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Literature / The Tough Guide to Fantasyland

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This piece of Meta Fiction by Diana Wynne Jones pretends that pretty much all of the fantasy stories ever told -- well, most modern genre fantasies, anyway -- took place in a place called "Fantasyland", and that the creators of the stories are the "Management" who arrange for the audience to go on "tours". With this setup, an extensive list of fantasy tropes is presented, as if to a tourist visiting another country, and thoroughly deconstructed. It also pretends that the stories are statistically representative of "Fantasyland", and thus concludes that the most common type of meal is stew, that cities are composed mainly of alleyways, and that the ecology and economy of Fantasyland are severely screwed up.

Jones later wrote a novel called Dark Lord of Derkholm set in the Fantasyland described in the Tough Guide and deconstructed it further by revealing it's really nothing like the guidebook at all and it's all put on (very reluctantly) for the benefit of the tourists.

Published originally in 1996, Jones issued an Updated Re-release in 2006 with some new examples (the page image comes from that edition).


Tropes in this book.

(Note: As the whole point of the book is to list and deconstruct as many fantasy tropes as the author could identify, it's a fair bet that any fantasy-related trope known to this wiki gets some kind of coverage. But the following tropes are definitely among those included — and, pretty much to a one, subverted and lampshaded.)

  • About the Author: In the Updated Re-release of 2006, there is a section about Diana Wynne Jones at the second last page of the book or so.
  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Sewers can be expected to appear beneath any given castle or city, seemingly for the purpose of providing convenient access or egress from these places. Smell is rarely an issue, and any odor picked up while slogging through sewage will vanish in short order, "almost as if the management had forgotten about it".
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  • Action Girl: The Female Mercenary is a very skilled soldier who can be utterly relied on whenever a fight breaks out. She will annoy the protagonists through dutifully cleaning her weapons and insisting a watch be kept, but they will come to admire her even so.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Jones notes that some enemy races will never have good members, not even a solitary example.
  • Amazon Brigade: The Warrior Women, naturally. In fact they're far more overtly masculine than even most male soldiers, cursing, boasting and carousing outrageously. Some are very big, hairy women, but most are slim and beautiful. They're all quite strong and definitely not to be insulted. Even so, they're possible to befriend. Though the rumor is they're all lesbians, often the women end up having sex with Tourists, whether male or female (it's apparently quite good).
  • Apothecary Alligator: Mummified alligators are a common feature of wizards' laboratories. Live alligators are much rarer, and believed to be extinct.
  • The Apprentice: Apprentices, if they try doing anything interesting before completing their training, are sure to have it blow up in their faces. If they run away on an adventure though, it's sure to aid in their learning, and they will probably also be revealed as a Missing Heir.
  • "Arabian Nights" Days: The "Fanatic Caliphates" setting, which will be hot, southerly, and full of merchants and religious fanatics.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: A primary feature of any Bad land with Aristocratic Feudalists. They will be occupied with abusing the peasantry, alongside intrigues against each other in the royal court. The peasants may well revolt during the Tour because of this oppression.
  • Armies Are Evil: Only the bad guys are allowed to have an army starting out. The good guys will only raise one as a last retort when it has grown almost too late, strongly implying they are at best a necessary evil. Bad armies will also completely devastate the countryside while marching and foraging.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Jones notes that the ecology of Fantasyland is very messed up as the result of there being very few bacteria, insects, birds or large herbivores since the "Management" apparently are ignorant about their importance. However, she believes the ecosystem is slowly righting itself so that humans will eventually be on the bottom of the food chain.
  • Artistic License – Economics: Though some of the countries in Fantasyland do have a strong economy based on trade (contrasted with others which are very poor), it's left a mystery just how this works as bandits or pirates steal so many goods. Even after robbing it, they never seem to recirculate the wealth. So the source is unknown, most notably as no country seems to have industry of any kind. As a result, she concludes that their economy must be sustained by "tourists" coming from our world.
  • Assassin Outclassin': This is the topic of the entry on Assassins — that the tourist is attacked in an inn by a supposedly expert Assassin but manages to overpower and kill the Assassin who goes to his death complaining about the Tourist breaking the rules.
  • Automaton Horses: The Tough Guide speculates that in Fantasyland horses may be a type of vegetable.
  • Baleful Polymorph:
    TRANSFORMATION has been defined as "inflicted metamorphosis" and is quite as uncomfortable as it sounds. Someone has, without asking you, turned you into a carthouse or a table with bendy legs. It usually takes a WIZARD to remove you from this discomfort.
  • The Bard: Bards are generally traveling musicians who are practitioners of magic music. They are often in groups now. As part of their skills, bards memorize all songs and story lore, which is quite useful during a Quest. Their magic is even powerful enough to bind demons and open portals, so it's speculated the greatest wizards may be former bards.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: A person's character can be easily discerned by that person’s attractiveness.
  • Beneath the Earth: Cavern systems are a common feature of the Tour. Unlike real cave expeditions, light will rarely be an issue — if your torches fail while you're down there, you'll probably come across areas with rocks that glow by themselves.
  • Benevolent Mage Ruler: One of the Good Queens is a magic user who's very concerned with what's right and swiftly joins the heroes after they alert her to bad things going on in her country.
