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    A Treatise on Half-Life Play Order 
In November 2014, I found this question asking what order the Half-Life series should be played in. This was a topic that I'd barely even thought of, let alone considered in any depth, since the franchise has a refreshingly linear storyline and release order. The games are chronological (i.e. no prequels or labyrinthine side titles), yet flexible (i.e. playing the Half-Life 2 series first doesn't cost you much story-wise, any or all of the Half-Life Expansion Packs can be skipped, it doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things where you play the Portal games, etc.). However, having recently thought about how the Half-Life expansions' release order may have affected their reception, and being someone who goes into Serious Business Mode at the drop of a hat (especially if that hat is Half-Life), I began to type out a reply, and before I knew it I had typed a whole damn essay.

It was at this point that I noticed that the question had been posted in May 2012, and the most recent response had been posted in November 2013. Not wanting to necropost, since that would make me look like even more of a self-important douchebag than if I had merely posted an essay-length response to a simple question that probably wanted an equally simple answer, I chose to keep my silence. However, since I had apparently gone to all the effort of writing an essay about the subject — and since it was therefore a subject I clearly cared about, if only in the deepest, darkest, geekiest part of my soul — I decided to keep the essay until I could figure out somewhere else to post it. Might as well start here; and so below I have posted an edited and heavily expanded version of the original comment.

Though the technical purpose of this essay is to advise people who have no knowledge of the franchise, I didn't consider this while writing, and thus wrote it in a way that assumes the reader does have knowledge about the series, or doesn't care if they learn certain things about it before they play. Some reference is inevitable, just as any meaningful explanation of the benefits of Star Wars' "Machete Order" will necessarily allude to certain things that happen in the movies. I used really awkward spoiler tags to resolve the rest; I hope you'll forgive me.

A Treatise on Half-Life Play Order

Playing the games of the Half-Life franchise in the order they were released is a perfectly reasonable and fairly sensible option, seeing as aside from the Portal series, they were released in chronological order. This gives us:

Release Order

  • Half-Life
  • Half-Life: Opposing Force
  • Half-Life: Blue Shift
  • Half-Life: Decay
  • Half-Life 2
  • Half-Life 2: Episode One
  • Half-Life 2: Episode Two
  • Portal
  • Portal 2

Now that we've laid the groundwork, let's take a closer look:

Half-Life Expansion Packs

The expansions will not really add anything to your understanding of the story going into Half-Life 2, aside from telling you who Barney is. Though the expansions were made by Gearbox at Valve's request and have Valve's blessing, their canonicity is disputed by some fans for reasons ranging from Plot Holes and Continuity Errors to creatorship and perceived quality. Whether or not they are canon, the fact is that from a purely story-telling perspective, they aren't necessary and can safely be skipped. However, Opposing Force and Blue Shift are quite fun (Decay is less well-received but still a good time-waster, and as a co-op game it can be played with a friend), and all three expansions really do expand the narrative by showing you other perspectives, other areas of the facility, greater insight into just how deep this rabbit hole goes, and a sense of interconnectedness between disparate characters, who all experience the same event but have their own stories to tell. They make the story feel far grander and richer.

The expansions also lend to characterization: Knowing what Barney went through in Blue Shift adds depth to his character in Half-Life 2. Discovering that Rosenberg tried and failed to stop the experiment and was the one who called the military for help in Decay makes you think about just how badly the Black Mesa Incident must have been weighing on his conscience by the time Barney found him in Blue Shift. Seeing G-Man's actions in Opposing Force gives you a sense that there might be more to him than meets the eye. I personally feel that the expansions are richer than they might seem at first glance, and are an asset that deserves to be tapped. However, if you do play the expansions, I think most would agree that Decay can still be skipped, as it contributes little to the narrative and doesn't offer much in the gameplay department.

We also need to figure out where to put the "other stuff":

Half-Life: Source

A "remake" (read: "half-assed Source port") of Half-Life. By release order, it would go between Decay and Half-Life 2, but I wouldn't really recommend placing it there. If you are going to play it at all, I would recommend playing it either immediately after Half-Life, or instead of Half-Life. I am inclined to say "instead". The graphics improvements aren't good enough to really justify buying and playing both games (except for the sake of thoroughness, I suppose), and they offer what is basically the same experience. However, Source does still feature more realistic water effects, slightly improved graphics, improved AI, Havok-based physics (making Block Puzzles far easier), and ragdoll physics (which is always fun). So I wouldn't say not to play it; only that if you do, there wouldn't be much point in also playing Half-Life. But if you decide to play both, I'd hope it would be obvious that Source should be played second, so that you see the improvements.

Half-Life 2: Lost Coast

Lost Coast is a tech demo based on a level that was cut from Half-Life 2, and its main purpose is to illustrate HDR rendering. It is not canon and is very short, so there is no reason story-wise to play it. However, it's interesting to learn about HDR rendering and other aspects of the development process, and it's a fun way to spend 10 to 30 minutes. If you do play it, I believe release order makes sense here: Play it after Half-Life 2, and before Episode One — and play it with commentary before moving on. This will ensure that you notice and fully appreciate the graphical improvements between Half-Life 2 and the episodes. Otherwise there isn't all that much point.

Black Mesa

The excellent fan remake of Half-Life that you simply must play — no ifs, ands, or asses about it.

Christopher Odd played Half-Life, Opposing Force, and Blue Shift, and then played Black Mesa, to give an immediate, maximized sense of contrast between it and Half-Life. I would recommend his way, as it will reward you with an enormous sense of awe (as you can see by watching his Let's Play), whereas playing it after the Half-Life 2 series would dampen (though not destroy) the effect. Playing it after Half-Life but before Half-Life 2 also means that you'll go into Half-Life 2 not wondering who the hell Eli and Kleiner are supposed to be, since you actually saw them in Black Mesa, rather than having to be told (if you're lucky) which characters they were retconned to correspond to in Half-Life. This alone makes Half-Life 2 feel far more connected with Half-Life, which basically takes care of the only noteworthy story-related criticism I have against Half-Life 2.

So, you can wedge Black Mesa either immediately after Half-Life, or immediately after the expansions (if you play them). I would probably recommend the latter, partly because it provides some padding (so you're not just playing through Gordon's story twice in a row), but more so because it would be quite jarring to play such a gorgeous game and then get jolted back into the (comparatively) trashy graphics of the Half-Life expansions. Once you go Black (Mesa), you never go back. :D Then again, it might not be jarring at all to someone who has played many old games before; perhaps it would only be jarring to people like me, who are used to newer games. So at the end of the day, it's up to you; the only concrete thing I will say is that you certainly should not play it before Half-Life.

Portal 2 co-operative campaign

Portal 2 has a singleplayer campaign and a co-operative campaign. While it may seem trivially obvious that the singleplayer campaign should be played first and the co-op campaign second, I'm going to pick this apart anyway.

First of all, there's the question of whether you need to play the co-op campaign. From a story-telling perspective, the answer is "no". This may change if they ever release a Portal 3, as the co-op campaign and its DLC ("Peer Review") both have sequel hooks that might become a lot more relevant; but for the time being, singleplayer is the the primary narrative, the binding thread. However, singleplayer and co-op are separate campaigns — co-op is not just "singleplayer with two people". It's a separate narrative with different characters. Co-op is its own experience — and, in my opinion, a great one. It is eminently worth playing — but if it's not your thing, or you just never get around to it, don't lose sleep over it.

As to play order: I'm not going to say that playing co-op before singleplayer will ruin the experience. In fact, I can think of one argument for playing co-op first: Singleplayer, unlike co-op, does not end on a cliffhanger or glaring sequel hook, so if you simply couldn't bear to finish the Portal series on an ambiguous note, by all means play singleplayer last. But that's all I will say in support of that order.

