aka: Medieval Fantasy
spend their days smiting evil, fighting monsters, recovering treasures and quaffing ale. One of the three typical settings for fantasy literature. High Fantasy usually focuses on the epic struggle between absolute good and absolute evil, and the characters are thrust in the midst. Low Fantasy portrays the struggle of characters to achieve their own personal goals, ranging from questionable to decidedly unsavory. Heroic Fantasy sits somewhere in between. It tends to be distinguishable from High Fantasy by its scale — the problems are generally those of the heroes, not the world. Kingdoms and societies are portrayed mainly to the extent the heroes have an impact on them. On the other hand, it's distinct from Low Fantasy as well in that the heroes are actually heroic and their goals are morally sound or, at the very least, not overtly objectionable. An Anti-Hero in this setting is more likely to be a Loveable Rogue than a Well-Intentioned Extremist. The setting differs as well: it is neither fragile and in need of saving, nor a Crapsack World with wickedness Inherent in the System - rather, it's an ambiguous place, characterized more than anything by being an Adventure-Friendly World, with much untamed wilderness to travel through, quests to undertake and dungeons to delve. Therefore, the heroes are very likely to encounter magic and fantastic elements, assuming they aren't prevalent in the setting to begin with. The first story of this type is often considered to by Lord Dunsany's "The Fortress Unvanquishable, Save for Sacnoth" from 1908, but it is 1929's "The Shadow Kingdom" by Robert E. Howard that is responsible for kick-starting the genre proper. Howard himself would later go on to codify the genre with his Conan the Barbarian tales. Heavily influenced by The Hero's Journey, the Arthurian cycle, the Conan the Barbarian stories and movies, the game Dungeons & Dragons, and classical myth. Sometimes set in a world that looks an awful lot like medieval Europe, although it can range all the way back to a "forgotten prehistory" such as in Conan the Barbarian, or even the "classical" period (ancient Greece, Mesopotamia, etc.), as found in Xena: Warrior Princess (this variant is sometimes called "Sword And Sandal" and more burly versions are called "Thud and Blunder"). May involve Mythopoeia. Sometimes it can be found in the future, often in After the End setting; sometimes it comes close to Planetary Romance. Also often features Medieval Stasis. Often lumped together with Sword and Sorcery, a genre coined by Fritz Leiber. Unkind souls have described Heroic Fantasy as nothing but an upmarket term for Sword & Sorcery, though Leiber deliberately created it to set his stories and similar works by other writers apart from the general field of Heroic Fantasy. Good live-action film and television heroic fantasies can be counted on the fingers of one hand (generally starting with the Conan the Barbarian movie). Dying is easy. Fantasy is hard! On the other hand, roughly half of all RPGs ever written fall under this genre, if not more. See also Two-Fisted Tales, Pulp Magazine. Heroic and epic Fantasy of Chinese cultural origin is known as Wuxia. Contrast Sword And Sandals. See also Medieval European Fantasy. Not to be confused with Low Fantasy, which is simply Fantasy in a down-to-earth setting. Nor to be confused with Demythtification, which is Mythology reimagined as Historical Fiction. Perhaps you would be interested in writing one yourself?
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Anime & Manga
- Crimson Spell combines Heroic Fantasy with the Yaoi genre.
- Arguably Berserk goes from Low Fantasy to a heroic but dark fantasy at the end of the Golden Age arc where all the demons start coming out and become the main source of conflict.
- Or it was Heroic Fantasy all along without the characters noticing. After all Zodd the Immortal didn't exactly keep his existence a secret.
- Fairy Tail focuses on the eponymous guild of wizard adventurers and the various quests they undertake for fun and profit.
- Rune Soldier is a comedic Heroic Fantasy spin-off of the high fantasy Record of Lodoss War.
- Fullmetal Alchemist started as this, though it quickly veered into High Fantasy territory. The 2003 anime version, on the other hand, stuck with Heroic Fantasy.
- Seirei no Moribito: While it later turns out that the fate of the kingdom is at stake, the story follows a lone mercenary on the run, who is trying to hide the prince from assassins send after him by his own father.
- The Tower of Druaga
- Queen's Blade. The heroines rarely have magic on their side while the villains do and often the only way to win a fight is through sword battles. While there is a grand plot involving the fate of the land, the heroines are largely unaware of it and just want to fulfill their personal desires.
