with whatever horrible thing this madman is planning. Diabel's chapters often involve him pausing for long paragraphs before he speaks, thinking over the best way to word everything he says.
  • Soul Jar: Mentioned. Dr. Skull's ultimate goal is to have one of these for himself and become a lich.
  • Standard RPG Items: Kayaba removed these from the game, but the players themselves can reproduce them using magecraft; e.g., using Ether and Water prana to create a Mana Potion.
  • Stealth Mentor: Kayaba implemented the Death Game setting and Thaumaturgy Patch so players would be forced to learn magecraft and the proper mindset for practicing it. In a more direct example, Kayaba poses as the NPC Ellis Bell to personally mentor Kirito.
  • Stock Light-Novel Hero: Subverted with Kirito. He's one of the front-line players, but he's Overshadowed by Awesome by most of the other people in the guild he's not quite joined. Ilya is the best mage in the game bar none (and a decent warrior besides), Shirou is the best warrior in the game bar none (and a decent mage besides), Asuna is universally well-rounded, and everyone else has a Rare Element that helps them stand out from the crowd. Kirito, by contrast, merely has the Ether element, which works best when you have another element paired with it. This isn't always a bad thing—since Kirito isn't trying to hide his strength, he's able to give the Moonlight Black Cats a lot more help than canon, and they don't get slaughtered when they face an unexpectedly powerful enemy. Likewise, he never really gets a harem because all the girls are helped by other people instead of him. His only love interest is Asuna.
  • Stock RPG Spells: These exist through magecraft.
    • Healing Hands: [Cure] spell. As part of the growing realism, it later on works by creating false flesh and gluing it to the wounded flesh to stop bleeding. It is invented by the Paladins and "trademarked" by them, even though they sell the spell books for 1 col.
    • Status Buff: [Reinforcement] does a general job, and some monsters have their own variations.
    • Status-Buff Dispel: One of the bosses can strip players of their buffs, forcing them to be reapplied.
    • Status Effects: The various bosses early in the game have these; e.g., the floor boss on Floor 1 can cause paralysis, and the Floor 3 boss can cause poison.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Klein's guild blow up their ship by ramming it into a boss. They eject themselves and Klein has to use a blast shield to protect himself from the shockwave.
  • Summoning Ritual: Laughing Coffin conduct a demon summoning ritual.
  • Superpowerful Genetics: Like in the Nasuverse canon, magi like Shirou and Ilya are born. However, Kayaba has somehow managed to induce magic circuits into most other players, allowing them to use magecraft. Supposedly, most people are actually latent magi, except their magic circuits failed to initialize properly at birth – sort of like being born with a stunted limb. This entire [Death Game] is apparently Kayaba's attempt to both prove this hypothesis and correct the defect in the players.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: The subtler kind, where rather than being a blatant lie, the person speaking feels the need to leave an important loophole open:
    Itagaki: I wouldn't be happy if Hexi-sempai asked me to wear a maid dress because another girl asked for it.
  • Technicolor Toxin: Poisons come in various colors: Red causes Status Debuffs, Green induces Paralysis, and Blue does Damage Over Time.
  • Tell Me How You Fight: When Shirou starts making weapons for people, he decides he needs to fight them first in order to determine what would be best for them. He fights them in the Safe Zone, meaning it's impossible for them to take damage... which is a good thing, because Shirou is a brutal fighter.
    Diabel smiled uncertainly as he raised his hand to click respond.
    His hand was still shaking.
    He paused, examining his hand rather than responding, watching the fingers twitch slightly, completely outside his control.
    It had been terrifying.
    Compared to the heavy presence of a [Floor Boss] that oppressed him, fighting the [Sixth Ranger] had been like getting buffeted by a hurricane gale. Blows continuously came from everywhere, and if you missed even one it would knock you down and continue to pound you remorselessly.
  • Teen Idol: The [Slayers], a group of teenage girls, are treated like this by other Mid Liners.
  • Terminally Dependent Society: Diabel realizes that they are entirely reliant on the game [Menu], with the private messages, auto-mapping, HP and MP bars, and so on. Normally that wouldn't be a big deal, since they're inside a video game and there's no reason to suspect that these features will be disabled. But then a patch removes the [Items] tab of player inventories for "realism," and Diabel realizes that if the [Menu] disappears then their entire society will instantly break down. Just to start with, they have no backup system for messaging people, and yet they're spread over dozens of floors and thousands of square miles. Diabel quietly starts a think-tank to look into backup plans just to be safe.
  • That Came Out Wrong: Diabel spars with Shirou so the latter can make him a sword. When Diabel arrives to pick up the sword, Lisbeth, having recently had a discussion about a Diabel/Shirou pairing, completely misinterprets them discussing the spar.
