Monday, 2 February 2009

My Boredom Has Outshone The Sun

There's been too much sweetness and light in this blog recently, hasn't there? So, Inspired by this thread: a list of tropes/cliches that I'd be happy to never see in a game, novel, or film, again, ever. Ever.

1. It is evil, so it talks in a deep, husky, sinister darth vader type voice. Exemplified by the Lord of the Nazgul in Peter Jackson's Rings films. Now become such a cliche that it is no longer even remotely sinister or frightening, but just sounds like a guy with a cold wheezing into some kind of voice synthesizer.

2. It is an alien race, and yet it looks like a human but with an animal head. Just fuck off if the best you can come up with for an alien species is a bloke with a lion/wolf/eagle's head. Especially if the race has the percieved characteristics of that animal species - like pride and laziness for a lion. Bonus points if your animal-head race has a name that can be identified with the creature, like 'Aslan'.

3. She is a woman in a man's world, and is gorgeous and can kick ass with the best of them, but she has an attitude because nobody gives her any respect, and eventually she falls in love with the hero. There is so much that annoys me about this particular trope that I can't put it into words. When will speculative fiction game writers, novelists etc. be able to write convincing female characters? Oh, wait, Le Guin, Wolfe, Martin and a whole load of others have been able to. So why can't you?

4. They are characters, and this is a fantasy setting, and yet it seems like a thinly veiled mouthpiece for broadcasting the stale and trite political views of the author/designer/player. China Mieville and the people who made Blue Rose are shining examples. Also, see staunch atheist players who always create characters who turn out to be..... atheists! Wiccan players who always create characters who turn out to be..... against the established religious order! And so on.

5. They are an analog of white Europe during the Crusading era/Age of Sail, and they are evil and domineering and oppressive. Because the idea that white Europeans did some bad stuff in the past is, like, so controversial and edgy, isn't it?

Tch. And bah.


  1. Atheist players who play atheist characters, in a world where the DM has stressed that everyone knows the gods are clearly real, and the gods send their divine messengers to guide the party, and the plot revolves around gathering followers for a god joining the pantheon, and the atheist character ends up leading the cult...

    My last campaign. *sigh*

    On an unrelated note, the Word Verification for posting here comes up with some interesting nonsense words, doesn't it?

  2. Rach: And Tch again.

    Mothman's: What random words does it generate?

  3. Picking up on point 2, it may be something that crops up sci-fi/fantasy, but I saw headlines somewhere today of a scientist saying that such a thing might not be far from the truth when it comes to alien life. I'll try and find the thing, but the subtitle of the piece was along the lines of "there really isn't anything new under the sun"...

  4. What's your take on Heinlein -- weren't a lot of his books anti-feminist and vaguely or literally promoting fascism?

  5. zero_zero_one: It's all speculation though, isn't it? Based on what's best here on earth - which is precisely the point at issue.

    writerscabal: Yeah, Heinlein was pretty shameless about that sort of thing, but he also wrote some very entertaining stories. I put China Mieville and Heinlein in the same category actually - really good and talented writers with odious political views which almost but don't quite ruin the writing. (They just happen to be at opposite ends of the spectrum).

  6. torthri, gueadc, breprame, suffst - I'm tempted to use them as monster names.

    Speaking of which:

    Care to 0e your mollusc monsters?

  7. Mothman's: I'll give it a while over the next few days I think.

  8. I really will try to track down the article, but I think his thesis (not that I necessarily agree with it, or am encouraging you to do so) was that intelligent life has to evolve into a very narrow band of organism - essentially bipedal humanoid.

  9. Heinlein may have been anti-feminist, but he was not promoting fascism. Mostly he promoted libertarianism, like the bulk of sf writers of his era.

    The Verhoeven Starship Troopers movie satirised fascism, maybe there's your confusion.

    In the book only ex-Service veterans can vote, but that doesn't resemble Fascism at all.

  10. On the tropes; generally I like cliched tropes in my RPGs, it makes them more accessible. In books and movies something new is nice, though. I'd expect the Witch King's voice to be thin and whispery and faded, like a memory of a memory. Not a rich James Earl Jones tone.

  11. S'mon: Heinlein was by no means a 'traditional' fascist, but some of his beliefs - anti-feminism, anti-egalitarianism, actual or implied social darwinism - are shared by fascists.

    I think the tropes are valuable with new players when it comes to RPGs. But then again, do cliches work against RPGs by making them seem trite and boring to non-insiders?