A Song of Ice and Fire
|This article contains spoilers! You have been warned.|
|In the Grimdarkness of the far future, a brief life burns brightly. This article or section is a work of Grimdark. Expect a copious amount of depression, existentialism, hopelessness with a sprinkle of edge. So what can we say but exclaim: I LOVE BIG BROTHER!|
Warning: This article contains so many spoilers we're ruining books that haven't even been released yet.
"If you think this story has a happy ending, you haven't been paying attention."
- – Ramsay Bolton, nailing the grimdark theme of this series
A Song of Ice and Fire (more better known as Game of Thrones) is a Grimdark fantasy book series for people who hate fantasy. Its central themes include political Machiavellian scheming, ultraviolence, incest/sex with exposition, and everyone trying to survive in such a Crapsack World of perpetual suffering. Thus it has become one of the most popular series of our generation and its author, George R. R. Martin, has been praised for his highly realized world and gritty low fantasy style. He was even called "the American Tolkien" by
Time magazine gormless idiots who lump diametrically different writers together for no other reason than that they're both fantasy authors, which would probably explain its sudden spike in popularity following the TV show (at least to a point, anyway.) The great joke of an actual World War veteran writing a story about heroic knights and elves being compared to and contrasted with a conscientious objector who writes dark (occasionally grimderp) fantasy is not lost on most.
The series itself is set on the totally not medieval European ripoff realm of Westeros as it is wracked by a massive succession war drawing its realms into conflict. Everyone's picking up the pieces from the pervious war until one family's bid for power starts another war (book one), A bunch of dudes declare themselves kings (book two), they're burning the continent down in their scramble for power, and somehow all the fuck-ups managed to lose anyway (book three). Just when the guys who lost the least start thinking they get to rule over the remaining chaos, more fuck ups happen and more dudes show up (book four). Sadly, winter has finally come and, unbeknownst to most people, evil ice wizards leading soulless undead assumed to be only myths by most people are about to invade the continent from the north. By the fifth book, things are going and/or will go to shit even for the bad guys.
According to a leaked fan conversation, George R. R. Martin jokingly stated the series would end with an epic cock-slap fight between Samwell Tarly and Jaime Lannister.
- 1 Characters
- 2 The appeal of A Song of Ice And Fire
- 3 Oh Yeah, About The TV Show
- 4 GRRM and Your Dudes
- 5 Games
- 6 Books
- 7 On The "Grimdarkness" of the Setting
- 8 See Also
Since these books have some thousand named characters, you won't remember most of them without an obsessive disorder over details. Here's a relatively shortlist (mostly based on the TV series rather than the books, but seems to randomly switch between the two) for the characters you'll care about.
"Winter Is Coming"
- Eddard Stark, The Quiet Wolf: Patriarch, lord and POV death-puppet. Not nearly as stupid as everyone tries to pretend, but still a dead man walking. Honorable to a fault and deeply repulsed by the politicking that goes on around him, which eventually leads to a mild case of death by decapitation.
- Robb Stark, The Young Wolf: Shiny, Lawful Stupid King Arthur-like hero. After waging a successful war to avenge his murdered father, he was betrothed to a noblewoman but he ended having comfort sex with a virgin noblewoman which may have been arranged by her scheming bitch mother, while in softcore porno he got the hots for a commoner. Cacks it nastily: he got his head cut off and his pet's wolf's head stuck on his body, which was paraded around while his enemies chanted "HERE COMES THE KING IN THE NORTH!" In other words, he's a Scottish Hannibal Barca.
- Sansa Stark: Useless teenage girl extraordinaire at the start of the series with dreams of marrying a prince and "having lots of babies", but gets shat on hard by reality. Becomes Littlefinger's replacement goldfish when Catelyn's no longer around, her father got killed and her best friend was sold as a sex slave, and ended up in the worst relationship we can possibly imagine with King Joffrey. Even got deflowered via rape by Ramsey Bolton and married to him before managing to escape with the help of others. Currently acting as a co-ruler to her brother/cousin Jon Snow, and has learned much from her suffering, allowing her to kick Littlefinger out of the Great Game via throat slitting. While in the book Littlefinger is/was setting her up at House Arryn to claim the Vale and the North, the show version becomes QUEEN IN DA NORF in the final episode.
- Arya Stark: Little tomboy assassin. Has a kill list, but doesn't get to use it so long as she is an amnesiac apprentice of the Friendly Neighborhood Assassins Guild. After breaking away (in the TV series) from the Faceless Men she heads back to Westeros to get revenge on a LOT of people, giving her one of the highest kill counts in the series. Is currently back with her sister Sansa, acting as a general "troubleshooter". Kills the Night King like a fucking champion (or, alternatively, in a nonsensical plot twist) in Season 8, and is now riding south to add Cersei to her kill count. Instead, the Hound talks her out of it and she decides to sail into the unknown west.
- Catelyn Stark (nee Tully): A woman who trusts the wrong people at the worst time, causing a lot of misery. Gets killed along with Robb, then comes back (books only) as an undead witch bent on killing all the Boltons, Freys, Greyjoys, Lannisters... pretty much everyone she thinks was tangentially involved in betraying her and her family, or somebody who just pissed her off.
- Bran Stark: Intelligent little boy, named after the founder of House Stark, Brandon the Builder (basically Tony Stark combined with Leman Russ). He was crippled in the first sign of major GrimDark. Has prophetic dreams and becomes a druid. In the TV series, fucks things up by alerting the Others to where he's hiding, which gets all of the Children, his loyal wolf, the Three-Eyed Crow and Hodor killed. For good measure, turns out to have accidentally caused Hodor to become, well, Hodor, as he was using his druid powers to figure out why Hodor is only able to say Hodor, resulting in Hodor's gruesome death-by-zombies being beamed directly into young! Hodor's brain. He's now the Three-Eyed Raven and likes going around being creepy as fuck and generally weirding people out. Becomes King of the
SevenSix Kingdoms in a hilariously nonsensical plot twist in the finale.
- Rickon Stark: Four years old at the start, turning into a real little Barbarian from not being raised properly, because everyone who would have raised him was dead or missing. In the show, he ends up hanging out at the Umbers, then is handed over to Ramsay as a prisoner when Smalljon becomes afraid of the Wildlings living north of him (who were invited by Jon Snow to fight the Zombie Apocalypse), and finally dies via arrow in a sick game of "dodge the missiles" courtesy of Ramsey.
- Jon Snow, The White Wolf: A bastard living in the Stark household before leaving for the Night's Watch (basically Colonel Schaeffer with more convicted rapists under his command) and excels there because nearly every one of his fellow recruits are peasants who have never had a formal days of training while Jon has had the serious training afforded to all lords. After he takes over by becoming the Watch Commander secures and alliance with the Wildlings, ancient barbarian enemies of the Night's Watch, because when the end of the world is coming you tend to think outside the box. Currently revived by R'hllor in the series after being stabbed to death by the senior members of the Watch. Isn't actually Eddard's bastard son, but rather the legitimate son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, meaning that he is, in fact, the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. The new KING IN DA NORF according to his supporters after he killed Ramsay Bolton and took back Winterfell, and is also currently hooking up with his own aunt. He turns on Daenerys once he realizes she's lost it and kills her in the throne room. The Unsullied want his head, but instead, King Bran exiles him to the Night's Watch and he fucks off into the far north to live with the Free Folk.
- Hodor: Hodor. Hodor, Hodor, Hodor.
An enormous and possibly retarded stable boy, and Bran's faithful steed.Hodor. Ok, in all actual seriousness, this guy is probably one of the most tragic figures in this series (and that's saying something). The guy basically received horrible visions of his own death fighting a horde of zombies, buying time for his friends to escape by literally holding the door shut as he was hacked apart. This causes him to suffer a psychiatric break, leading him to develop Immature Personality Disorder and his only speech is to repeat a garbled phrase of his friend's last request "hold the door" for all of his adult life; the logic here is that "hold the door" devolves into "hol' th' door" and eventually "Hodor". You now feel bad for at laughing at the guy.
- Osha: A Wildling woman who surrendered to the Starks and becomes their servant in exchange for not getting killed. Now dead in the show thanks to Ramsay's dickery.
"Fire and Blood"
Thanks to a loophole, the Targaryens were immune to the moral objections relating to incest. Common sense (and common decency) took back seat to a time-honoured policy of catastrophic inbreeding, which made a number of problems. Aegon I married his older and younger sisters and had several kids with each, which would be the start of another Targaryen tradition: the occasional succession crisis. The inbreeding would also lead to a line of almost alternatingly great and lunatic kings, culminating in Aerys "The Mad King" Targaryen and a palace coup. Eventually, the lineage was banished to Essos after a brutal civil war, the remnants trying to gather armies to retake the Iron Throne which they see as rightfully theirs. Basically a family of inbreeding girly-men with a massive sense of superiority and as arrogant as they come, forgetting that most of what they accomplished was due to the fact that only they had dragons. Still, they occasionally did have genuinely good people like Aegon V (aka Egg), Jaeherys I the Conciliator, his wife Good Queen Alysanne and complete badasses like Brynden Bloodraven and Baelor Breakspear. Pseudo-Romans and/or the House of Normandy.
- Aerys II, The Mad King: A pretty fun guy to be around. Had a psychotic fascination for fire, which extended to being a psychotic fascination for burning traitors, a category of people that eventually grew to include anybody he disliked for any reason, anyone who disagreed with him, and a few people who were unlucky enough to be caught in the crossfire. Teamkilled by his bodyguard Jaime for planning to burn the city down with everyone inside it, and even refused to accept his death until he actually died.
- Daenerys Targaryen, Stormborn: She was sold by her brother to a barbarian leader Khal (warlord) Drogo in exchange for the promise that he'd use his Khalassar (Warband/tribe) to conquer Westeros. She found her self esteem as his wife, then her husband killed her idiot brother Viserys and promised to conquer the world for Daenerys, making her a full-fledged badass barbarian war queen. Unfortunately, her husband died when Daenerys trusted one of the slaves whose town Drogo had pillaged and burnt to heal an infected wound of his and his horde fell apart (though the book is somewhat ambiguous as to whether the slave did kill Drogo). Then she hatched three dragons (completely by accident when she tried to commit suicide) bringing them back from extinction, and now everyone wants to marry her because she is now one of the most powerful people around due to said dragons and being good-looking (in the books this is by the age-of-consent in Westeros standards, where girls are women when they start getting their periods and boys are men at age 13). Gets shit done except the entire fifth book, in which she mopes around about wanting to marry an annoying, flamboyant mercenary instead of saving herself for political marriage. After banging the flamboyant mercenary, she later marries a Meereenese noble who guarantees he can get her some peace (more likely just as he planned). She also does nothing while insurgents kill her men, a horde of plagued refugees spread disease to her city and standing idly by while an enemy army besieges her walls, all for realistically political reasons because the world is a horrible place. Learns how to train her dragon. While she's stuck with a Khalassar in the books, in the TV series she made it to Westeros invading the place with an army of elite hoplites, a massive horde of Dothraki and her dragons. By the time she gets to King's Landing she's taken significant losses, including two of her dragons, and is fucking her nephew (Jon Snow). Has officially gone Mad Queen as of S8E5, wherein she burned most of King's Landing after the city attempted to surrender. Jon kills her in the series finale so that she won't go around burninating the rest of the world.
- The dragons: The three dragons that Daenerys hatched. They're wyverns that breathe fire, have blood hot enough to melt steel, and cook their meat before eating it. Naturally, some of the coolest things in the story.
