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The RPG Cliche List


By Jason Sartin

After discovering an online list of the various cliches in computer/console RPGs, I failed to escape the realization that our own brand of role-playing games deserves a list, too. So, for your amusement, here is the grand list of cliches and absurdities that occur (and occur, and occur...) in traditional RPGs and LARPs - either in the books themselves or in the actual playing of them. These are just the ones I've personally observed over the years - feel free to tell me about any that I've missed.

(Speaking of that, I would like to humbly thank Joe Iglesias, Malcus Dorroga, Peter Joyce, and Scott Lynch for their contributions.)

Abused Artist. Stereotypical player character in many Vampire LARPs. The character has an artistic bent and was abused in the past - typically before their Embrace (see also the Law Of Capitalization) - and now attempts to be aloof and sophisticated. Depending on the acting skill and actual sophistication of the player herself, the character will come across in varying degrees of pretentiousness. Often, you can pry out the details of their abuse through conversation, but there isn't any point to it.

Amber Law. Gamemasters and players can be fully expected to try and screw each other over, even during character creation. (So named for a game that actively and legendarily encourages this. For similar reasons, this also could have been called the Synnibarr Law, but there is no reliable evidence that anyone actually plays that game.) See also Mode: Zero Sum Game.

Amoral Jerk. Another stereotypical player character in Vampire LARPs. The character/player is amused by his own cruelty and destructiveness, especially to kine characters that do not have to be represented by human players. Typically a lackey to some other powerful player.

Ampersand Law #1. Early RPGs always had names in this format: [Something] & [Something Else That Usually Begins With The Same Letter]. (Dungeons & Dragons, Tunnels & Trolls, Villains & Vigilantes, Chivalry & Sorcery, etc.)

Ampersand Law #2. Even when RPGs have ampersands in their title, people rarely bother to write the ampersand, using "and" instead.

Armageddon Effect. Any place where an RPG has more than three typos on one page. (So named for the first edition of Armageddon, likely the most poorly edited and typo-ridden RPG ever.)

Assamite Law. In any game where there are no monsters (or where the players are monsters), the players will be stalked by hunters/assassins with alarming consistency. See also Grudge Monster.

Avenging Wallflower. A horrific variation of the common Wallflower in LARPs. These players play characters with a vast amount of unheralded, unseen power and go out of their way to be meek and unassuming, at least until a dramatic confrontation occurs in their vicinity. Whenever active, outgoing characters do something interesting near them, they will feel an unholy compulsion to leap into action, screaming and blowing things up with their incredible powers, simply to interfere in the process and thereby feel that they've done something.

Axebeard Law. In fantasy games, all dwarves should have the words "axe" or "beard" somewhere in their names. (Exception: Dark Sun) See also the PineSol Law.

Black Trenchcoat Rule. In modern-day games, black trenchcoats are comfortable attire in any climate and ideal for concealing swords and/or shotguns.

Blender. A mentally unbalanced gamer whose sole pleasure in life seems to be the alchemical combination of mutually exclusive game species and factions. Most often seen in World of Darkness LARPs. ("I won't join unless you let me play my White Howler Kinfolk Verbena Mage who was Embraced by the Assamite Clan so he could start a detective agency with his Shadow Lord partner!")

Bomb-Bomb. Peculiar stereotypical LARP player who, no matter what class or faction or persuasion of character they might be playing, have their character build a huge bomb and carry it around with them. Whenever they are upset, the bomb goes off and the game is over for the evening. (So named for one of those stupid suicidal walking bombs from the Super Mario Bros. video games.)

Brujah Physics Major. Stereotypical character rarely found outside Masquerade LARPs. These are invariably combative players who dress in skin-tight clothing (jeans, t-shirt, tank top, black fishnets, etc.) and insist on carrying a prop card that indicates they are concealing a huge anti-personnel weapon (AK-47, RPG-7 grenade launcher, etc). Not just carrying, but concealing. Only the strong of stomach should enquire as to where these weapons might truly be hidden.

Calvinball Rule. In the end, many gamemasters use their own setting and/or change a game's rules beyond all recognition anyway. (So named for the imaginary, make-your-own-rules sport from Calvin and Hobbes.) If we wanted to be really silly, we could also call this the Law Of The Golden Rule.

Colon Law. Most modern-day occult games have names in this format: [Something]: the [Something Else].

Crappage Law #1. Every computer/console RPG system, without exception, is based on some variant of Dungeons & Dragons. (So named for the easiest (and, some would argue, most appropriate) pronunciation of "CRPG")

Crappage Law #2. Almost every computer/console RPG takes place in some high fantasy world. Also, these worlds rarely bother to make any bow to realism or logic in any way, shape, or form.

Crystal Power Law. In modern-day occult games, all Wiccans (or variants thereof) are automatically good and in tune with the secret truths of the setting. (Exception: Unknown Armies) See also the Kill Whitey Law.

Dark Lord. Stereotypical villain in most fantasy games and any other game with a fantastical bent. Dark, scary, and obviously seeks the complete subjugation of everything. In the earliest games, these guys rarely had any motive beyond "well, he's evil - you need more?" but nowadays (thank you, White Wolf) they're also likely to be severely maladjusted and/or have two-dimensionally colorful histories.