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So, you have a Heroic Fantasy with a long history in order to account for the fact that the Sealed Evil in a Can has been forgotten. You fast forward about five thousand years and reveal a world... exactly like the one you started in! Same kinds of tools and devices, same form of government, same language, same culture — you wouldn't even need to dress differently to fit right in.
Medieval Stasis is a situation in which, as far as the technological, cultural, and sociopolitical level are concerned, thousands of years pass as if they were minutes.
Heck, the "castles and knights" period of Medieval Europe didn't even make it to five hundred years, and compare these◊ threecastles to get some idea of how much things changed even then.
Furthermore, there have been no wars — between countries or civil wars — no redrawing of any inter-state boundaries. No new nations have arisen, and none have been subsumed into others or wiped out. No more or less land is under the ploughnote This is one area in which things most consistently changed over time throughout the last three thousand years of Eurasian (but not so much American or Australian, prior to European settlement) history, though there have been reverses. Population kept rising with it, of course, no canals have been dug or allowed to silt up and no rivers have changed course or been made (un)navigablenote Even today, 90% of the bulk/weight of world-trade entails shipping. Even today there is still no way to cheaply ship bulky items over long distances other than, well, shipping them. Profit margins dwindled fast after the first 30km (one day's cart-travel) from the nearest shoreline, river, or canal, and it certainly doesn't look like people have been making and accumulating things like brick and iron in the intervening timenote The amount of both of these in use has steadily increased over time as well. Once it's been quarried there's no reason why stone can't be used time and again, e.g. the near-complete salvaging of the stone sections of The Great Wall Of China for use in people's houses (it's had to be rebuilt a few times from scratch for just this reason). In the same vein iron was just too useful not to be well-used and looked-after and and salvaged and accumulated. Knowledge and writings (scrolls, books, etc), too, have steadily accumulated over time. Most of it isn't remotely useful, of course, but it's still nice to have. Exceptions to the Rule Of Accumulation abound, such as iron-poor Japan - the islands had so little iron that it was profitable to import it from Korea and China, and every single piece of iron armour was painstakingly sealed in a specially treated wooden shell to prevent even the slightest bit of it from being lost to rusting . There have been no demographic changes (both population increase and the subsequent inevitable decreasenote The soil can only support so many people. All it takes is one bad harvest and a nasty cold going around, and bam. Demographic decline. Then, sooner or later, the cycle starts all over again... have caused major changes), no changes of religion or religious observancenote Europe's Medieval period saw two - increasingly religious through the late dark ages as Pagan Europe was conquered or converted, increasingly secular until the 14th Century or so, then increasingly religious once more until the end of the 15th century reached the old high of general religiousness , no changes of dynasty, no new organizations of political or social significance (such as guilds), no changes in in art or music or clothing, no new fashions, and no changes in academic or philosophical studies. Despite the apparent age of uninterrupted peace, there will still be a professional warrior caste standing - with undiminished wealth and status despite their redundancy - for the entire period. If the landscape changes at all, even in the course of 100,000 years, it won't be due to geological processes, but due to magic. Otherwise, expect the landmarks and geography to remain identical across the eons.
Sometimes, in fact, it seems that things were better in the past, and things are slowly in a vague decline.
Sometimes justified by long-lived inhabitants, being a Scavenger World, having The Powers That Be artificially retard humanity's development, a general Creative Sterility caused by the ease and ubiquity of magic to solve problems, or other barriers to significant technological advancement. If some people do manage to create a Hidden Elf Village with advanced tech, it's Decade Dissonance.
There is an Enlightenment idea that the Middle Ages were a "dark age", in which the brilliance of the Romans declined. However, this only really applies to The Dark Ages, prior to the 9th century or so, when stone buildings weren't even that common. See also Analysis for additional facts about the Middle Ages.
Then again, the whole 'Medieval Stasis' thing could just be the creator's attempt to avoid Totally Radical or Twenty Minutes into the Future by the most readily available means, with no attempt at in-universe justification.