- Drogon; named for her late husband, Khal Drogo. Black and Red, the biggest and most aggressive dragon. Starts eating people and then escapes, leading to the other two getting imprisoned. Interrupts a gladiator tournament, killing a lot of people before being whipped by Daenerys into flying her to a Khalassar that broke off from her husband's after his death. Is now the last dragon standing after Viserion bites it north of the Wall and his undead body is put down at Winterfell and Rhaegal gets shot down over Dragonstone. Takes Dany's body, destroys the Iron Throne and fucks off to who knows where after Dany is killed.
- Rhaegal; named for the first of her dead brothers, Rhaegar. Green and gold, the cunning one and the loudest (with a roar "...that would have sent a hundred lions fleeing,"). Kills Quentyn Martell when the latter is trying to goad Viserion (see below). After breaking out of jail with Viserion they go "all your bases are belong to us" on Meereen, killing people and taking over the pyramid of a loyal family as his lair. Last seen playing "sack the town" with Viserion in the books. Is now dead in the show thanks to Euron Greyjoy and some Diabolus ex Machina bullshit.
- Viserion; named for her other brother Viserys. White and gold and the friendliest (as dragons go, he still eats people). Dug cave for himself in his jail then moved into another pyramid after his and his brother's great escape. Gets killed by the Night's King in the show via a magic spear, then his corpse is reanimated to be the Night King's zombie dragon steed and blasts a hole in the famous Wall, allowing the armies of snow elves and zombies to start flooding Westeros. Now perma-dead thanks to the Night King biting it.
- Viserys Targaryen, The Beggar King: Daenerys' physically abusive older brother. Best known for being a bully with incestuous lust for her, and an arrogant and incompetent fuck with a massive sense of entitlement. He eventually got himself killed for being an all-around jerk and whiny idiot, which culminated in him threatening his sister and unborn nephew with a sword while drunk in a sacred Dothraki place where weapons and bloodshed are forbidden on pain of death (execution is done by bloodless death - having a scarf wrapped tight around the neck and being drowned in a barrel). Daenerys' husband poured molten gold over his head and called it his promised crown, also ensuring his death didn't technically shed any blood in their sacred place.
- Aegon Targaryen, Aegon VI: Daenerys' nephew, the son of her brother Rhaegar. Been hiding in Essos for the entire length of the series, but recently raised an army of Westerosi exiles and threw them all a massive Welcome Home party with rape and pillage. Wants to marry his aunt because she has dragons, and might not actually be a member of House Targaryen if you believe some fans. He can actually count past 6, can multiply numbers, can read different language and has a minor understanding of geometry thus cementing him as one of the most educated people in this overwrought series. Can also do his own laundry.
- Brynden Rivers Bloodraven: A Targaryen bastard who came to prominence about a hundred years before the series as sort of sorcerer, he later became known as the "Three-Eyed Raven/Crow" after encountering the Children of the Forest, and uses his powers to help advert the Long Night and train Bran. He's described as having long, white hair, missing an eye, bound to a tree, knows all and sees all, associated heavily with ravens and omens... yeah, he's very much Odin, come to think of it. Just a lot more of an asshole than the Warrior King of legend.
Hear Me Roar"/"A Lannister Always Pays His Debts"
- Tywin Lannister, The Lion of Lannister: The Godfather, head of the house, and obsessed with his reputation as a Magnificent Bastard extraordinaire. Lawful Evil Personified. He was a most feared general whose greatest achievement was erasing House Reyne from existence, which was immortalised in his own sweet-yet-creepy-as-fuck theme song (The Rains of Castamere) that became used as a warning against anyone standing against him. During his tenure as Hand of the King (i.e. Prime Minister), he was a political genius who operates as the true power behind the Iron Throne, keeping the realm stable and prosperous despite the stupidity of Aerys II and Joffrey. However, despite all of his achievements, he was an absolutely terrible father, who treats his children as nothing more than tools to further his political agenda. He is completely blind to the incestuous relationship his two oldest children had, and hated Tyrion and made his life a living hell for very poor reasons. He humiliated Tyrion whenever it wouldn't threaten the family's reputation, berated Tyrion for being a whore-monger despite secretly being one himself, tried to get him killed multiple times, and as the capstone of awful parenting, he taught Tyrion not to marry commoners after he married one called Tysha - by forcing Tyrion to watch Tysha get gang-raped, forcing him to rape her too and then annulling their marriage. The only person Tywin truly loved was his wife. He eventually gets his comeuppance when Tyrion finds out the truth about the Tysha incident and kills him with a crossbow, all while mentioning that out of all his children, Tyrion was the most alike to Tywin himself. He's based on Warwick the Kingmaker.
- Joanna Lannister: Tywin's late wife and first cousin, meaning the next three characters are inbred as well, ironically. Dies giving birth to Tyrion, which is part of why Tywin hates him, though Cersei hates him for other reasons. Caught wind of Cersei and Jaime's incestuous tendencies, but she died before she could tell Tywin. It is implied that her ghost visits Jaime in a dream and mourns the current state of her family.
- Cersei Lannister, Cunt Queen: Tywin and Joanna's first child. Twin sister to Jaime Lannister and wife to King Robert Baratheon. She fucks her brother Jaime all the time and had three of his children, whom she passed off as Robert's to grab power. She is a massive narcissist who thinks of herself as "female Tywin" and hence seeks to rule Westeros as the Queen, and will do anything to keep her power... even when most of her plans end up becoming utter failures. Crazy as all fuck and prophesied to be killed by the "little brother." This is because of a prophecy a Gypsy made when Cersei was a child that she'd be a beautiful queen, lose everything, her children would die before her, and the "Valonqar" would kill her. Though that does explain why she hates Tyrion as hard as all fuck, the exact translation of the term that was used is "younger sibling", and not necessarily her sibling, which opens the door to all sorts of characters who hate the fuck out of her. Since Jaime is technically younger by a few seconds, him killing Cersei would be an interesting twist not without buildup. Possibly the Gypsy was messing with her head because of what a bitch Cersei was being to her, something Cersei never grew out of. Cersei is currently alive only because Varys wants her to be, as she's a terrible queen who'll destabilize the realm enough for him to bring back the Targaryens. She was completely shaved, stripped of power in all but her royal heritage and forced to do a nude walk of penance throughout the city by the High Sparrow (ASOIAF Pope- equivalent/Martin Luther except he won the Reformation) after he uncovered her crimes. Now she's waiting for her hair to grow back and maybe thinking of revenge. She gets it in the show by blowing up the Great Sept of Baelor (ASOIAF Canterbury Cathedral) with everyone she doesn't like inside it, having her cousin killed near the Wildfire then capturing the nun who was her jailer and leaving her to be tortured to death by zombie Gregor Clegane. She is in short Thanquol disguised as a beautiful blonde woman. Gets anticlimactically squashed by a collapsing ceiling along with Jaime during Daenerys's assault on King's Landing. (her biggest issue? to don't die sooner, for the seven's sake!)
- Jaime Lannister, The Kingslayer: Younger twin brother (by about three seconds) to Cersei Lannister and commander of the Kingsguard. He loves his sister in every sense of the word and had three children with her. Killed the last king despite his oath, and is widely hated for it, even though everyone agrees that dying was a massive improvement for Aerys. The reason for this betrayal was that Aerys had a huge stockpile of Acme Brand Magic Napalm stockpiled under the city, ready to be set off the moment a siege broke through the town walls, and Jaime's options were to let it happen or kill Aerys before the crazy fuck got everybody killed. His desire to openly love his sister and win the respect he feels he deserves eventually causes Cersei to reject him. Starts off as an arrogant douche who tried to murder Bran Stark, but accidentally crippled him instead; as the series progressed he became progressively more bro-tier besides the whole wants-to-fuck-his-sister thing, and then later he even grows out of that as well when he realizes what a bitch she is, gets thoroughly humbled to boot after losing his sword hand and having some time to rethink his life and study the legacy of his predecessors, many of whom were legitimately righteous dudes. (And realizing that there are several other women who are interested in him.) Also, the only person in his family who treats Tyrion well, along with one of his aunts and two dead uncles. Essentially, a more incestuous Blood Angel - but more douchey, so make that Flesh Tearer. In the books, he is currently being lured into a trap by Lady Stoneheart. In the show, he has finally told Cersei to get fucked after realizing that she has well and truly lost it, and rode north to help fight the White Walkers. He survived the Battle of Winterfell, hooked up with Brienne, and then rides south because he just can't let Cersei go. Winds up getting shanked by Euron Greyjoy and dies via collapsing ceiling.
- Tyrion Lannister, Halfman: a very intelligent dwarf who is awesome, but hated by all of the civilized characters in the books, except his brother Jaime who treats him well and Jon Snow who tolerates him. He seems to do much better when getting drunk with whores, rogues, bastards and barbarians. His silver tongue is one of his greatest strengths (he's witty and good at persuading people) and weaknesses (he's quick with insults and the truth in a city ruled by sociopaths and liars). Tyrion is also one of the only characters with an actual sense of the bigger picture, and an interest toward steering the world toward an outcome that doesn't involve a Warhammer End Times scenario. Unfortunately, the world's movers, shakers, and those who generally have the power to make a difference are increasingly either a) dead, b) scattered to the winds or c) hate his dwarf guts. Despite the increasing difficulty and fruitlessness of his task, however, Tyrion still fights. After being framed for killing Joffrey, he killed his own father and is currently in exile in the Free Cities, weaselling his way into leading a merc band and trying to sign them up with Daenerys' forces, recognizing her as one of the few chances Westeros has got of fixing its shit (provided she can get her own shit together, which she's having a bit of trouble with). Since characters in this series tend to either be walking tropes, rip-offs of other fantasy characters, or historical people with different names, Tyrion is probably based on the great Miles Vorkosigan (who was himself based on a few people including Sir Winston Churchill) and is a nod to King Richard III (a deformed but competent king later demonized by historiographers of his era). Even if he is usually the smartest one in the room at any given time, though, Tyrion is still not above having some derp moments. Exhibit A, when Tyrion asked his father what happened to his first wife (right before killing him), he took an obvious "I don't know and I don't care" response ("Wherever whores go") as if it was the literal truth. (Admittedly he'd earned some PTSD at the time, which is not great for your brain.) The show version meets Daenerys and becomes her Hand only to fuck up a bunch of stuff and lose her trust. Sells her out when he realizes that she's gone round the bend and winds up becoming Hand to King Bran.
- Kevan Lannister: Tywin's younger brother, considered "the reliable one". One of the few decent Lannisters, though saying that he is perfectly happy carrying out Tywin's bidding. Tried to talk sense into Cersei and was later called in to try and fix her mess. He did such a good job of it that Varys decided to personally thank him. With a crossbow. And a group of knife-wielding children. In the show he dies with the rest of the crowd when the Great Sept got nuked by Cersei - the manner of his book death was given over to Grand Maester Pycelle at the exact same time.
- Cersei and Robert's (actually Jaime's) children:
- Joffrey Baratheon: Spoiled brat and sociopath to the extreme. "Heir" of the throne, and the technical king of Westeros during the War of the Five Kings since he lives in King's Landing and sits on the throne. Turned out to be worse than Aerys. He died and there was much rejoicing. Except by his mother, who instead had sex on his corpse. Fourteen years old at the time of his death.
- Tommen Baratheon: The new king on the Iron Throne. Nine years old. Married to a teenaged shotacon wife who's (unknown to him) the granddaughter of his brother's true killer. Trying to litigate the criminalization of beets. Loves kittens. He's pretty well-rounded and non-fucked up, which is a miracle considering his parents, both putative and biological. Also seems to be trying to take kinging seriously, but his mom is trying to quash that in her subliminal attempt to hold power indefinitely, so whether it holds is another matter entirely. Prophesied to die before Cersei, which doubly tragic due to his age and being a much better person than her. In the show, he commits suicide after Cersei blows up the Great Sept (head office of the fantasy knockoff Church of England), killing his godfather, great-uncle, wife, and all his religious friends, because of course her power hunger was more important than his happiness and well being.