The co-op campaign chronologically begins after the singleplayer campaign ends, and I would bet any money that Valve created the campaigns with the expectation — conscious or not — that they would be played in that order. This ties into my second argument: Player training. Co-op is not easy, both because of the difficulties inherent to coordinating with another player, and because the puzzles are far more intricate. Co-op is not easy, and it will be that much harder if you try to play it first. In the same way that Portal carefully layered player training so that you aren't too overwhelmed to understand and enjoy the challenge, playing singleplayer first will layer your training so that you already have a good understanding of Portal 2's puzzle mechanics before trying to tackle co-op.

My final argument is a matter of my own personal opinion: I think the puzzles in the co-op campaign are way more awesome than the ones in the singleplayer campaign. When I finished singleplayer, I felt some measure of disappointment in the puzzles. I can't put my finger on it, but they just lacked a certain something. The co-op campaign 100% rectified this — not only was I not disappointed, I was blown away. I don't know if this is merely because co-operative gameplay by its very nature allows for more interesting and complex puzzle design, or if the puzzle design was also just plain better, but either way the result is the same: I think co-op is a cut above singleplayer puzzle-wise. If you end up feeling the same way, you'll be glad you played co-op last. If you don't end up feeling the same way...I apologize for misleading you.

The list is thus extended as follows:

Extended Order

  • Half-Life and/or Half-Life: Source
  • and optionally:
    • Half-Life: Opposing Force
    • Half-Life: Blue Shift
    • and even more optionally:
      • Half-Life: Decay
  • Black Mesa
  • Half-Life 2
  • and optionally:
    • Half-Life 2: Lost Coast (commentary optional but recommended)
  • Half-Life 2: Episode One
  • Half-Life 2: Episode Two
  • Portal
  • Portal 2 singleplayer campaign
  • Portal 2 co-operative campaign ("Peer Review" DLC optional)

However, while the above list is a fine order to play the games in, I will be so bold as to suggest a slightly different one:

Revised Order

  • Half-Life and/or Half-Life: Source
  • and optionally:
    • Half-Life: Decay (can be skipped)
    • Half-Life: Blue Shift (alternatively, switch with Opposing Force)
    • Half-Life: Opposing Force
  • Black Mesa
  • Portal
  • Half-Life 2
  • and optionally:
    • Half-Life 2: Lost Coast (commentary optional but recommended)
  • Half-Life 2: Episode One
  • Half-Life 2: Episode Two
  • Portal 2 (alternatively, play one or both campaigns between Portal and Half-Life 2):
    • Singleplayer campaign
    • Co-operative campaign ("Peer Review" DLC optional)

Rationale for Reversing the Expansion Trilogy

My reasoning for playing the expansion packs in reverse order:

From watching LPs and reading about people's opinions on the expansions, I get the impression that Opposing Force is the favourite. Blue Shift was not as well-received as Opposing Force, and Decay was not as well-received as Blue Shift, either by critics or — from what I can tell — by fans. I think that one reason for this is that they were released in the "wrong" order. What I mean by this, is that each expansion de-escalated, which is bad. You don't release games of the same series and setting in decreasing order of length, excitement, fun, and introduction of (good) new elements. You can reduce one or two or even three of these aspects, but only if you adequately compensate for it in the remaining area(s); and you don't reduce all at once, or allow a net reduction. But that is what they did, and it's backwards.

Opposing Force is the longest and most action-packed of the expansions, introduced new alien enemies and weapons, and showed us the perspective of someone not affiliated with Black Mesa — and by the same token a new class of ally (the HECU Marines).

Blue Shift, on the other hand, not only gave us nothing new, it didn't even give us the old — it was shorter than Opposing Force, it didn't give us any of the enemies or weapons that had been newly introduced in Opposing Force, and it didn't even show any black ops assassins, which we'd been having fun killing since Half-Life. Nor were there any boss fights. It de-escalated.

Decay was even worse. Aside from having a limited release, it was dull and tedious. The only new elements it introduced were a new character (Dr. Keller), a very short mission that you play as two vortigaunts (which you need an A grade on all missions to access and is hardly a huge selling point in the first place), and co-operative gameplay (which was poorly executed). The overly puzzle-oriented gameplay and ill-conceived co-op make Decay unexciting compared to its predecessors, and thus serves to bog down rather than enhance it. This in combination with the repetitive elements of "something about a satellite" and "resetting the thing" makes it clear that Gearbox has gone one game too far. Decay was a game that covered no new ground because there was no new ground to cover — or if there was, Gearbox didn't even come close to finding it. Decay was the very definition of superfluous.

In addition, the sparse encounters with generic NPCs (be they ally or enemy, alive or dead), the dearth of interesting or climactic fights, the mission-based system which spirits you away from one location to the next, and the lack of effect the game's final mission — the resonance reversal — actually has on the incident, gives the impression that the protagonists exist in some kind of bubble, where nothing in this incident is really affecting them and they aren't affecting anything in it; in contrast with all previous games, which give you a clear sense of having an impact on others and being affected by others.

Something that Blue Shift and Decay both suffered from was the lack of G-Man encounters or intervention, which contributes to the sense that in the grand scheme of things, their stories don't truly matter. But in Decay it's even worse, as unlike Barney, who at least escaped and reaped some benefit from his adventure (and even went on to become a main character in Half-Life 2, giving Blue Shift relevance!), Decay abandons its protagonists in medias res once they've served their (non-)purpose, leaving the rest of their journey and their ultimate fate up to speculation. Unlike Gordon, Adrian, and Barney, after all Colette and Gina went through they had no discernible effect on their own fate or on the course of the incident. Nor do they have any mention or appearance in any following games. So the player is given nothing for their effort and has nothing to show for slogging through increasingly disappointing games. They are left with a bad taste in their mouth.