  • Better Than a Bare Bulb: The book was written to lampshade.
  • Bigger on the Inside: The Guide notes that most buildings in Fantasyland appear larger inside than their outside would suggest. An unusual exception to this are farmhouses, which are smaller on the inside — for some reason, these will seem large and inviting outside, but will be small and poky inside.
  • Bishōnen: The "gay mage" tour companion is described as a long-haired "pretty boy" in beautiful clothing who's indicated to be quite androgynous or effeminate in appearance, and probably Camp Gay (at least by implication).
  • The Blacksmith: A good source of allies. They'll often serve as foster fathers to a young Tourist and or Missing Heir. Also their skills are useful in being able to teach reforging a sword. However, often they will have a sexy young daughter who will attempt to seduce her foster brother, requiring that they leave on a quest hastily for avoiding her father's rage.
  • Born in the Saddle: The Anglo-Saxon Cossack barbarians. Despite this, they will never have bandy legs.
  • Born into Slavery: Some kinds of Slaves, Female of the second type, "Beautiful young women [...] Few seem to have been born to slavery."
  • Brainwashed: The Dark Lord and their elite minions will often have the power to control people, turning them into automata who do their bidding. Puppet kings are controlled in this way, along with elite soldiers.
  • Burn the Witch!: A common hazard (along with crucifixion) when dealing with Religious Feudalists.
  • But Not Too Gay: The Gay Mage is a mildly camp Companion with a bit of Magical Gay about him (in addition to actually being magical). Apart from the name, actual gayness is only implied.
  • But Not Too White: A character's goodness can be judged by that character’s tan.
  • Chubby Chef: The trope and its inverse are discussed as fantasy stereotypes:
    Cooks divide into fat and thin. Fat Cooks are really kindly underneath, in which case the Kitchen helper has extra food to look forward to. Thin Cooks, on the other hand, are mean right through.
  • City of Canals: Cited by name as one possible location tourists may visit. Its canals will be filthy and it will likely be ruled by a council of corrupt merchant-princes.
  • Color-Coded Eyes: In its dissertation on color-coding in Fantasyland, the Guide says people with violet eyes may be royalty, or just destined to lead "uncomfortably interesting lives".
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: One can tell a person's character through clothing, eye and hair color.
  • Common Tongue: This is nearly always part of Fantasyland. Even if other languages exist there will be one all people share and will communicate to each other with. One Old Tongue may also exist in ancient writings and magic (just the sole precursor language). The only exception is on the Other Continent, where another language will exist that Tourists must learn to use.
  • Corrupt Church: The land of the Religious Feudalists is ruled by one of these.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Executions are usually carried out by the most cruel methods possible, for instance burning alive, crucifixion, disemboweling, impaling and starvation. Often though these all occur off page, with the Tourists only coming across the grisly remains of the unfortunates executed this way.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: The One God variety of Religion, if a male god is used. Even if his worshipers see him as benign, they tend to hate women and magic users (and witches, who are frequently both), and fall into Knight Templar territory at their worst.
  • Damsel in Distress: Entry number one on Princesses consists of one word: "Wimps".
  • The Dark Arts: Black Arts are involved with killing and enslavement, usually requiring sacrifices or blood at least. This blood will be taken by force, not willingly given, and summoning a demon will likely follow. A pentagram is likely to be used for a symbol.
  • Dead Unicorn Trope: A gender-based scenario was mentioned in which mostly girls get to ride on dragons. The thing is, that while there are books with female Dragon Rider characters (i.e. Dragonriders of Pern), there doesn't seem to be any series in which that was an exclusively female activity—it's closer to exclusively male in the Pern books,note  and the Pit Dragon Chronicles likewise features males making that bond, and all of these books were written before the Guide was published. It is worth noting, however, that Jones wrote it after reading umpteen Tolkien-esque, Tolkien-length submissions for The Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997). Jones was probably not referring to any published books when she wrote this.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Jones' commentary and descriptions are full of dry, sarcastic digs at the "Management" being incompetent hacks who muck up characterization, plot, world building and can't even get basic real world facts that apply (e.g. about horses not being like bicycles, which she snarkily explains due to supposedly being the result of Fantasyland ones breeding via pollination).
  • Death Mountain: The map features a range of peaks named the Death Mountains in the far north. More generally, the mountains most Tourists will have to cross tend to feature impossibly high, sharp peaks and steep cliffs that don’t seem to have ever been eroded, leading Jones to conclude Fantasyland has never gone through an ice age. This is where you’ll find dwarves, as well as cliff-dwelling clans that live alongside telepathic eagles and hawks.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: The Imperious Female, a party member whom the Guide notes you will probably hate until you discover her Hidden Heart of Gold and that she has a secret preying on her mind. She will probably rescue everyone else at some point to show how far she's come.
  • Did You Just Have Sex?: The Guide tells you the signs to look for in one of your tour members and the correct etiquette for the situation.
  • Dragon Hoard: Wondering on why dragons hoard treasure, Jones conjectures that dragons absorb nutrients from gold by sleeping on it.
  • Dragon Rider: Dragons are usually willing to give the female heroes a lift, whom they appear closer with than male ones.
  • Droit du Seigneur: Mentioned by name as one of the things that bad Aristocratic Feudalists get up to when oppressing the peasantry.