- Mycella Baratheon: Princess, and Cersei and "Robert's" second oldest child. She had her face fucked up because of Arianne Martell's amateur intrigues, which overlapped with poor planning, general stupidity, and another guy's backstabbing. Ten years old. Before the maiming, she was quite decent and non-evil. Who knows how she'll turn out now with half of her face cut off. Also prophesied to die before Cersei. In the show, she had a crush on Oberyn's surviving nephew but was killed by Elia in revenge for Oberyn's death, but alive in the books though missing an ear. Also, the readership all got on George's balls for maiming this girl, mostly because it was a sign that he had run out of ideas and was basically just milking Diabolus ex Machina (or that's what he wants us to think).
"Ours is the Fury"
- Robert Baratheon, The Usurper: Fat, old, former badass who led the rebellion, and now the king who married Cersei Lannister. Then he fucked a bunch of other women and had lots of illegitimate kids. He was killed while mixing boar hunting and drinking, but whether this death was planned or not is uncertain. On the surface, a king with a thing for easy laughs and partying; right underneath the surface, he's irresponsible and leaves the actual ruling of a nation to his staff, deeper under the surface he's pretty much a sad, lonely old bro who would rather not have been king. Comparable to Henry IV, in that both were powerfully built military geniuses who overthrew the existing monarchy and later succumbed to an unhealthy lifestyle.
- Stannis The Mannis Baratheon: Robert's younger brother, an all-around badass who swings between Lawful Stupid (more so in the show than the books) and getting shit done. believes so strongly in the rule of law that he feels compelled to take the Iron Throne for himself despite wanting nothing to do with it. Is advised by a priestess of the God of light, Melisandre, and a lowborn smuggler named Davos Seaworth raised to knighthood and nobility. His character is ruined in the show into an incompetent pawn of Melisandre and gets killed off just because one of the showrunners didn't like him.
- Shireen Baratheon: Stannis's kid daughter. The sweet, charming, and intelligent little lady who was left with a deformity on her face from a disease called greyscale. Teaches Davos how to read, and is probably the most innocent person in the series alongside Tommen, Myrcella and a few others. Being the grim and dark universe A Song of Ice and Fire is, however, this means that she's likely going to end up becoming fuel for a vicious fire god. In the show she does, but in the books, she is safe and sound since Stannis isn't stupid enough to bring him with her while campaigning. His wife, on the other hand, being such an idiotic fanatical pyromaniac... well, her odds aren't exactly looking that great.
- Renly Baratheon, That Gay Guy: Robert and Stannis's youngest brother. Took Loras Tyrell (a.k.a. Knight of Flowers, Pretty Boy, etc.) as his lover. Decided he was better suited to be king, though the bizarre and outdated laws of the land stated Stannis was next in line (though Joffrey and then Tommen were first since they were officially Bobby B's legitimate kids). Was hugely popular since he had Robert's charisma, which led to him getting the most support, but he lacked Stannis's conviction and devotion to the duty of actually doing the work of a king, or even Robert's ability to wage war. Killed by Melisandre with some "help" by Stannis The Mannis for trying to steal his crown, though in the books Stannis may not have been completely aware of the role he played in Renly's death. He's basically That Guy of ASOIAF, since quite a lot of shit is his fault, indirectly or otherwise.
- Gendry Baratheon, the Bastard Son. One of Robert's many, many bastard children, and the one who gets the most page and screen time. He starts out as a humble blacksmith in King's Landing, who first comes to Ned's attention when Lord Stark is investigating the death of Jon Arryn. From there, he gets shipped off to the Night's Watch to avoid the imminent purge of Robert's bastards and winds up becoming friends with Arya and Hot Pie. After some adventuring and sexual tension with Arya (at least in the show), he joins the Brotherhood Without Banners. In the show, they sell him to Melisandre so she can use him for a blood magic ritual, while in the books he just goes on being a smith and doesn't get involved in anything particularly weird or shady. He's helping run an inn as a brotherhood front/orpganage when he reappears in the books, but in the show, Ser Davos sets him free and tells him to fuck off, which he does for a few seasons. He eventually turns up back in King's Landing, where Davos finds him and recruits him (and his comically oversized LARPing hammer) for Team Snow. He helps Jon capture a wight to show Cersei, makes dragonglass weapons for the Army of the Living, has sex with Arya, and fights in the Battle of Winterfell, after which Daenerys legitimizes him as the new lord of House Baratheon.
"Family, Duty, Honor"
- Edmure Tully: Basically the SoIaF universe's eternal butt monkey (because he happens to be a decent fucking person). A useless ponce with a dense streak a mile wide and a bad habit of bragging about things he shouldn't be proud of. It took hanging in a stockade for a few months to make him experience some growth. When Jaime was brought in to unfuck the situation and end the siege at Tully's house in Riverrun, Jaime's "negotiation" pressured him into convincing his house to surrender, but he made sure that Brynden got out first. Currently spending his days at the Lannister house as a hostage to make sure that the Tullys don't try to ruin the situation again. Tries to make a case for himself as king in the final episode, only to get shut down by Sansa.
- Brynden Tully the Blackfish: He didn't catch the memo that he was part of the joke faction, and proceeds to spend the entire series fucking Lannister shit up and generally being a boss. Thought to be the black sheep in a family of fish. (Thus "Blackfish", geddit?) Ended up holed up in Riverrun, and got the fuck out right before the end of the siege, so that the Lannisters couldn't dick him over as a prisoner (or so he can keep dicking them over before he became a prisoner). Also widely accepted by the fans to be a closeted homosexual. In the HBO show, he gets killed when resisting arrest from Tully forces by order of Edmure. And it happens offscreen.
"As High as Honor"
- Jon Arryn: Only appears posthumously and is the catalyst for the whole plot. Used to be a foster father of sorts to Robert Baratheon and Eddard Stark. The true mastermind behind Robert's Rebellion was killed by Littlefinger via Lysa when he figured out that Robert's kids are bastards of Cersei and Jaime. His death was blamed on the Lannisters to destabilize Westeros.
- Lysa Arryn: Loli bride turned Lady of the Vale after the Lannisters forcibly retired her husband from life, at least officially. In reality, Littlefinger convinced her to poison her husband and blame the Lannisters which pretty much started this whole clusterfuck to begin with. A closeted, crazy woman who spends the entire series in her castle "the Eyrie" being useless, breastfeeding her own son at age 10, obsessing over Littlefinger's cock, and refusing to help her sister and nephew in the war she and Littlefinger pretty much started, which may have guaranteed their eventual horrific murders by their enemies. Finally gets her comeuppance when Littlefinger kicks her out the moon door (post-taunting, of course), putting her out of our collective misery. Long live the Lord Protector.
- Robert Arryn: Littlefuck, Lysa's equally mentally unstable autistic son, who still sucks on his mom's tit, and enjoys seeing people "fly" out the moon door to their deaths. He actually seems to be a bit smarter than you would first think and is a really, really good judge of character, except with Sansa. Secretly being poisoned by Littlefinger and Sansa, so she can take over the Vale and North. Named Robin in the show because the showrunners were afraid that having two characters with the same name would be too confusing. The show version doesn't get poisoned but turns up in the series finale as the Lord of the Vale.
"We Do Not Sow"
- Balon Greyjoy: Asshole dad, crappy ruler and general shithead who rebelled against Robert Baratheon and failed miserably. All of his sons were killed, except for Theon, who was taken as a hostage to ensure his good behaviour. Despite being in a position to join either the Lannisters or the Starks during the War of Five Kings and thereby get whatever he wanted from either (independence and the North, or independence and Casterly Rock, respectively), he does the absolute stupidest thing possible and declares himself independent without support from anyone, attacking the North and the rest of Westeros, thereby virtually guaranteeing that he'll be on the receiving end of another one-sided battle. Never got that far, though, since he was pushed off a bridge during a storm by an assassin his brother Euron sent.
- Victarion Greyjoy: Admiral of the Iron Fleet. Gets shit done while wearing Lokhir Fellheart's armour during boarding actions. Does it for vengeance, the lulz and as a ticket to Ironborn heaven (which they believe men can reach if they die in battle or by drowning). Worships both R'hllor and the Drowned God. For all his badassery, is far too stupid to realize that his black Red Priest sidekick's constant rambling about his "great destiny" is inevitably going to end in his burning to death on a sacrificial pyre. Said Red Priest impressed Victarion by surviving being marooned at sea for 3 weeks and turning Victarion's infected arm into a super-strong volcano arm. Seriously.
- Aeron Greyjoy Damphair: A priestly Alan Moore who drank seawater. Once a fun-loving party animal, he nearly drowned during the Greyjoy Rebellion and became a dour and devout priest of the Ironborn Cthulhu religion. Confirmed to have been raped by Euron when they were kids. Planned to overthrow Euron, who bribed and manipulated his way into becoming king of the Ironborn. Was captured by Euron and tortured to try and make him renounce his faith, including feeding him spoiled food, drugging him and burning him. Later Euron tied Aeron, naked, to the prow of Euron's ship alongside Euron's tortured, pregnant former lover because she showed Aeron kindness by once giving him proper food. He tried to console her by saying their suffering will end in underwater Valhalla, showing Euron failed to make him deny his faith.
- Theon Greyjoy: Son of the Lord/King of the Iron Islands. Had the personality of a stereotypical high school jock, being an excellent archer and womanizer and proud of it. He was given to Ned Stark by his father after Balon failed to successfully rebel against Robert Baratheon. Swore an oath to Robb, but then ditched him out of a desperate need to please his father. Ends up castrated and acts as the personal slave of Ramsay Bolton after Ramsay puts him through horrific torture to turn him into Reek. Rescued by his sister, but the psychological trauma meant it took a while before he could stop calling himself Reek and start getting back to normal mentally (physically he's now missing a few parts that don't heal or grow back). Dead in the show, thanks to charging the Night King by himself while protecting Bran.
- Asha Greyjoy: Theon's older sister and a commander of some renown which is quite a feat - almost every man on the Iron Islands except her father either tried to get in her pants or told her to stop playing around and go do some actual women's work, before she kicked enough ass that they respected her. Rescues Theon after he escapes Ramsay but then loses him to Stannis. Is named Yara in the show because the showrunners thought her name sounded too similar to Osha the wildling chick and is also apparently bisexual. Eventually becomes Lady of the Iron Islands in the show because she's the last Greyjoy standing.
- Euron Greyjoy Crow's Eye: A sick fuck Lovecraftian pirate armed with unnatural sorcerous powers, so evil that Balon banished him from the Iron Islands. Every member of his crew is a mute because Euron ripped all their tongues out. Many of them are also the illegitimate sons of women he's raped around the world during his raids. Uses an eyepatch to conceal a pitch-black eye, his personal "obviously a villain" mark. Raped his brother Victarion's wife, then claimed she wanted it so Victarion had to kill her. Raped his younger brother Aeron. Also showed back up in the Iron Islands the day after Balon died, despite having been raping and pillaging in Essos before that, which is suspicious as fuck. Now the new Iron King. Plans to conquer Westeros and has some unknown plan to deal with Daenerys. Revealed in the book Winds of Winter to be the sickest fuck in an entire setting of sick fucks (and that's saying something), including having a god complex while hating religion so much he tortures any clergymen he captures to try and make them give up their faiths using ironic tortures themed around their religions - such as preachers have their tongues cut out and burning priests of the fire god to death. Euron tried and failed to break his priest brother Aeron's faith so he lashed Aeron to the front of his ship to die alongside Euron's own pregnant lover Falia. In the show he's just a psycho pirate turned king without any magic powers or gear who wants to bang Cersei and Jaime kills him in the second-to-last episode.