It should also be noted that some fans genuinely enjoy the lack of technological development and would be rather dismayed to see their beloved fantasy world suddenly discarding broadswords, plate and mail armor, and other such standard fantasy tropes in favor of guns and industrialization (even though the former really were around then). Not that that's likely to happen in less than centuries, so only stories that feature Flashback or Time Skip that long really need to worry about it.
The availability of magic, be it of the controllable kind or otherwise, can have a huge effect — consider the influence reliable healing magic would have on the the development of medicinenote and that's not even getting into the massive cultural effects of longer lifespans, reduced infant mortality, etc.. Then again, past magic might have been responsible for the current situation in the first place. Besides, your average non-magical Joe would probably be all for technology, as it would end the magic user's monopoly over things like fast travel, healing, and most importantly, blowing things to bits... assuming Magic Genetics is in place and prevents Joe from learning magic himself. It also raises questions as to why if wizards are so good they are content to let non-magic-using feudal rulers run things (unless the wizards actually do run things).
And then there's the question of whether science even works the way it does in the fantasy world the way it does in our real world. Considering that the Standard Fantasy Setting typically already violates some of the fundamental laws of science (wizards who cast fireballs and lightning bolts are essentially creating energy out of nothing, which goes against the laws of thermodynamics), who's to say that steam can actually serve as a viable source of power? Do the chemicals that make up gunpowder actually react the way they do in our real world, or do they just fizzle and pop, if they even do anything at all? You might be able to use oil to Kill It with Fire, but can that oil still power an engine? If it can't, would-be inventors and innovators don't have much to work with.
Finally, "stasis" does not necessarily mean "stagnant". It's quite possible for a world to continually experience intellectual, political, demographic, or other changes even if some other element of the world remains the same for centuries. A world that becomes increasingly democratic, egalitarian and interconnected over the centuries might still have everyone wielding swords and wearing heavy armor in battles, particularly if in this world steam engines and firearms are scientifically impossible.
May feature in a Feudal Future — even if the technology is far advanced. Compare Modern Stasis. A related trope is Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale, which is this trope applied to distances rather than time. Also compare to Muggles Do It Better, where in settings that separate the supernatural and the mundane world, the supernatural is locked in a medieval stasis while the mundane continues to advance. If parts of the world are stuck in Medieval Stasis and others have jetpacks, see Schizo Tech.
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The underground villages of Earth in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann have been in a state of technological stasis for a while, because the village elders proclaim that leaving the villages equals death. This is justified however because of the Beastmen on the surface, whose sole purpose is to crush mankind. Further justified in that the Beastmen were devised not to evolve beyond their current state, because the Anti-Spirals would detect if there were more than 1,000,000 humans on the surface of the Earth and would promptly wipe out the human population.
The world of The Twelve Kingdoms changes little from year to year, although this might have something to do with the world being run by rigid rules governing the selection of rulers and commerce and travel between the kingdoms. Additionally, many of its leaders are immortal and have been strictly charged by the heavens with achieving and maintaining a happy status quo. The lack of any fossil fuels might also be a cause. However, a number of innovations, such as Buddhism, were introduced by people from Earth Trapped in Another World.
Rakushun also credits refugees from Earth with introducing paper, print and ceramics (presumably an advanced * type* of ceramics, like porcelain?). They use Chinese characters and social structures. Presumably the gods ran off 12 copies of classical China for reasons of their own. Their technology might be 'stagnating' at the level of late China, no steam (but no coal) or electricity (if that even works), but good mechanisms... the fact that many kingdoms get major disasters every 50 years or so when the king dies won't help.
In Scrapped Princess, what at first appears to be a stock Medieval European Fantasy setting is actually the ruins of a highly advanced society possessing artificial intelligences, computer systems, and flying fortresses, not to mention Humongous Mecha. Their society was artificially sealed into the Dark Ages by an external force after the collapse of this civilization. With stability enforced by genocide of uppity populations.
Kyo Kara Maoh centers in the Great Kingdom of Shin Makoku, which is purportedly 4,000 years old, and has been ruled by the same, true-breeding twelve families the whole time, without any advancement of technology past 'horses and swords,' and an apparent decline in magic. Partially justified in that they've been being shepherded through all that history by the deific presence of their first king, who picks all their new kings and protects them, etc. Less justified in that the rest of the world has only moved forward very slightly, either.
