Created By: PrimoVictoria on August 16, 2010 Last Edited By: PrimoVictoria on August 16, 2010

Great Offscreen War

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There was a war. It happened years ago, maybe even thousands of years. Characters refference it, especially if they took a part in it. Shell-Shocked Veteran never managed to get over with what he experienced back then. Phony Veteran, on the other hand, will never shut up about how many brave things he did on it. Sometimes people will reference to war to set some events in timeline something happened few years before the war, or somebody did something after the war. Maybe people still have to deal with it's consequences. War was, and it left it's ugly mark on the world.

But it's never shown to the audience. We never see a single flashback from war, never can get more than just a glimple of what happened. War will be referenced, but mysterious, unexplained. Why it happened? How it ended? What does all things that took place there, which of people talk like it should be obvious, mean? Never explained. War is only an mysterious event of the past, made mostly to add a bit of mystery and give people excuse for insane ideas.

World War III can ofter be this, stories set After the End have thendency do do this with war that caused the end.

Please, avoid shows refferencing to Real Life conflicts, we have much more informations about them that will be ever provided in the typical case of fictional conflicts mentioned here, so they cannot serve as so mysterious element.


Comic Books
  • Star Wars: Legacy has conflict between Galactic Republic and Empire, whin by latter, who then got into the war with Sith.

  • Clone Wars were this for first Star Wars Trilogy, until the prequels came, along two cartoons and lot of other things that explored it, ultimately subverting this trope.

Live Action TV:
  • Time War from Doctor Who. It was never shown, we know only that it caused a lot of destruction and wiped out entire races, including Time Lords, whose last survivor was Doctor. Doctor has to deal with consequences of Time War from time to time and sometimes he or somebody else reference to some events of it, but it's still mostly a mystery.
  • Star Trek has a lot of those.
    • Third World War and Eugenic Wars all taking place on Earth and concerning only humanity. It was actually one war in Original Series, but was later divided.
    • War between Federation and Klingons
    • The Next Generation has war between Federation and Cardassians, which was responsible for creating Anti-Cardassian Marquis. Strangely, it wasn't mentioned in first seasons, only later.
    • Earth-Romulan war ended as this, because Enterprise was canceled, before it could cover it.
  • Both series of Battlestar Galactica has mentioned wars with Cylons.
  • Silicate War, war with android revolution, taking place years before events of Space: Above and Beyond.
  • War with Magogs from Andromeda which end caused Nietzschean revolution, that may count too, as it started at the begining of first episode. Episode then jumps 300 years in the future, to the main plot, not only skipping downfall of revolution, but also civil war among the ones who caused it, High Guard.

Video Games
  • Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic has Madalorian Wars another mysterious wars we don't know much, despite that main character took a part in them and became well known war hero.
  • Of course, all Fallout games have war that brought end of old civilization. We know why the war started and see how it ended, but not much more.
Community Feedback Replies: 17
  • August 11, 2010
    For the longest time, StarCraft had the Guild Wars, which were referenced only in vague snippets as a civil war whose consequences still loomed over the Terran worlds. Fast forward many years, it's been more-or-less explained away with tie-in literature. Still nothing in the games, though.
  • August 11, 2010
    Venado Bay in V4 Legion of Super-Heroes.
  • August 11, 2010
    I was just thinking of this trope the other day.

  • August 11, 2010
    The Discworld series has two examples - the wizard wars which serve as an example of why wizards shouldn't actually cast spells, and the wars of the Evil Empire, which serve as the origin story of the Orcs.
  • August 11, 2010
    The Star Trek example is spelled Cardassian. And the Andromeda examples are Nietzschean and Magog. And High Guard.
  • August 11, 2010
    The first war against Voldemort in the Harry Potter books.
  • August 11, 2010
    The Seven Hour War in Half-Life 2.
  • August 11, 2010
    Played with in That Mitchell And Webb Look where a group of people are holed up in a nuclear bunker playing a game show and broadcasting in the vain hope somebody is actually watching. It all focuses around "the event"; the only interesting thing any of the characters can think about but are sworn not to talk about for various reasons. The most probable event would be a nuclear war.
  • August 11, 2010
    Also Star Trek TNG is the Next Generation
  • August 11, 2010
    The Dark Days in the Hunger Games books.
  • August 11, 2010
    Shakespeare's As You Like It: Duke Senior was (somehow) deposed by his younger brother Fredrick and exiled to the Forest of Arden. A very blatant Deus Ex Machina at the end restores Senior to his rightful place.
  • August 12, 2010
    • The Butlerian Jihad is repeatedly mentioned in the original Dune series and had a profound effect upon the setting. After Frank Herbert's death a book was written specifically dealing with it.

    Tabletop RPG
    • Dungeons And Dragons adventure I12 Egg of the Phoenix. The War of Ending between the forces of Evil and Old Empyrea. Doc and the silver dragon Falx fought in the war, during the adventure the PCs find a message that dates back to it, and one mission involves scouting one of the Castles of Ruling that played a major part in the war.
  • August 12, 2010
    • Guild Wars: Prophecies has the actual Guild Wars, Factions has the Tengu Wars, Nightfall has the war against Palawa Joko
    • Star Wars: The clone wars work like this in the original three movies.
  • August 15, 2010
    • Babylon Five has the Dilgar War, the first major interstellar war that the humans got involved in, as well as the previous Shadow War, which took place around a thousand years previously. We do see a glimpse of that era, mostly just some less advanced looking Minbari ships, but nothing of the war itself.

    • When watching Airplane, they never make clear which war "The War" was for Ted Stryker, though judging by when the movie was made, one might assume Vietnam. As farcical as the entire movie is, it could very well have been some other war entirely though.
  • August 15, 2010
    Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga is full of these. Mad Yuri's War, the Cetagandan Invasion, the Komarr Conquest and subsequent Revolt all have a direct impact on the storyline decades after they took place.
  • August 15, 2010
    Probably best to separate this from post-apocalyptic stuff like Mad Max and Fallout, and similar After The End scenarios...
  • August 15, 2010
    Not exactly a war, but Avatar The Last Airbender has the Fire Nation's destruction of the Air Nomads 100 years prior to the start of the series.