- Mace "The Ace" Tyrell: Lord of Highgarden. Massively fat and overweight, while being stupid, overreaching and constantly mocked by everyone else, he's otherwise known as a friendly man, a good Lord when it comes to management and a good father; unfortunately, this isn't enough to save a man in the Game of Thrones. Gets killed with the rest of the noble houses when Cersei blows up the Great Sept of Baelor.
- Olenna Tyrell: The brains behind House Tyrell's schemes. Known as the Queen of Thorns for being an outspoken, prickly and venomous old lady. Schemed with Littlefinger to have Joffrey killed, but she carried it out with compressed powder "gems" that poisoned his wine. Now she keeps her family in line and is hailed as a more progressive version of Tywin. Became a fan favourite for constantly dropping awesome one-liners and telling the Sand Snakes to shut up. Later killed off in the show, but not before revealing to Jaime that she was the one who killed Joffrey and asking him to make sure Cersei knows it.
- Willas Tyrell: Mace Tyrell's eldest son and heir, crippled at a very young age when jousting against Oberyn Martell. Probably one of the most pleasant and sensible characters in the series, which might explain why he's yet to make an appearance. Very fond of breeding animals, especially horses.
- Garlan Tyrell The Gallant: Second-born son. Badass extraordinaire considered one of the best swords in Westeros, and one of the few people kind to Tyrion. Trains for real combat (often against multiple opponents by himself) unlike Loras, who's a tourney fighter. Single-handed wrecks many notable knights fighting for Stannis during the War of The Five Kings. And he is the only person other than Tywin to put Joffrey in his place, at his own wedding. Sadly no POV chapter yet and omitted from the TV series (Loras takes credit for his deeds).
- Loras Tyrell The Knight of Flowers: The Tyrell who appears most in the series. Considered to be an example of the perfect knight, despite his youth. Is secretly Renly's gay lover and conspired to take the throne with him and his sister. Last seen badly injured in the books attempting to take Stannis' castle. In the show he ends up tortured by the members of the Faith for being gay because the showrunners retconned them to hate gay people, later joins their ranks of questionable willingness then dies when Cersei blows up the Sept of Baelor.
- Margaery Tyrell: The would-be Queen of Westeros, she has married, in order, Renly Baratheon (gay), Joffrey Baratheon (evil), and Tommen Baratheon (8 years old) and has been crowned as queen three times. While she is nice, she is capable of manipulation. In the show, she marries and uses sex to control Tommen. Was arrested by the resident Chamber Militant The Sparrow and asked for a trial by faith in the books. In the show, this also happens but she tries to be pious in an attempt to save herself but ended up getting killed when Cersei blew up the Sept of Baelor.
"Our Blades Are Sharp"
- Roose Bolton, The 'Leech Lord: A Lawful Evil sociopathic health nut who's called the Leech Lord because he gets leeched regularly, believing they get rid of bad blood. Second-most powerful Lord in the North with ambitions to depose the Starks. Since the Starks are unable to think like crafty people and are blinded by honour this doesn't prove too difficult. He gets his wish when he stabs Robb Stark in the back, at his uncle's wedding no less, and has anyone associated with Robb killed. He then makes over Winterfell in his bloody image and is currently trolling Stannis. Believes in the abolished practice of "Droit du seigneur" (a tradition that allowed a lord to have sex with subordinate women, whether they wanted to or not) and killed at least one man for trying to hide his wife from Roose (before fathering Ramsay with her via rape). Believed that he and his son could be as evil as they wanted as long as no one found out. Killed by Ramsey in the show, which Ramsay tried to cover with a lie despite the witnesses to his actions.
- Ramsay Snow/Bolton: The bastard son of Roose Bolton and a peasant woman he raped (under the hanging corpse of the woman's husband, for fuck's sake!). One of the most fucked up people in all of the Seven Kingdoms (alongside the original Reek, the paedophile marauder Rorge and Euron), because he loves to torture and kill people openly for the lulz, such as Theon Greyjoy, who he crippled, knocked his teeth out, castrated, and brainwashed into calling himself Reek; Reek was originally a peasant appointed to try and control a young Ramsay, but instead Ramsay warped him into a mentally unstable necrophiliac before killing Reek to fake his death, but Ramsay seemed to hold some twisted affection for him. He also sent Theon's severed appendage to Theon's dad in a cutesy box with a letter mockingly detailing his evilness. Will torture anyone who points out his illegitimate heritage though now he's legally recognized as a Bolton. Also has a pack of hunting dogs he names after women he hunts, rapes and kills. Married a fake Arya Stark and regularly mistreats her, including forced bestiality. Not a fun guy to be around. The only reason he's gotten away with it for so long (as pointed out by his father) is that no one is strong enough to stand up to him yet, but when they are he's going to be killed. In the show, he killed his father with a knife, fed his stepmother and newborn half-brother to his dogs, then married Sansa Stark and deflowered her via rape. Ramsay was such a monster even Iwan Rheon, THE ACTOR WHO PLAYED THE GUY, hoped he'd die horribly. He got his wish: The consequences of Ramsay's actions catch up with him when Jon Snow shows up with an army capable of threatening him, and after surprise reinforcements from Littlefinger and his own fucked-up teamkilling, the Starks crush the Bolton army, forcing Ramsay to flee back to Winterfell. Despite this, the gate is smashed down, he is disarmed, beaten rather brutally and detained to await trial. Before the trial Sansa sets his dogs on him, which he had deliberately starved so they would eat Jon. Apparently they found him quite tasty.
"Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken"
- Doran Martell: Lord of Sunspear and of royal descent. Still mad at the Lannisters about that whole "murdered-my-sister-and-infant-niece thing". Playing the longest of long games with Varys while trying to keep the rest of his psychotic family members in check. Wheelchair-bound due to his gout. Killed off in the show by Ellaria as part of her plan to avenge Oberyn.
- Arianne Martell: One of GRRM's characters who seems to exists solely to fuck everything up at the worst conceivable moment. Still hot as Dornish girls come. Exists only in the books, where she is currently helping her dad get ready to topple the Lannisters after fucking everything up with her own stupid plan to crown Myrcella, which is what got the poor girl maimed.
- Oberyn Martell The Viper of Dorne: Doran Martell's brother, a bisexual swinger, former mercenary, and a drunkard. His girlfriend is a spectacularly beautiful bastard named Ellaria Sand and he has many illegitimate children, mostly daughters, collectively called "The Sand Snakes". Crippled the Tyrell heir in a fight, causing a rift between the two houses; despite this, he's actually best mates with the aforementioned heir, due to Willas Tyrell being straight up the nicest and most balanced man in the series and Oberyn being a somewhat decent person. Known for poisoning his weapons, as well as his battle-cry. Died from a mutual kill, with Gregor Clegane crushing his skull in rather graphically, avenging his sister Elia who Gregor had raped and murdered. Though it's probably a win for Oberyn, since he got Clegane with a horribly painful and slow-acting venom which stretched his death over days or even weeks, during which time he was ruthlessly experimented upon by a mad scientist.
- Quentyn Martell: Didn't realize he was in Dark Low Fantasy and thought he was in High Fantasy, poor bastard. A member of House Martell, sent to marry Daenerys to secure an alliance between the families since the original marriage plan to hook Arianne up with Viserys won't work with Viserys dead. Leaves Westeros and goes all the way to the city of Meereen to marry her, but he's too late, as she marries the Meereenese noble Hizdahr, and like Jorah he's not her type (Dany likes her bad boys). Tries to tame two of her dragons to impress her; the attempt goes wrong, he gets horribly burnt and gradually dies in agony from his wounds.
- The Sand Snakes: Oberyn's children. All daughters he had with various women throughout his travels (all consensual encounters, mind you). Mixed race and all hot with various skills including combat training and mastery of poisons. Working with Doran and Ellaria in the books. Ruined in the show where they don't accomplish anything, are given atrocious dialogue (the "you need the bad pussy" line comes to mind), aren't great fighters and get killed by Euron's men, except for one who gets captured and poisoned by Cersei so an imprisoned Ellaria is forced to watch her die and decompose.
"We Stand Together"
- Walder Frey: The ancient, terrible, ornery old man in charge of the Twins. Hates everyone for "looking down on him" (can't imagine why), and will readily betray an important ally for immediate gain, or if he feels he has been slighted in some minor way. His descendants are literally so numerous that no one except GRRM himself has been able to count them all, so we aren't even going to attempt it. Now dead in the show due to getting his throat slit by a vengeful Arya after she serves him two of his sons as meat pies.
Minor Houses and non-Houses
- Jeor Mormont, The Old Bear: 997th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch at the start of the series. Sees Jon Snow as something of a second son (since his own son Jorah was exiled for enslaving and refused to take the black for his crimes). Leads a ranging north of the Wall to investigate reports that the Others have returned. Ends up killed during a mutiny of survivors after the Others wiped out most of his force.
- Alliser Thorne: Prick of a knight who was favourite to be the next Watch Commander, but was passed over by Jon Snow. Unable to accept Jon Snow letting the Wildlings live on the other side of the wall in an alliance against the zombie hordes, he staged a coup against Jon. It failed because Jon was brought back to life. He is now dead in the show, having been executed for his treason by Jon Snow. Despite of his many personal failings, he's one of the very few capable fighters (and a pretty good one, even) of the Watch and a skilled commander.
- Aemon Targaryen: Maester of the Citadel at Castle Black. Despite being the third born son of King Maekar I Targaryen, he declined the right to sit on the Iron Throne. One of the few people in the series to die of old age, at 102.
- Samwell Tarly, The Slayer: Fat bookworm who was forced to take the black after his father Randyl threatened to murder him for being unmanly. Jon Snow's best friend among the Night's Watch, and knows everything because he "read it in a book". Despite being a self-professed coward, Sam became the first person in thousands of years to slay an Other with an obsidian dagger. George Martin himself said Sam's based on Samwise Gamgee from Lord of the Rings. Since then, he has started improving his combat skills and balls (in more ways than one for the latter, finding his spine and losing his virginity). He abandons the Night's Watch to help fight the dead and tell Jon who he really is, and winds up becoming the new Grand Maester by the end of the show.
- Eddison Tollett, Dolorous Edd: Probably the most badass member of the Night's Watch. Responds to situations by making sarcastic jokes about them, and known for being a grim motherfucker in a setting of grim motherfuckers. In the show he became the new Lord Commander while Jon was dead, but gave the title back to Jon when he was brought back to life, and then Jon handed it right back because he needed to go sort out Ramsay Bolton. Dies in Season 8 at the Battle of Winterfell.
- Benjen Stark: The Duncan Idaho of this series, the dead guy all the other characters and all the readers love so much someone has to bring him back from the dead in later books. Benjen is Eddard Stark's youngest brother and the prime motivation why Jon wants to join the Night's Watch in the first place. Joined the Watch for reasons unknown and disappears without a trace even before Jon arrives. In the TV series, he returns as a benevolent Wight that retained his free will and helps Bran to get back to the Seven Kingdoms.
- Qhorin Half-Hand: Badass extraordinaire that killed a shitton of Wildlings in his long time of service, rumoured to have spent more time north of the Wall than anyone living southerner in the setting. Lets himself get killed by Jon in a gambit to earn Mance Rayders respect.