  • Elemental Embodiment: Elementals in Fantasyland, besides the usual four classic elements, come in various types, including iron, fog, mist, ice and whirling eddies of sand of indeterminate type.
  • Encyclopedia Exposita: Quotes of a book named "Gnomic utterances" from "Ka'a Orto'o" head up every chapter (which are lampshaded as being wholly unrelated to their content), poking fun at many fantasy books' having these.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: Armageddon, the world-ending battle between Good and Evil at a place set out by a Prophecy early on.
  • Entitled to Have You: The deconstruction of Rescue Sex has shades of this, saying that because the hero nobly refuses to sleep with the slave girl when her wicked master offers her to him ("what they don't do") and helps her escape ("what they do") he then gets to have sex with her.
  • Eunuchs Are Evil: Eunuchs exist solely as fat, effeminate bad guys who try to thwart heroes by poisoning them.
  • Evil Chancellor: Very likely to show up. Most Councilors will be evil and giving the King bad advice or generally ruining their kingdom, as secret minions of the Dark Lord. Generally they will try to have all of the heroes imprisoned.
  • Evil Matriarch: The "bad mother" variety of bad queen, who's regent of her young son while bringing him up dependent on her. She'll maintain all her acts are on his behalf, but obviously does not intend to ever let him truly reign.
  • Evil Overlord: The Dark Lord, one of whom exists for every Tour trying to destroy everything. However, they can be defeated fairly easily by Tourists near the finale. There are no Dark Ladies, for it seems that the Management finds them less sinister.
  • The Evil Prince: It seems to depend on whether or not he's recognized as royalty or incognito. If he is recognized, then he'll be some variant of cruel, spoiled and/or outright murderous, otherwise he'll be The Wise Prince.
  • Evil Smells Bad: The "Reek of Wrongness". Horses seem to be particularly sensitive to this smell.
  • Extruded Book Product: The main purpose of this book is to parody the kind of unoriginal, formulaic copycats of Tolkien and Conan novels that seem to flood modern fantasy literature.
  • Fantastic Racism: Xenophobia is something most Peoples express. This is often experienced from the stranger Other Peoples toward humans, given their lack of extra limbs etc. It's mostly just acting patronizing though, rather than sacrificing them or something really bad, and Tourists will find their inferiority hard to argue with when their physical attributes do give them advantages. Ironically, those with the usual number of limbs express this racism by slavery rather than simply condescencion.
  • Fantasy Contraception: Simply being in Fantasyland seems to act as this. Jones notes that no matter how much sex "tourists" have, pregnancy never occurs (perhaps tied into the lack of menstruation by women).
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: A whole bunch of them, lampshading the ones most common in unoriginal fantasy novels.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: It's in place on most tours. Gunpowder usually fails to explode, unless it's part of an ancient gun like a musket or flintlock pistol.
  • Fantasy Pantheon: Many Tours will feature a vast number of gods. However, oddly enough the adherents of polytheist religions will generally be devoted to just one (henotheism).
  • Fantasy World Map: One shows up in the front-piece of the book. Take a look at the map upside down. Run the place-names through an anagram generator while you're at it. In the book proper, various entries describe and satirize common staples of these maps, such as inland seas, nations only being marked with their names without any borders visible anywhere, and so on.
  • Fat Bastard: Evil princes are invariably fat. Eunuchs too, and they're usually evil.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Bad kings will generally be very polite (until of course they show their true colors on their generous offers to the heroes being refused). In fact, the more polite toward the heroes a king is, the more likely they're bad. The more polite in the end the worse these kings turn out to be.
  • Fictional Zodiac: The Guide says that the Management of Fantasyland is free to keep making up more star signs and astrological events until the entire sky is filled with unlikely conjunctions.
  • Fisher King: Many kings have this relationship with their country.
  • Forgotten Trope: The entries tend to draw from cliches of Strictly Formula commercial fantasy as well as some instances likely directed at particular works. So, while a lot of the tropes it cites are still frequently used, others aren't so much.
  • Functional Magic: A number of different kinds are discussed, including a ceremonial sort, mental (which is like Psychic Powers), Sympathetic Magic, costly magic (at times gained by demonic pacts) and music, plus more.
  • Geas: One of these will probably occur if a Tourist is on the PanCeltic Tour. They are quite annoying, since this might force them to marry a random person or go right across the continent on an unnecessary trip.
  • Giant Flyer: The "Leathery winged avians" that may attack tourists in isolated spots. Sometimes they will be acting on their own, sometimes they'll be working for the forces of Evil.
  • Giant Spider: All spiders in Fantasyland are huge, and prey on small Humans, Dwarfs and Gnoemes. They're described like a riboff of those in The Lord of the Rings (unsurprisingly). It's stated they've evolved to their size because of insects, their former prey, having gone extinct.
  • Gladiator Games: The other common fate of male characters who get enslaved.
  • Gladiator Revolt: The inevitable consequence of a lead character being enslaved as a gladiator.
  • Glamour: Enchantresses use magic which will make them seem more appealing to seduce men.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: The "old fashioned bad" variety of bad queen. She's an absolute tyrant who has complete control over her realm, with everyone terrified of her. Very cruel, her land is the worst on the Tour, and rapes then murders peasant youths for fun. Invariably she'll demand sex from the Tourists and have them tortured when refused. Their only solution will be to kill her, but with reluctance as a result of her gender.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: One of the two absolute Rules in regards to Religion in Fantasyland.