A lot of the same countries are still around from four thousand years ago, some of them still ruled by the same family who ruled them back then. Or the family that exiled that family and took over, if the previous family was an ally of our guys (the Big Bad rules a country previously ruled by Conrad's father's family, loyal human allies of Shinou). With reference to this, Conrad inserts himself into the middle of a succession dispute in season 3, to distract the new villain who had the last one offed. On the other hand, the Mazoku, the race occupying Shin Makoku, appear to have bred to be incredibly long-lived in the four thousand years since breaking off from the rest of humanity. Apparently concentrating the magic-user genes can have really impressive effects.
In Familiar Of Zero technology is in the Middle Ages despite the current civilizations having stood for six thousand years with few major changes in ruling. One possible explanation is seen in the reaction of nobles to an internal combustion engine: It's a cute novelty, but they can do the same with magic and it'd be wasteful to make something like it for commoners.
Justified in-universe in The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius. Barry travels through a dimensional wormhole to the world of Ramaat, which is locked in a Medieval Stasis due to "The Drain"; a natural phenomenon that causes all power to dissipate rapidly. Even ordinary fire is not possible. Being that Ramaat is a world with three suns, this actually makes sense, as it would keep the world from being cooked by solar radiation.
Thieves And Kings has this without explanation - there have been (many, many) wars, mind, but one character moved from centuries in the past to join the main characters and no-one even comments on her accent.
In With Strings Attached, while Ketafa is a thriving quasi-Victorian society with factories, guns, and at least one motorized vehicle, Baravada has completely stagnated, technology-wise (though they are rife with magic), and the inhabitants brush off inventions as “tinkerings.”
In Finishing The Fight, magic is justified as the reason why society has remained somewhat stagnant. Why build a dam when you can just have a wizard divert a river for you with a spell?
In The Fall Of The Fire Empire, this is justified. While taking place in an era analogous to The Legend of Korra, technology has barely advanced from what was around in the original series. It's eventually revealed that the imprisonment of the Moon and Ocean Spirits unintentionally trapped the natural world in social and technological stasis because of the metaphysical disruption to the Balance of all things. The world can only get worse but not better until the Spirits are freed.
In Harry Potter and the Natural 20, Milo nearly has a Heroic BSOD when he thinks over the state of Muggles in the Potterverse and realises that magic has been keeping his own world in the medieval ages for thousands of years.
Also from Spectrum, Celestia believes that Discord's idea of doing things was too chaotic to allow any pony civilization to grow at all, and that was why she took over. It goes back and forth whenever or not it actually applies or development is just really slow; it is often acknowledged that, while they are both trying to do what they think will help, it is also possible that they are both wrong and there needs to be a third option. Then we get to see human/pony runic technology in action a while later.
The Deconstruction Fic and satire, The Conversion Bureau: Not Alone makes the case of how the ponies' dependency on magic has made them arrogant in several ways, and completely and utterly unprepared for bullets, bombs and missiles. And then in its sequel fic The Conversion Bureau: Conquer the Stars, the gryphons (being similar to humans in terms of history) deliver what was essentially the killing blow to Equestria in the war they declare on them, just by being much more technologically advanced.
In The Rise Of Darth Vulcan, the title character realizes that this is one of the side-effects of having essentially an immortal goddess for a ruler. Celestia and Luna hesitate to change things from what they knew from when they were foals, likely due to the Nostalgia Filter, and the desire of ponies to imitate and please Celestia takes care of the rest; showing dislike or even just boredom towards something will doom it to be ignored or even discarded. According to Flim and Flam, heavier-than-air flying machines were reinvented five times in a period of three hundred years, only to be discarded within the decade and forgotten each time.
Films — Animation
The Axiom in WALL•E plays with this. As far as we are shown, all the robots and technology on the ship has remained the same, with variations being only being cosmetic differences ("Blue is the new Red!"). Justified because the people on board have everything provided for them (causing them to go extremely fat), and the ship is run by robots, who have set objectives, none we see are dedicated to R&D. Some things have changed however. We see the captains get fatter (and more cartoonish) in one scene, but they also live progressively longer.
