DarkFantasy, the DarkerAndEdgier cousin of standard fantasy. Where there are [[GoodIsNotNice no]] [[SociopathicHero heroes]], TheBadGuyWins and GrayAndGrayMorality rules the day.

Unlike HighFantasy or HeroicFantasy, Dark Fantasy is based at the far end of the SlidingScaleOfIdealismVersusCynicism. It is often the product of standard fantasy meeting a [[CrapsackWorld craptastic world]] with extra suck stirred in, standard fantasy tropes are usually [[DeconstructedTrope deconstructed]], [[InvertedTrope inverted]] or [[GoneHorriblyRight played straight]] to the darkest tone possible. Dark fantasy may sometimes cross into ScienceFiction usually with a [[{{Dystopia}} dystopian]] style world like the kind seen in Orwellian-style fiction.

Why write such a thing, you ask? Well, don't look at us, it's you who just came in here. Some authors do it, for lack of a better word, naturally, when they suffer CreatorBreakdown. Others do it as an exploration of some world-building concept. Others yet do it tongue-in-cheek, piling misfortune upon misfortune upon his or her characters as a sort of a meta-BlackComedy. If you belong to the first two, you probably don't really need any of our lessons. Nevertheless, we'll try to provide you with a quick round-up of things that a writer of Dark Fantasy may consider.
!'''Necessary Tropes'''
* Before we begin, we may ponder what are we trying to achieve. For a story to count as Dark Fantasy, it needs to be fantasy, and it has to be dark. After all, we aren't trying to write sci-fi or drama, and making it happy and upbeat isn't our goal either. This is obvious, but it is good to remind ourselves of that before we go on to discussing the specific necessary elements.
* WorldBuilding - like in Heroic Fantasy and High Fantasy, it is highly important, especially if you are planning a series. The world the characters inhabit can help build on the already dark tone of the story, especially through the history and atmosphere you create. Getting the world right can provide the proper background for the story, in turn making it easier to set the mood for the rest of the work.
* Scale – Dark Fantasy can have a scale as large as High Fantasy, or as low as UrbanFantasy or HeroicFantasy. How big you make it is up to you, although it reflects on the world building and plot options you will have to take. A depressing story of a StreetUrchin's life probably won't involve the (inevitably grim) fate of the entire world.
* Magic – it is fantasy we speak of, after all. It is not strictly necessary to do anything specific with magic in your story, but it's got a great potential. Many Dark Fantasy stories, as you would imagine, take the opportunity. There's a reason tropes like MagicIsEvil and BlackMagic exist. You may build upon real-world stories and legends, which offer plenty of examples to pick from. It could include grisly prices such as a DealWithTheDevil or HumanSacrifice, or just as well, magic users are [[VainSorceress not]] [[BlackMage nice]] [[EvilSorcerer people]] [[WickedWitch either]]. Your wizarding order may be a tyrannical magocracy that meddles in the affairs of empires and believes in wizard supremacy over muggles - or in their order's supremacy over "witches", "hedge-magicians" or whatever slur they prefer for independent magic users. Anyway, even without all of that, it's pretty much given it won't be about harmless joy and helping upstart heroes.
* Chances of success - it's rather safe to assume [[TheBadGuyWins the heroes rarely win]], or if they do, then [[PyrrhicVictory it’s usually at a high cost]] or because they are not saints themselves. Defeating the Great Evil once and for all would hardly make the story dark -- unless, of course, you aren't averse to [[EarnYourHappyEnding ending the story on an optimistic note.]] Just don't do it before you complete the story, or else we'd be left with a GenreShift.
* Moral ambiguity - this is an important point, and it's here in the end to highlight that. Often the simplest way -- albeit not always in the sense of amount of work necessary -- to make the story dark isn't about magic or world-building or whatever, but about doing away with cheap BlackAndWhiteMorality. Once you take out the comfort of knowing at first glance who's right and who's wrong, things suddenly become a lot dimmer. BlackAndGrayMorality is not uncommon, as it allows to create less-than-perfect heroes and still make their victory preferable.