  1. Following the long, action-packed Half-Life with the shorter, easier, more puzzle-oriented Decay, will give the player a nice breather before they have to dive back into the grittier stuff. In theory, that is. It might have the opposite effect of being even more jarring than the release order's gradual progression from "exciting" to "lackluster". If someone new to the series could test this out and let me know, I would greatly appreciate it.
  2. Decay is a good follow-up to Half-Life story-wise, as it follows two employees who are participating, albeit behind-the-scenes, in the same experiment Gordon is. Thus it has far more immediate relevancy to Gordon and the Black Mesa Incident than Blue Shift (which follows someone in a different line of work who has nothing to do with the Incident aside from being a friend of Gordon's, which you don't find out until playing Half-Life 2) or Opposing Force (which follows someone who isn't even connected to Black Mesa). Playing Decay first also means that when you meet Rosenberg in Blue Shift, you'll already know his history, and have a deeper understanding of what he means when he says he's "partially responsible for all of this".
    If the player chooses to skip Decay, the first argument still holds for Blue Shift as compared with Opposing Force — it holds more immediate relevancy and is shorter and easier.
  3. By playing the expansions in order from shortest/dullest to longest/coolest, Opposing Force will seem like an awesome, slam-bang finish to the expansion trilogy, rather than Blue Shift and Decay seeming like pathetic and disappointing sequels in a trilogy that started out with so much promise. Save the best for last, am I right?
    However, after some thought, I realized that there is also a good argument for putting Blue Shift last. While it would be a less exciting finish, the player will leave the Half-Life series on an optimistic note, and with a good set-up for Barney's re-introduction in Half-Life 2. They also might be more forgiving of (or at least less agonized by) Opposing Force's cliffhanger if it isn't the series finale. However, the latter benefit would likely be conveyed equally well by following up the expansions with Black Mesa as recommended on the list, and the former benefit isn't too important; so this is presented as an alternative.
  4. There isn't much wiggle room as to the placement of Black Mesa. As mentioned, playing it before the expansions is an option, and I suppose you could play it between any two expansions, though I don't know why you'd want to. But I really can't recommend placing it any lower on the list than after Portal, and even that I say with reluctance. The more distance you put between Half-Life and Black Mesa, the less impact Black Mesa will have, both because you're dulling your memory of Half-Life, and because the later games are graphically impressive enough that Black Mesa won't look that much different or more advanced by comparison. The only reason I hesitantly make an exception for Portal is that it's short enough not to deaden your memory of Half-Life too much, and different enough from the main series stylistically that it would still be pretty obvious how much farther ahead Black Mesa is graphically. Still, there's no real reason to place it there, and I still think it will diminish the effect.
  5. I put Portal between the Half-Life series and the Half-Life 2 series for two reasons. The first is that chronologically, Portal takes place at least a few weeks after Half-Life. Because of this, playing it after the Half-Life series, rather than waiting until after the Half-Life 2 series, will give greater relevancy and context to GLaDOS's allusions to the Black Mesa Incident and Combine occupation. The second reason is that breaking up the Half-Life series and Half-Life 2 series with a completely puzzle-based game in an entirely different setting will a) give the player another breather, and b) give the player a sense of time passing and other things occurring between the Half-Life and Half-Life 2 series — which is good, since Half-Life 2 takes place about 20 years later.
  6. I would not recommend placing anything between the Half-Life 2 games, except for playing Lost Coast between Half-Life 2 and the episodes. The Half-Life 2 series is a seamless, linear narrative: Aside from Gordon briefly being unconscious between games, Episode One picks up right where Half-Life 2 left off, and Episode Two picks up right where Episode One left off. And I especially don't recommend placing anything between the two episodes, not even Lost Coast. Honestly, they're really one game, and they're both fairly short — it took me less time to play both of them combined than it took me to play Half-Life 2. The time it takes to exit Episode One and start up Episode Two is as long an intermission as the story needs. Which isn't to say you shouldn't do anything between playing them. Ideally the episodes should be played in one go, but it's not a huge deal if they aren't. Take a minute, take a day, take a week. Time doesn't matter — it won't really hurt the narrative flow. I just wouldn't condone wedging another game from the list in between, because that would hurt the narrative flow.
  7. I place Portal 2 after the Half-Life 2 series for the same reason I place Portal after Half-Life. Portal 2 takes place some time after Portal — it's not stated how much, but from the condition of the facility, it's generally taken to be at least a decade or two. The Half-Life 2 series being played between the two Portal games will give the player the sense of at least that much time passing. Lastly, I would far rather see a player end their adventure on Portal 2 than Episode Two, if only for the sake of their emotional health and sanity. Episode Two gives us a dark, upsetting ending, something of a cliffhanger, and certainly a story that is only partly done and just begging to be finished, with no telling how far we still have to go to reach anything resembling a satisfying conclusion. (One game? Two? Three?) Finishing with Portal 2 will at least give the player some closure by letting them see Chell finish her story (or at least this chapter of her life), and do so on a happier note by finally escaping. While playing co-op mode (even — or rather, especially — if you play the "Peer Review" DLC) would somewhat undermine this closure and return the player to a sense of the story being unfinished, it would at least be a less agonizing note to end on than Episode Two — it's more of a Sequel Hook than a Cliffhanger. However, as noted on the list, on this point I am flexible, and I would alternatively suggest that Portal 2's singleplayer campaign, or even both campaigns, be played immediately after Portal. In either case the player gets an even greater sense of time passing between Half-Life and Half-Life 2, and in the latter case — which puts Episode Two last of all — they end the series with an appropriate and unmitigated level of desperation for Half-Life 3.

    Because what would a Half-Life fan be if they were not as desperate for Half-Life 3 as the people who started reading so much into everything Valve does that "HALF-LIFE 3 CONFIRMED" has become a meme?

So. There it is. I guess you could say it's my Half-Life version of Machete Order. Wait, no, that's too presumptuous. Well, in any case, I'll call it...Crowbar Order. It's not as catchy, but at least that way if anyone ever wants to criticize it, they can say that it's an appropriate name because I'm "crowbarring" (i.e. shoehorning) games into places they shouldn't go. :D

If you actually read all that...I applaud you. I don't think I would have. Yeesh. Maybe I'm not the only one here with too much time on my hands. ;)

If you are inclined to give me any feedback, feel free to PM me. Please be polite and constructive. :P

    Tropes that I think describe me 
  • Adorkable: More so when I was younger. I'd hesitate to call myself particularly "adorable" at this stage in my life. Maybe next year.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: My mom used to think I had Asperger Syndrome. No counsellor I've talked to thinks that's the case, but I can see why she'd think that. I have now been formally diagnosed with ADHD, inattentive type.
  • Ambiguously Brown: People have been asking about my ethnic background more often than I would consider strictly normal since I entered my teens.
  • Attention Deficit Creator Disorder: Quite literally, as it turns out I actually have attention deficit disorder.
  • Better Than It Sounds: A lot of the stories I'm working on. At least I hope so.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Definitely lazy. I'm not really the best one to judge the "brilliant" part, but I was known for getting good grades in school, and I've always been a very good speller.
    • Turns out the dichotomy is due to having attention deficit disorder; the assessment that led to this diagnosis confirmed both high cognitive ability and lack of motivation.
  • Buffy Speak: Why I'm better at writing than speaking.
  • Canada: My hoooooome.
  • Disappeared Dad
  • Foreign Culture Fetish: For Japan. But minus the "uncritical" admiration — I don't only love the The Theme Park Version. I'm aware of its flaws. There are plenty of things I don't like about Japan. There are things I hate about Japan. But I love it anyway.
    • A less pronounced fetish for many European countries, like France, Spain, Germany, Austria, Portugal, etc.
  • Friendless Background: At some points in my life.
  • Most Fanfic Writers Are Girls: …Hi.
  • Motor Mouth
  • Not a Morning Person
  • Older Than They Look: I'm often mistaken as being 2 to 4 years younger than I am. Sometimes more than that. I take it as a compliment.
  • Otaku
  • Parent with New Paramour
  • Proud to Be a Geek
  • Serial Tweaker: I am so, so bad for this. If you've ever looked at a page history and happened to see my name appearing several times in a row...I apologize. And yes, I use the preview function. It only helps marginally.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: I have never learned the art of brevity. It takes me three lines to say what most people can say in half a line. I still haven't quite figured out how.
  • Sesquipedalian Smith: My given name is somewhat rare and three syllables long, but my surname is a variant of one of the most common surnames in North America. I feel pretty blessed in the names department — I like my first, middle and last names individually, I like how my first and last names sound together, I like how all three sound together, and I like the contrast between my exotic-ish first name and my common, Anglo-Saxon surname. Plus, while my first name is not yet common enough that I've met many people with it, it's just common enough that you'd still have a fair chance of finding it on products with names on them, like pens, keychains, birthday song playlists, etc.
  • Toronto: Where I was born.
  • TV Tropes Will Enhance Your Life
  • TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Life

    My (unpublished) works 

Things I'm working on (or thinking about working on)note :

  • Half-Life: World Line: A Half-Life franchisenote  fan fiction. It fits into several categories, depending on which "arc" you're looking at: Fix Fic, Elsewhere Fic, Adaptation, Continuation, etc. The genres are Original Flavor (in the sense that part of it is just a retelling of the canon but with more Realism and extra dialogue), Something Completely Different (in the sense of "taking an idea or concept in the series proper and averting, subverting, inverting or just plain fucking with it"), and Romance. The style is Earn Your Happy Ending. Gordon and Chell both talk (I never have understood why so many fan fic authors feel the need to keep Gordon and Chell silent by having them be somehow incapable of speech). Characters have families and backstories. And so on. My focus right now is on what happens in the days/months/years before Half Life, what happens between Half-Life and Half-Life 2, and what happens after Episode Two. Therefore there are a lot of ascended extras and original characters. Writing this is a lot of fun — so much that it displaced Qualia as my main project and favourite story, and currently competes with Sans Souci for "story I work on the most".
    • Intended medium: Webcomic