- Quite averted in With Strings Attached, which is partially set on a continent that was once a place of Heroic Fantasy. However, by the time the four find themselves there, the skahs warriors have long since wiped out any threats, and are going crazy with boredom because they have nothing to do and refuse to become civilians. A major goal of some of the secondary characters is finding a way to restock the continent with monsters, since the gods refuse to do it.
- Played much more straight on Jim Hunter's world, but that's because it was built by a gamer.
- The Adventures Of Sinbad
- The Beastmaster (only the movie, not the science fiction books it was based on.)
- Conan the Barbarian (1982) and Conan the Destroyer
- Conquest mix this with Dark Fantasy and Horror.
- Clash of the Titans
- Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
- Kull The Conqueror
- Red Sonja
- Army of Darkness, an Affectionate Parody of the genre.
- The Sword and the Sorcerer
- Alison Croggon's Books of Pellinor
- Lynn Flewelling's Nightrunner series
- David Gemmell's books are a prime example.
- Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian, Kull and Bran Mak Morn. To a large extent Howard invented the modern incarnation of this trope.
- Patrick Rothfuss's The Kingkiller Chronicle (although the protagonist is leaning toward Anti-Hero territory and may get worse in the upcoming book 3).
- Norman Spinrad's The Iron Dream (a Deconstruction geared towards showing just how screwy the genre's politics can get)
- The Bahzell series by David Weber.
- Michael Moorcock's The Elric Saga (another Deconstruction).
- Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser
- Karl Edward Wanger's Kane.
- C.L. Moore's Jirel of Joiry, the first major female character in Heroic Fantasy.
- Her husband Henry Kuttner was no slouch in the genre, with works like Elak of Atlantis, Valley of Flame and The Dark World.
- Charles R. Saunders's Imaro.
- The Black Company series
- The Malazan Book of the Fallen, especially during Karsa Orlong's storylines.
- Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon is either a Darker and Edgier or Deconstructed Trope version (or possibly Distaff Counterpart) of the King Arthur story.
- The Shadowleague trilogy
- The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks.
- Codex Alera (quasi-Ancient Rome + Elemental Powers).
- Lord Dunsany's "The Sword of Welleran" and "The Fortress Unvanquishable, Save for Sacnoth", as well as a few other short stories here and there.
- Everything by David Eddings.
- Everything by R. A. Salvatore.
- Tamora Pierce's Tortall Universe.
- The Exile's Violin: A hero armed with mystical weapons that fights a power mad Evil Sorcerer doesn't sound like the kind of thing that would happen in a Steam Punk detective story but it happens and checks off the other markers such as personal trouble and grey morality.
- Lynn Abbey's Rifkin series.
- D. E. Wyatt's No Good Deed... has many elements of this.
Live Action TV
- ElvenQuest is a parody.
- Dungeons & Dragons. Though the game system is flexible enough that the enterprising DM can apply it to almost any fantasy subgenre, as printed it tends toward Heroic Fantasy.
- As does On Mighty Thews, which even comes with a list of substitutions to make things more pulpy.
- Exalted is what you get when you combine this with the tropes of wuxia, ancient myth, and a dash of shonen anime style to taste.
- Dragon Age. While the first game has a "unite the people to fight an army of evil" main plot, the side plots that make up the biggest chunk of the game follow the genre pretty straight. The second game focuses completely on a single protagonist rising in power within the hierarchy of one city, with the main factions being Templar (sword) and Mage (spell).
- Demons Souls
- Sword And Sorcery EP
- God of War plays it pretty straight, though starting with the second game the scope of the events becomes considerably bigger, as it grows into a full blown war among the gods.
- Prince of Persia
- The Reconstruction (Deconstruction, ironically)
- Fantasy Quest
- The Witcher: A lone monster hunter hunting a sorcerer who stole the alchemical secrets from the witchers.
- Barbarian: The Ultimate Warrior
- Monster Hunter is mostly this as well. The levels of mysticism are very slight (down to the special mode of the Longsword in Tri and its derivatives), but everything else is totally straight: minimal overarching plot, for the most part its just a world where people make a living slaying or capturing giant monsters for the chance at building more weaponry with which to slay or capture tougher giant monsters.
- Skies of Arcadia is a Reconstruction of this setting, with Schizo Tech and Ocean Punk thrown in for flavour. Much of the world is equivalent to the real world 15th/16th Century, but there's also fantastical creatures, adventurers and explorers, myths, and widespread use of magic and magical weaponry. Not to mention the Sky Pirates, of course.