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Medieval European Fantasy
Fantasy Tavern by Javier Charro.

"Fantasy, for us, is a knight on horseback running around and killing things."
Todd Howard, Game Informer Issue 138

No matter where a fantasy story may be written, whatever rich history the author's homeland might have, most fantasy stories take place in Medieval Europe (or a facsimile thereof, possibly reasonable). People will fight with swords and shields, and the government is usually vaguely feudal: it may not map well to any real-world political system, but it usually has hereditary monarchs and nobles (which many other cultures also have, but if European titles are used, you're in a Medieval European Fantasy). Medieval European Fantasy settings are sometimes littered with Schizo Tech, although there may well be Fantasy Gun Control.

The modern age's Ur-source for Medieval fantasy is The Lord of the Rings, which Tolkien based heavily on European folklore. This trope also has its roots in the tendency for pre-Tolkien fantasy works to outright take place in the Medieval era, especially if they were connected to or influenced by the tales of King Arthur.

Christianity can occur, but is fairly rare. Mythopoeia is possible, as well as Crystal Dragon Jesus. This will partly depend on whether it's a High Fantasy or Low Fantasy setting, as religion and magic are often closely associated.

This is also frequently the setting of Japanese RPGs, Wutai aside, as well as mostly Western RPGs in between Sci-Fi games. The first settings of Dungeons & Dragons are perhaps the most well-known example - even though many later D&D settings avert this trope, the sheer popularity of Faerūn makes this trope almost synonymous with D&D. Notably averted however in Wuxia, which is a sister trope (Chinese fantasy with a long literary tradition, set in a pseudo-historical Alternate Universe China, featuring magic, wandering errant martial artists, legendary artifacts, dragons and the rest). Played straight in most fantasy anime.

Often depicts the setting as more Arcadia and the Ghibli Hills than the actual medieval Europeans viewed it as, though not always.

Prone to People of Hair Color.

May be imported in a Feudal Future, with or without advanced technology.

If the setting's history starts with The Time of Myths, jumps straight to the medieval period and stays there forever, it's trapped in Medieval Stasis.

See also Heroic Fantasy, Standard Fantasy Setting, Fantasy Counterpart Culture and Hermetic Magic, all of which may overlap with this. See Urban Fantasy and New Weird for alternatives fantasy fans, who were getting tired of this setting, came up with.


Examples :