  • Gold–Silver–Copper Standard: Fantasyland uses this, with a gold piece about like $5, a silver $1, and copper as cents. The text drily notes "This system is easier than most European currencies".
  • The Good King: Good kings are down to earth types, who can be discerned by the fact they don't hoard wealth, abide by elaborate ceremonies and have a plain-spoken manner.
  • Great Offscreen War: Long ago, there was a Wizard War that left large tracts of Fantasyland as Waste Areas, devastated by magical pollution that persists into the present. Few details are given of what exactly happened. However, this is one of just two historical periods which ever get referenced.
  • Grim Up North: The Snowbound North is a harsh, inhospitable place, home to Northern Barbarians and often where the Dark Lord lives (or at least he's placed a bunch of Mutant Nasties, whose presence poisons the rest of the continent). Tourists will have to be there at some point, and surely have an unpleasant time, having the kind of weather expected along with any Mutant Nasties or Barbarians opposing them.
  • Happiness in Slavery: Slaves, Female who are held in Fanatic Caliphates or the palaces of bad Kings are described as quite happy with their lot (despite being used for sex), as they live in ease overall, although they will come willingly enough if a male Hero rescues them.
  • Hawaiian-Shirted Tourist: The cover of at least the Daw Books, 1996 edition of The Tough Guide to Fantasyland pictures tourists dressed this way.
  • The Hecate Sisters: The most common form of tritheism the Management opts to portray is a Mother, Maiden and Crone trio.
  • Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: Helmets are only allowed to a select few (never protagonists). The Guards, Vestigial Imperialists, Barbary Vikings (with horns), mooks of the Dark Lord (to render them faceless) and foreigners (so they can have exotic shapes). Armies will rarely get them, unless having boiling oil poured on them happens during a Siege.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Princesses who fall for the hero are often redheads in Fantasyland.
  • Hero's Slave Harem: When the book talks about "Slaves, Female" of the Royal Harem type:
    "Beautiful young women. You will find these in droves in the FANATIC CALIPHATES and sometimes in the PALACES of bad KINGS. Their duties are light and pleasant and are: looking beautiful, bathing and massaging visitors, singing and dancing, and, for male Tourists, providing company in bed. None of them seem unhappy in their work and they show no desire to escape. [...] Often male Tourists will sympathize with the plight of such Slaves, nobly reject their offer of free, no-holds-barred SEX, insist on assisting them to escape from the exploitative tyranny under which they have been existing, and then, having obviously done them a Good Turn, have free, no-holds-barred Sex before stranding them in the middle of nowhere to make their way thousands of miles back to their own COUNTRY."
  • Hidden Backup Prince: It's noted that runaway princesses have an overwhelming tendency to marry "commoners of sterling worth" who more often than not turn out to be these.
  • Hidden Elf Village: The Hidden Kingdom, a very beautiful, idyllic, isolated Country. Its people are Elves, Mystical Masters, or both. Tourists will be given a talk by its ruler on magic or their life goals. Food may, surprisingly, not Stew (but invariably vegetarian). Despite it being utopian, Tourists will quickly grow bored and want them to go. Its people will be happy with that, finding them restive. They will deliver a Prophecy and then send the Tourists off with supplies.
  • The High Queen: Good Queens will be like this, competent and determined to put right whatever has gone amiss. They may have to be rescued by the heroes first however.
  • High Priest: Nearly always evil. Sometimes thin and evil, sometimes fat and evil, but evil. You may also meet a High Priestess. Regardless of whether she’s attractive and motherly or thin and severe, she’ll always be good.
  • Horny Vikings: The Barbary Vikings who live in the north of the world. They love killing and fighting, are skilled sailors, and wear the usual horned helmets. They are one of the malest peoples you will encounter.
  • Hot Witch: Enchantresses and bad Witches use magic to make themselves look more beautiful.
  • Human Sacrifice: Evil religions tend to practice this, specifically of virgins most often though other people too. The sacrifice being disemboweled, raped and or mutilated in some other way precedes this quite often.
  • I Ate WHAT?!: After going into how (under Domestic Animals) very few livestock seem to exist, although many cats and dogs do, there's a suggestion that this should make Tourists wonder at just what the meat in Stew is.
  • I Know Your True Name: Using Pūnct'uatìon Sh'akër names is possibly used as a form of protection against this.
  • Illegal Religion: One feature of the monotheist religions if they are fanatical is suppressing all other sects.
  • Invisibility: Several kinds exist, usually provided with a magical device.
    • A spell that makes people ignore you.
    • Being rendered transparent. Here, bright lights and shadows will give them away.
    • True invisibility, the rarest kind. It will still not stop you being detected by sound, smell or touch though.
  • King Incognito: One of these will almost invariably appear on a Tour, usually hidden away or mislaid in infancy. However, at times they have had their memories removed so they're not even aware of the fact they have a royal title, while in the more extreme examples may even have been transplanted into another body.