  • Sans Souci: 19-year-old Miles North comes home from a Halloween party to find a mysterious young man staring intently at his house. The next night, Miles is attacked by a supernatural creature, and is rescued by the mysterious stranger from the night before. Neil won't say where he came from or how he knows magic, but it quickly becomes clear that this is his first contact with normal human civilization, and Miles suspects that he's an alien. Neil soon reveals that in order to avoid being taken back home (something he doesn't want despite missing his family), he has to complete a quest, and the most practical way to become powerful enough is to become a Hunter of Monsters. Miles ends up helping him out. Cue Fire Forged Friendship.
    • Abusive Parents: Mr. North has actively abused Miles physically and emotionally since he was little, while Mrs. North has enabled him by never taking action or speaking out.
      • Neil eventually reveals that his family was abusive as well; though he doesn't go into details.
    • Afraid of Blood: Miles has a strong blood phobia.
    • The Alcoholic: Mr. North, and Miles.
    • Alcoholic Parent: Mr. North, at least since Miles was in middle school.
    • All Take and No Give: The Norths took advantage of Miles's sense of duty and desperation for approval/affection to get him to do things for them.
    • The Atoner: Miles, after his father's heart attack, which he feels responsible for causing.
      • The Norths, particularly Mr. North, after eventually having a Heel Realization.
    • Attractive Bent-Gender: Neil is already attractive, but also fairly androgynous, so he can pass for an attractive woman pretty easily even without shapeshifting.
    • Background Magic Field: Magic in Sans Souci falls more or less into the Force Magic category (though it can manifest as other types, too), so magic exists in the world as a field.
    • Badass Longcoat: Neil is fond of these.
    • Bad Mood as an Excuse: Often used as an excuse by Miles's father and girlfriends alike. Though to be fair, Miles can be guilty of this himself.
    • Bash Brothers
    • Berserk Button: The only times Neil becomes visibly angry are when someone significantly harms Miles.
    • Big Eater:
      • Miles. It's one of many ways that his unconscious craving for blood sublimates into more mundane addictions; and as a vampire he can't become overweight.
      • Downplayed with Neil, who has a great appreciation for food, rarely turns it down, and often eats large portions. Though he usually eats in healthy amounts overall, he admits that he would eat "all the time" if he didn't have to worry about the weight gain or health effects.
    • Blessed with Suck: On the whole, Miles's vampire powers have only ever caused him problems:
      • His charisma allows him to form relationships easily, but this same power tends to repel close friends, so he's spent his whole life making lots of friends and girlfriends, only to lose them later on.
      • His Healing Factor makes it impossible for him to do any permanent non-lethal damage to himself, but it meant that a lot of injuries he was dealt by his father — or himself — healed too quickly for anyone to notice, and that he could still function quite well even after a drinking binge, causing his alcoholism to fly under the radar for years because it didn't affect his grades or his job.
      • Having surprising strength for his size got him into trouble at school, when he'd get into fights and end up hurting his opponent a lot worse than he intended.
      • His sensitivity to sunlight has made him highly susceptible to sunburns and heatstroke his whole life, which limits how much time he can spend outdoors on bright summer days.
      • Most of his other powers are too weak to be of any use, unless he risks losing his humanity by drinking blood.
    • Bi the Way: Miles is bisexual, though he prefers women and is heteroromantic.
      • Also Chase, who his sister Denise says "can swing any way he wants to."
    • Blue-Collar Warlock: Any mage who isn't entrenched in some kind of sect is probably a mostly-ordinary person who happens to be capable of magic, and might moonlight in some kind of magic-related activity but probably has a regular day job.
    • Cannot Convey Sarcasm: To the uninitiated, Neil's stoic demeanour makes his Flat Joy moments sound like Deadpan Snarking, and his impassive facial expression look like a disapproving Blank Stare. In fact, he rarely uses actual sarcasm or snark, partly for this reason (but mostly because being insincere or unkind is against his nature).
    • Captain Obvious: Neil's literal-mindedness and desire to be precise sometimes leads him to over-explain or engage in Department of Redundancy Department. Though this tendency diminishes over time, sometimes he does it on purpose just for fun.
    • The Comically Serious: Neil rarely changes his tone of voice or facial expression, regardless of what he's saying or the emotions behind it; and his body language is usually minimal or nonexistent. Which leads to many instances of Flat Joy, Dull Surprise, That Makes Me Feel Angry, Stunned Silence, Blunt "Yes", and Cold Ham; or perfectly flat, Creepy Monotone deliveries of reactions that normally involve a lot of emotion and expressiveness, such as Cuteness Overload or Cuddle Bug. He also develops a sense of humour that actually exploits his stolid disposition; it mostly involves pretending to take rhetorical questions and sarcasm literally and seriously. (Since this is something he genuinely has trouble with sometimes, his poker face makes it hard to tell when he's doing it on purpose.)
    • Crossover Cosmology: Sans Souci falls somewhere between A Mythology Is True and All Myths Are True. Many of the gods described in various human mythologies and religions exist, but many others don't. Human myths and mythologies are generally at least accurate enough that you can tell what they're supposed to refer to, but almost all are riddled with inaccuracies, and some myths or even entire mythologies and religions have no basis at all.
    • Crippling Overspecialization: Any type of creature that a human can become without necessarily coming from a magic background — such as a vampire, werewolf, or ghost — is likely to suffer from this, as they don't have the knowledge or the network to expand their skills beyond what already comes with the territory.
      • This tends to be the downfall of vampires in particular, for several reasons. By drinking blood, vampires "level up" and gain further abilities, and the kinds of abilities vampires get are usually Awesome, but Impractical and/or Cool, but Inefficient. Those who don't come from a magic background are awed by these abilities, and probably have no one to measure their power against, so they tend to think that they must be at the top of the food chain. They don't realize how restricted or impractical their abilities are, and may not even know that they can learn other things (let alone how to do so), or even that other kinds of magic exist, and are shocked when they're practically annihilated by a perfectly average opponent, or find themselves up against powers they've never seen before. Even vampires that really are as strong as they think, don't realize that for all their raw power, their abilities are simply too narrow in scope to serve them well in most fights.
      • This is far less of a problem with vampires who do come from a magic background, and thus have the foundation necessary to maximize their potential and learn other things. But because vampires in general have strong tendencies to be power-hungry and foolhardy, and these tendencies become stronger as they do, even these vampires can fall into the trap of focusing too much on gaining raw power and not enough on expanding their range of abilities.
    • Deity of Human Origin: One of the three main types of gods (the others being Tulpa and primordial).
    • Desperately Craves Affection: Miles.
    • Disability as an Excuse for Jerkassery: Mr. North's drinking and abusive behaviour worsened after his heart attack due to depression and anger, while he and the rest of the family used his condition (congestive heart failure) to excuse his behaviour.
    • Domestic Abuse: Miles has had more than one abusive girlfriend.
    • Doting Grandparent: Miles's paternal grandmother, who gave him the affection and approval he'd always wanted from his family, encouraged him to take up the violin, and paid for his violin and lessons until she died when he was 15.
    • Doublethink: Years of emotional abuse and failed friendships and relationships have left Miles harbouring many sets of conflicting ideas. He knows the people in his life who've abused him were wrong to treat him as they did, yet also feels he must have done something to deserve it or is just fundamentally flawed. He knows his father's heart attack wasn't his fault, yet feels massive guilt over it, and delays leaving home partly because of it. He was worried about his father after his heart attack, but part of him wished he would have died. He knows that his drinking makes him Not So Different from his father, yet rejects the idea that it is a problem or that he is an alcoholic. Et cetera.
    • Driven to Suicide:
      • Miles has tried to kill himself several times.
      • Mr. North tries to kill himself out of guilt for relapsing, his past abuse of Miles, and the recent realization that Miles himself has become an alcoholic due to said abuse. Luckily, he survives, and is glad of it once he sees his family again.
    • Druid: Neil is one, and has some abilities associated with the trope, such as animal empathy and Voluntary Shapeshifting. He's not a Nature Hero, however.
    • The Empath: Neil has an affinity with animals, which means that they can "speak" to him, and vice versa. This doesn't manifest as Speaks Fluent Animal; it just means that he can sense an animal's feelings, desires, intentions, and thoughts (if they want him to), and vice versa. It doesn't work on humans — not because Humans Are Special, but because the purpose of an affinity is to bridge the gap between species that can't communicate with each other, so it won't activate between members of the same species, as it's assumed (and generally true) that they can communicate already (or at least find a way to).
    • Extreme Libido: Miles.
    • Family of Choice: Neil and Miles are this for each other, as both had abusive and neglectful families that they are now estranged from (though Miles reconciles with his later). This also extends somewhat to Marisa, who is a widowed single parent; and to Chase and Denise, who have each other but are somewhat estranged from their parents.
    • Fantasy Kitchen Sink
    • Formulaic Magic: Many magic powers or spells reflect mathematical formulas, and may require an understanding of said formula in order to use. For instance, there are types of spells that rely on the properties of geometric shapes, and knowing the mathematical properties of the shape you're using can make it easier to create an effective one.
    • Friendless Background: Miles makes friends easily but can't seem to keep them.
      • More literal with Neil, who until meeting Miles had never had any friends in his life, since he'd never met anyone outside his family (who can't be considered "friends" by any stretch).
    • Friends Are Chosen, Family Aren't: Miles's immediate family are uniquely terrible to him; Miles likewise has an unusually hard time keeping his cool with them.
    • Functional Addict: Miles, mostly.
    • Functional Magic: Sans Souci depicts magic as Force Magic. Rule Magic (such as Ritual Magic, Formulaic Magic, or Geometric Magic), alchemy, and Device Magic are also depicted, but they are all variants of Force Magic somewhere down the line.
    • Giving the Sword to a Noob: When Neil first acquires Freagarthach, he hasn't the slightest idea how to wield a sword.
    • Glamour: Because he is a vampire, Miles unknowingly has a supernatural charisma that functions in some ways like a glamour, causing people to immediately notice him, trust him, and like him. This is why he can make friends and pick up women easily. However, it comes with a caveat that it works best on strangers, it wears off the longer and better someone knows him, and can even start to have the opposite effect on people who know him well. This is part of why he can't seem to maintain friendships or romantic relationships, and part of why his family hated him.