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     Anime  

     Literature  

  • The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings popularized the setting in modern times, though it bears less of a resemblance to High Medieval Europe than many of its successors.
  • William Morris's The Well at the World's End and its other related novels, which helped inspire the above.
  • The Deryni works of Katherine Kurtz feature feudal governance and a Christian Church to rival the secular government.
  • The Kingdom of the Isles from The Riftwar Cycle, although it's implied this may be because its people are directly descended from European refugees fleeing the Enemy, in the same way that Kesh is of Asian stock.
  • Being based on the setting that gave birth to RPGs, more or less any book universe based off of Dungeons & Dragons. Especially Dragonlance.
  • Ranger's Apprentice is a young adult/children's series with this setting. Occasionally the stories move beyond "Europe", however.
  • George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire is set primarily on the fictional continent of Westeros, based on medieval European culture; its geography and history are also loosely based on England/Great Britain (the North is analogous to a blend of Northern England and the Scottish Lowlands, while the Westerlands with their mineral wealth correspond to Wales and Cornwall), so one might weakly justify the use of the trope as a retelling of the Wars of the Roses. In fairness to Martin, other locations have a variety of other influences; for instance, the Free Cities bring to mind the Mediterranean city-states of Italy, Greece, and Phoenicia.
  • A Wizard in Rhyme takes place primarily in a Fantasy Counterpart France.
  • Osten Ard, the setting of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, strongly resembles Medieval Europe in terms of society (though not so much geography) with a number of direct Fantasy Counterpart Cultures and an obvious Catholic Church-analogue.
  • The Cup of the World by John Dickinson is set in a world that strongly resembles Medieval Europe, albeit one in which some sort of magic exists. It's also mentioned that the ancestors of most of the world's inhabitants arrived as settlers from an unidentified land to the North.
  • Jack Vance's Lyonesse trilogy is set on the mythical island of Hybras, off the coast of France, and shares a style and approximate era with many ahistorical Arthurian romances.
  • Fiona Patton's Tales of the Branion Realm are set in a Fantasy Counterpart Culture version of Britain, with many unusual names.
  • The Sword with No Name trilogy by Andrei Belyanin has a modern-day man transported by unknown means to such a setting, full of deliberate anachronisms. For example, the Big Bad is an Evil Sorcerer terrorizing the land from his floating city and is Wicked Cultured (he actually wears a modern-day business suit).
    • Belyanin's Jack the Mad King books are also set in this sort of setting, minus the Fish Out of Temporal Water scenario, but still full of anachronisms (like the protagonist and a giant using modern street slang, although that could be Translation Convention). Until the last story, though, when the characters head East to save a sultan's daughter.
    • A variation in Belyanin's Tsar Gorokh's Detective Agency series, where the setting involves a Fish Out of Temporal Water scenario, in which a modern-day Russian cop is transported to an idealized fantasy (almost fairy tale) version of Medieval Russia. There are still many aspects of the trope, but its more their Russian equivalents. For example, there are no brave knights in the books, but there are brave druzhinniki (the Tsar's guard), armed with sabers and Hand Cannons. While the Tsar is just and beloved by the people (it's the boyars, the aristocratic advisors, they don't trust), he can get a little hot-headed and is quick to punish when he's sure the guilty party has been found. The protagonist, being a fresh-out-of-police-academy rookie cop is insistent on following due process and finding enough evidence. Also, all supernatural is straight out of Russian fairy tales, with the Big Bad of the entire series being Koschei the Deathless, a prominent figure in those tales. There are some Western influences, though, such as zombies rising out of their graves.
  • The First Law trilogy is mostly this setting, though it would definitely be late medieval or even early Renaissance. Or at least the corruption and backstabbing politics of the Renaissance.
  • The Mortal Instruments: Idris positively screams this, and thus City of Glass could be seen as fitting this genre, whereas the rest of the setting is Urban Fantasy, especially being focused mostly on New York City.
  • Widdershins Adventures is set in a late medieval/Renaissance fantasy counterpart of France.

     Tabletop Games  

  • The most famous gaming examples are, of course, the majority of settings for Dungeons & Dragons.
  • Justified in GURPS Fantasy with the world of Yrth, where a massive magical backfire several centuries before the current date transported in large numbers of humans from medieval Europe, who then did their best to build themselves a new home that looked and worked more or less like what they came from. Simultaneously double subverted by the nation of Sahud — first, it was populated with medieval Asians, and second, they were mostly peasants from four or five different cultures, who tried to do the same as the Europeans but ended up with a society that looked less like any actual Asian nation of the period and more like The Mikado on acid, as written by Monty Python.
  • Most countries in 7th Sea, although the ruins of the ancient Syrneth civilization mix things up a bit.
    • Again, only Ussura is truly medieval. Other countries are well into mid-17th century Renaissance, with Age of Exploration and Thirty Years' War playing key roles in the world development.
  • Ars Magica even calls its setting 'Mythic Europe' and is set in historically correct settings with many folklore and religious fantasy thrown in for the good measure. In a nutshell, it is the actual medieval Europe with all fantastic beliefs made true.
  • King Arthur's Pendragon, as the name suggests, is based on Mallory's version of Arthurian England, mixing high-medieval setting with magic and Celtic paganism.
  • The Dark Eye has Aventuria, a rough equivalent of Europe with Mittelreich modeled after the Holy German Empire. Other countries and lands also fit the role of Fantasy Counterpart Culture.
  • Warhammer has Old World that is late medieval/early Renaissance, although Kislev and Bretonnia (at least from 2nd edition onwards) play this trope straight. High Elves and Dwarves also fit the feudal mindset pretty well.
  • Havok And Hijinks
  • While Rifts is set in the future, the England Sourcebook has heavy overtones of this, right down to huge heaping handfuls of Arthurian Legend. Justified in that the setting is a Fantasy Kitchen Sink with more than enough Anachronism Stew, Days of Future Past, and Schizo Tech to go around.