  • Lady Land: The country of the Warrior Women, where rumor has it no men exist at all, which is often the only one Tourists won't visit. Intruders and men are unwelcome inside. It's left unknown where they get new people.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Lampshades are hung on tropes left and right.
  • Language of Magic: One of these, often though not always synonymous with the Old Tongue, is used for casting spells.
  • The Law of Conservation of Detail: This law, applied clumsily, is responsible for many of the book's entries.
  • Little People: There seems to be a wide assortment of them running about in various sizes and levels of hairiness. Some will likely be copies of Tolkien's Hobbits.
  • Living Forever Is Awesome: One way humans can be immortal is through being a magic user. These immortals largely seem to enjoy their eternal lives.
  • Left-Justified Fantasy Map: Technically, the book has a right-justified map, which makes sense, as it's just a map of Europe rotated upside down. The place names are anagrams parodying common ones in fantasy books.
  • Lost World: In abundance. There seems to be no scarcity of hidden valleys, kingdoms and so on that have been lost from the rest of the world for ages for the heroes to stumble across.
  • The Lost Woods: An evil forest full of aggressive trees and vicious monsters is a mainstay of Tour quests.
  • Made a Slave: There're two ways this can happen:
    • Most male Tourists will be captured and enslaved at some point on their Quest, and will become galley slaves or gladiators, at which point they’ll have to win back their freedom.
    • The daughters of merchants who were brought along with the caravan will be captured when bandits will inevitably attack; they appear to be the only source of harem slaves.
  • Mage Tower: Nearly all towers are owned by Wizards. They are located in Waste Areas, standing alone, round, without doors, few windows and built from entirely smooth stones which make climbing them very difficult. A powerful spell, along with a guardian Demon, will protect it against intruders. Black towers are owned by evil Wizards, blue, white or red by Good and neutral ones. The evil ones cause a blight in the surrounding area for miles around, so their presence be detected long before they're seen. At least once on a Tour, one will need to be broken into. Often an Amulet or Talisman is used to open it. However, Tourists may have to force entry from the roof. They are Bigger on the Inside, with many spells harrying any intruders that have made it in. One central spell which controls all this can stop the rest, and in most cases be disabled simply through hacking it with swords. A final confrontation against the demon follows, and (if Evil) the Wizard too. If Good or netural, the Wizard will be in apparently enchanted sleep which takes days to wake up from.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: It's stated the Rules of Magic rarely change, but some secrets often will be reserved to have a nasty surprise later on a "Tour". Additionally, usually at least three different kinds of magic will exist, all with their own distinct Rules.
  • Magical Gesture: These are commonly used in spellcasting, as the Management realizes that if not Tourists might be unaware when magic is being done. Consequently, wizards wave their hands around a lot.
  • Magical Incantation: Chanting and rhymes are often required to work spells, many done for hours on end.
  • Magic Music: In Fantasyland this is very common, but only on the Good side. Sometimes it's actually the only Good magic. Music is used to enhance spells, summon aid or inspire extraordinary strength.
  • Magic Staff: Both Good and Bad Wizards use these. There is frequently a head or face carved onto the top. If owned by a Bad Wizard, it may bite or shock people, and be made of metal (if not some unrecognizable material). Staffs Good Wizards have on the other hand are always made of wood. They will light up when necessary. In the different Tours, a Staff may contain all the Wizard's spells, be merely an aid, or an actual living thing.
  • Merchant City: The City of Canals generally is one, ruled by a council of corrupt merchants.
  • Mess on a Plate: Expect to eat a lot of stew. And not always know what's in it.
  • Mind over Manners: Anyone capable of Telepathy, except the Dark Lord, will have sworn not to intrude in others' minds.
  • Modest Royalty: Usually a sign of a good king, especially if he wears his crown crooked.
  • More Predators Than Prey: The Guide uses this as one of the key pieces of evidence for the theory that fantasy worlds' ecosystems have been recently ravaged (another is the way piles of refuse around oppressed peasants' huts don't just rot away.) It comes to the conclusion that the systems are re-establishing themselves with humans at the bottom, and everything will be fine.
  • Murder, Inc.: The Assassins Guild. Members usually dress in black or wear a badge (although this would seem self-defeating) and follow certain rules. Tourists however have little to fear from them, since they will find an assassin easily overcome when they make their attempt.
  • Mystical Plague: Natural plague is unknown (possibly due to a lack of bacteria or viruses). Magical plagues though are common tools of the Dark Lord and his minions. Due to this, it isn't caught by those not specifically targeted (like the protagonists).
  • The Necromancer: Necromancy involves summoning a spirit or raising a corpse to ask them questions (more in keeping with the original concept). This is usually something that can only be once, plus dead people are very Literal-Minded, so care is needed in asking questions.
  • Nominal Importance: Tourists will feel sorry if Fellow Travelers who have names are killed-otherwise they won't.
  • No Periods, Period: It's noted that female "tourists" do not menstruate in Fantasyland.
  • Our Demons Are Different: Their appearance is generally of a large size, with huge fangs, staring eyes many limbs and an odd color. It's difficult to pin down however. They do appear to be physical, but of some gaseous substance that lets them squeeze through narrow spaces like keyholes yet not be harmed with ordinary weapons. Sometimes they are found running loose, though often must be summoned to our world then bound with Magic. Any sort of bargain with them is highly advised against, because all demons are cheats.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: They apparently fled to Fantasyland from our world to avoid being hunted into extinction due to being thought to be evil monsters. In reality, they’re actually aligned with Good, even though they eat people.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Naturally, the typical bearded, surly and metal-loving standard-issue dwarves show up in Fantasyland, living in hidden fastnesses in the mountains.