Films — Live-Action
The Predators' technology is never seen to advance regardless of whether they're hunting pirates during the Age of Sail, gangers in modern-day LA, or marines and xenomorphs in the future. The Expanded Universe offers a number of explanations: one is that the yautja's tech is stolen from an older race that attempted to occupy their planet, so they can replicate and adapt it, but lack the understanding of its base principles to improve on it. Another is that the Predators' society revolves completely around the hunt, and they've lost all interest in intellectual pursuits. A related theory is that their current set of hunting equipment is deemed "sporting" and will be used regardless of further advances, much like how humans still hunt deer with firearms or bows rather than smart bombs or armed drones. The latter is suggested in the comic Aliens vs. Predator: War, where a team of yautja assaulting a hive on a xenomorph-dominated world to capture its queen leave the spears and discs behind and take plasma rifles and grenades.
The Na'vi of Avatar have existed as a tribal hunter/gatherer society for longer than humanity has existed, making theirs a case of Primeval Stasis. Unlike Homo sapiens, the Na'vi have a stable population, don't suffer from diseases, and the planet itself provides them with quite advanced biotech for free, so they have no incentive to advance beyond neolithic technology. Due to these innate connections to their sentient planet and the rest of its ecosystem, they're arguably extensions of Pandora rather a real "alien race".
Kryptonian technology in Man of Steel. A 20,000-year-old ship buried deep beneath the ice in Canada is able to recognize and upload Krypton's own version of a flash drive that was only created 33 years ago. That certainly shows that they haven't upgraded since then, but it's also revealed that Kryptonians had flourished and prospered for hundreds of thousands of years already anyway. That Kryptonian society was largely static for hundreds of thousands of years was pretty much explained straight up in the Infodump from Jor-El's avatar.
The Asgardians from Thor: The Dark World are an interesting case. They are a society caught in medieval stasis that is advanced far beyond medieval times. They are shown using the same weapons (swords, shields, and spears), technology, and armor 5,000+ years ago as they do in modern times. Horses are a common form of transportation. Yet they can harvest material from stars, have flying machines, and travel between worlds through wormholes. Implied to be a combination of their extremely long lives, emphasis on close combat, use of magic, and being at the top of the food chain so long and eliminated all of society's ills that they have no reason to change.
The Lone Wolf series of gamebooks is set on the planet Magnamund, which was declared by Word of God to be in stasis. This was actually retroactively enforced after another writer created a series of straight novels telling the story of the gamebooks and ended one of them with a Distant Finale set in a modern future.
J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth (The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, etc). Generally speaking, over thousands of years, the basic technology appears to be the same - for the most part. However, everything was grander and more magical in the First Age, and the Elves are fading away as of the Third Age. They are in their "autumn, never to be followed by another spring". The ages of the world tend to end with eucatastrophe, meaning any technological advances were lost to Middle-earth between ages. Either the technology itself was lost to all knowledge or the Elves took it away with them as they left Middle-Earth. Still, while technology, armor and weapons in particular, is generally described in the same terms over the ages, there are indications of advances, though they are usually unique to certain cultures and simply don't become widespread as in the modern world.
The peoples of the First Age had the best tech of all. The Elves built a ship of mithril and elven glassthat could travel through the sky and the Void (outer space). When Morgoth invaded Gondolin, according to one version, his troops rolled across the mountains with "great engines with fire in their bellies" that could flatten defense towers and carried hundreds of orcs inside. Sounds very much like he had access to large APC vehicles. However, this is glossed over in later versions. The Elves also invented magical lanterns with an everlasting blue flame which never get mentioned again later. The Dwarves invented chain mail, which later spread to most cultures in Middle-earth.
At the end of the Second Age, when Númenóreans under Sauron's guidance get engines, ships made out of metal and possibly missiles ("Our darts are like thunder and pass over leagues unerring."). See The Lost Road, HoME V. They also develop bows made out of steel.