     Video Games  

  • The vast majority of western RPGs (as shown by the page quote). Listing exceptions would probably be easier. This was likely caused by Dungeons & Dragons. Many western RPGs basically seek to be as much like Dungeons and Dragons as possible, even when they aren't actually owned by the same company.
  • Chrono Trigger subverts this by starting out with two time periods that fit this trope, then taking you to a high tech future.
    • 1000 AD seems to be pretty schizoid, though, seeing as how they have refrigerators, stoves, apparently large-scale power plants that would be necessary to operate both, guns, mechanized warfare, and steam power (the ferry,) but there are no cars or paved roads, and Guardia's standing army has no firearms. On the other hand, Guardia is the sole world power in 1000 AD, so it's not like they need firearms.
  • The first five Final Fantasy games go in and out of this. The seventh, eighth, and thirteenth games are very much not examples, but most of the rest have some degree of this. The tenth is an odd example. It has anti-technology, though that turns out to be the Big Bad's plan. It also has more Asian inspired elements coming across as a mash up of Medieval Europe and Asian Wuxia.
  • The Breath of Fire series. Subverted in Breath of Fire III (to some extent) and especially in Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter, which, while not necessarily in the same "Canon" as the others, is set inside an underground sci-fi world made to escape the pollution on the surface. It's assumed by fans to take place long after Breath of Fire III.
  • The Dragon Quest series. Dragon Quest VII is the only one that doesn't play this trope straight, adding in robot NPCs.
  • The Tales Series. Some tend to have an anime-like blend of Technology (mostly Abyss) but that still doesn't keep them from having royalty.
  • The Fire Emblem series.
  • Ogre Battle
  • Cadash is a textbook example, except for the Ninja character.
  • The Witcher, and the books it's based on.
  • Majesty, though it's an affectionate parody and set out to be a Cliché Storm.
  • The Sword Coast from the Forgotten Realms campaign setting. Unfortunately, most videogames set in the Forgotten Realms take place in the Sword Coast.
  • Most of the Star Ocean games attempt to avert this by setting up a sci-fi universe, but fall right back into it by leaving you stuck on an 'undeveloped world' (which are mainly Medieval European Fantasy worlds) for most of the game.
  • The Warcraft series, at least as far as the human kingdoms are concerned. The third game and the MMORPG add a slew of other settings, such as the vaguely Asian nightelves, the Native American-ish Tauren, Caribbean Trolls, the Steam Punk gnomes (and goblins), the Magitek-using draenei, vaguely Persian-ish Blood Elves, and the nordic vyrkul. Later on, there's the addition of the Asian-themed pandaren (the trailer revealing them has a pandaren monk (in a conical hat, no less) using a bamboo staff to thoroughly beat the crap out of a human and an orc with kung fu), originally introduces as a joke.
  • The original Diablo has this in full force. Act One of the sequel takes place in the same medieval region, but quickly departs it in favor of Qurac, Mayincatec, Hell, and the a scary snowy place in that order.
  • Sonic and the Black Knight - Justified in this case, since it's based around the Arthurian myths.
  • Guild Wars nails this trope in all other aspects but subverts it when it comes to geography: The tutorial level of Prophecies (pre searing) looks like the game would be something like this, with medieval castles, green Ghibli Hills and otherwise European geography. Then the Charr summon their Earth-Shattering Kaboom. Ascalon ends up as a broken wasteland and every other locations tries to avoid this trope. The rest of Tyria is (in order) Death Mountain, a Beach Episode, Jungle Japes, Shifting Sand Land, Slippy-Slidey Ice World and Lethal Lava Land / Mordor. The continent Cantha in contrast is the Far East while Elona has heavy African and Middle East influences.
  • One map in Backyard Skateboarding, Merry Old Englandland, fits this trope perfectly.
  • The Legend of Zelda heavily features elements of this, though the games also have Japanese and Greek influences. The Wind Waker arc, however, moves into early modern period with elements of Steam Punk.