  • Our Elves Are Different: They are, as per always, immortal (and always youthful), and wiser, more ethereal, more magical, better-looking and just generally better than humans. They have been in decline since humans turned up, and now most of them are passing West — which here means they have been moving to the American Southwest, where they wear punk clothing and ride motorcycles.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Ghosts are encountered either alone or in large groups. Single ones usually haunt mansions and outdoors, but oddly enough rarely castles or palaces where people could be expected to have died from foul play. This seems to be because they linger as a result of having unfinished business. Groups of them will wait in cemeteries. Single ones will desire vengeance over whatever matter is keeping them around in the world. Regardless, it's best for Tourists to be wary of ghosts generally, because they can still harm the living. Being deceased, living people will also have a hard time killing them.
  • Our Gnomes Are Weirder: They’re a small folk who live underground and kidnap people for no particular reason. This is somewhat complicated by the fact that they do not always remember that humans need to eat and drink.
  • Our Goblins Are Different: Scaly little humanoids who live underground. They like to capture human travellers (their chief tactic while doing so seems to consist of throwing bodies at them until the enemy is overwhelmed) and then torture them. They don't seem to do much else.
  • Our Gods Are Different: Generally, there's a pantheon. Otherwise, just three, or one. All of them are dependent on getting prayer and worship to exist. Because of this, they'll make a point to appear regularly so people don't stop believing in them. Despite this, no Tourist will ever worship Gods.
  • Our Orcs Are Different: For all practical purposes, they’re a bigger, better version of goblins used by the Dark Lord.
  • Plant Person: Green Man, either a walking tree being or construct who's woven together. In either case they are malicious, either coming after the Tourists while moving or them being placed inside then burned or thrown into the sea. Tourists are advised to run away immediately on meeting them.
  • Police Are Useless: Guards, or the Town Watch, are completely useless. They only ever arrive on the scene late when a tavern brawl or riot breaks out. Guards are few in number and uniformly stupid. However, Tourists will be glad of this when having to make a hasty exit from a Town.
  • Praetorian Guard: The King's Men, elite soldiers who surround and guard kings, who come in three types:
    • Good. The salt of the earth like their liege, they are shown relaxing while off duty, laughing and talking about their families to show they're nice. Assuming they have to arrest the heroes, they're apologetic, though also not easily escaped as they are quite diligent about their duties.
    • Bad. They will seem like good King's Men at first, but their inner natures are revealed through nasty swearing and messy quarters. When ordered to arrest the heroes, they'll beat them up in doing so even if it's unnecessary. If the heroes are sent to be tortured, these King's Men are pleased about it. They'll ask to watch too.
    • Automata. They're in full armor every time they're seen, with visors down, due to no longer really being human, controlled by the Dark Lord. They will not stop attacking, no matter what. Often they work for a Puppet King in the thrall of the Dark Lord, but others serve him directly and can form entire armies.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: "Turncoat" is solely defined as someone who turns against the protagonist. People joining them are only doing what's right. Along with this, the barbarian hero is described rescuing a female slave from being kept in a harem, then has sex as a reward before abandoning them in the middle of nowhere (i.e. using them for sex much like their slave master would), yet remains a "hero" to people writing such a character.
  • Pūnct'uatìon Sh'akër: This is discussed at length, with one theory being it's to make a name unpronounceable to prevent it being used against them.
  • Puppet King: One variety of bad king is being controlled by the Dark Lord mentally, along with their elite soldiers.
  • The Quest: The center piece of most Tours. Usually a magical object is sought to use in defeating the Dark Lord and or saving the world. Many clues will have to be followed, with numerous barriers and does which are overcome while doing so.
  • Rape as Backstory: The Female Mercenary character's fear of sex is explained due to her being sexually abused in childhood sometimes.
  • Rebellious Princess: Entry number two on Princesses. They are spirited, willful young women who often disguise themselves as boys and marry "commoners" who turn out to be royalty too.
  • Recursive Reality / Self-Demonstrating Article:
  • Red Shirt:
    • Type 1 Caravan Guards, who exist to get killed by bandits. Though they do have names and even personalities, it's said the protagonists shouldn't bother to learn them because of this.
    • The Serious Soldier, who lacks personality and whose role in the story consists mainly of helping out in the fight scenes and inevitably dying at a dramatically appropriate moment.
  • Religion of Evil: One of these is typical in Fantasyland, usually involving Human Sacrifice (virgins especially) and Hollywood Satanism cliches.
  • Rescue Sex: The entry on slavery mentions beautiful female varieties of slave and how they are rescued from slavery by a Conanesque male character, who is rewarded with no-holds-barred sex, and then abandons them in the middle of nowhere.
  • Ring of Power: Many magical rings are found in Fantasyland. Some just prove your right to a crown, others shoot fire, drain your spirit or let the Dark Lord control you. Others have telepathic, teleporting or transforming powers.