      • The above, however, is not actually called a glamour in Sans Souci; it is often called "charisma". In Sans Souci, the type of magic called "glamour" in the story basically means molding magic energy into the form of something else (usually a physical object), with its specific physical properties depending on the creator's specifications. For instance, you could glamour a coat, but while you could make a coat that has all the properties of a real coat, you could also make an intangible coat, or a coat that can be felt but is still pervious to air or heat, or an invisible coat, or an invisible and intangible coat that still keeps you warm (which is basically a heat charm). Glamours are easy to use and require relatively little energy to create, so they are extremely versatile but can also be very powerful depending on how they're applied. In fact, any magic in Sans Souci that creates something out of thin air without literally creating persistent physical matter (e.g. magic missile), or turns something into something else without literally rearranging its particles (e.g. illusions) is a glamour, which means that a large portion of the magic seen in Sans Souci is glamour. (This is not only because most mages aren't powerful enough to have much in the way of non-glamour magic, but because glamour is the ultimate Swiss-Army Superpower, is Simple, yet Awesome, and tends to reward Weak, but Skilled Guile Heroes. Plus you can still have all the Visual Effects Of Awesome you want. Pretty much its only drawbacks are that it has No Ontological Inertia — which can be a strength depending on the situation — and that anything impressive is Difficult, but Awesome compared to most spells.)
    • The Gods Must Be Lazy: The gods don't do much anymore, partly because Being God Is Hard, partly because they've all agreed to maintain the Masquerade, partly because there are so many that if they started getting involved they'd all step on each other's toes, and partly because most of them genuinely don't care that much. Usually, if a god's doing something noticeable, it's for personal gain.
    • Gods Need Prayer Badly: Tulpa gods do. Primordial gods don't. For Deities Of Human Origin, it varies from one god to another.
    • Grandparental Obliviousness: Mr. North accused his mother of this as an excuse to limit the time Miles could spend alone with her. Unfortunately, this started to gain some truth when she started going senile, though by that time she was in a nursing home anyway.
    • Green Thumb: Neil can create plant life out of nothing.
    • Hair-Trigger Temper: Mr. North, usually toward Miles.
      • Miles can have one; he tries to suppress it, but isn't always successful.
    • Healing Factor: Neil can heal relatively fast because he has so much magic energy. He also doesn't need to sleep, for the same reason.
      • Miles unknowingly has this ability, because of being a vampire. Though it's slower than it could be because of his blood virginity, it is no less powerful: Any injury or malady that doesn't kill him first will eventually heal completely, leaving not so much as a scar. This is part of why his injuries from physical abuse and self-harm often went unnoticed, and is also the reason why Miles has managed to sleep with dozens of women, often unprotected, without contracting a single STD. It's also the reason why Miles has no trouble with heavy exertion despite smoking heavily, why he can hold his liquor far beyond what should be possible, why his hangovers are mild even after a drinking binge, and why he doesn't seem to have any physical dependence on alcohol aside from the initial hangover, despite his drinking patterns.
    • Hearing Voices:
      • Chase, a schizophrenic, sometimes has auditory hallucinations, though medication has made them infrequent and usually manageable.
      • Miles has had a few episodes of hearing voices — rather worrisome since he doesn't have schizophrenia.
    • Heroic Ambidexterity: Neil is ambidextrous; though he seems to favour his left hand if forced to act on reflex.
    • Holy Burns Evil:
      • Played with for changelings. They are not evil as a group, but those who've been in the Otherworld long enough are weak against Christian trappings because the aos sí hate Christianity.
      • Averted with vampires, demons, and other creatures that are typically depicted as weak to holy symbols. In Sans Souci, they generally don't have such a weakness, but changelings having it may be where that idea came from.
    • Hot-Blooded: Miles, in comparison with Neil.
    • I Just Want to Have Friends: Miles.
    • Insane Forgiveness:
      • Neil is often a ridiculously forgiving and understanding person. Often, he doesn't feel that there's anything to forgive in the first place, since he is not easy to anger and almost impossible to offend.
      • Miles can be overly forgiving to some, such as his siblings or his girlfriends.
    • In Touch with His Feminine Side: Neil likes feminine clothes. Miles likes cooking and knitting.
    • Ironic Fear: Miles's blood phobia seems to be this, considering he's a vampire; but in fact this is exactly why he has a blood phobia. When he was too young to understand what he was feeling, the desire he felt at the sight or smell of blood would have been confusing and frightening for him, and may even have been mistaken for fear; over time, conditioning reinforced this fear response to the point of a full-blown phobia.
    • Kicking Ass in All Her Finery: Neil, occasionally, depending on how he's dressed when danger strikes.
    • Kuudere: Neil is a Type 1 ("Always In Control"). He's quiet and levelheaded regardless of how he's feeling. He tends to come across as apathetic or cold to people who don't know him, but his default mood is "content", and he'll tell you how he's feeling if you ask him.
    • Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: Miles.
    • Love Martyr:
      • Miles has been in abusive and/or codependent relationships where he took on this role. It didn't work.
      • Neil is a non-romantic Love Martyr for Miles, who for all his good intentions and caring nature is also a very flawed and troubled person who doesn't always treat Neil well. In fact, for a long time their friendship is codependent; though Neil does genuinely want to help Miles, he often unwittingly enables his maladaptive behaviours by simply shielding him from the consequences instead of encouraging him to change the behaviour, and he centers his life around rescuing Miles from his problems. However, this is partly due to simple ignorance of the best way to help. The relationship becomes healthier as time goes on, and Neil does later recognize that he enjoyed being "the hero" a bit too much, and did not always act in Miles's best interest partly for that reason. Regardless, overall the relationship is helpful for Miles, even at peak codependency, partly because unconditional love and a constant companion was something he genuinely needed, and knowing that he has someone who will always be there for him actually does a lot in itself to improve his emotional health.
    • Magibabble
    • Magical Gesture: Most spells that create projectiles or affect specific targets will be accompanied by a gesture ranging from a wave or pass of a hand to Full-Contact Magic. Gestures aren't strictly necessary to any kind of magic in theory, but in practice they make the spell easier to visualize and therefore cast effectively. For some spells and charms (such as basic glamours), enough practice can obviate the need for gestures; but most mages aren't (and probably never will be) powerful enough to never have to use them for anything.
    • Masquerade: Imposed by the gods, because Being God Is Hard and The Gods Must Be Lazy, and more people having access to magic makes more work for them. The Masquerade doesn't usually involve such countermeasures as Laser-Guided Amnesia or Killed to Uphold the Masquerade; individual cases of Broken Masquerade usually aren't an issue. Just don't do anything that risks The Unmasqued World and you'll probably be fine. This generally creates Safety in Muggles, but not always.
    • Master Actor: Surprisingly, Neil. Being immune to embarrassment and highly observant makes him capable of adopting any kind of persona regardless of how much it differs from his own personality, as well as imitating people with a high degree of accuracy.
    • Master of Illusion: Neil and Miles often use glamours to create disguises and other illusions.
    • Mood-Swinger: Being highly sensitive means Miles's mood can change wildly and quickly with very little stimulus.
    • Multiple-Choice Chosen: Scenario 1. Neil isn't the only person who is technically eligible to become the Soldier of the North. At the very least, Carrie and Davis are eligible as well; and if any of these three have any children, they'll also be eligible. However, Neil was definitely the first eligible person to be born, and is the only one who has spent enough time in the Otherworld to be able to complete the Secret Test that would actually grant him The Chosen One status.
    • Mundane Utility: Neil uses his Green Thumb to create produce and cut down the grocery bill.
    • My God, What Have I Done?: The entire family starts feeling this way about their treatment of Miles several months after he leaves, starting with Carrie and eventually trickling down to Davis, Mrs. North, and then finally Mr. North, who ends up hit the worst.
    • Nay-Theist: Many gods exist, but there is no need, and rarely any good reason, to worship any of them, so most people don't (though many pay lip service). Neil knows about every god that exists, but does not worship any of them, not even the fey who gave him his druid powers.
    • The Needless: Neil doesn't need to sleep, because he has an unusually high amount of raw magic energy. (If he is weakened enough, or if he is deprived of magic energy for long enough, he will need to sleep like any normal person.) He can also reduce his need for food and water if necessary.
    • Nerves of Steel: Contrary to his stoic demeanour, Neil usually has normal emotions of normal intensity, including fear. They just don't affect his behaviour or judgement.
    • Never Gets Drunk: Miles is often surprisingly lucid and alert even when he's technically shit-faced. Type 3, as his vampiric Healing Factor means alcohol has less effect on him, and has allowed him to build up an impossibly high tolerance.
    • Noble Male, Roguish Male: Neil and Miles. Downplayed.
    • Not So Different: Miles shares his father's love of literature and music. And knitting, as it turns out. And ultimately, his father's abusive behaviour partly stems from the same kinds of emotional problems and lack of coping skills that Miles suffers from. Underneath the animosity, they actually have a lot in common, which helps them forge a genuine relationship after they reconcile.
      • Miles is an alcoholic, like his father; though a far higher-functioning one.
    • Occult Detective: Miles and Neil engage in some Paranormal Investigation.
    • Off the Wagon: After he realizes that Miles is also an alcoholic, and that his abuse towards him triggered this, Mr. North's guilt starts to take its toll and affect his progress, and he relapses a few weeks later.
    • Only Sane Man: Zig-zagged with Miles. He is the only one to acknowledge there's a problem with his father's drinking or anything else his family does, he shares the burden of taking care of the family financially and physically, and he strives to treat them with decency and respect — and in the case of his siblings, even affection — when none of them do the same for him. On the other hand, he has a very impulsive and sensitive nature, which often leads him to make poor decisions or mistreat people he cares about; and due to his abusive upbringing, he has a Guilt Complex, crippling trust and self-esteem issues, and spends a lot of his free time self-medicating in various maladaptive ways.
    • Parental Neglect: Miles's parents. Mostly towards him (semi-deliberately), but in many regards towards the twins as well (semi-inadvertently).
    • Person of Mass Destruction: By the time he finishes his quest, Neil is more than powerful enough to be this, though he never uses that much power.
    • Powers as Programs: Most magic (that humans can use) is basically a form of "glamour", which in Sans Souci means molding magic energy into the form you want to use. Usually the glamour is determined by the human on an as-needed basis, which in Sans Souci is called a "charm" to distinguish it from a "spell". A spell may or may not be a glamour, and has a (more or less) fixed form (loosely following rule 1 of Vancian Magic). Spells are akin to magic "programs" that the user can invoke whenever they want to; and just like running a computer program (e.g. using a spell-check feature) takes less energy and effort than performing the task manually (e.g. painstakingly proofreading a document yourself), casting a spell is easier than creating a glamour that has the same effect. In fact, a spell often allows the user to perform a task that they could never do without the spell. For example, Neil has an espionage spell that can create a number of invisible and intangible "eyes" (they also detect sound, and can be made to detect smell) and place them anywhere that Neil has seen before (if he has a relative idea of its location). He could create a simple version of this with his own power, but with his spell he could theoretically create hundreds of eyes and place them all over a city within a matter of seconds or minutes, which is something he could never hope to achieve without using the spell. Neil compares the difference between spells and charms to the difference between ready-made products and custom-made products: Ready-made products (spells) can be grabbed off a shelf without any hassle, but might not fit your needs perfectly; whereas custom-made products (charms) can be made to your exact specifications, but take more effort. The analogy isn't perfect, as many spells require far more energy to cast than it would take to create a glamour that has the same effect, but usually the effect is far too difficult or complex for the user to accomplish on their own despite taking little actual energy. In fact, it's often because the effect is so complex that the spell has a high energy cost as compensation. Complexity is the defining factor: Glamours have a very low energy cost, but require effort or concentration that is usually proportional to their complexity. Spells take most of the effort and concentration out of the equation, at the price of a high energy cost.