At the end of the Third Age, Númenórean settlement in Middle-Earth produced structures beyond the ken of most people, so that even their descendants the Gondorians couldn't match them. The wizard Saruman encouraged industrialization, though this isn't necessarily portrayed as a good thing as it was for his war effort. He and fellow wizard Gandalf both used gunpowder for military and benign purposes (bombs and fireworks). The Dwarves also invented "metal hose" that was even better than chain mail, though they kept the knowledge for themselves.
Word of God has it that Medieval Stasis ended entirely from the Fourth Age on due to the Elves' magic no longer stopping the world from "changing", and that Middle-Earth is the world we live in many thousands of years ago. V-J Day at the end of World War II in this chronology marks the transition between the Sixth and Seventh Ages. However, all the magical and otherworldly aspects of Middle-Earth slowly faded away until only Men and material things were left (although the hobbits and goblins are said to have lived on in hiding, the goblins even designing some of mankind's nastier weapons). The Elves of the First Age didn't have modern technology because they didn't need it; they had all sorts of magic and magical materials that allowed them to make things like the aforementioned flying ship.
Star Wars, wherein, according to the Expanded Universe, the Galactic Republic has been socially and technologically stagnant for at least five thousand years (out of twenty-five thousand years of its history).
It's quite plausible that the Star Wars galaxy has "maxed out" its technological development. This galaxy had a starfaring civilization for thirty thousand years. Sooner or later they were bound to run out of new laws of physics to uncover. Likewise, the social stagnation of the Galactic Republic was imposed by the Jedi Order: the Sith were responsible for most efforts to overthrow the Republic, which brought the Jedi in on the Republic's side. So the Republic itself was never under much pressure to reshape itself, because the Jedi would support it against any truly menacing outside threat.
The earliest comics do show that space wasn't nearly as well-explored five thousand years before the movies, and there's a throwaway line somewhere in Tales of the Jedi (circa 4,000 years before the movies) about hyperspace craft having to use jump beacons to navigate instead of their own ships' computers.
Also, blasters appear to have been given a major upgrade from KotOR, genetic engineering occasionally shows up despite taboos, superhuman AI are and have been standard for ships (Millenium Falcon's droid brains), and megascale/planetary engineering is in fact common since KotOR II and before.
Luke's artificial hand he got in Empire Strikes Back appeared to be way more sophisticated than the less attractive metal one given to Anakin at the end of Attack Of the Clones, but this just as easily could have been Jedi proscriptions against vanity or Anakin's desire to make the limb simpler and easier to service himself at the expense of aesthetics instead of actual technological development. Neither artificial hand seemed to differ in functionality from a human hand at all; Anakin's "clunky" prosthetic hand makes the most cutting-edge prosthetics of today look like stone tools and could do anything a human hand could.
Lightsabers used to have external power supplies attached to the wielder's belt.
Technology does seem to be moving forward: the A-wing, AT-ST, and AT-AT, for instance, were canonically invented between the films. Not to mention that the plot of the very first film was entirely driven by a new invention.
Depending on which EU sources you read, it is implied that the "advances" that allowed the creation of the Death Star were political, not technological. A massive engineering project like that requires a strong centralized government with access to resources far beyond what the Old Republic (a loose confederation of more-or-less autonomous member worlds, lacking even a standing army until the prequels) could command without the willing participation of a large number of member worlds. Not to mention that there was no need for such a weapon in peacetime. They had the tech to build it all along, just not the resources or will.
Star Wars follows a curious trend of 'punctuated equilibrium', with long stretches of technological and cultural stagnation shaken up by some event (usually a war) that jumps things forward a bit before settling back down. Most of the Expanded Universe deals with the era starting with the movies, which has been in a near-constant state of crisis or agitation for most of a century and has seen several galactic upheavals, with advancements in technology to match.
Some degree of truth in television: a great deal of modern military and communications equipment and metods came from the Napoleonic Wars, American Civil war, Crimean war, First World War, Second World War, Cold War, and the Nazis (on whom the Empire is based) were in their day regarded as utterly outclassing everyone else in applied technology in their frantic attempts to cancel out the fact that they'd made an enemy of the entire world.