- Mance Rayder, The King Beyond The Wall: A Wildling orphan who was taken in by the Night's Watch, he became their best Ranger before he deserted to join his people. He united the Wildlings and lead them south to escape the Others. Also a trained bard, but that was not enough to save him from death in the show while he's merely MIA in the books.
- Tormund Giantsbane: Claims to have a ten-inch penis, and invites his enemies to use their mouths if they want to clean it. Cool as fuck old guy who fucks mother-bears in his free time. Tough as nails motherfucker who preaches the merits of using one's cock for everything. He teams up with Jon Snow for the fight against the White Walkers, then fucks off back to the north once the Night King is dead, making him one of the most sensible people on the show. He and Jon go off to be bros at the end of the show.
- Ygritte: Wildling woman who Jon Snow ends up falling for and who returns his affections. Has red hair which is considered lucky among the Wildlings. This being A Song of Ice and Fire, she ends up dying because her worldview is not compatible with Jon's.
- Craster: A sick bastard, formerly a member of the Night's Watch turned polygamous isolationist. By the way, his current wives are his many daughters and granddaughters who he fucks regularly to have more children. Girls grow up to become more wives, boys get sacrificed to the Others. This keeps the Others at bay - and is implied to be a way the Others reproduce themselves, and that sanctuary is why the Night's Watch barely tolerates him. Fortunately, he's been killed off in the story and his offspring go their separate ways.
Commoners, Knights, and Petty Lords
- Varys, The Spider: The eunuch spymaster of Westeros. You can't take a shit in the Seven Kingdoms without Varys finding out where, when, and how watery or dry it was. He does this through paid informants and his "little birds", a spy network of children who sneak through the castle's passageways and air flues to eavesdrop on everyone. Stabs everyone in the back because he's actually trying to bring the Targaryens back in order to strengthen the realm. Dead in the show, having decided to try and put Jon on the throne instead of Daenerys; Jon says no, Tyrion sells him out when he realizes Jon absolutely means it, and Dany has Drogon barbecue him.
- Petyr Baelish, Littlefinger: The Master of Coin (the ASOIAF equivalent of a treasurer) and the closest person the Game of Thrones world has to a Daemon Prince of Tzeentch, up to even declaring "Chaos is a Ladder". A dangerous manipulator who manages to trick and steal his way to positions of lordship and wealth because no one takes him seriously, and stabs all the Lannisters in the back when they become inconvenient. As a child, he wanted Catelyn Stark and was tricked into thinking she wanted him when her sister Lysa fucked him while he was drunk. Challenged Catelyn's betrothed Brandon Stark, Ned's older brother who was murdered by Aerys, for her hand in marriage and got his ass kicked because he was a small skinny boy and Brandon Stark was a big strapping man, making that his start of darkness. The guy responsible, directly or indirectly, for the War of the Five Kings because he was the mastermind behind poisoning Jon Arryn, the capture and execution of Ned Stark, feeding several half-truths to Catelyn to motivate her to arrest Tyrion, and eventually Joffrey's death by having Dontos and Olenna Tyrell carry out the plan to kill Joffrey and letting Tyrion take the fall; but no one in the story knows this, not even Varys. People think he can pull gold out of thin air, but he's really been buying debt while letting Robert Baratheon's extravagances and Joffrey and Cersei's dipshittery pull the country into a serious debt of its own. So he's pledged himself to Chaos and destroying Westeros all because he couldn't have Catelyn as his girlfriend, though he changed his focus to her daughter Sansa now, making him a paedophile. Hasn't yet got his comeuppance in the books, but is currently dead in the show after he was out-gambitted by Sansa and killed by Arya. According to GRRM, he's based on the title character from the Great Gatsby.
- Gregor Clegane, The Mountain: A 7' 8" 400 pound mass of testosterone, muscles, steroid overdose and murderous RAGE, Gregor is Tywin Lannister's top muscle. Killed his own father and sister and permanently scarred his brother. Hobbies include rape, arson, murder, and random torture; he's also been married a few times but not now with the implication he kept killing his wives. He played an important part in destroying the Targaryens by killing a couple of Rhaegar's kids in rather brutal fashion, then raping and murdering his wife. Spends a few novels doing Tywin's dirty work before a Trial by Champion leads to him dying after being poisoned by Oberyn Martell. Qyburn later resurrected him as... something... called "Ser Robert Strong", and is now even stronger, less prone to psychotic rages, and is completely obedient. He's based on accounts of French knight Gilles de Rais and maybe also the scriptural giant Goliath. Tortures Cersei's nun jailer to death in a brutal and unspecified fashion kills Qyburn during the Siege of King's Landing and then nearly kills his little brother, only for Sandor to tackle him through a collapsing wall and into a gigantic inferno that claims both.
- Sandor Clegane, The Hound: Younger brother to Gregor Clegane, called the Hound because of his hound-face helm, his family's heraldry, and being the king's hired muscle without being a knight. He hates knights due to the hypocrisy of being a professional "noble warrior" but mostly since his monstrous brother is a knight, showing it's not so much of a noble promotion. Terrified of fire after Gregor put his head against a brazier for playing with one of Gregor's old toys when they were children, burning half his face, but he's still the second-strongest person in Westeros. A brutal anti-hero with a soft spot for Sansa, but a better person than his brother. After falling sick from Biter's nasty teeth, he ends up being a silent monk burying people in the Silent Isles. In the show, he joins the Brotherhood without Banners and goes north to help fuck up the White Walkers. As of Season 8, he's survived the Battle of Winterfell and is riding south with Arya to put the boots to Gregor. Dies killing his now undead brother in a pretty epic fight amidst the crumbling ruins of the Red Keep.
- Grand Maester Pycelle: A shrewd, dangerous man putting on a "harmless old man act" and a high ranking scholar from the science/medical guild the Maesters. The longest-serving member of the King's advisory staff, and is actually Tywin Lannister's biggest lackey. He convinced the Mad King to let Tywin in as Baratheon's armies were marching on the capital, where Tywin proceeded to sack the city and claim it for Robert. Gets his head bashed in by Varys in the books and murdered by Qyburn in the show.
- Qyburn: Formerly a maester, who was kicked out of the order for unethical experiments on the living (taking people and performing vivisections to be precise). Introduced as a part of a mercenary company serving Roose Bolton, which should be a red flag. He moves up in the world when he's sent to escort Brienne and Jaime back to King's Landing and ends with Cersei employing him to replace Pycelle as "science advisor" and eventually Varys's Spymaster. Serves Cersei loyally as long as she lets him indulge his sick experiments, serving as a black magic variety of the court mage. He has resurrected Gregor Clegane as... something. Fabius Bile if he traded his robot limbs, eugenics and power armour for necromancy. He overestimated his hold on Gregor and got his head caved in for it as of the second-to-last episode of the show.
- Barristan Selmy, The Bold: Knight of the Kingsguard. Which Kingsguard? Take your pick. He's served pretty much every king since Aerys and understandably feels pretty bad about it. Another sad old man who pretty much just wants to die until he decides to go pledge his services to Daenerys. Even in his old age, he is considered one of the most dangerous men in Westeros. Dead in the show (to be fair they gave him a huge last stand), but alive and appointed himself Daenerys' steward in her absence to try and fix Meereen's situation in the books.
- Melisandre, The Red Witch: A priestess of R'hllor, the god of fire. Proclaimed Stannis to be the messiah-king and is doing everything in her power to make sure he wins (considerable given that she can scry, make shadow baby assassins and set things on fire with her mind). She'd be pretty bro-tier if her god wasn't so vicious. As it stands she's kind of in the grey (in the books, the show seems to zig-zag on her being evil 'cos the showrunners seem to hate religion). Most of the people she set on fire deserved it, and she hasn't succeeded in killing any babies yet. Show version now dead from suicide via rapid ageing after ensuring the Living defeat the Dead.
- Jorah Mormont: A knight and son of Jeor Mormont, exiled for trying to sell poachers into slavery and eventually joining the exiles of House Targaryen. He is offered a pardon in exchange for spying on the Targaryens but ultimately decides to stay with them after falling in love with Daenerys. Unfortunately, he gets friend-zoned hard. Despite saving her life from an assassin while she was pregnant, she still votes him off the Khalassar after learning he was a spy. He still loves her and follows her in secret, though. In the show, he goes on a quest to prove himself to her and contracts the dangerous disease Greyscale (it's like the unholy lovechild of smallpox and leprosy), but he gets cured and is now back at her side. He dies protecting her at the Battle of Winterfell.
- Davos Seaworth, The Onion Knight: A former smuggler and bannerman to House Baratheon, and a top-tier hype man, pulling speeches out on the spot on several occasions to convince people to support Stannis and later Jon. During Roberts Rebellion he ran a blockade with a cargo of contraband onions to a castle Stannis Baratheon was besieged in. In exchange for the food he had, Stannis knighted Davos, but Stannis's law-worshipping mindset compelled him to remove four digits from his left hand. Despite this, Davos has served Stannis with unquestioning loyalty, because Stannis knighting him gave his children a future. The fact that Stannis's war for the throne has ended up killing several of his sons hasn't dented his loyalty at all. Doesn't like Melisandre because he sees her as a user and her beliefs as brutal. He's a devout follower of the Faith of the Seven in the books and the first season of the show but is clumsily retconned into an anti-religious atheist in later show seasons. In the show, he's now pledged to DA NORF and is basically Jon's Hand of the King, except he doesn't get a fancy pin. He survives the Battle of Winterfell and the Second Sack of King's Landing and becomes Master of Ships in the final episode of the show.
- Shae: A former camp follower and Tyrion Lannister's squeeze for most of the story. Fled from an abusive family and became a camp follower to earn a living. Seems to fall in love with Tyrion, but it turns out she's a gold-digging bitch. When Tyrion doesn't marry Shae she sells him out to Cersei for a better offer, then fucks Tywin when she realizes Cersei won't keep her promise. Tyrion found her in his father's bed and strangled her to death with a necklace for betraying him. The discovery of Shae's corpse in Tywin's bed - posthumously outing him as a whoremonger - upsets Cersei to the point she unpersons Shae.
- Bronn: A mercenary who acts as Tyrion's enforcer and personal killer until Cersei outbids him and he settles down with a little wife and title. Routinely kills knights by exploiting how arrogant and stupid they are even after becoming one himself. Only in it for the money, which he'll happily tell you himself. The only character other than Littlefinger to end every book in a better position than he started it. In the show, he makes the very sensible decision to sit out the fighting and wait for his promised castle (Riverrun if Cersei wins, Highgarden if Daenerys wins). He gets Highgarden and is named Lord Paramount of the Reach and Master of Coin in the final episode.
- Brienne of Tarth, The Beauty: Surprisingly badass lady knight wannabe (since no women can be knighted), legendarily unattractive but still pretty idealistic despite the shit she gets for her looks. Fate frequently gives her the shit end of the stick, because no matter how hard she tries to finish her quests, she ends up failing or stuff happens that makes it impossible. Secretly crushes on Renly and unaware he's gay. After he dies, Brienne switches her loyalty to Catelyn and helps her bring Jaime to King's Landing as Tyrion promised Sansa's return in exchange for Jaime. She later developed a crush on Jaime. Things don't go well because Jaime lost his hand and the Red Wedding happened. Next, Jaime sends her out to find and keep Sansa safe to make good on Tyrion's promise, since he isn't the complete dick everyone thinks he is. Brienne ends up getting captured by Cat, now known as Lady Stoneheart and an insane undead, who was going to hang Brienne for working with Jaime. Brienne was spared at the last moment to capture/manipulate Jaime. In the show, she's now sworn to House Stark and gets knighted by Jaime just before the Battle of Winterfell and then she and Jaime hook up afterwards, only for him to take off and break her heart. She is now Lady Commander of the Kingsguard as of the final episode.
