Standard Fantasy Setting

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"There's something terribly weird about the standard fantasy setting, not least of which that 'Standard Fantasy Setting' can be uttered completely without irony. Look at us; we're a civilization so steeped in escapism that we've managed to find mundanity in something that doesn't exist and never will (no matter what your Otherkin friend might say). Why is it accepted fact that Elves fire bows and arrows and commune with trees? That was Tolkien's thing; without him, elves would just about be qualified to sell Rice Krispies. And he made Dwarves wear braided beards and wield battle-axes. Real dwarves don't do that, they get hired by Lucasfilm or take corporate office jobs because they're an equal-opportunity bonanza. Are we all but children, playing eternally on the same swingset while JRR is the grumpy dad watching from the park bench and trying not to get aroused?"


The generic Fantasy setting. High Fantasy, Heroic Fantasy, and Low Fantasy are usually set here, along with many Tabletop RPGs and Video Games; however, this is not required. This is Newer Than They Think. Trope Maker The Lord of the Rings, though written earlier, only developed a cult following in the 1960s. Dungeons & Dragons and The Sword of Shannara, the first novel by Terry Brooks, acted as the Trope Codifier in the late 1970s. (D&D had, however, originated a bit earlier.)

The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones will tell you pretty much everything you would like to know about the place (minus a few dead horses and unicorns). See also Airport Novel. For the antithesis of Standard Fantasy Setting-style fantasy see Urban Fantasy, Magical Realism and Mundane Fantastic.

Common ingredients:

The following are allowed to be removed if the setting falls in certain values of Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, or due to other Implementation Details:

All of the above are inherited, to one extent or another, from Following The Leadership of Dungeons & Dragons and The Lord of the Rings.

Examples of Standard Fantasy Setting include:

Settings conforming to this standard


Video Games

Web Comics

Non-compliant fantasy settings

Collectible Card Games

  • A few of the Magic: The Gathering settings, especially Rath, Mirrodin, and Ravnica. (Some are compliant, though.)
    • However, the earliest core sets had a setting best described as this. (That plane, Dominaria, gradually changed over time and is now amid an After the End phase following the conclusion of the Time Spiral block.)

Comic Books

  • Fables—The Homelands are a patchwork of technologies, cultures, and magics of all types, with literally every imaginable fantasy or mythical creature or race.

Fan Works

  • With Strings Attached is an almost 100% noncompliant fantasy setting, to the point where the only trope that really applies is Medieval Stasis, and that only in one of the two cultures on C'hou; the other is a thriving quasi-Victorian land with guns, factories, etc. Also, there are elves, but Word of God says they're just a pointy-eared race of humans.


Video Games

  • Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VIII, Final Fantasy IX, and Final Fantasy X.
    • Also Final Fantasy XIII; the setting is 100% sci-fi except for the magic using Jerkass Gods the characters are being controlled by. Their idea of "medieval times" is basically the 20th century, except everybody is some kind of Warrior Poet living in hippie communes.
  • Fable—The first game is largely compliant, although it lacks most of the usual Five Races; it has mundane humans and High Men, but that's it for the "civilized" types. The second and third games deviate further from the formula by progressing through a renaissance and all the way to an industrial revolution, introducing firearms, factories, etc.

Web Original

  • Narth 2000, a GURPS setting created for an online campaign run the during the late 1990s and early 2000s. It shows what a Dungeons & Dragons world might look like 400 to 500 years later along its timeline than one normally sees them, with Steampunk Magitek, 19th-century firearms technology, high magic, active gods, a magical counterpart to Cyberspace -- and humans who are the least advanced of the various races, technologically.

Settings that are almost compliant with the standard


  • The Death Gate Cycle started out as a post-apocalyptic flavor of this standard, but then the world ended again. The current setting is in some ways very close to the standard and wildly divergent in others. See the article for details.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire nominally has all of the stock elements (assuming the (unseen) children of the forest and (barely seen) Others qualify as examples of the Fairy and Eldritch Five Races) except Functional Magic. But most of these elements are used only so that they can be brutally deconstructed.
  • The Garrett P.I. series goes out of its way to subvert or deconstruct elements of this trope, both by giving them a noir spin and by pumping up the snark quotient.
  • The setting of Sword of Shadows resembles the standard, but is set in the subarctic regions of its world, is missing nonhuman races except for the Sull (a Proud Warrior Race of elf-equivalents) and the Unmade, and the focus is more heavily on the "barbarian" Clansmen than the "civilized" part of the world.

Tabletop Games

  • Eberron is similar, in that it is the logical conclusion of a High Fantasy standard: magic is an industry and the setting's atmosphere is similar to Inter-World War Europe. All races diverge, slightly to significantly from standard, and industrial magic yields a Steampunk tone without actually using any significant steam or clockwork.

Video Games

Web Original

  • Tales of MU is set in a formerly compliant setting, but with the Medieval Stasis removed. The current time period is sort of like the modern age, in the same way that the Standard Fantasy Setting is kind of like the middle ages.

Western Animation

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender. While we've got The Empire and The Kingdom along with rebel fighters, Magic A Is Magic A and a variety of other fantasy world tropes, its subverted in several ways. Most prominently, instead of being in a European central world the Avatarverse in a fantasy counterpart to Asia (China and Japan, mostly) with Inuit culture thrown in. There are no dwarves, elves or other similar intelligent races on par with humans, and Medieval Stasis is completely subverted, with technology developing into full out Steampunk in the sequel series.