Favorite Fantasy Tropes

Christine Amsden has listed her top 10 favorite fantasy tropes over at her blog, Into the Dreaming. It’s a great list that tracks fairly close with my own. If I were to offer my own list, it would be (in no particular order):

  • Action Survivors. I like a protagonist who is in over his or her head and somehow comes through even though vastly outgunned by the bad guys.
  • Guile Heroes. Related to the above, I love love love it when the protagonist finds a way to use trickery to get out of a scrape rather than hacking, slashing, or blasting. Show me a hero who can think on his or her feet and gain the upper hand just by being sneaky.
  • Shapeshifters. Face it, they’re just cool.
  • Snark. If your hero isn’t going to be completely bewildered by all the wild fantasy stuff that’s going on (in which case, he or she isn’t going to last long as a hero!), then go for snark. It seems to be the only attitude likely to get you through when the next eldritch abomination comes knocking on your door. If you can’t do snark, at least give me some kind of comic relief.
  • The Fair Folk. Seriously, have you looked around this web site?
  • Magic that Has Rules. I not too picky what the rules are, but I love it when magic has definite, coherent limitations. It makes one’s wizards far more approachable as characters and can help to avoid using magic as a deus ex machina.
  • Societies that Work. Not everybody can be a warrior or a wizard. Most folks are going to be farmers or butchers or accountants. I like seeing how this aspect of a fantasy world has been fleshed out.
  • Hat Tips to Folklore. I don’t care if you’re doing something radically new and different with your wizards / vampires / werewolves / elves / etc. Please show me that you know how these creatures or entities worked in relevant historical cultures. THEN take me on a ride that skews or reinterprets that body of folklore.

What are your favorite fantasy tropes?