The Magical Database
is actually magical, and the Badass Longcoat
packs a wand of fireballs instead of a gun. The local organized crime syndicate
is built on a thriving Black Market
trafficking unicorn tears
and bottled soul
, and keeps its boys in line with a cadre of demonic enforcers. Mordor
is a slum. The trial of the century: Commonwealth
vs. Golem Liberation Movement
Welcome to Dungeon Punk, a Punk Punk
genre which tries to apply the gritty, cynical tone of Cyber Punk
and Steam Punk
to a Heroic Fantasy
Usually, this takes the maxim "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic"
and turns it on its head. As we get more proficient with the use of magic, it takes on characteristics of technology. We have railroads, but instead of burning coal to work a steam engine, they have a bound air elemental. We have radios, but instead of sending electromagnetic waves across space, they work by sympathetic magic.
Done poorly it can come across as a mass Hand Wave
for the Fantasy Kitchen Sink
, but done well it creates a rich and gritty Schizo Tech Adventure-Friendly World
where anything can plausibly
happen because a Mad Scientist
and A Wizard Did It
as a joint project- or because they had an argument over quantum theory.
Note, however, that not all Magitek
falls under this trope; it requires a slide toward the cynical end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism
This always involves Functional Magic
of one kind or another. Depending on the dark tone of the piece, one may find things are often Powered by a Forsaken Child
Compare with the mystic Masquerades
, where everything appears
"normal" until you dig a little deeper...
Compare The Dung Ages
. See also, Dark Fantasy
, Fantastic Noir
, Gaslamp Fantasy
, Science Fantasy
and Urban Fantasy
Not to be confused with a 70's rocker who's into bondage
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Anime and Manga
- Vision of Escaflowne has mechas that are powered by dragon hearts.
- Maho Sensei Negima's Magic World, AKA Mars, naturally has a great deal of modern sensibility about it, since it exists contemporaneously with ours, and people travel back and forth between them. At the same time, it appears to have been designed, in-universe and out, to include every Adventure, Fantasy and RPG Trope known to man.
- From what little we saw, there were definite elements of this in Battle Chasers, particularly with the Wargolems and the prison.
- Dungeon Keeper Ami grows into this during the Voyage and Avatar Islands Arcs, once Ami starts createing proto-golems she calls 'reaperbots' that are piloted by her goblin minions, or giving her troll blacksmiths electromagnets and electric furnaces to work with, or useing jem crucibles to fund her war effort and fuel her Dungeon Hearts... yeah, it's Dungeon Punk. To date, she's gotten all the way up to airships.
- Harry Turtledove's Darkness Series of novels are set in a world which, through the application of Functional Magic, has achieved a technological level roughly equivalent to 1940s Earth.
- The novels of China Miéville's Bas-Lag Cycle including Perdido Street Station, where Magic, called Thaumaturgy, is studied in college and is considered one of the 3 fundamental branches of natural sciences next to biology and physics. The goal of the main character in Perdido Street Station is to discover a Grand Unified Theory that links the 3 branches.
- Used in Robert A. Heinlein's 1940 novella Magic, Inc.. The story is an alternate reality where the 1940 U.S.A. is just like it really is, except that magic is real.
- Robert Asprin's Myth Adventures series.
- Kelly Mc Cullough's Ravirn series features classical Greek deities and demigods who travel through infinite parallel universes - organized as what amounts to a magical Internet - by casting spells in binary code, along with the help of magical familiars called webgoblins that can turn into laptops. Most of them are fond of black leather. This series seems particularly bent on confounding sci-fi and fantasy distinctions.
- Glen Cook's Garrett, P.I. novels are about a down-on-his-luck Hardboiled Detective in a Dungeon Punk setting a Los Angeles like city full of sorcerers, dwarfs, elves, and so on. Mr. Cook himself has said that Tun Faire isn't based on any particular city, but is influenced by his hometown of St. Louis.
- The Iron Dragon's Daughter and The Dragons of Babel by Michael Swanwick.
- Randall Garrett's Lord Darcy books.
- Dragaera, when Vlad's narrating, has a lot of this going on. Paarfi, however, is writing historical romances.
- The Thraxas books by Martin Scott are classic noir and cyberpunk stories set in fantasy world.
- Tad Williams's The War of the Flowers has a fairy kingdom which has developed this sort of society. According to a diary in the book, it used to be Steam Punk, too.
- Simon Hawke's Wizard series.
- The Acts of Caine series by Matthew Stover. While the eponymous perspective character Caine is in fact from a comfortably Cyber Punk society, the characters native to the story's medieval setting are just as world-weary and cynical as anyone from Caine's Crapsack World.
- Incarceron plays with this, combining the technologically-advanced titular prison with a future world that insists on living in a zero-tech Middle-Ages simulation in the wake of a world-breaking war so intense, the moon got half-destroyed. Emphasis on "simulation." The whole thing, by the end of Sapphique, is revealed to be an elaborate holographic illusion superimposed over a heavily damaged landscape.
- The series as a whole seems to achieve this style by combining Cyber Punk and Clock Punk (embodied by the robotic miscreations found in Incarceron.) The cover art for both books (especially the first) combines imagery of metal gears with barcodes and digital-looking numbers to reinforce the effect.
- Jess Gulbranson's Antipaladin Blues series, which takes all the ultraviolent basement D&D tropes and skewers them with a bunch of anachronistic Magitek and pop culture references.
- The Nightside series plays with this in some of its alternate universes, although the Nightside itself is modern-day Urban Fantasy.
- The Eberron campaign setting for Dungeons & Dragons is a straightforward example of the trope. The punk aesthetic is becoming increasingly common in D&D at large as well.
- The Planescape setting for Dungeons & Dragons is a direct ancestor of Dungeon Punk and partial originator of its visual style.