    • Pretty Boy: Neil.
    • Protectorate: No one seems to trigger Neil's protective instincts like Miles does. The reverse is partly true, though Miles also sees his siblings and to some extent his whole family as Protectorates.
    • Psychic Powers: Neil has a lot of spells and innate abilities that involve sensing things. Applications include Psychic Radar, Aura Vision (but only for Power Levels), The Empath (towards non-human animals), etc.
    • The Quest: Neil has one that he needs to complete in order to ensure his family can't take him back home.
    • Randomly Gifted: This is how Neil explains Miles having the ability to use magic despite not having any kind of family background in it. This is a thing that does actually happen, and there's no telling how common it might be, since most such people would never find out about their ability anyway.
    • Really Gets Around: Miles.
    • Real Men Wear Pink: Miles is a good cook and likes knitting and crafting. Neil likes to wear feminine clothing.
    • Recovered Addict: Mr. North after his Heel Realization; and later Miles as well.
    • The Red Mage: In Sans Souci, all magic is fundamentally the same and only differs in its areas of application and required skill set; there is no such thing as Mutually Exclusive Magic. Certain magical creatures have some innate abilities and natural areas of strength, as well as Necessary Drawbacks or other limitations on what kinds of magic they can use or master; and certain creatures have abilities that are unique to them; but aside from that, most people with enough magic power can learn whatever kinds of magic they choose to. A person might have more natural talent or affinity for some kinds of magic than others, and some kinds of magic require more power than others, or are harder to learn or use than others; but there is no need to choose any type over another, and there is no theoretical limit to what combination or number of types you can learn or master. There is rarely any benefit to specializing, as you are very likely to get curb-stomped by someone who is your equal in that type of magic as well as three others. This tends to be the Achilles' Heel of vampires, who usually focus on "levelling up" and gaining power in an upwards direction (i.e. making the abilities they have more powerful and/or gaining more of the same kinds of abilities), while rarely bothering to expand their abilities in a lateral direction.
    • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Miles and Neil, respectively.
    • Religion Is Magic: Sort of. Humans ultimately have the gods to thank for having any reliable access to magic, but the gods didn't create magic or its rules, and humans don't need to believe in any god or follow any religion in order to use magic. There are some cases where following specific gods can grant you unique or uniquely strong abilities, but this is a needlessly difficult and unreliable way to become powerful, given the gods' caprice, and the difficulty of getting a god to notice or acknowledge you to begin with. More often than not, it's the god that chooses you, not the other way around (e.g. druids and vates are changelings who were granted their powers by the fey).
    • Required Secondary Powers: If Neil shapeshifts into an animal for the purpose of behaving like that animal, any species- or breed-typical behaviours come naturally to him. After all, a kuudere Golden Retriever would be kind of off-putting.
    • Rhetorical Question Blunder: It takes some practice before Neil can tell when someone's asking a rhetorical question, until which point he takes them at face value and answers them literally. Sometimes, even when he realizes it's a rhetorical question, he pretends to take it literally just for his own amusement.
    • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Zig-zagged, as Miles and Neil are both In Touch with His Feminine Side, but in different ways. Neil is a lot more androgynous than Miles, and likes to wear feminine clothing (though not exclusively). On the other hand, Miles is a lot more emotionally expressive and histrionic, and he likes cooking, knitting, crafting, and playing musical instruments.
    • Shapeshifter Baggage: Like most shapeshifters, Neil can change his form to something bigger or smaller regardless of mass difference.
    • Shapeshifter Mode Lock: Neil can't shapeshift without magic stamina, so if his stamina drops to zero (which can happen if he gets burned), he is mode-locked into his Shapeshifter Default Form.
    • Shapeshifting Seducer: Neil sometimes uses his powers to carry out The Schlub Pub Seduction Deduction (though the target isn't always a schlub).
    • Short-Range Guy, Long-Range Guy: Miles's magic isn't as powerful as Neil's, so his fighting style is mostly short-range magic or non-magical melee. Neil on the other hand is a bit of a Squishy Wizard, so he tends to prefer long-range or indirect attacks.
    • Silk Hiding Steel: This describes Neil to a T.
    • The Sleepless: Because he has so much magic energy, Neil can sleep, but usually doesn't have to.
    • The Southpaw:
      • Neil is ambidextrous, but when acting reflexively he seems to favour his left hand.
      • Mrs. North is left-handed.
    • Stepford Smiler: Miles fluctuates between all three types.
    • The Stoic: Neil is a polite one. While he mostly has a normal subjective emotional range, he rarely shows much emotional expression (to the point that he has blunted or even flat affect) — in contrast to Miles, who is more reactive and hot-blooded. Even Neil's Not So Stoic moments are pretty subdued.
    • Straight Gay: Denise doesn't exactly scream lesbian.
    • Street Musician: As a teenager, Miles used to busk with his violin.
    • Strong Family Resemblance:
      • Downplayed: As deliberate foreshadowing, Neil shares several physical traits with the Norths, while Miles shares almost none. Miles's hair is jet black, while the rest of the Norths have hair colours ranging from dirty blonde to dark brown, and Neil has light golden brown hair. Miles has cream-coloured skin, while the rest of the Norths have peach-coloured skin, as does Neil. Mrs. North is left-handed, as is Neil; and Mr. North has green eyes, as does Neil. Miles never freckles despite his pale skin, while Mrs. North and Davis both have freckles, and Neil gains freckles with sun exposure.
      • Miles looks like basically a male version of Shannon Bell, hinting at their relatedness. Justified as it turns out that he's not merely related to her, but is actually her Opposite-Sex Clone.
    • Suicidal Pacifism: While he doesn't always succeed in upholding this principle, Miles is strongly opposed to using violence or fear to get what he wants, refusing to hurt others even in self-defense. (But sometimes he snaps.) He'll use violence to defend others however, which is part of why he's willing to fight supernatural enemies.
    • Sword and Sorcerer: Miles and Neil can both use magic and both tend to use it in fights. However, Miles isn't as magically powerful or experienced as Neil, so he often uses magic and physical attacks alternately or in tandem. He is a Stone Wall who can't do much damage against a magical opponent because of limited power, a limited skillset, and limited range. Neil on the other hand has used magic nearly his whole life and has almost no other skills, and thus is a bit of a Squishy Wizard / Glass Cannon. He isn't physically tough, but he can protect himself (and Miles) quite handily, and can deal a lot of damage at a variety of ranges. The gap between them closes as the story goes on, with Miles becoming more magically skilled and powerful, and Neil becomes physically stronger and gains more fighting skills. Though Miles is always the physically tougher of the two, and they always have different strengths both physically and magically, by a certain point in the story they are both Kung-Fu Wizards / Magic Knights.
    • That Makes Me Feel Angry: If Neil is angry, sad, excited, or pretty much any emotion other than "neutral", often the only indication is him saying so.
    • Training the Gift of Magic: How magic works in this universe.
    • Transgender: Neil identifies as genderless, and doesn't actually understand the concept of gender identity at all.
    • Tranquil Fury: The first time Neil is shown to be angry, his voice remains calm and level (albeit tense), he speaks politely even to the person he's angry with, and his entirely sincere (yet calmly delivered) threat to break all of her limbs is the only hint that he's not merely annoyed.
    • Troubled Abuser: Miles's parents found him to be a very difficult and unlikable child (for many reasons, some of which make sense and some of which don't), so by the time he was kindergarten age, they were both depressed and emotionally drained, their marriage was on the rocks, and they both seriously regretted having a child at all. This, and their tendency to take their stress out on Miles, made them feel like horrible parents/people, which only aggravated the situation and caused an endless feedback loop.
      • Averted with Neil's family, who were simply psychopaths.
    • True Companions: Miles and Neil.
    • Tulpa: One of the three main types of gods (the others being Deity of Human Origin and primordial).
    • The Un-Favourite: Miles to his family.
    • Voluntary Shapeshifter: Neil can shapeshift into any human form or any animal that has a brain (including non-existent animals and Partial Transformation, as long as the resulting form's physiology is compatible with life). This includes changing his sex, voice, and size. He can also shapeshift whatever clothes he's wearing into different clothes (or no clothes at all), but can't morph clothes for himself if he isn't wearing any, so Technically Naked Shapeshifter and Shapeshifting Excludes Clothing don't apply.
    • Weakened by the Light: Miles is extremely susceptible to heat stroke if he spends much time in the sun — though only in weather that is at least somewhat hot and has enough UV penetration, since syncretic vampires' weaknesses and abilities have adapted in order to maintain the Masquerade in modern urban society.
    • Weaksauce Weakness:
      • Neil has two: 1) Heat. If he sustains a thermal burn, his magic stamina temporarily drops to zero, which prevents him from using most magic, including shapeshifting; and his stamina doesn't fully replenish until the burn heals. If his core body temperature rises to the level of fever/hyperthermia, his magic energy drops to zero until his body temperature returns to the normal range. And worst of all, he can't use magic to (directly) protect himself from heat. Which means he can be almost completely magically disabled just by catching the flu, and antipyretic medication would be his only recourse. However, he can still protect himself from heat by ordinary physical means, and other people can use magic to protect him from heat. 2) Christian paraphernalia weakens him.
      • Miles has a crippling blood phobia. He is also so Weakened by the Light that he is in real danger of heat stroke whenever he goes on a trip to the beach. And, much like with Neil's weakness to heat, Miles can't be protected from sunlight by magical means; but unlike Neil, he can't even be protected by other people's magic.
      • A more mundane example: Within a few months of arriving, Neil almost died of complications from chickenpox because his immune system was so weak from being raised in the Otherworld from infancy and thus never exposed to any infections. Fortunately he survived, and the infection (as well as the passive immunization treatment he received) bolstered his immune system to normal strength.
    • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Miles is like this with his whole family, doing so much for them out of sheer desperation for their attention, affection, and approval, as well as to atone for what he perceives as his own shortcomings and misdeeds that have "earned" his family's ire and mistreatment.
    • Wholesome Crossdresser: Neil doesn't distinguish between men's and women's clothing, and wears women's clothing fairly often, though in public he usually shapeshifts into a woman when doing so, to avoid drawing negative attention. Later on, he only shapeshifts if he thinks he looks better that way.
    • Will Not Tell a Lie: Neil believes in being honest and forthcoming with people, and doesn't like to deceive people unless there is no viable alternative. On the one hand, this makes it easy for Miles to trust him. On the other hand, it makes him all the more suspicious on the rare occasion that Neil is cagey or deceptive about something.