!'''Choices, Choices'''
* Let's start with world building details. For example, let's assume it's a StandardFantasySetting. Will the FiveRaces be present? If they are present, then how corrupted/evil will each race be? The answer is that, likely, their darker side will be brought to light. [[OurElvesAreBetter Standard tropes of the Elves]] allow them to be portrayed as [[ScrewYouElves absolute asses]] rather easily - and going further, we get at [[TheFairFolk their original depiction]], where they can easily become just plain inhuman. Or you can turn them on their heads, make the Elves [[EnslavedElves enslaved]] or wiped out. Dwarves' love of gold means they're greedy and couldn’t care less about everyone else. Hobbits, even if they are still the merry small folk, are probably keeping a monumental collection of skeletons in their closets... if they're not being enslaved in various horrible ways. Still, it's pretty likely that HumansAreTheRealMonsters.
* Use racism. Averting the high-fantasy alliance of standard fantasy races and making them hate each other helps estabilish a dark fantasy atmosphere. They may even not be corrupted or evil, but believe that everyone but them is corrupted and evil. And a high-fantasy climactic victory of said alliance over your chosen Threat to the Entire World becomes impossible. Perhaps forging an empire with blood and steel will work instead?
* Your hero could be, at best, a KnightInSourArmor or maybe someone [[AntiHero darker and more morally ambiguous]]. Considering the setting, how likely it is that he/she will win in the end? How about [[FaceHeelTurn joining]] [[HeWhoFightsMonsters the villain]]? And then, perhaps, the "hero" is a VillainProtagonist from the start.
* Who are the gods of this CrapsackWorld? Do they exist at all? Are they [[JerkassGods assholes of the highest calibre]] only interested in [[PassThePopcorn sitting back and watching humanity fail]]? Maybe the [[VillainsActHeroesReact only active god]] is the [[GodOfEvil one trying to destroy everything]] with TheLegionsOfHell. Going even further, there could be [[DevilButNoGod Devils but No Gods]].
* Any religious organisations are [[CorruptChurch corrupt beyond belief]] or actively trying to help bring about the EndOfTheWorldAsWeKnowIt. This is so prevalent, there's pretty much no discussion on this one. You can spice up things, by making them NecessarilyEvil or throwing in a single relatively decent confession. In the latter case, likely with too low influence to improve things on a bigger scale.

* Let's start by bringing up the fantasy element again. For example, in High Fantasy and Heroic Fantasy, take care when making maps of your world. It is quite easy to slip into ArtisticLicenseGeography. Looking at real world maps and plate tectonics can definitely help you avoid this. Many of the problems of this kind are shared with other fantasy genres, so it is advisable to study their potential pitfalls.
* {{Narm}} is the general pitfall here. It’s easy to think something is being dark but actually will provoke laughter and eye rolling. The subtle approach tends to be the best when trying to avoid this.
* DarknessInducedAudienceApathy. That's probably the most important thing to watch out for in Dark Fantasy. No matter how good you are at making the audience depressed, make sure that they still care about your character. That is, don't invoke dark elements pointlessly, and don't make the characters the reader is supposed to root for, too unlikable (and, presumably, [[DracoInLeatherPants vice versa]]). You don't need to give {{Hope Spot}}s to keep the audience to the end -- sometime they're aware from start that your character won't make it, yet they will continue the story since they want to know how it will end. Angst is to be expected, but try not to put it on [[DeusAngstMachina too]] [[{{Wangst}} thick]].
* Make sure you don't overdo it. Sure, a hapless wench once in a while is to be expected, but don't spend too much time on the lovingly detailed description, and resist the temptation to insert gratuitous {{Gorn}} or [[GratuitousRape rape scenes]] for the sake of shock value. It's one thing to write a bad story, entirely another to deal with accusations of creepy fetishes or extremist politics. Just think twice before you do that. And, God-Emperor help us, we ''do'' hope these weren't your actual beliefs or fetishes. (See also: SoYouWantTo/AvoidUnfortunateImplications)

!'''Potential Subversions'''
* {{Reconstruction}}. It may turn out this world is like ours -- most would say that, with time and effort, it improved, so the same can happen in fiction.
* The CrapsaccharineWorld ends to be a subversion of this. It is very dark and very creepy when you really look at it, but nobody inside the work will usually notice or care.