- Lyanna Mormont: A badass ten-year-old girl who inherits Bear Island after her mother and older sister die horribly in the Riverlands - at least if we are going by the show; in the book, her mother is still alive somewhere in the Neck and her older sister Alysanne is the de-facto head of House Mormont. Her activities include pimp-slapping bitches, leading men twice as old as her, and being completely loyal to the Starks despite all their misfortunes. "Bear Island knows no king but the King in the North, whose name is STARK." She dies killing an undead giant at the Battle of Winterfell, which is pretty badass.
- Wyman Manderly, Lord Too-Fat-To-Sit-A-Horse: The Lord of White Harbour and one of the few Northerners who worship the Seven. Fervently loyal to House Stark, he pays lip-service to the Iron Throne long enough for his eldest son to return home, all to mask a plan to restore the Starks to power, mostly by destabilising the Frey-Bolton alliance, building a navy, marshalling the forces of the lands east of the White Knife river, "losing" Freys in the wilderness and sending Lord Davos Seaworth to rescue Rickon Stark from Skagos. His favourite food is lamprey, although he has also developed a taste for Frey Pie. Also a remarkably graceful dancer, and can survive taking a knife to the throat.
- Wylla Manderly: Granddaughter to the above. Another badass little girl, her activities include openly declaring undying loyalty to House Stark and dying her hair green. She and Lyanna Mormont would probably be best friends if they met. "The city is built upon the land [the Starks] gave us. In return, we swore that we should always be their men. Stark men!"
- Jon Umber, The Greatjon: At first he seems to be your stereotypical, boisterous Northern Lord. However, he becomes one of Robb's most loyal supporters, being first to declare him as 'King in the North' after Ned's execution. Had his moment of awesome when he killed and wounded four Freys at the Red Wedding, all the while being drunk and needing eight additional men to take him down.
- Beric Dondarrion, The Lightning Lord: Minor lord who agreed to head an expedition to take out Gregor Clegane. This being Game of Thrones, however, his party is ambushed by the Mountain and is beaten rather badly, and he loses his life in the process. Thanks to his drunken Red Priest friend, however, he manages to come back not once, but eight times, and each time he comes back, he becomes more powerful, though at the cost of his memory. He now heads an outlaw faction of grimdark Robin Hood types called "The Brotherhood Without Banners", who are dedicated to punishing those who abuse and mistreat the smallfolk. Ironically, he's one of the few book characters to have died (permanently) in the books but remain alive in the show, except now he's dead for real as of the Battle of Winterfell.
- Thoros of Myr: Aforementioned drunken priest who is dedicated to R'hllor, though at first he doesn't really give a rat's ass about the Red God, as he prefers to party it up with wine and women, but after he 'accidentally' resurrects Beric, he becomes quite serious about his religion and vows to curb his excesses in drinking. Dies on a mission beyond the Wall to capture a wight (show-version).
The Free Cities
- Illyrio Mopatis: A rich fat bastard and a Magister of Pentos. Old buddies with Varys and a bigtime schemer.
- The Faceless Men: A cult of shape-shifting assassins who worship The Many-Faced God of death based in the free city of Braavos that give up personal identity. They claim descent from escaped Valyrian slaves who considered death to be a better fate than perpetual slavery. Their mission hence became being servants of the Many-Faced God of Death. You can hire them to off your rivals, but they request a steep and equivalent price. Their motto is "Valar Morghulis": All Men Must Die.
- Xaro Xhoan Daxos: One of the thirteen leaders of the city of Qarth. A flamboyant, languid, bald rich man who looks after Daenerys while she stays in Qarth and gives her many gifts. He wants her dragons as much as anyone else and even tries to marry her despite his homosexual tendencies. He stops wanting the dragons later in the book series after seeing their work in Astapor, and no longer wants her around as her anti-slavery stance is hampering his wealth, so he offers Daenerys ships to leave the area and declares war on her when she refuses. In the show, he's heterosexual, helps steal her dragons, fucks one of her handmaidens and gets locked in a vault for conspiring to have her killed. He's also black and fat in the show when he's white and lanky in the books, being Qartheen and all.
- Syrio Forel: The former First Sword of Braavos (aka the ruler's personal bodyguard) and later Arya's mentor in King's Landing. He teaches her the way of Braavosi fencing, called "Water Dancing", and sacrifices himself to save her from Lannister thugs, taking down at least six of them with a wooden sword. May have inadvertently set her on the path of becoming a badass assassin by telling her of his belief in the God of Death.
- Khal Drogo: An Expy of
Genghis KhanYesukhei Baatyr (his son would have been the equivalent to Chinggis Khaan). Leads the largest Khalassar among the Dothraki. Despite being a barbarian warlord, Drogo is surprisingly intelligent and treats Daenerys well. After an assassin tries to kill her he promises to conquer Westeros for her and their unborn son and immediately starts raiding towns for slaves and ships. At one town he gets cut in a leadership challenge and Daenerys gets a captive wise woman to heal him. However, the woman hates him because his tribe destroyed her hometown, raped/slaughtered or enslaved her friends and raped her three times so she curses him to become catatonic (along with killing his unborn son), leading a devastated Daenerys to perform an arguable mercy kill by smothering him with a pillow. After she burns herself, her stillborn child and the wise woman on his funeral pyre, Daenerys survives and it brings her dragons to life. GRRM named Drogo after Frodo's father.
- Daenerys' handmaidens.
- Doreah: Daenerys' handmaiden and a wedding gift from Illyrio. A woman from Lysene brought by her brother to teach her how to pleasure a man. In the book she dies of fever and starvation crossing a desert, in the TV show, she betrays Daenerys for Xaro's BBC and gets locked in a vault to starve to death.
- Irri: Daenerys' handmaiden who teaches Daenerys how to ride a horse. Also pleasures Daenerys twice after catching her masturbating once, yet this canonical girl-on-girl action was left out of the show. The character was even killed off there when she survived in the books, but in this case, it was because her actress' visa had expired rather than author railroading.
- Jhiqui: Daenerys' handmaiden who teaches her the Dothraki language and squabbles with Irri over wanting one of Daenerys' bodyguards when he becomes a badass. Also dies in the TV show while staying alive so far in the books.
- The Unsullied: Eunuch phalanx fighting slave soldiers trained the Spartan way to produce totally obedient infantry that never break ranks. They also don't feel pain due to drinking a special drink daily, and each one has to take a new name from the name box each day so they can't develop a sense of identity. At least until Dany "bought" the lot of them, had them sack the city which trained them, and freed them.
- Grey Worm: The Unsullied Commander and a no-nonsense badass. When given a chance to take a new name he keeps his slave name because it's the name he had when freed so he considers it lucky. He is completely loyal to Daenerys, considering her his saviour, and in the show, he falls in love with fellow freed-woman, Missandei. This being ASOIAF, however, he can only watch helplessly as his lover is beheaded in front of him by the Mountain. This drives him into a rage, and he eagerly takes part in the sacking of King's Landing in revenge for her death. After the war is over and both Daenerys and Cersei are dead, he takes the Unsullied forces to Naath, in order to fulfil his promise to Missandei that he'd protect her homeland.
- Strong Belwas: A fat but skilled eunuch gladiator. Loves liver and onions and referring to himself in the third person. Travelling companion/guide of Ser Barristan. Has an awesome scene where he beats the champion of Meereen then mocks the Meereenese by taking a shit in their direction and wiping his ass on their dead champion's cloak. Also saves Daenerys from eating poisoned sweets. Left out of the show.
- Daario Naharis: A Tyroshi mercenary captain who dyes his hair blue. Betrays his fellow commanders for Daenerys because he loves her as a queen. Fortunately for him, Daenerys loves him back and they pursue a romance for a time, though she doesn't marry him as she's still otherwise smart enough to know she has to save herself for a political marriage. Goes to Yunkai as a hostage in the war on Meereen. Also potentially a shapeshifter, if the show is to be believed.
- Missandei: A young female slave with a remarkable talent for linguistics and one of the more empathetic people in this dark world, Missandei is freed by Daenerys during her campaign to liberate Slaver's Bay, eventually becoming one of her closest confidants and advisers. While a child in the books, in the show Missandei is a grown woman, falls in love with the Unsullied leader Grey Worm, but later is captured by Cersei and beheaded by the zombified Mountain in front of all her friends, but not before telling her friends to burn the Lannisters to ashes.
Gods and Such
- The Faith of the Seven: The Catholic Church/Church of England stand-in, which gets both sympathetic (books only) and unsympathetic (books and show) characters associated with it. Holds an anti-slavery stance. The god/s are considered seven aspects of one deity with three male aspects (The Smith, the Father, the Warrior), three female aspects (The Maiden, the Mother, the Crone) and a sexless one representing Death. The places of worship are called Septs, and their system includes Septons, nun-equivalents called Septas and a Pope equivalent called a High Septon. The High Septons all give up their names when they become one to confuse future historians.
- High Septon 1: A fat, greedy man who used the position for personal gain. He ended up being torn apart in a riot, because the people resented that he had enough food to stay fat while they were starving.
- High Septon 2: Successor of High Septon 1. Chosen by Tyrion so the Faith would be loyal to the Lannisters. Only slightly corrupt, being a pro-Lannister yes-man. Murdered on Cersei's order in the book, while in the show he's retconned into a whoremonger who gets deposed by the Sparrows (see below).
- High Septon 3/The High Sparrow: Successor of High Septon 2. After the second High Septon died, the smallfolk burst into the meeting to pick a successor and ordered their chosen candidate to be put in charge when his original successor was caught whoremongering. He'd been a wandering preacher beforehand, and his feet were dark and gnarled from lots of walking. When he reaches the position he starts getting things done. Since he was appointed by a smallfolk religious movement called Sparrows, he's given the moniker "The High Sparrow". The nobility underestimates him, either due to having other matters or disregard for religious people, but he turns out to be smart, well-meaning and somewhat ruthless. Under the High Sparrow, he and the other clergymen sell their fancy clothes and decorations replacing them with simple wool tunics, using the money to buy food and clothes for the poor in King's Landing. He also has their Knights-Templar-equivalent reformed to protect the faithful and help them root out heresy and sin. He also outwits Cersei and has her arrested and tried for all her evil deeds. While Cersei's scheming does lead to Margaery's arrest, Cersei confesses to some crimes while concealing others, leading to Cersei taking a nude walk of penance in front of the entire city. After this, he somewhat reined in the nobles' politicking to actually look after the commoners and the Faith, though this does make some enemies. In the show, he and the Sparrows are retconned from assorted smallfolk and clergymen tired of the nobles' lawlessness and power plays into one-dimensional stereotypes and thinly-veiled jabs at the Catholic Church in a shoe-horned anti-religion message. While they do arrest Cersei and Margaery like in the books, during the trial most of the Faith, including the High Sparrow himself, get blown to kingdom come when Cersei has her agents ignite a massive amount of magical napalm underneath the Great Sept. In the books they're much more like Martin Luther and the Lutherans, except that the Protestant Reformation wins.
- Old Gods: Native American/Japanese Kame/Druid/nature spirits that reside in places called Godswoods. Their powers are limited to the North, where the last remaining Godswoods remain, but they can grant gifted individuals awesome psychic powers like Warging (mind-controlling animals) and Greensight (Time Travel). For some reason, Martin claims they're based off the Norse Gods. Probably has to do with the way the Vikings made sacrifices to their gods, by hanging them in Ash trees, a symbol for the World Tree Yggdrasil. The Weirwood trees are sacred to the followers of the Old Gods in a similar way. Mostly worship of them is quiet and informal.
