Dungeon Punk

Jumping from a helicopter to a train, Dungeon Punk-style. Note the Magitek robot.

The Magical Database is actually magical, and the Blue-Collar Warlock packs a wand of fireballs instead of a gun in his Badass Longcoat. 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 setting.

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. Instead of fighter pilots, air forces train Dragon Riders.

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 vs. Cynicism as well.

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...

See also, Dark Fantasy, Fantastic Noir, Gaslamp Fantasy, Science Fantasy and Urban Fantasy. Contrast, Medieval Stasis.

Not to be confused with a 70's rocker who's into bondage.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Dorohedoro is part this, part Urban Fantasy, due the fact that while not greatly advanced, fits the Cyberpunk aesthetic, and the magic part goes without saying.
  • Vision of Escaflowne has mechas that are powered by dragon hearts.
  • Vampire Hunter D, not so prominently in the first movie, but full blown in Blood Lust. Also, pretty obvious in the books, with all the Schizo Tech, vampires and technology.


    Fan Fiction 

  • 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.

  • In The Hobbit, the Dwarf kingdom of Erebor has complex industrial machinery driven by gears, waterwheels, and what appears to be an automated production line powered by the heat of the gold forges. The Goblin town in the Misty Mountains is at a Bamboo Technology level.
  • Meanwhile, there's the 1940s magic-noir Earth in the 1991 TV movie Cast a Deadly Spell, where everybody in L.A. uses magic — except for private detective Harry Philip Lovecraft.

  • 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 can be said to be an indirect precursor. While the setting contained all the necessary elements from the very beginning, and the major characters tended to technically be adventurers of some form, the plots of the books never quite hit what we'd call "standard fare" for the genre today until said genre was well established.
  • 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. Also, the latter narrator focuses on a period when both magic and technology were operating on a level that, while not precisely simpler, didn't scale up well or lend itself to semi-automation, so the difference is in setting as well as style and plot.
  • 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 Discworld is a Fantasy Kitchen Sink that occasionally falls into this, with machines that resemble modern-day appliances but are run by magic. For example, the iconograph is a camera with a tiny demon inside that can paint very fast, and Hex is quite a literal example of a Magical Computer.

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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".
  • Spelljammer is far wackier than most examples, but it more or less adds up to this trope by way of Space Opera.
  • 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 features a Standard Fantasy Setting, fighting against an alien invasion in the midst of what might well be the end of the world, aided by the might of steam-powered Humongous Mecha.
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • 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).
  • BlazBlue combines this with Post Cyber Punk. It's set in an alternate future Earth where most of the world was destroyed by a rampaging Eldritch Abomination, and what little remains of civilisation is limited to a few, scattered mountain-top cities run by a feudal and hugely dictatorial world government that maintains power by having a monopoly on Arsmagus, a sort of artificially engineered magic that's powered by toxic Eldritch Abomination fumes.
  • Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 being set in 2057 looks like modern day, with more technology, but the magic still exists, and it's implemented in a lot of places, mainly by the Brotherhood of Light and The Bioquimek Corporation.
  • Likewise, Dm C Devil May Cry has it in the Virility Factory, Mundus corporation, and in Vergil's base:"The Order". Since most of the dealings of angels and demons are behind the scenes, the game leans more toward Urban Fantasy and Gothic Punk, much like the original series. At least until the ending.
  • Divine Divinity features a distinctly dungeon punk setting, particularly in Divinity: Dragon Commander, which features airships, turret installations, and various war machines as units.
  • Some of the Final Fantasy games fit this, such as VI, VII, and The Crystal Bearers.
  • 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. Magic here comes from an Eldritch Location that, in computer terms, serves as the world's "code". Mankind used magic to create creatures intended to be the next step in evolution (the titular "Gears"). Eventually the project shifted intentions and the gear ended up being used as weapons, one of these Gears rebelled and declared a century long war that formed the backstory of the series. Gears themselves are frequent victims of Fantastic Racism, and the co-existence of humans and Gears is part one of the central plots of the story.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Mahou Daisakusen, where stone castles and fantasy creatures meet mechanized warfare.
  • Planescape: Torment, being set in the D&D Planescape setting mentioned above and adding a grim, cynical storyline, is prime Dungeon Punk.
  • The Shadowrun adaptations are this by definition.
  • 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.
  • Paladins takes place in a Realm where champions fight using magic and crystal-empowered firearms. The setting is not as gritty as other dungeon punk settings as it was originally Science fantasy early in development.

    Web Comics 
  • Baskets of Guts: Spreading of magical education led to series of new developments, such as homunculi-based energy source and later magical guns, cars, mobile communication, fire-extinguishing systems, Portal Network, autonomous golems and so forth.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Penny Arcade's Song of the Sorcelator appears to take place in this sort of universe.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s): Magepunk