  • Qualia: A Slice of Life Urban Fantasy set in the city where I grew up. The premise bears an uncanny resemblance to H. P. Lovecraft's "The Outsider" (much to my irritation when I found out), and therefore might also bring Amnesia to mind. However, it was actually inspired by an episode of Tsukuyomi: Moon Phase. The protagonist is hiking in the woods when he finds a big, black castle. He thinks he's hallucinating until he finds a teenage girl inside — a feral child who was raised by the castle in a very abusive, terrifying way. The protagonist decides to take her home and see what he can do for her. This is my favourite story so far, as it doesn't suffer from many of the weaknesses of my earlier ones.
  • Homestay: A story set in Itabashi, Japan, about a Canadian girl who is obsessed with Japan and goes there on a homestay.
    • Intended medium: Manga/anime
  • Zarmina's World: A Science Fiction story about aliens who come to Earth from Gliese 581 g, an extrasolar planet which may or may not exist in real life, and which is currently considered the most likely candidate for alien life. One of the scientists who discovered it nicknamed it "Zarmina's World" (often shortened to "Zarmina").
    • Intended medium: Novel
  • SarA.I. Project: A Science Fiction story about an artificially intelligent android named Sarai Chino (知能・再来 Chino Sarai).
  • Plaything: A surrealist story about a children's blanket on a quest to find her family after they accidentally move away without her. Despite the premise, it's actually intended for young adults. It is very serious and sometimes dark, and deals with themes not at all suitable for children (such as drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, abandonment, child abuse, death, post-traumatic stress disorder, and mental illness). Better Than It Sounds.
    • Intended medium: Novel
  • Str.Rh.P.w/P.B.: A surrealist Constructed World with...interesting physics. Just as an example: How much an object weighs depends on whether the person holding it owns it or not, and the "percent ownership" you have of an object depends on how long you've been holding it for, etc. I actually have written an equation that explains it all. And since you can't own a sentient being, scientists don't need to have philosophical debates about whether their latest and greatest AI is sentient or not — they just have to put it on a scale and see whether it changes weight after somebody holds it for long enough. Another example: Information is physical matter, kind of like air or light, that floats around in the atmosphere and can be absorbed by osmosis. That is to say, if you have a higher concentration of info in your brain than there is in the atmosphere, info will leave your brain, and vice versa. For this reason, people have to wear protective membranes that prevent info from leaving or entering the brain when they don't want it to. Of course, this makes learning things very complicated. It also makes privacy complicated. And communication. I actually only just realized that... Maybe I should change it to "data"... Anyway, if you're not wearing your protective membrane and you wander into an area with a really, really low concentration of information, that's really dangerous — information will start leaving your brain at an alarming rate, causing you to lose consciousness. Unless someone finds you, you're going to lie there with all the info leaking out of your brain until you die. I love to create these crazy laws of physics and explore the implications of them.

