- Ensemble Dark Horse:
- Wu Song, despite being a major character, has been turned into basically the face of the entire book, with numerous traditional stories dedicated to just him.
- In Wu Song's backstory is Ximen Qing and Pan Jinlian, two of the most iconic characters that aren't members of the outlaws.
- Several less important outlaws also get this treatment, such as Shi Xiu, Dai Zong and Hu Sanniang
- And of course Li Kui, who doesn't even show up for more than 70 chapters, but still makes enough of an impression to get progressively more attention than most of his compatriots. Some critics have suggested that the entire story may have started out as a peasant tale about a Barbarian Hero named Li Kui, and that other characters like Song Jiang may have been only added after it passed into literary circles who decided they needed a more fitting Audience Surrogate.
- Evil Is Cool: Though it is a stretch to call them "evil", several of the outlaws count, such as Li Kui and Zhang Heng. The bandit king Fang La and his men also count. Cai Jing, despite being a Corrupt Politician, gets this a bit since both this version and his real-life counterpart were renowned caligraphers.
- Ho Yay:
- Partly due to the Values Dissonance, but almost all the males tend to prefer the presence of other males than women.
- How about Song Jiang and Li Kui? The fact that Li Kui happily dies with Song Jiang, and Song Jiang agrees to be buried with Li Kui instead of his wife?
- Older Than They Think:
- It's likely that the Ur-Example of Just Like Robin Hood is not in fact Robin Hood (whose first published story postdates the first publishing of Water Margin by a slim century or so), but the folk tales of Song Jiang that Water Margin was based on.
- The novel brings together a stable of tropes that would centuries later become the trademarks of the Film Serial: Cliffhangers, On the Next, Find Out Next Time, and a generous helping of As You Know.
- Signature Scene: Wu Song fighting the tigers is usually the first thing that comes to most people's minds when they think of this book.
- Stealth Pun: Wu Yong's name is pronounced the exact same way as a Chinese phrase meaning "Useless". The pun is doubled if one considers the man's nickname, "the wise/resourceful star".
- Values Dissonance: Some of the heroes, seeking revenge or to fight corrupted officials, will kill EVERYONE of the victim's family, from old to infant.
- The Woobie: What makes Lin Chong such a memorable character.
YMMV / Water Margin