It’s not just big things, like magic or non-human creatures. Here are some small flaws that happen in fantasy all the time, but would never fly in real life.
1. New guy looks okay so let’s trust him with our lives.
We’ve all encountered some version of this. A new character shows up. After a few minutes suspicion, the other characters decide he’s an okay chap and then never doubt him again. Not once. Ever. I don’t know about you, but I am on the fence about new friends for several weeks, even months sometimes. They seem like okay people and I treat them like they are okay people, but I don’t really trust them until I have known them for awhile or we have been through some tough times.
2. Hey, let’s go for a three week hike in armor, with no supplies.
Seriously, how often to fantasy characters take off on long treks with essentially nothing? Tolkien has his fellowship trekking all over the middle earth with the flimsy excuse of Lembas. Yeah, it’s elven but, come on. A few loaves of bread? That’s all it takes to keep a dwarf in chainmail up and going for weeks of hard hiking? I don’t buy it. And did you see the lembas in the movies? That was a meal?
Even if we accept that an oversized cracker is somehow a meal, thanks to elvish magic, how many pieces do they have? You and I eat three times a day. A harden medieval warrior might be used to one solid meal, but it would have to be a solid meal.
Tolkien at least made an effort. So many of his copy cats have huge forces setting off at a word, with no reference to any sort of supplies, tents, hiking gear, often for months. How do these people survive?
3. This dull sword will chop through any armor.
Real swords don’t work that way, just so you know. Given that it’s fantasy, I will give you one or two magic swords that are razor sharp. But some heroes can seemingly pick up any sword and chop through metal plates like they were butter. Real life weapons don’t work that way, no matter how great the warrior wielding it is.
Don’t even get started on types of swords, that is whole different rant.
4. The fate of the world will be in this boy’s hand someday. Let’s stick him on some farm and not tell him.
I have never understood why the wizards or other powers-that-be never think of actually training the chosen one. What if Belgarath and Aunt Pol in the Belgariad had said, “you know this kid is going to have to fight a great battle someday, let’s teach him to fight.” Or Allanon in the Shannara series decided to wake up a few months early to go warn whichever Olmstead kid that some heavy shit was coming.
I know, sometimes doing the obvious thing would make for a short, drama free story. I get that. But seriously, none of them even consider the possibility of preparing the hero. It seems like a huge oversight.
5. Pull this cloak and hood over your face. It’s the perfect disguise and not completely suspicious or anything.
Yeah, disguises. Sigh. Okay so in a crowded courtyard someone could maybe keep their face covered and blend in with the crowd, as long the person looking for them doesn’t know them well. (I don’t know about you, but I can identify family members and close friends by their stature and how they walk.) Of course once you walk inside and don’t remove the cloak, that might raise a red flag or something.
There are better ways to disguise someone, and you might be tempted to use them. But those require some logistics. Do you carry hair and some sort of skin friendly glue around just in case you need to make a fake beard? A thief might, a warrior, probably not.
On a related noted, what about people sneaking around in armor? That’s another big pet peeve of mine. The knight in full chainmail and pieces of plate armor (90 plus pounds or so) climbs nimbly up the castle wall and then drops silently behind the guard. He then steals the guards sword and chops him clean in half, without making a sound or leaving a blood trail.
What about you? What common fantasy plot devices rub you the wrong way. Do you care that the feats described in some fantasy stories are impossible in real life? Or do you just suspend disbelief?