    Tropes that are present in a lot of my works 
  • Author Appeal: I can't resist having these somewhere in a work, even if it's just an Easter egg, a bilingual bonus, or an obscure Shout-Out.
  • Author Avatar: Many of my stories were begun four or more years ago, before I realized this was a bad idea. I've tried, with varying degrees of success, to downplay it in most of my stories. Currently the worst offender is Homestay, whose protagonist is like me not only in appearance but in personal interests (though not in personality — she's a lot nicer, clumsier, and more sociable/lovable than I am). The others are not like me in personality at all — only in appearance (and even this I've changed enough that I don't consider them to really resemble me anymore). Interestingly, Qualia, my favourite story, is so far the only one where the protagonist is a) male, and b) not like me at all. Hmm...
  • Bilingual Bonus: Such fun!
  • Bilingual Dialogue: Most of my stories have at least one instance of this, since there's almost always a character who speaks another language. Particularly prevalent in Homestay and World Line.
  • Good Parents: Almost all the parents in my stories. Many of my main characters have enough problems as it is without also having bad parents — so unless their parents are a source of conflict in the plot or a subplot, they will probably be good parents (sometimes unrealistically so). I think I have some kind of unwritten rule, like Law of Conservation of Angst, or something.
  • Happily Married: Almost all my married couples. See Good Parents above.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: World Line is a particularly egregious example.
  • Meaningful Name: I love these. Some are rather more clever/subtle than others. The obvious ones are usually lampshaded, since they're often meant to be a joke. Some of them have an in-universe explanation.
  • No Periods, Period: Averted, especially in Qualia. (It's about a young adult taking care of a feral teenage girl — what do you expect???)
  • Seinfeldian Conversation: What other kind is there? ;)
  • Separated by a Common Language: I exploit the hell out of this whenever the opportunity presents itself, because there's endless potential for hilarity or misunderstandings.
  • Shout-Out: How my Author Appeal tendencies usually manifest themselves.
  • Shown Their Work: Most of my stories take place in some version of the real world, and I like everything to look and feel authentic, so I do a lot of research for my stories, even for relatively minor details.
  • There Are No Therapists: Usually averted, one obvious exception being World Line (but even that averts it, just not as much as my other works).
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: I avert this like the plague. I'm not good at math, but I'm good at internet and calculator.

Works I've been introduced to via TV Tropes:


My favourite tropesnote :

My pet peeve tropesnote :

My favourite creators (not exhaustive):




East Asian

Video Games

Web Original

My favourite works (not exhaustive):

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    Live-Action TV 


    Manga and Anime 


    Video Games 

    Webcomics (and Machinomics) 

    Web Animation and Web Video 


Example of: