Standard Fantasy Setting
"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.
- Post-Tolkien, this usually has at least three of the standard Five Races of heroic peoples:
- Dwarves (The Mighty Glacier)
- Elves (The Fragile Speedster)
- In addition, most settings also have a Fantasy Axis of Evil consisting of Evil Counterparts of the Five Races which the heroes have to fight or otherwise deal with.
- Our Monsters Are Different
- Fantastic Sapient Species Tropes in general.
- Functional Magic
- Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards
- At least two of the following:
- Standard royal courts
- A (usually) European-style Pseudo-Medieval setting.
- Often one or more Fantasy Counterpart Culture
- Generally Medieval Stasis
- Note that the above has some give; the general dividing line is that any technology that Leonardo da Vinci wouldn't have drawn renders the setting non-compliant, unless said technology is a Relic Of The Past.
- The Sword and Sandal subgenre thrives in a Fantasy Counterpart Culture in the ancient world and—just to make life confusing—can cheerfully co-exist with other portions of the world having a pseudo-medieval setting.
- Fantasy Character Classes
- Fantasy Gun Control: You'd better learn how to use a bow, Mack, 'cause that gun's just gonna click.
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:
- Exclusively Evil: Oddly, both extremely idealistic and extremely cynical settings tend to remove this one.
- White Magic: Associated with idealistic settings; cynical series use the Light Is Not Good option in their implementation.
- Medieval Stasis: May be dropped partially, especially for Dwarves.
- Fantasy Gun Control: Again, may be waived, especially for Dwarves.
- The Dung Ages: If the setting is cynical
- Fate and Prophecy Tropes are expected, but Low Fantasy scenarios may remove all such tropes.
- Vancian Magic: Other varieties of magic are allowed
- Arcadia: Since it is mostly rural, it will be pleasant rural if allowed, not redneck rural.
- Gorgeous Period Dress: if not The Dung Ages
- Everything's Better with Princesses: Either a Rebellious Princess or a Princess Classic will do.
- Dragons: Dragons are, after all, central to both the Trope Maker (The Hobbit) and the Trope Codifier (Dungeons and Dragons)
- Left-Justified Fantasy Map
- 1 Settings conforming to this standard
- 2 Non-compliant fantasy settings
- 3 Settings that are almost compliant with the standard
Literature[edit | hide]
- The Lord of the Rings, the Trope Maker.
- Warlords Series
- Terry Brooks' Shannara series.
- Every fantasy series by David and Leigh Eddings.
- Discworld complies to the standard, while parodying and deconstructing it at the same time.
- It doesn't really - not in the later books, anyway. The last ten books or so, if not more, have all been about social or political stuff (not that they get any less funny. They don't.) It's really just the first few books and the dwarves-trolls-humans thing.
- Beast Quest, set in Avantia.
- The Riftwar Cycle
- Jacqueline Carey's Sundering duology—notable for deliberately being almost exactly Tolkien's world, except told from the side of the Dark Lord.
- The Recluce Saga.
- The Wheel of Time
- The Llandor series. With cliches galore and ten anvils dropped per chapter.
- The Inheritance Cycle (with a huge dose of Cliché Storm thrown in)
- Second Apocalypse fits but is still different enough to not feel very standard.
Video Games[edit | hide]
- The Elder Scrolls (Note that the Dwarves are not compliant with ANSI standard Dwarves, but this deviation is allowed by this standard.)
- Age of Wonders (although it has a lot more races than 5)
- Might and Magic and Heroes of Might and Magic
- Dragon Age adheres to most of the above-mentioned tropes, but gleefully takes a Deconstructor Fleet to them.
Web Comics[edit | hide]
- 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[edit | hide]
- Fables—The Homelands are a patchwork of technologies, cultures, and magics of all types, with literally every imaginable fantasy or mythical creature or race.
- 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.
Literature[edit | hide]
- Most fantasy written prior to the late 1970s.
- Virtually all fantasy prior to Lord of the Rings, including, of course, 19th century fantasy.
- Most stuff set in our day and age (even if most of the action takes place elsewhere).
- The Princess Bride, which makes no attempt to make the (fairly limited) magic "make sense".
- The Journey of the Catechist by Alan Dean Foster (No dwarves, no elves, no real monsters except for one that is actually different. They do have sentient talking apes and monkeys that live alongside humans, though. And the kingdom and empire are both morally grey.)
- Kingdoms of Light by Alan Dean Foster (It takes place inside a world inside a rainbow, where the main characters are all humans that were once animals.)
- Bas-Lag (China Mieville's main setting)
- The Seventh Tower
- The Edge Chronicles differs from the standard by relying more on Minovsky Physics than Functional Magic, emphasising goblins and trolls over elves (only get brief mentions) and dwarves (a type of goblin), and having really weird Steampunk technology in the last book. (It's powered by crystallised lightning.)
- Black Company
- The Bartimaeus Trilogy.
- Anything by Brandon Sanderson, Mistborn and The Stormlight Archive most notably.
- Clive Barker's fantasy works Imajica and Abarat.
- The Etched City by K.J. Bishop.
- The Starbridge books by Paul Park.
- Jo Clayton's Duel of Sorcery and Dancer trilogies.
- The Ambergris Cycle
- Codex Alera
- Gormenghast is set in a sprawling city castle complex yet the timeless, routine, indolent nature in which the castle is maintained means it could be in any time period from High Medieval to Victorian. There is no apparent magic or magical races, yet once you get beyond the Earldom of Gormenghast, the world is fairly modern (or steampunk), complete with sky scrapers.
Video Games[edit | hide]
- Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VIII, Final Fantasy IX, and Final Fantasy X.
- 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[edit | hide]
- 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.
Literature[edit | hide]
- 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.
- 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.
- Actually, that would be 'Low Fantasy' (magic is a toolkit, society changes and grows), instead of 'High Fantasy' (magic is wondrous and can't be replicated, society is stuck in stasis).
Video Games[edit | hide]
- Arcanum (Steampunk level technology; otherwise compliant)
- Warcraft—Removes the Medieval Stasis, and integrates modern, Steampunk, and sci-fi technology with pre-modern armor and architecture. Both expansions thus far to World of Warcraft have introduced a lot of Magitech.
- The first two games however, fit the trope to a "T"
- Final Fantasy XII -- 14th-century politics, 18th-century weapons, 22nd-century technology (although most people just take caravans everywhere.)
- Dwarf Fortress lacks any magics beyond Necromancy as of yet, but otherwise fits this trope very well.
- Rift is superficially similar to Warcraft, but cranks up the Magitek and does more playing around with race tropes.
Web Original[edit | hide]
- 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.