    Shirou: It's ready. If you're prepared, I can give it to you now. [Lisbeth takes notice]
    Diabel: Thank you. But if you're so rough every time, then even if it's amazing, this will be the last time. [Lisbeth starts blushing]
    Shirou: Ah. I'm sorry, I just got excited.
    Diabel: [deciding to mess with Lisbeth] In that case, I look forward to receiving more from you in the future. But as it is, I am prepared for it right now.
    Shirou: [completely oblivious] Right.
    [Lisbeth panics]
  • There Are No Therapists: Defied.
    • Although Kayaba deactivated Yui's emotional counseling like in canon, the [Mutual Aid Society] establishes a system after the Sixth Ranger drags someone who tried to commit suicide to them, and Diabel makes sure anyone in his guild who has lost someone or needs it gets it. Whether or not they accept it is another story.
    • Yui actually has something to do this time around - she serves as a Psychopomp and devises treatment for adversely affected specimens Kayaba experiments upon. The conflict between her old programming (to counsel players) and her new programming (to put them to work) causes problems.
  • Things That Go "Bump" in the Night: The 25th Floor is full of monsters like this called Grue, as the entire floor is completely covered in darkness 24/7.
  • Think of the Children!: Sasha's argument that the children in the [Boarding School] shouldn't be taught magecraft is under the assumption that if it became a required course they would be made to help clear the game. Diabel shoots her down by pointing out that not only are there already children on the front line, their money helps maintain her school; it could just as easily be spent on giving the front line children better gear to protect them.
  • Throwing Down the Gauntlet: Saber takes Ilya's place in the Tiger Dojo, where she is extremely embarrassed at having to wear bloomers. In the second Dojo she challenges Taiga to a duel and brings out Excalibur. The following Lion Dojo showed Saber as Master and Taiga in bloomers.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: The NPCs of a town on the 10th floor don't believe in magecraft due to Zolgen using it as a hiding place and messing with their memories.
  • Tracking Spell: One of the magics taught is tracking through the use of runes or dowsing.
  • Turns Red: Most of the bosses do this once they enter the [Red Zone] during their final health bar. It is an MMO, after all.
  • Unexpectedly Realistic Gameplay: When Kayaba traps everyone in his death game, he also introduces a [Thaumaturgy Patch] which, unbeknownst to almost everyone, is an extremely accurate simulation of real magecraft. Everyone is very confused at this new magic system, from the harsh penalties for failure to the incredibly in-depth lore, to the way that your magic stats seem to be randomly set at character creation. The few real mages trapped in the game quickly deduce that Kayaba is training everyone in real magic, but can't figure out why. As the game advances, he adds more realism, such as changing healing magecraft from "filling up the HP bar" to repairing and regenerating damaged tissue.
  • Unique Protagonist Asset: Discussed; as in Nasuverse canon, people are born with an affinity for various elements of either the Western or Eastern arrays. Sometimes, however, people can have a "Rare Element" that does not match any of these, and is often unique. The players semi-jokingly refer to these people as "Protagonists" since it's such a common anime plot for the main character to have some rare special ability. Rosalia mentions that many people have Rare Elements that are too specialized and weird to make good use of; these people usually don't get called Protagonists. Shirou (as in canon) has the Sword element, which is even more useful in a game completely built around swords. Silica has the Beast element, and Ilya begins collecting Rare element holders at Kayaba's request.
  • Un-Sorcerer: According to Kayaba, nearly everyone is basically a latent mage, but their magic circuits don't activate on birth, sort of like being born with a stunted limb. The first thing he does with his death game is release a thamauturgy patch to teach the players real magic in the guise of the game, including activating their latent circuits. Unfortunately, even with that, Argo still doesn't have any magic circuits. She actually has the Rare Element [Metal], which would normally make her quite powerful, but with zero circuits she simply can't do anything with it. Thankfully, Shirou, a real-life mage who once thought he had no magic circuits, teaches her how to make a fake circuit so that she can be a passable mage.
  • Useless Useful Spell: [Structural Grasping] is seen as mostly a variation of the [Appraise] skill by most players and thus useless. Kirito and Shirou use it to great effect in many situations, to the point where Shirou's borders into psychometry after he maxes it out, reflecting his canon/real world abilities.
  • Villain Takes an Interest: Kayaba has a taken a special interest in Kirito and has taken him as a personal apprentice under the guise of the NPC Ellis Bell.
  • Wake-Up Call Boss:
    • The First Floor Field Boss, [Worm Disciple], is there to force players to deal with debuffs. Unlike most games, magic resistance is active rather than passive; you have to circulate prana through your circuits to wear away cruses and effects. Since the [Worm Disciple] is a Flunky Boss that paralyzes players, if you don't know how to resist debuffs, you'll die quickly.
    • Even more so is the actual Floor Boss, [Illfang the Kobold Lord]. In the beta, it was designed for a Total Party Kill to set the tone of the game. Now that it's turned into a death game that Kayaba is using to train people in real magic, it's a little different. Up until it Turns Red, the fight is mostly like a normal game; a small group of players engage the boss until its aggro changes, and everyone else can just stand around waiting. The point of its final phase is to force the players to treat it like a real fight using real-world rules.