- R'hllor: The God of Fire and Light, and like the Old Gods, actually shows evidence for existing. He gets shit done such as fire magic and Resurrection. Has a nasty habit for burning heretics, though. GRRM said this faith is roughly based (read: poorly modelled after) upon Zoroastrianism and Gnosticism. His nemesis is The Great Other: the god of cold and darkness, the leader of the Others, and prophesied to be defeated by the chosen one, or messianic figure: Azor Ahai/The Prince That Was Promised, a figure who is the prophesied warrior that will fight with the Great Other/Night's King during the Apocalypse. Interestingly enough, the prophecy may not refer to a single person, but three (Jon, Tyrion/Bran, and Daenerys). Supposedly, one of these three will also receive an awesome flaming sword called "Lightbringer".
- Him of Many Faces: The god of the Dead of the religion whose followers are the Faceless Men. According to his cult of assassins, whom Arya joins, every other god is him in a different form and he requires his assassins to utterly forget their past identities in service to him. Has a heyday during the Battle of King's Landing and the Red Wedding. His most awesome followers are granted shapeshifting abilities and powers to be the ultimate assassins.
- Drowned God: Cthulhu combined with Odin. Runs an underwater Valhalla were all Ironborn go whey they either if they drowned at sea, the men die a manly death or the women die in childbirth. Probably doesn't exist or he would have done something about Euron Greyjoy... at least in the books. There, Euron is proudly scornful of him, and his brother Aeron fruitlessly and endlessly mutters "no godless man can sit the Seastone Chair". In the show, Euron is perfectly happy to go through the traditional Drownie coronation ritual and Aeron performs it.
- The Night's King: This is completely different depending on whether you prefer the books or show. Book version: A long time ago, when the Night's Watch was just barely getting set up, its Lord Commander, the thirteenth in line, decided to climb over the Wall and explore some. While in the woods to the north of the Wall, he found a beautiful Other female. He fell in love with her, had sex with her on top of the Wall, which somehow changed him into an albino version of Darth Maul, and set himself up as King of the Wall, making everyone in the Watch his slaves and sacrificial fodder. Naturally, this didn't sit too well with the Starks and the Wildlings, and so they banded together to free the Watch and kick his ass, which they managed to do successfully. Now everyone thinks him as dead or a myth. Show version: he was the very first White Walker ever created by the Children, and he decided to get back at them by wiping out all life. Also, whilst he was apparently beaten in the ancient past and sealed away behind the Wall, he's still "alive" and well, turning infant human boys into new White Walkers. Also, he can apparently raise up entire legions of undead, just by raising his arms and looking completely smug about it; unlike regular Others, who can just raise up maybe a village at most. Given that he's the resident Dark Lord of the series, it makes sense that he can take down a dragon with seemingly little effort (a simple throw of his spear), and resurrect it to be his personal steed a la Arthas. (Whether that particular nonsense is going to show up in the books is up in the air, it's suitably grimdark and not particularly derp so it might.) Then he used the dragon to blow a hole in the Wall and begin The End Times for Westeros. But dead, thanks to Arya's magic ninja haxx which let her kill the BBEG and his entire race and army of zombies in one blow.
- The Others/The White Walkers: A mysterious race from beyond the Wall, known to HBO fans as "the White Walkers". Can be described as ice demons/snow elves with necromancy. Eight thousand years ago, they invaded Westeros during a decades-long winter (even longer than the usual years-long winters) known as "the Long Night". With an army of undead warriors, they proceeded to fuck Westeros up every which way to Sunday before the locals finally drove them out, established the Night's Watch, and built the Wall to keep them out. Like all fantasy aspects of ASOIAF, they are very cliched. In the TV series, it's revealed that they were created from human captives by "The Children", the pseudo-Elf fair folk race that lived in Westeros before humanity arrived, as an attempt to create a super-weapon. The idea was since humanity bred faster than the Children could keep up with, they would create icy lich-creatures that could create undead soldiers, and these would then wipe out all human life. Instead, it went disastrously wrong because it turned out that the Children actually couldn't control what they'd created, so the Others just want to exterminate all life. In both versions the Night's King is in control.
The appeal of A Song of Ice And Fire
Exactly what catches the eyes of a given fan/critic/lout who complains about how bad it is anytime the show is mentioned within earshot to ASOIAF and its TV adaptation varies from individual to individual. Still, there's a couple of major draws.
The Worldbuilding: The main reason why this series gets compared to The Lord of the Rings, ASOIAF is literally drowning under the weight of its worldbuilding, being crammed as full of facts about fictitious regions, histories, cultures, dynasties and races as GRRM can fit it. Your mileage will vary on how good that info is, but there's plenty of info in it.
Mainstream Dark Fantasy: Dark Fantasy is not exactly a mainstream niche. ASOIAF stands out by deliberately trying to market itself to the mainstream, despite embracing an abundance of dark fantasy tropes; gratuitous violence, sexuality and sexual violence, moral ambiguity, political intrigue, and a willingness to suddenly kill off any character, even the most likeable or heroic of them.
Low Fantasy: On the surface, ASOIAF is an old-school Low Fantasy setting, being a medieval-tech world with the story openly focused on the mundane lives of people struggling for political power and though supernatural elements do exist, they tend to be used sparingly.
High Fantasy: But if you scratch the surface, ASOIAF is also a High Fantasy setting, which is always the more marketable of the two, with the big backstory about how the world is facing impending doom from an army of wintery fey and their undead minions. There are also non-evil higher powers working against them, but they get swept under the rug in the show. Also, dragons. As the more marketable genre, it's also inevitably the more skubby one, for whatever that's worth.
Gratuitous Sexuality: More a thing for the TV show than the books; GRRM's scenes were raepy in the earlier volumes, and apparently our boy must have overheard the nickname "George Rape Rape Martin (I Like Rape)", because he dialed back the forced boning in #4-5. The frequent scenes of nudity and sex in the early seasons of the show were a big selling point for many people (the casting of people from the sex industry for some of these scenes also helped).
Not much in terms of generic fantasy tropes: Hate how almost every fantasy just has to have things popularized by Tolkien such as elves, dwarves, orcs and all that stuff? You're in luck because ASOIAF doesn't have a "five races" system or the plot hinging on a macguffin. On the other hand, it does have dragons, Medieval Stasis, undead and at least two contenders for Dark Lord status, so if you hate them too, well...
Oh Yeah, About The TV Show
After the first three books became hits, many Hollywood producers and directors had come to the sadistic neckbeard, asking him about making a movie adaptation. At first, he was reluctant, at best, due to the fact that a whole lot of his content would've been cut out to be fit into a movie trilogy (see the Lord of the Rings live-action films). Then, a couple of dudes, David Benioff and D.B/Daniel Brett Weiss (AKA D&D, or more accurately as of the final season, Dumb & Dumber), decided to contact him and asked him at a local restaurant about turning ASOIAF into a Television show produced by HBO, the top-rated soft-core porno channel. The story goes that George, before giving them his consent, asks them a very specific question (Who is Jon Snow's mother?). Satisfied with the response they gave, he gave them permission to start work on the show, which would be titled after the first book, Game of Thrones. They would later go on to prove that this is not a good way of choosing who should adapt your work.
The television show casts several well-known performers, such as Sean Bean as Eddard, Peter Dinklage as Tyrion, Lena Headey as Cersei, and Charles Dance as Tywin. They have also cast some comparatively less well-known actors and even ones new to cinema, such as Sophie Turner (Sansa), Maisie Williams (Arya), Kit Harington (Jon), Iwan Rheon (Ramsay), Alfie Allen (Theon), and Richard Madden (Robb).
Thus, book snobs seem to think that every episode post-season 3 is nothing more than Emmy-bait. Regardless of the fact Kit Harington still doesn't have an Emmy, there's a valid contention in that regard, with the number of liberties taken overshadowing the initial appeal.
The final season (more on that below) was eventually revealed to be such a train wreck because Dumb & Dumber did not want to work on the series anymore and had let the success with the earlier seasons go to their heads. In their arrogance, instead of handing the reins to someone else, they decided to plan out their own ending and use it as an audition to Disney so they could write for Star Wars. By then, they'd run out of books to adapt, there was no superior writing for them to leech off of and there was no one to gainsay them in their echo chamber of a writer's room (even George himself was cut out). The result was absolutely shit writing that caused a glorious breakage in the skub dam that left many a fan's anus weeping (provided they weren't early seasons fans, book series fans, or any of the other assorted onlookers taking part in the mightiest of keks) and, if anything proved
George's Ramsay's quote at the beginning of the article true. Goddamn Dumb & Dumber, could you talentless faggots do any worse if you tried? Luckily, comeuppance came after them and Disney, having some sense, told them to fuck off with their Star Wars ideas after the backlash towards the final season.
Producers Dumb&Dumber-style change characters and railroad the plot at a whim, the tits and ultraviolence spigot is opened even wider than the books, and most scenes are made for the actors to show off their skills at making their signature angry/murder/brooding/etc. faces.
Dumpster Fire Season
The Final Season kicks off with the Night King's army attacking Winterfell in a battle intended to be epic but chock full of plot armor and tactical fails that'd make General Custer look like Sun Tzu. The most infamous examples include Melisandre giving the Dothraki flaming swords instead of flaming arrows to fight the wights, putting soldiers in front of the ditch and walls instead of behind/on them, no flanking charges and the living hiding all their non-combatants in a crypt while fighting necromancers. The battle is resolved when Arya teleports directly to the BBEG and kills him with some sleight-of-hand that destroys his entire army Keystone Army trope-style and the winter also ends. Also Theon, Jorah and Melisandre die, but the story sweeps their deaths under the rug like they're nameless background characters.
Despite being their best chance to take down Cersei and having helped save them from an icy zombie apocalypse, the Westerosi inexplicably go full-retard and start hating Daenerys. Even Sansa starts defying Daenerys because she wants to be queen now, despite having no claim to the rest of Westeros and Dany being someone who could easily kill Sansa for such treason. Everyone inexplicably starts rallying around the idea of Jon being king, despite his attempts to abdicate, and Jon himself even starts thinking Aunt Daenerys might be a bad queen... but that doesn't stop him from starting a sexual relationship with her. The fact that Robert's bastard son Gendry is now a lord, giving him a claim to the throne at least as strong as Dany's or Jon's, is swept under the rug. Varys also jumps ship from Dany to Jon for no reason, doing the uncharacteristically stupid thing of trying to kill Dany, culminating in Varys being reported by Tyrion and executed by Drogon's fire breath.