  • Thief is part this and part Steampunkish Film Noir.
  • Super Robot Wars NEO has you visit Earth Tear from Lord Of Lords Ryu Knight.
  • Mount & Blade, which tries to keep as close to a realistic medieval setting as is physically possible, has this trope as its entire point.
  • Dragon Age games and books take place in a Fantasy Counterpart Culture setting, where most countries/cultures having a prototype in our history. The nations of Ferelden and Orlais are based on Medieval England and France, respectively, right down to the accents. Antiva, though never shown, is described like Rennaissance Italy, although Antivans have a Spanish accent for some reason. Other parallels are less Clear. Interestingly, Dragon Age: Origins does not include any horses or mounted warriors, reducing the image of a knight a little. The novels, on the other hand, have them in spades. The Orlesians, for example, fight mostly using their heavy cavalry troops known as the chevaliers (French for "knights"), while the Fereldans prefer infantry, with a mix of magic and war dogs thrown in.
    • The sequel introduces the Free Marches, which are implied to be the equivalent of the Holy Roman Empire, except the Free Marches is just a name, with each city-state being, pretty much, on its own. Kirkwall, for example, doesn't even have a king but a viceroy. However, the city of Starkhaven does have a king and a royal family, but the King of Starkhaven rules only Starkhaven.
  • Castlevania takes place at various points in history, including the Middle Ages, The Renaissance, the modern age, and even Twenty Minutes Into Thefuture, though the overall aesthetic is Gothic Horror.
  • Phantasy Star III has a variant: it turns out that the entire medieval-style world the game takes place in is in reality an Arc-like spaceship that was fleeing the destruction of a very technologically advanced planet, and all the inhabitants are descendants of the ship's original population. After about 1,000 years and a lot of conflict, they lost their ancestors' technological advancements as well as the knowledge about the real nature of their world.
  • Runescape, though with Arabian and African/Caribbean based settings, as well as some post-Medieval European technology.
  • The The Elder Scrolls games prior to and after Oblivion subverted this in a few ways, in that most of the cultures save the Breton are based on various other cultures, such as the Middle Eastern/African influences on the Redguard, Native American on the Argonians and the Roman and Chinese Empires on Cyrodiil. Oblivion played this almost painstakingly straight however and Skyrim toys with it by being Northern Medieval European Fantasy, but restores the cultural diversity on everyone else. There are also elements of Steam Punk with the Dwemer ruins which appear in both games.
  • Medieval Mode in Team Fortress 2 and the cp_degrootkeep map, which surprisingly has modern-day computers hidden in the castle.
  • For the most part the Shining Series is set here.
  • Dark Souls is set in a mix between Medieval European Fantasy and Dark Fantasy
  • Heroes of Might and Magic has the Haven faction, which is your typical European castle with knights, archers, monks, etc. Until HoMM V, the Tower faction used to be a typical "ivory tower" city full of magical libraries and wizards. It has since been replaced with a more Middle Eastern-themed floating desert city and renamed Academy.
  • The Empire in Disciples is a typical example. There are knights, priests, inquisitors, mercenaries, peasants, Christian-themed angels.
  • Total Annihilation: Kingdoms: the kingdom of Aramon takes the stereotypical theme of European Fantasy. It has knights, wizards, dragons, along with gunpowder cannons.
  • Played with in Wurm Online, which seems to be set in a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of the Mediterranean; there's wine instead of ale, you can plant olive groves and some of the architecture has a faint Ancient Grome vibe.
  • The Drakengard series uses this theme along with Dark Fantasy. Amusingly if one looks at the games world map one can see that it is Europe just flipped upside down.

     Webcomics  


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