The Epic

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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An epic is a long story centered on a heroic character that describes a series of exceptional events, similar to and suggestive of epic poetry. There are numerous epics in fiction and storytelling. Epics are majestic depictions and capture impressive struggles, such as stories of war, adventures, and other efforts of great scope and size over long periods of time.

Form is mostly limited to literature and theater, and includes.

  • Epic Poem (also known as classic epic)
  • Epic Narrative (also known as modern epic)
  • Epic Movie (more broadly defined, includes film adaptations of the literary epic as defined here)

Some basic guidelines:

  • A longer-than-average story that...
  • ... Is wide in scope (not just one battle or skirmish, but a war or a country-wide catastrophe) and...
  • ... Follows one hero, group of heroes or bloodline, who...
  • ... Strive to achieve a particular goal or complete a quest, in the course of which they...
  • ... Commit extraordinary deeds and...
  • ... Have multiple (three or more) separate adventures in the course of their quest or journey.

The classic epics had their own guidelines:

  • 12 chapters/stories/volumes
  • Starting In Medias Res, usually later having The Hero explain via Flash Back How We Got Here
  • "Invocation of the Muse" (formally asking one of the Muses to help the author live up to the task of doing the story justice, or achieve whatever goal they have in mind for it)
  • A trip to the Underworld

Can be divided into a few different subgenres. The divisions also come in two flavors, Form and Subject (may be subtropes/genres). Both forms can be divided by subject:

  • Heroic (one person, may include companions, but focused on the person)
  • Familial (follows a particular lineage)
  • and National (follows the history of an entire nation, not common)

Not to be confused with the modern bastardization of the term just to mean "awesome."

This is a distinguishing characteristic of Space Opera and High Fantasy.

Please do not add an example without ensuring that it first meets the criteria.

Examples of The Epic include:

Anime and Manga

Comic Books

Fan Works

  • Undocumented Features as a whole is a familial epic; the Symphony of the Sword story cycle within it is a heroic epic on its own.



Live Action TV



Tabletop Games

  • GURPS has a number of potential epics for The Gamemaster to work with in its various Sourcebooks some of which are quite well done. Several are suggested in the sample campaigns. In Vikings one can replay any saga or make up one's own. There is even a mythic campaign theme in which Loki escape's and threatens to bring about Ragnorak before its time. In Traveller Sword Worlds there is 100 Parsecs which is about the journey of a group of Sword Worlders to set up a new civilization in which the Sword Worlder way of life may be preserved far in the reaches of the universe. One can also do the original founding of the Sword Worlds which is an intensely powerful theme. Intersteller Wars is in a way a "national epic" of the Terran Confederation. In fact some GURPS ideas are so good that it is a tragedy that they were never taken in hand by a writer worthy of them. Hopefully one is waiting.


Video Games

Web Animation

  • Broken Saints, one of the first flash series to take itself seriously.


Western Animation