- Privateer Press' Iron Kingdoms setting is another example; they refer to their specific blend of Steam Punk and swords-and-sorcery as "Full-Metal Fantasy".
- Exalted can easily fit here, with First Age magitech common, gods and prayers treated as a business deal, and your average military having an elite guard of giant magical mecha.
- The DragonMech game is about steam-powered mechs in a sword-and-sorcery setting fighting to protect the world's survivor's against an alien invasion in the midst of what might well be the end of the world.
- The cityplane of Ravnica, in Magic: The Gathering. Dungeon Punk creeps into many of the game's other settings as well; in fact, the main setting, Dominaria, makes a clear progression from Medieval European Fantasy in the Dark and Ice Ages to verging on Dungeon Punk in the Weatherlight era to After the End in the wake of the Phyrexian Invasion.
- The tabletop roleplaying game Shadowrun mixes Dungeon Punk with more traditional cyberpunk, though it tends more towards the cyberpunk end.
- Also, the much earlier FASAgame Earthdawn where magic and Magitek are much more commonplace and play a more central role. Not coincidentally, Earthdawn is canonically the setting of Shadowrun thousands of years earlier.
- Bloodshadows, a Tabletop RPG setting for West End Games' (post-TORG) Masterbook series.
- The Eldar of Warhammer 40,000 have sometimes been described as a Post Cyber Punk styled take on Dungeon Punk. For an outsider their technology is inherently magical (and contains no metal with only minor exceptions) and is highly linked to their Psychic Powers. At the same time they are in a heavily cynical setting and always on the verge of destruction but can prevail due to their technology and magic. Plus they are majorly racist and supremacist.
- GURPS Zauberpunk, which is GURPS Technomancer meets GURPS Cyberworld.
- The CRPG Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura is half Dungeon Punk, and half Steam Punk. As an example, Orcs are discriminated against and work long hours in factories for low wages (Dungeon Punk analogs of racism and oppression of working class).
- In Ultima VII, the setting of the series, which was traditional Heroic Fantasy, takes a darker turn. Like Arcanum, it features an analogue of the Industrial Revolution and the Workers' Movement.
- In Lost Odyssey, magic energy is literally just a fuel source (albeit one that can do all sorts of horrible and miraculous things) and the recent development of it has lead to many Magitek machines being created, such as odd-looking cars and street lamps that run off of arcane glowing stuff. For some reason, glowing pendulums of various sizes (the largest one seen is roughly the size of a skyscraper) either store or create this magic energy and when malfunctioning, can give local monsters an unintended power boost. Not to mention the fact that the greatest advancement in magic is a literal gigantic towering magic staff that can be flown around and used to cast continent-wide spells.
- Many of the later games in the Legend of Zelda franchise take this approach, with pretty varied views on how cynical it actually is. Where the first few games were strictly magic and swords, as time progressed, you now have steam boats, trains, weird spinner tops, hookshots, and various Magitek automatons such as Armos and Guardians.
- Some of the Final Fantasy games fit this, such as VI, VII, and The Crystal Bearers.
- Planescape: Torment, being set in the D&D Planescape setting mentioned above and adding a grim, cynical storyline, is prime Dungeon Punk.
- Mahou Daisakusen, where stone castles and fantasy creatures meet mechanized warfare.
- Divine Divinity features a distinctly dungeon punk setting, particularly in its latest entry, Divinity: Dragon Commander, which features airships, turret installations, and various war machines as units.
- BlazBlue contains many examples of Punk genres, but the overall aesthetic of the game is squarely this one. Not too far into the future, an Eldritch Abomination mysteriously appears out of nowhere and begins to destroy the earth. Conventional technology, including nukes, prove utterly useless against it. Just as all hope seems lost, Six Heroes appear and teach humans to use a new form of technology; the "Armagus", an artificial form of magic that is powered by seithr, the toxic substance that the beast exhumes. While the combined efforts of the Six Heroes and mankind are eventually successful in slaying the beast, ending the so-called "First War of Magic", the vast majority of the world's population are left dead and seithr has rendered much of the planet uninhabitable. The survivors flee into the mountains and begin to rebuild, forming the Novus Orbis Librarium to control the Armagus weapons and prevent their misuse. However, before long, the N.O.L grew into The Empire and abused it's power, creating a hostile monopoly on the magical artefacts, and using them to govern the world, subjugating and decimating anyone who opposed them. Two hundred years later, several N.O.L bases are annihilated by a lone figure, known as "Ragna the Bloodedge", wielding a ludicrously powerful artefact called the BlazBlue, who promptly declares the start of a one-man war to free the world from the tyrannical grip of the N.O.L. In retaliation, the N.O.L sets the largest bounty on record on his head, open to anyone who can bring him in, dead or alive. This attracts bounty hunters from far and wide to the 13th Hierarchical City of Kagutsuchi, kicking off the plot of the first game.
- Guilty Gear: Being BlazBlue's predecessor, having magic born from science, fantasy creatures and what not, except, if anime tropes are concerned, BlazBlue is a Shonen, meanwhile Guilty Gear is Seinen, having more cynicism, and less humor, but still has its moments.
- Dominic Deegan occasionally flirts with the trope, the climax of the Storm of Souls arc owing more to Neuromancer than anything else. The city of Erossus, aka "Sin City", is probably supposed to be a parody of it.
- Penny Arcade's Song of the Sorcelator appears to take place in this sort of universe.
- Errant Story: Big magic-powered cities with magic-powered 21st century level technology and beyond, including a Portal Network, and the omnipresent sensibilities of a 21st century JRPG nerd.
- Tales of MU takes place in a Dungeon Punk setting which seems to be more or less based on D&D, complete with concepts like character classes seeping into the real world.