      The [Last Red Overkill Mode] would be used exactly as it had been intended. It would force the players to stop taking the flow of the game for granted, even if it was unfair.
      The players had already destroyed three HP bars. No, they had destroyed almost three-and-a-half, the final HP bar had just crossed into the yellow zone.
      It was tiny and hesitant. But Kayaba Akihiko sincerely smiled.
  • Walk on Water: By the twentieth floor, Hanzou has become able to do this by drawing the air beneath him, compressing it and sliding it along the surface of the water before him, by moving at high enough speed that the surface tension of the water provides enough resistance to his legs.
  • Wham Episode:
    • Chapter 10.4: One Snow and Itagaki are killed by Zolgen and it's made clear that Agatha is an expy of Sakura.
    • Chapter 13.2: Laughing Coffin invades an out-of-the-way village and makes it their own personal headquarters.
    • Chapter 16.1: Laughing Coffin summon a Magical Flutist demon that they can't control and allow it to run free. On the other side, we learn that some of the players who died have gone insane or catatonic due to the stress of the test servers.
    • Chapter 16.2: We get to see the first of the children that are taken by the Pied Piper.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: NPCs are treated as non-humans, with players manipulating them through magecraft. A small number of NPCs are noted as acting unusually self-aware but appear to be rare thus far. Now, remember that Nasuverse rules apply here and consider the NPCs as Muggles for the implications.
    • Fortunately, not all players totally agree with this mindset and the more extreme examples are generally viewed as being at least a bit shady.
    • At least one of the more self-aware NPCs, Ellis Bell, is actually the avatar of Kayaba who is mentoring Kirito.
  • Who Writes This Crap?!: During the second Alley Cat Alliance segment the female characters appear wearing Playboy bunny costumes. They quickly fall into lamenting how the hacks writing their segment can only come up with one gag and fall back on cheesecake to cover for it. The writer takes umbrage with this.
  • Wild Mass Guessing: In-universe, there's quite a lot of this as to how Ilya and Shirou get stuff done. Kirito and Argo suspect Shirou to have been an alpha tester, one of the people who helped model the combat engine and sword skills, whereas Diabel suspects him to be an AI.
  • Will-o'-the-Wisp: Will-o-Wisps are ethereal monsters that are intangible to physical attacks and have a compulsion spell to lure players into the swamps of the fourth floor, before shanking them with a knife projection.
  • The Window or the Stairs: "Dead" players are given two options: Become beta-testers for upcoming content or die. Kayaba is too stingy to actually kill people who choose the latter option and instead uses them as test subjects for direct soul modification. This is not a good thing.
  • Words Can Break My Bones: [The Prismatic Duke] uses this mystery, spreading prana out with each word as a shockwave that acts as a probe to complete a circuit with whomever hears it. It can then send the prana directly into them and cause them intense pain.
  • The Worm That Walks: Zolgen. Ilya notes that she finds it funny how Kayaba based a boss enemy on his own master, Zouken Matou. Then Zolgen kills two players who are friends with her apprentice, and she doesn't think it's funny anymore.
  • Wrong Context Magic: In the beta test and all preview material, the VRMMO Sword Art Online was a fairly standard Low Fantasy game. There were plenty of fantastical monsters, but the players had no magic of their own besides a handful of healing or escape crystals. Everything was based around the [Sword Skills], a way to simulate real swordsmanship with the system assist. And then on launch day, along with the announcement that everyone was trapped, Kayaba also announced a [Thamauturgy Patch] that removed the magic crystals and added a different, far more in-depth magic system. All the gamers lampshade that this system makes no sense compared to everything that came before. Rather than being based entirely on a few set skills you can train up, large parts of it are based on random stats that seem to be set at character creation, you can invent new spells and share them, the caster's thoughts and intent are very important, and even things like the religious affiliation of the person who crafted an item can have major effects. Entire magecraft disciplines are either ridiculously overpowered or simply redundant due to game mechanics. The truth, of course, is that Kayaba is simulating real magecraft and is using the death game to train ten thousand people in magecraft. The few people who already knew about magic before they became trapped quickly make a name for themselves due to their in-depth knowledge of the magic system.
  • Yakuza Princess: From her cheerful ruthlessness, Argo thinks Ilya is one in real life. She and Kirito also wonder if Shirou is her bodyguard, given the odd Dark Lady And Black Knight vibe they feel from them.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: The fifth floor is set with this theme. Grimrock says repeatedly that they are not zombies, they are The Dead. Zombies are purely a product of voudoun magical traditions, and using that term for any other undead is simply incorrect. Griselda finds this amusing, but does note that the NPCs agree if you care enough to ask.