!'''Writers’ Lounge'''
!!'''Suggested Themes and Aesops'''
* {{Deconstruction}}: You may have noticed that quite a number of elements suggested above are of deconstructive nature, so you may opt to follow this trend. It's been done, but "repetitive", when done well, doesn't have to mean "bad".
** DeliberateValuesDissonance: As part of the above, you might show that many past cultures had moral systems that don't mesh with our own. Slavery, DomesticAbuse, [[OldManMarryingAChild child marriage]], racism, class elitism and the like may be an accepted part of the setting's culture.
* HumansAreTheRealMonsters: Also done, and runs a risk of alienating the audience, but if you feel you can take it, the theme of the story can be that it's a part of human nature to treat others badly. This would require some skill to be pulled off both seriously and well -- it's too easy to make the message [[{{Anvilicious}} overbearing]] or even insulting.
* WasItReallyWorthIt: Perhaps the heroes end up in a situation so bad, they'd rather just not bother.
* AntiHero, TheExtremistWasRight, and related. Perhaps the Great Evil can only be defeated by another kind of Evil. Perfect for disturbing "morals" that, paradoxically, make the reader happy in a twisted way (in the vein of "however bad the world is, Nazism still isn't our only chance").
* EarnYourHappyEnding: It's only too easy to fail in this world, so if you want a happy ending for yourself, you have to take on the whole world and make it stay your way. Or go for the easy route and do it at the others' expense.

!!'''Suggested Plots'''

It's quite easy to look at the Tropes in {{Fantasy}} and twist them to suit the darker tone. Maybe a retelling of a classic fairy tale like Literature/{{Snow White|and the seven dwarfs}} or Literature/SleepingBeauty but adding a darker flavour to the tale? Some AlternateCharacterInterpretation can play into this, a previously good character could quite easily be twisted into a {{Chessmaster}} villain who is simply putting on a [[BitchInSheepsClothing cute and innocent act]] to [[BatmanGambit achieve their own ends]]. Putting focus on political elements within the fantasy world can also greatly fuel the GreyAndGrayMorality.


!!'''Set Designer/Location Scout'''
* A common location for this is a {{Dystopia}} of some kind. Maybe the RuinsOfTheModernAge or a ScavengerWorld.
* The StandardFantasySetting can also work well in Dark Fantasy.
* [[CorpseLand An eternally corpse-strewn, blood-soaked ancient battlefield where undead soldiers play out their final moments again, and again forever]].
* A [[WretchedHive big sprawling city]] where the [[CityNoir the crime rate is through the roof]] [[ViceCity and everyone is either corrupt or psychotic and violent criminals]].
* TheDungAges are a common setting for the countryside, where the peasants are MedievalMorons and [[AristocratsAreEvil their lords can do all manner of evil]] [[ScrewTheRulesIHaveMoney and get away with it]].

!!'''Props Department'''
* Swords, guns or functional magical objects can all be included, but exact details would depend on the setting. EvilWeapon is a choice to consider, and if the ArtifactOfDoom shows up, count on it being a source of much horror, especially if its purpose is to [[SummoningArtifact bring big bad supernatural nastiness to this world]].
* Chances are, there'll be above-average need for torture and execution devices.

!!'''Costume Designer'''
* Take CostumePorn and swap the "porn" for "{{gorn}}". Rags, mud, dirt, and diseases of skin and mouth are what you will need. Upper classes are somewhat exempt, though. At least in the clothing department.

!'''Extra Credit'''
!!'''The Greats'''
* ''TheCthulhuMythos'' is a great of this genre with [[EvilGod evil gods]] and {{Eldritch Abomination}}s galore. Whilst magic isn't present, it doesn't mean that the wrong word won't attract unwanted attention. As it is set in our world, it is however lacking in general nastiness.
* ''Literature/ASongOfIceAndFire'' and the HBO series ''Series/GameOfThrones'' with AnyoneCanDie in full swing. The list of dead characters is longer than the list of surviving characters.
* ''{{Warhammer}} Fantasy Roleplay'' certainly deserves a mention, especially in the older editions, before heroics started to leak in from the battlegame.