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Fantasy Cover Cliché Challenge

Considering my penchant for exceedingly specific drinking games and recent redesigns on my cover, it was only a matter of time before I combined the two into this unholy abomination known as the Fantasy Cover Cliché Challenge. However, I would like to point out that I consider this more a “challenge” than a “drinking game,” as in it’s something authors and reviewers alike can aspire to win.

Because, like it or not, we Fantasy fans are awash in covers covered in clichés, and I believe it’s time we harness them (along with some humor and alcohol) when pitching/ reviewing our favorite genre.

So my Fantasy Cover Cliché Challenge goes a little something like this:

  1. Count up the clichés on a book’s cover. Each cliché = 1 point.

  2. For each point, consume a unit of alcohol AT YOUR LEISURE (can/ bottle beer = 1, pint =2; glass of wine = 2; shot of liquor = 1).

  3. 30 minutes AFTER sipping the last of your alcohol, tell us about the book. If an author, pitch your novel. If a reviewer then… well, review it.

Please note: I am not suggesting you consume all this alcohol in one short sitting, hence “sipping” and “at your leisure.” We’re all adults here, so be responsible as to your imbibing. Also, the clichés are broken up into types, and since they’re so prevalent on our covers, limit yourself to just one per section if you feel so inclined.

And now that my half-ass disclaimer is out of the way, on to the clichés…



Cloak or cape

Obscured facial features (faces are hard to draw after all)

Characters’ backs turned to the audience (I mean, really, faces are hard!)


Magical effect (yes, glowing counts!)

Tower/ castle

Cliffs/ mountains

Flag/ Banner

Huge sun or moon


Bladed weapon

x2 if upturned and embedded in a block






Pointy ears

A beard (clear sign of a dwarf)





Crow/ raven


Mostly white background

A badge/ coat of arms

Overly ornate font

A word inside a letter (usually “of” or “the” inside an O)

Clearly a photo of a real-life model

x2 if you recognize the model from a DIFFERENT series.

Quote from another author/ publication

x2 if quote ends in “.com”

x5 if from George R. R. Martin

Some Examples:

And before Lawrence fans get mad at me, I should probably point out I specifically googled "best fantasy cover" and King of Thorns was the first hit. Anna Smith Spark I've been following for a while, and has gifted us with her own personal playlist on this site (oddly enough, her US cover still scores five points on the FCCC), while Erikson is too busy squinting hard enough to see singularities to care what I write here. Also, the wondrous The Last Assassin of the Unseen Throne comes directly from the AMAZINGLY funny How to Make a Clichéd High Fantasy Cover from the always entertaining Thoughts on Fantasy.

And if you can think of any clichés I missed (skulls, thrones and bikinis are currently under consideration, as are long dresses and bodices if I ever branch out to Historical Fantasy clichés), please leave some suggestions in the comments.

Oh, and if anyone does take me up the Fantasy Cover Cliché Challenge, please hashtag it #FCCC so I can find it. Tagging me on the ol' Facebook wouldn't hurt either.

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MD Presley is a screenwriter, blogger and occasional novelist… which basically means he’s a layabout.  He has written two books on fantasy worldbuilding, and teaches worldbuilding techniques, tricks, and tips at Forging Fantasy Realms once a week on YouTube. 

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