Then Daenerys press-gangs people who should logically be happy to fight for her into an army to attack King's Landing and brings them there by sea. Along the way Rhaegal, one of Daenerys' two surviving dragons, is killed by ballistae from Euron's ships. This is despite the facts that Daenerys and her dragons should've easily been able to spot the ships from the air, they were flying well out of ballista range and Euron had no way of knowing they'd be there at the time. After Daenerys and Drogon destroy the Iron Fleet single-handedly (amid poorly animated weather**), they reach King's Landing. Despite King's Landing being prepared for a siege, Cersei's artillery does nothing despite Daenerys, all her advisors and her dragon being within lethal range. They in turn do nothing but watch Daenerys' friend Missandei, who was captured offscreen earlier, get executed by zombie-Gregor (despite the fact Cersei and co. had no reason to believe Missandei was anyone of import to either capture or execute. Maybe someone left a copy of the script in Cersei's solar next to her Starbucks latte*)
The battle for King's Landing has Daenerys' forces break in and battle through the streets. Meanwhile Jaime snuck though the tunnels to find and reconcile with Cersei. The Hound regresses to his old violent self and also snuck in to take down -zombie-Gregor in a battle that kills them both while Arya gives up her revenge on Cersei despite having strong non-revenge reasons to kill her. The famed Golden Company is quickly killed off and Cersei signals a surrender by ringing the bells, despite every Westerosi character knowing the bells aren't signals for surrender. Then, in the capstone of bad writing for this season, Daenerys' switch flips from good to evil because the writers want it to happen, and she uses Drogon and her army to destroy King's Landing and kill everyone despite coming to liberate and lead them. This is followed by a sudden evil wardrobe switch and Hitler-esque speech that has nothing to do with her former character. Meanwhile, Cersei and Jamie die together in a cave-in and Tyrion mourns their deaths despite being willing and borderline eager to kill Cersei himself earlier. Tyrion is also arrested for criticizing Daenerys by saying "If this is liberation, I don't believe in liberation theology." Yes, the writers think theology and ideology are the same thing (an unsurprising mistake, given the writers' obsessive anti-religious circle jerk for the past three Seasons in contrast to the books' even-handedness).
In the aftermath, Jon assassinates Daenerys for the King's Landing massacre... right in front of her dragon. Drogon, due to Jon's stronger-than-Valyrian-steel-plot-armor, doesn't kill him but melts the Iron Throne (accidentally according to the showrunners) while chucking a tantrum before grabbing Dany's body and flying away. Jon is somehow charged with Dany's murder despite there being no evidence that he did it, but surprisingly none of the surviving characters still loyal to Dany try to kill Jon (such as the Unsullied or the Dothraki). Despite there being several legitimate choices of king still available, including Gendry, the nobles decide to replace a dynastic monarchy with an elective one and make Bran king. Bran is nominated by Tyrion for a nonsensical reason - Tyrion somehow getting a say in the meeting despite being imprisoned for treason. The meeting ends with Tyrion being freed and made Hand of the King to Brann, Brienne being made Commander of the Kingsguard, Bronn being made Master of Coin, Samwell being the new Grand Maester and the North secedes and becomes independent under Queen Sansa. Arya sails to the West for some unknown reason and Jon is exiled but doesn't care because he wanted to go back up north with the Wildings. The end.
This trainwreck of a plot is a testament to how two morons can royally fuck up a show beyond any redeeming qualities the cast and crew can put forward. And even then there were screw-ups among the production staff, such as *not removing the actors' water bottles and coffee cups from the set before shooting and **the animators being unable to decide whether the sky is sunny or overcast when Dany and Drogon solo the Iron Fleet - which mattered because Dany's plan to not get shot down involved having the sun behind her.
GRRM and Your Dudes
Want to make your own ASoIF setting for a role-playing game? Well, readers have enough room to fantasize about their own minor noble House (or kingdom during the Age of the Hundred Kingdoms).
A good example of what you could do is the House from the old "Telltale Game of Thrones", House Forrester. Their relationship to the canon is as follows:
House Forrester (lords of someplace in the Wolfswood) -> is sworn to -> House Glover (overall lords of the entire Wolfswood) -> is sworn to -> House Stark (rulers of the North).
There's also an actual tie-in tabletop RPG now, which uses its own system and looks kind of like Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay with a heavy helping of resource-management strategy feel. Players are assuming the role of a minor House to guide to glory, or, more accurately given the setting we're in, NOT to ruin utterly in a season or two, which would still be more than many A-list players mustered in canon. Each PC has a specific position within said House, and only the role of official Head is mandatory; the rest could be wife/children/brothers and sisters/all other kinds of siblings, bastards (with rules for obtaining the legitimate recognition), maesters, sworn/subservient knights, or most of anybody else. This naturally opens up near-infinite possibilities for families screwed up seven ways to high heavens, which would make Lannister's brand of infighting-slash-inbreeding look as sane as the High Septon.
The setting is also ill-suited for "adventures in Westeros" style of gaming for two reasons:
- In the grim darkness of low fantasy, a roaming nobody with no banner to talk about, no House allegiance, no nothing isn't generally treated to a Tavern With Quest Givers, but rather more to a Tavern Where You Are Shanked For Your Sword And Boots And Dumped At The Nearest Forest. Heck, even the big wheelers and dealers are routinely seen invited to the latter when they are slow to properly introduce themselves.
- Working on your initially-puny House will quite realistically involve thy neighbours first and foremost, then liege lords from the higher House yours is sworn to, and on occasion shopping around for an advantageous marriage - there simply ain't gonna be that much spare time to "travel to see places". Both of these are also why tourism wasn't a very popular pastime in medieval Europe and why those who were "living on the road" usually enjoyed the lowest social standing.
A note to aspiring Lords: do NOT, under any circumstances, allow your "combat-optimized" siblings an unsupervised minute in a social setting. Game's "social combat" system is a thing more brutal than the physical one, and it takes a socially-optimized character all of a few minutes to mindfuck one who is not (read: everyone but dedicated diplomats and Heads of the Houses, and not every one of the latter, to boot, as illustrated by several amazing boneheads in canon) into believing pretty much anything short of Grumpkins and Snarks. Stupid NPCs or a stupid GM will make said mindfuck obvious, allowing you to "mindfuck 'em back" without abuse of OOC info; cunning ones will not.
On a side-note; GRRM is said to take a dim view of fanfiction, saying it kills creative ability. This is kind of a double-edged statement, since a lot of George's characters here are either rehashes of his characters from previous works, references to other fictional characters (like Littlefinger and Samwell being based on Jay Gatsby and Samwise Gamgee), walking tropes (such as Ned Stark and Robb Stark being the "Honor Before Reason" characters) or historical references (such House Lannister ripping off House Lancaster and House Tyrell being totally-not-House-Tudor - to the point that Margaery Tyrell is played by Natalie Dormer from "The Tudors" TV show). While this makes everything he wrote just another...fanfiction, and his disapproval hypocritical. Still, given the "creative" output of the average neckbeard, he does have a point. Ironically he sold the rights to make a TV series of the books to HBO, who then went on to make a glorified fanfic.
Like any fantasy author who finds themselves unexpectedly in the warm embrace of commercial success Martin quickly licensed the shit out of his setting, spawning everything from resin miniatures to replica great swords. While most of this is worthless junk to foist on obsessive fanboys /tg/ has agreed that a few of the games are made of win. The first two are a collectable card game put out in 2002 by Fantasy Flight Games and a risk-esque board game that followed shortly after in 2003. One of White Wolf's subsidiaries also put out a d20 RPG in 2005 but it quickly tanked because, come on, White Wolf. Martin since wrested the rights back and developed a new version with Green Ronin games.
Now let's have some serious talks about the Game of Thrones games because they have become some sort of endless source of amusement and frustration for the gaming fanbase. Game of Thrones is roughly speaking the second franchise with the most licensed board games, after star wars, and some of them have acquired quite a legendary status and a fanbase that goes beyond the book or series fans.
The great juggernaut for all the ASOIAF based games is Fantasy Flight Games
First and foremost we have the Game of Thrones board game, a game that after two editions still ranks high in the BGG top 100 board games, and has recently had an expansion. The Game of Thrones board game has become some sort of meme for the modern board gamers and it could be considered the equivalent of a more advanced risk, in which dice and blank character got replaced by a very flavourful and brutal combat system and a lot of thematical mechanics fueling the engine. Overall this game has been associated with concepts such as requiring maximum player count to really be entertaining, having an amazing amount of length and depth and being a very faithful representation of the political feeling the series inspired. Almost any boardgamer or wargamer worth his salt has played this game and enjoyed its highs, its lows and the amazing amount of frustrations it brings. This is probably the most well known of all the ASOIAF games and it was released way before Game of Thrones was a cultural phenomenon back in 2003.
Another game that bears mention, both for its excellent mechanics and its historical significance is the game of thrones card game. It is one of the most balanced card game experiences you can get, also full of flavour and with quite a great amount of balance and non-linear thinking. The best part is, unlike other card games, the game has a "living card game" release format, in which players know exactly what each booster pack brings and can buy cards in a more responsible manner rather than playing bingo and hoping to get a rare card. Also, the sole core set already provides more replayability than some fully-fledged board games.
Finally, the last game to mention in the FFG venerable trilogy of games is "Battles of Westeros", arguably the most ambitious and least successful of the three. Battles of Westeros was a fully-fledged wargame that used the Memoir 44/battlelore rules as a base, but then evolved into its own by introducing mechanics such as commanders, tactic cards and very creative scenario rules. Miniatures were made in 15 mm and for their time and scale they were quite detailed, some commanders are real standouts(I´m looking at you Robb Stark(with his wolf jumping at his side) and Rickard Karstark). Thanks to its scale, the game was able to provide players with a great number of options and units at a fraction of the price of other board games. With a core set that was already stacked with units and variety and then faction-specific expansions that added several more units and commanders. The game also came with scenario books that provided narrative play with quite creative rule variants, such as storming palisades, having decoys in escort missions and bombarding enemies with catapults. One scenario even tried to bring to life the battle of the blackwater (the hybrid invasion of kings landing by Stannis the Mannis). The game was incredible and quite a creative wargame, but its main issue was that the setup time was just terrible. Incredibly complex and tiresome when compared to the actual gameplay time.
And then the miniature producing Kickstarter juggernaut CMON decided to produce its own wargame, with AMAZING miniatures.
As this is CMON the game began with a [kickstarter], and after that, the game has had at least 2 dozen more releases with 3 more factions added.
The game has some mechanics taken from rank and file games such as KOW combining them with mechanics taken out of "battles of Westeros" particularly the tactics deck. A new page is in the works ASOIAF Miniature Game
- A Game of Thrones
- A Clash of Kings
- A Storm of Swords: Split into 2
- A Feast for Crows: half the characters, the point where the series goes down the toilet
- A Dance with Dragons: split into 2 the first is about the other half of the characters, and manages to pick things up a bit
- The Winds of Winter: First rumored to be ready by late 2018, then given an official release date of Summer 2020, those times have come and gone and the book is unreleased. Though he has shared chapters of the book.
- A Dream of Spring : Unreleased and unlikely to ever be.
- GRRM will most likely die before writing this, though he has given an outline for how he wants the series to end that might be made public knowledge if he dies before the book series is finished.
- The Dunk and Egg Series: A story about a landless hedge knight travelling across Westeros with a Targaryen squire, so he can teach him how not to be an asshole to peasants.
On The "Grimdarkness" of the Setting
One important note: While the setting is usually held to be "Grimdark", it is also very true to Real Life in its nastiness, with real consequences for assholes. George himself has said, quote; "No matter how much I make up, there's stuff in history that's just as bad, or worse." Book one is almost exactly the beginning of the War of the Roses, except with England enlarged to a continent's size and the seasons stretched out to let the travel times work. (...And then the dragons wake up, the ice elves and their undead armies return and magic makes a comeback. It's not a perfect analogy. All that stuff is closed in their own sub plots and they don'tinvolvethe main continentin the book, that is left to "common" war and plotting.)
For example: The King can order the execution of the head of the leading noble family of the North, for essentially no reason, but now he doesn't have hostages to exchange when their armies come after him seeking revenge. (And all this is modeled on various occasions where more or less exactly this kind of thing happened in real life medieval Europe.)
In other words: Truly heinous shit goes on, and there's nothing stopping that kind of shit... but there are consequences to that kind of shit that act as an effective counterbalance against being seen to do that kind of shit to the smarter nobles in the kingdom.
Whether the setting fully qualifies for "Grimdark" is a matter for debate, in other words.