By now, probably everyone is familiar with the glorious thief of time known as TVTropes.org, a self-described "catalog of the tricks of the trade for writing fiction." The site cautions that tropes are "devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members' minds and expectations," but that they are not clichés. The catalog nonetheless has plenty of examples of clichés, too.
Despite the name, the wiki includes every form of media you can imagine: TV, movies, comic books, art, theater, music, and, of course, video games. Lately, I've taken to visiting the site after each game to see if any tropes are mentioned. There are far more tropes associated with more recent CRPGS, partly because more people know about them, but mostly because tropes require a certain level of storytelling, and the earliest CRPGs didn't have that.
Nonetheless, these are some of my favorite tropes from the games we've played so far:
"Always Chaotic Evil": Every orc that approaches you in Ultima II, every creature in the dungeon in Dungeon Master, everything that moves in Faery Tale Adventure, wants to kill you, and is thus naturally deserving of death themselves. Imagine if CRPGs forced you to treat every such creature as an individual? This trope, by the way, is wonderfully (if unintentionally) subverted in Wizardy, when you randomly encounter "friendly" versions of your foes. I thought one of my commenters had reported encountering a "friendly Werdna" upon achieving the final level of the game, but I can't find that comment.
"Arbitrary Headcount Limit": Honestly, if I really want to defeat the Chaos Lord, why can't I resurrect every character in the hall of heroes and have them swarm the dungeon? In later games, like Baldur's Gate, I would play a paladin and pretend that he'd sworn an oath to never travel with more than five companions--it was the only way it made sense.
"Dude Where's My Respect": This happens in almost every CRPG. You've been tasked with saving the world, but the world can't spare enough money to outfit you with a decent suit of armor. In Ultima II, Lord British makes me pay him for hit points! I love the entries for Oblivion on this.
"Get Back Here Boss": Foes that make you chase them around. This was one of the most annoying parts of Ultima II--and also the thieves in Dungeon Master.
"Karma Meter": It shows up first in Ultima IV, as Hawkwind keeps track of your progress towards various virtues. It's also a key element of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, Baldur's Gate, and other games.
"Level Grinding": Love this quote from this one: "Only the hero ever has this advantage. It never occurs to townspeople to walk around their village and bash slimes until they're strong enough to face the pirate who's taken over."
"Nigh Invulnerability": Applies to Lord British in the Ultima series. Not even Mondain's skull or the Armageddon spell--which kills everything else in the entire world--kills him. I did defeat him with a cannon in Ultima III, but his death wasn't permanent.
"Order vs. Chaos": At the end of Dungeon Master, I questioned whether there was a deliberate connection between it and The Saga of Recluce. Well, apparently, there are about one billion examples of this.
"Science Fiction vs. Fantasy": This trope deals with the genre-blending that occurs in games like Might & Magic, Tera, and Legacy of the Ancients. I don't have a problem with it, exactly, but somehow spells and technology always seem to me like an uncomfortable fit.
"Sdrawkcab Name": We've joked about this a lot with Trebor/Robert, Werdna/Andrew, Yendor/Rodney, and so on. There are other examples in Ultima V, Baldur's Gate, and Might & Magic, among others.
I've made one contribution to the site, under the "Wild Mass Guessing" category, offering my theory that Mondain from Ultima I is a Sith Lord.
A couple of weeks ago, an anonymous commenter said he was going to create an entry on "spellcrafting," but I haven't been able to find it yet.
For those of you who haven't discovered TVTropes until this posting, the rest of your evening is gone, so I'll leave you to it. But as the stories get more complex in the games I'm playing, I'm going to keep checking in to this site for fun references.