101 Lazy Tropes, Fixed
Your genre tropes are lazy and you’re bad for not critically evaluating them. I’ve done the work so you don’t have to.
Your trope: evil races.
Instead: they’re not evil, they’re just other human tribes you don’t know about yet. Their skin is a weird color, their eyes and faces don’t look right, they smell awful. Stories abound about these monsters and their unspeakable rites. When they first meet in battle, show your players any National Geographic you may have laying around. Bonus: “Detect Evil” spells are really just your heightened visceral reaction to smelling spices in food you’d never eat, ie curry or whatever.
Your trope: utilitarian magic.
Instead: magic is entirely unpredictable and awful and not something one aspires to learn. It’s a curse. You can study your curse and hope to take some control over it, but no your wizard is not just a walking artillery piece with a funny hat. Wizards are liabilities, even if occasionally you can make use of whatever random shit they’ve just created.
Your trope: Evil faceless megacorporations.
Instead: Megacorporations are made up of people and they’re not faceless. There are sometimes bad actors who will badly misuse their resources and face few consequences because of limited oversight. But mostly companies are filled with well-meaning employees with jobs to do, just like governments. (Feel free to swap in evil faceless Big Government if your tastes run more libertarian.)
Your trope: Cybergear is awesome!
Instead: Cybergear is what you get when you’ve fucked up. It’s never as good as the real thing, although it can be built with other, different capacity. Military-grade hardware is entirely illegal and it’s just impossible to travel with it. You can’t feel through them. Daily tasks are harder and the public has never quite gotten over the uncanny valley/squick factor of prosthetics.
Your trope: you’ve got a space RV you and your friends can zip around in doing whatever you feel like.
Instead: RVs cost money to keep up and their operational lifespan is not that long. I mean, yeah, Traveller and Firefly and whatever kind of does this but not really, right? In Cortex+, having to repair or refuel is just a tag the GM can drop on you when they feel like. It’s just not really a well-handled “subversion” because maintaining a finicky vehicle is a huge pain in the ass. Unless you’re a hobbyist or a professional.
Your trope: Aliens are stand-ins for foreign people because scifi is just a big metaphor for the modern world maaaan.
Instead: Aliens are fucking alien. There are unbridgeable linguistic gaps, biological differences, and ideologies. Can’t be done. Stop trying. Physical destruction is of course an option but it’s worse than zero-sum. So everyone just kind of coexists in parallel, unable to create any kind of relationship.
Okay so that’s just six, not 101. But it’s not hard.