  • Romantic Spoonfeeding: In the entry for Yogurt:
    Yogurt is served [...] when you are ravenously hungry and would murder for a nice filling bowl of Stew. Nevertheless, you smile politely and make appreciative noises, because the person serving it to you is an attractive member of the opposite sex and, after the meal (if such it can be called), you plan to take a Bath.
  • Ruins for Ruins' Sake: The Ancient Engineering Projects which pepper the landscape and look very impressive, but don't actually seem to do anything.
  • Running Gag: When describing the various peoples you’ll meet on your quest, (dragons, marsh dwellers, island people, etc.) Jones mentions in each entry how each group seems to have "a form of magic that no one else can use". There do not seem to be exceptions. Depending on how many of these groups you meet, you may end up with more examples of exclusive magic than of the regular kind.
  • Sadist: A number of bad guys will take pleasure in raping, torturing and murdering the people in their clutches.
  • Satire: The entire book is one of cliched fantasy settings, encapsulated into "Fantasyland", with the "Management" being their collective authors who stage "Tours" from our world. Many entries poke fun at the ignorance or laziness that causes frequent problems with how all this "Fantasyland" gets depicted. Lots of "Original Management Terms (OMTs)" (i.e. hackneyed, overused phrases) are listed as well.
  • Scienceville: The City of Wizards, a coalition of good wizards gathering to live, study and debate together. It's usually a decent place to visit - give or take a bit of magical weirdness involving perspective and distances. The inhabitants can be characterized as aloof All-Powerful Bystander-types, quarrelsome human wizards, or collegiate wizards who never agree on anything.
  • Secret Passage: Every castle, palace and temple us riddled with these. They're variously used for adultery, escapes or spying. While inside these places, no room can be considered safe from people spying through holes in the walls.
  • Seers: An old man or young woman able to see the future, who is usually blind or blindfolded at least. Their gift usually makes them unhappy, though old male Seers have grown resigned that nothing can be done about what they See.
  • Sex Slave: This is different for male and female slaves:
    • Slave, Female, when discussing kinds 1 and 2:
      • The first type being female Tourists captured into slavery: "You may well be annoyed to find how little your new owner pays for you, but this is the Management's way of protecting you from rape, beatings, and other hardships."
      • The second type is girls of a Royal Harem, though the word "harem" is never used, and the sex they have is never forced: "Beautiful young women. You will find these in droves in the FANATIC CALIPHATES and sometimes in the PALACES of bad KINGS. Their duties are light and pleasant and are: looking beautiful, bathing and massaging visitors, singing and dancing, and, for male Tourists, providing company in bed. None of them seem unhappy in their work and they show no desire to escape. [...] Often male Tourists will sympathize with the plight of such Slaves, nobly reject their offer of free, no-holds-barred SEX, insist on assisting them to escape from the exploitative tyranny under which they have been existing, and then, having obviously done them a Good Turn, have free, no-holds-barred Sex before stranding them in the middle of nowhere to make their way thousands of miles back to their own COUNTRY."
    • SLAVES, MALE, are used by bad KINGS, FANATIC CALIPHATES, and some WIZARDS in large numbers as GUARDS, attendants, fan-bearers, waiters and entertainment, and for SEX.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: Under VIRGINS, bolding is ours:
    6. As TALENTED GIRLS. These are very likely, towards the end of the second third of the Tour, to come across a male Tourist in his BATH and turn implausibly to jelly (a surge of some deep, hitherto unknown emotion swept through her (OMT)). Thereafter they have a sprightly step, a jaunty gleam in the eyes, a yet more tiptilted nose, and a private life over which the Management generally draws a discreet veil.
  • Shout-Out:
  • The Siege: Walled Cities are guaranteed to be besieged at least once. The enemy always tries to storm the walls, instead of simply starving the defenders out, which is the more realistic and safer way. Even so, they'll succeed eventually and loot the city. Inhabitants will suffer much murder, rape and theft. Tourists however will always be able to escape with Secret Passages.
  • Slave Galley: If a male character is enslaved, chances are he'll probably wind up chained to an oar in one of these. Jones notes that, since these galleys only ever seem to contain rows of chained-up slaves and nothing in the way of merchandise or soldiers, it's a bit difficult to understand why people keep building them.
  • Somewhere, an Equestrian Is Crying: It's lampshaded how horses are treated like bicycles and the Guide therefore speculates that they're not actually animals, but vegetables which breed by pollination.
  • STD Immunity: Tourists are informed that, happily, sexually transmitted diseases appear to not exist in Fantasyland.
  • Stock Medieval Meal: Mocked, naturally.
    • "STEW is the staple food in Fantasyland, so be warned. You may shortly be longing passionately for omelette, steak or baked beans, but none of these will be forthcoming, indoors or out. Stew will be what you are served to eat every single time."
    • "BREAD is quite well known in Fantasyland, but you will seldom get much of it and it will never be fresh. You might be given some to sop up your stew in an inn of an evening, but in the morning, just as that day's baking should be ready, the Rules state that you will make a hurried departure, having time to grab up only a piece of stale loaf and a hunk of cheese."
  • Swamps Are Evil: Jones distinguishes two kinds. Bogs are essentially patches of deep mud put in your way to slow you down when being chased by Evil in order to provide dramatic tension. Marshes show up later and involve more of the traditional swampland dangers — swarms of insects, filthy water, mazelike channels and so on.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: One Tour Companion, the Slender Youth, is very often a girl in disguise as a boy (usually a Princess).
