Created By: larseis on October 16, 2013 Last Edited By: larseis on July 23, 2014

Desert Adventure

Adventure fiction set in the Middle East or North Africa, drawing from the tradition of the pulps.

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The common thread running through Indiana Jones, The Mummy series, Robert E. Howard's El Borak tales. Often involves globetrotting explorers or expats of American or English origin (Mighty Whitey). Typically some Tomb Raiding, treasure hunting, Nazi punching. Temples of Doom are usually tied to the plot. Vehicle action sequences will involve old-timey jeeps, tanks, motorcycles, and planes. The presence of Axis forces can be just a backdrop, or it can serve as a significant plot element. An Adventurer Archaeologist in his or her Adventurer Outfit is a must if the plot deals at all with the legacy of ancient cultures in the region.

There are elements of this in other tropes (especially Qurac and Arabian Nights Days), but I wanted one that specifically harkens to the 1920's through the 40's. The era is not a requirement, but the spirit of the era is. Also, this is separate from Darkest Africa because A) We're not talking about all of Africa, just the north, and B) We're including the Middle East, which is a big chunk of Asia.

Owing to this settings pulp origins, there can be some racial insensitivity in play, but many of these stories are at least Fair for Its Day.

Being a Sub Genre trope, some or all elements of this setting can be used at the author's discretion.

Comics:

Film:

Literature:
  • El Borak by Robert E. Howard
  • Beau Geste

Toys:

Video Games:
  • The Egypt segments of the original Tomb Raider game
  • Uncharted 3
Community Feedback Replies: 24
  • October 16, 2013
    Chabal2
    One or two Buck Danny stories, despite being set post-Korean War use this setting for a gun-smuggling ring.

  • October 17, 2013
    DAN004
    Takes place in Qurac.
  • October 17, 2013
    larseis
    I guess I wanted a subgenre that captures the overlap between Qurac and Two-Fisted Tales? It seems common enough, it should have its own thing, and Qurac alone is too broad, and tends to include more modern, War On Terror tropes.
  • November 3, 2013
    AgProv
    the whole Beau Geste thing: English nobleman Does The Decent Thing, implicates himself for a crime he did not commit so as to save a beautiful woman from the law, then flees to France and joins the Foreign Legion to forget. He is sent out to Algeria to fight merciless Arabs and spawn a series of sequels...
  • November 3, 2013
    kjnoren
    "Having X, but especially X with Y", as a trope description strikes me as a poor thing. Would Y be a requirement or not, and so on.

    Technically Dune is a desert adventure, but I doubt it should be considered one according to this trope.
  • November 3, 2013
    Tallens
    SO, is this basically about the foreigner, often Mighty Whitey or Great White Hunter, coming to the region and the adventures that occur there?

    And this would be separate from Darkest Africa, correct?
  • November 3, 2013
    Locoluis
    Since you're including Egypt, why not include North Africa too? Although there aren't as many treasures as in Egypt or the Levant, the Sahara is dotted with oases that were of strategic importance as part of trade routes connecting the Mediterranean coast and the Levant with the kingdoms in the Sahel along the Niger River (*coughTimbuktucough*).

    There's also the Western Desert Campaign, a struggle between the Axis in Libya and the Allies in Egypt. Though you probably already know about it.

    Essentially, when you include the word "Desert", you should be aware of what it means for both the explorers and the locals. Water scarcity, scorching sun, isolated oases, dunes and rocks, potentials for mining...

    OTOH, you're probably not interested about the cultures of the present, but about those of the past. A possible fantasy setting would probably involve a legendary, powerful empire of the past that succumbed to desertification, civil war or possibly a great natural disaster, leaving a great archaeological legacy buried beneath the sand. The only clues to its existence come from recently deciphered letters from another, more well-known civilization.

    Of course, restricting your trope to a specific location at a specific time period is quite too restrictive for such a generic trope/genre name as "Desert Adventure", and will also make this mold too quickly exhausted and discredited.

    There are other Deserts, open to other kinds of Desert Adventure, and where many of those plot points you've mentioned could also happen. Except without Arab locals and Nazi enemies.
  • November 3, 2013
    Tallens
    Technically, Antarctica is a desert.
  • November 3, 2013
    arbiter099
    Would Star Gate count?
  • November 4, 2013
    Larkmarn
    Would Lawrence Of Arabia count?
  • November 4, 2013
    kjnoren
    Definitely, but I have little clue on which concept Larseis is going for here.
  • November 4, 2013
    JonnyB
    Jewel Of The Nile would be a modern take on the genre.
  • November 4, 2013
    DAN004
    I think The Mummy (the first two movies) count.
  • November 7, 2013
    larseis
    Whoa, sorry for the late reply. No one touched this for weeks, and then I checked in on a whim...

    To elaborate, I'm looking for stories set on Earth, so Dune is out. Star Gate is out, because it's mostly set on that other world. Really, the only fantasy elements (if any) should be magic or curses which are human in origin.

    Further, this really is just the deserts of the Middle East and North Africa. The lands once held under the Umayyad Caliphate, if we want to draw up official borders. The name "Desert Adventure" wasn't meant to be all-inclusive, I was just trying to phrase it as a pulp writer would. The Pulp Magazine, Two Fisted Tales vibe is key (hence why I cited El Borak).

    It doesn't have to be set in that era specifically, but it does need to elicit that feel. I'm going to edit the main post with some of these suggestions, as well as some others of my own. Tell me if it gives you a better idea of what I'm after.

    P.S. What I'm describing is the "pure trope," which was a common thread I had noticed running through many stories. It can, like all tropes, be manipulated and permutated in new forms. I see it in the same way that "The Western" is a genre tied to a specific time and place, but elements of it are borrowed by lots of other stories which are not pure Westerns.
  • July 20, 2014
    Tallens
    ^So, the questlines in Uldum on World Of Warcraft wouldn't count then?
  • July 21, 2014
    DAN004
    ^^ You're thinking way too narrow.
  • July 21, 2014
    foxley
    The novel Sahara by Clive Cussler, and its film adaptation, have a group of adventurers battling a warlord while investigating a mysterious disease outbreak in Mali, combined with a plot with a lost Confederate ironclad full of gold located somewhere in the desert.
  • July 21, 2014
    Chernoskill
    Zero Context Examples, Zero Context Examples everywhere ;)
  • July 21, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ it's cuz of the op just assuming that the examples take place in Egypt, north Africa or the Middle East.
  • July 22, 2014
    JonnyB
    The Road To Morocco would be a comedic version of this.
  • July 22, 2014
    TheHandle
    • Jojos Bizarre Adventure Part III: Stardust Crusaders spends most of its time in the dryer parts of South Asia and the Middle East, and it's a very pulpy adventure.
  • July 22, 2014
    MetaFour
    The Legion Of Lost Souls (that is, the French Foreign Legion under a rather non-indicative name) are also strongly associated with this genre. You could mine that one for examples.
  • July 23, 2014
    AgProv
    Such as the Beau Geste novels in which members of the English gentry are forced to sign on in La Legion.
  • July 23, 2014
    Tallens
    • The Flash Back sequences of Secondhand Lions which show the brothers McCann during their time in North Africa in the French Foreign Legion and after, including fighting Arab slavers, a feud with a rich Shiek, and rescuing a princess from a harem.
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