  • Targeted Human Sacrifice: The Year King, a person selected to rule over a country for a year before they're sacrificed. As their rule involves them being able to enjoy themselves thoroughly, it's a post which has many volunteers in spite of the sticky end awaiting them.
  • Tarot Motifs: One of the most frequent means for prophecy to be laid out.
  • The Theocracy: The Religious Feudalists are one of these, with their ruler being a High Priest.
  • Thieves' Guild: They are the most organized body in Fantasyland, with every city having branches that easily communicate to each other, but having independent hierarchies. All kinds of thieves except muggers are in their ranks. They all claim to hate violence, though nonetheless they're proficient fighters. The group is also organized just like a normal guild, with apprentices, journeymen, masters and a Guildmaster with a name like The Faceless Man or The Gentleman. Heroes will at some point meet with the Guildmaster after being led blindfolder to his lair. His face will be hidden, and he'll have them look after a young thief they've met in return for the Guild's aid. This thief will be a great member of the Tour, and suggested that he is the Guildmaster's son.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: Grimoires. In Fantasyland, these are not spell books generally, but specifically books of evil spells. Many seem to be alive, invariably made of black leather or human skin. They may smoke somewhat when touched. Some may try to entice the curious into reading them, but others stubbornly keep their pages blank. Those really wishing needing to consult them will need a lot of spells for protection. All Tourists are advised to leave this for a Wizard and or Tour Mentor.
  • Tradesnark™: The Guide puts a superscript OMT (Official Management Term) on words or phrases that are, in the author's opinion, particularly overused in Extruded Fantasy Product.
  • Translator Microbes: A translation spell may be provided in some tours, so the Tourists can understand the natives of Fantasyland.
  • Turncoat: Which is only people who turn against you. People who come over to your side are only doing what is right. "Coats do not exist in Fantasyland — cloaks are universally preferred — but turncoats do."
  • Two-Person Pool Party: A Bath is warned to be the occasion for sex with a fellow Tourist, no matter how unattractive they had seemed before, with the author drily noting there "must be something in the Water".
  • The Unpronounceable: The names of the inhabitants of PanCeltic Tours (fantasy novels that copy Celtic Mythology instead of Tolkien and Conan) will almost always be unpronounceable strings of what is probably supposed to sound like Irish, with far too many h's crammed in there.
  • Updated Re-release: A second edition of the book was published in 2006, ten years after its initial publication. For this, an "about the author" page is added, an afterword on how Jones came to write it, and new examples. These are: Armageddon, instructions on how to write a Ballad, Green Man, what to order at an Inn, what to Pack on your Tour, expanded information on Rivers, instructions for taking the Second Brochure of your Tour, Transformation, Vegetation, interaction with Wizards and Work (or rather the lack of it by most people).
  • Vain Sorceress: Enchantresses and bad Witches use magic to stay beautiful, youthful-looking women indefinitely.
  • The Vamp: The Enchantress. The Guide outright says "Enchantress" is "another word for seductress, only with more punch". They use magic to make themselves look more beautiful and be appealing for seducing a captured male hero.
  • Vestigial Empire: The book named the trope. It's slightly larger than most of the Countries, with well-built and guarded Roads, with thriving farmland. Along among Countries, there will be Politics in its capitol, with Senators and noble clans all jockeying for control, poisoning each other to get it. Tourists will be overcharged for goods there. Given the above, it's said they will enjoy themselves, as it's more like home. All of it's described as clearly similar to ancient Rome. Ironically, in the description itself it wasn't identified as being shrunken down from a larger influence and size, although the name obviously implies that.
  • Virginity Makes You Stupid: The only logical conclusion one can draw from the behavior of female virgins who so readily fall into the hands of evil people.
  • Virgin Power: Some Witches' power is dependent on them remaining virgins.
  • Virgin Sacrifice: The preferred form of sacrifice among evil religions, which features ritual rape and disembowelment as part of the ceremony.
  • Virgin-Shaming: It's stated that, in stark contrast to female virgins, no one wants male virgins at all (young boys excluded). Some experience is preferred.
  • Wacky Wayside Tribe: Your Tour is certain to include a great deal of people, tribes and incidents that will have little or nothing to do with the theoretical main plot of overthrowing the Dark Lord. Jones goes in great detail on each kind of Tribe you’re likely to come across.
  • Weather Manipulation: Storms can be invoked by magic, of various weather. Jones finds this uninventive though, asking why they don't get creative like in Exodus with rains of blood, frogs or locusts.
  • Weird Trade Union: Jones wonders if the assassins' and thieves' guilds are the only ones existing in Fantasyland.
  • When Trees Attack: It's mentioned that many trees are downright hostile, grabbing people in their branches and trying to eat them.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: One type of immortal humans are made so by some sort of curse, and largely spend their immortality hating everything.
  • Wizarding School: It's called the "Invisible College", described as being like an Oxbridge university. Within, if anything with magic can go wrong, it will. Students should be prepared for every type of magical accident possible. Note this was written before Harry Potter, which codified the "wizarding school as UK boarding school" trope.


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