The Discworld is generally an exception to this trope — you can see technology and culture changing from year to year — but it was a plot point in Pyramids, where the kingdom of Djelibeybi is caught in this state, thanks to a time loop generated by an oversupply of pyramid power. Having said that, the TV adaptation of Hogfather included a flashback to Alberto Malich's childhood, two thousand years ago... using the same vaguely Georgian costumes and streets as in the main story. (Although to be fair, it's not actually stated that Albert's 2,000 years old in the TV version.)
It has also been mentioned (especially in the Science of Discworld series) that a world where many tropes (such as the Rule of Funny) are fundamental laws does not lend itself to technological advances - things are simply too unpredictable.
Ankh-Morpork and the Empire were locked down for centuries in-story, while Klatch advanced. The changes were caused by Twoflower introducing new ideas, which business-minded tinkerers were able to replicate. This set minds thinking in new directions, and competition forced the tech level up.
In general over the last half of the series there's been something of a metaplot of Ankh-Morpork (and since Ankh-Morpork is the Fantasy Counterpart Culture to England, the rest of the civilized world) breaking out of the Medieval Stasis.
The dwarfs, too, broke out of Medieval Stasis somewhat recently, due to the invention of safer means to deal with gas pockets some 50 years ago. This kicked off social upheavals that led more dwarfs up onto the surface, where their skills and competition probably helped spur humans' own inventiveness. This has gone on to the point that Ankh-Morpork is now the largest Dwarf city on the Disc outside of Überwald, even though they are still a minority there.
Krull is indicated to have made many magical and technical advances in the name of seeking knowledge... and they aren't inclined to share.
The general temperment of some of the Disc leaders also leads to stagnation. Goldeneyes Silverhand Dactylos made a metal golem army for the Tomb of Pitchiu; it cost him his eyes. He made new ones of gold and relearned his craft, making the fantastic Palace of the Seven Deserts for the Emir; it cost him his right hand. He made a new one of silver and built the first of the great Light Dams for the tribal councils of the Great Nef; they hamstrung him. All to keep him from sharing secrets or doing anything as great for anyone else. Finally, Dactylos came to Krull, creating a great fish-ship for them and asking only not to be mutilated in return. The Arch-astronomer agreed -but had him killed. Not a history to encourage other innovators.
Vetinari himself has invoked this trope in the case of Leonard of Quirm, keeping the genius inventor isolated in his workshop and suppressing those inventions (such as the gonne) which could potentially destabilize his city too much. On the other hand, the rise of the clacks and implied infrastructural changes still to come (the "Undertaking") suggest he's no longer suppressing innovation: he's steering it so both stagnation and chaos are avoided.
The Dune universe is kept intentionally technologically stagnant, for different reasons depending on the time period. In the distant past, humanity rebelled against the thinking machines that had all but taken over; the outcome of this jihad was an absolute prohibition on machines mimicking human thought processes. In the original Dune trilogy, the proscriptions of the Butlerian Jihad are still in force, combined with a situation of hydraulic despotism as all interstellar travel, communication, and commerce depends absolutely on the spice. Then, in Leto II's reign as God Emperor, he takes this to the ultimate extreme, forcing society (by means of overwhelming retribution backed up by prescient vision) to abandon most technology and live in a primitive, idyllic manner. This is all designed to cause a massive upheaval after his death, and indeed it does; a forced withdrawal from the spice motivates the construction of devices capable of interstellar navigation, "no-ships" that are immune to prescient detection, and a general release of three thousand years of pent-up innovation. By the time of the last two books, a Lensman Arms Race has resulted in weapons capable of sterilizing planets and literal fleets of no-ships.
The prequel novels reveal that some progress was indeed made on the two technological planets: Ix and Richese. In fact, it was a Richesean scientist who first invents the no-field generator and builds the first no-ship, as an extension of Holtzman's theories. It is, however, not immune to prescient vision but is otherwise completely undetectable. This technology is lost, though, when the Emperor orders the lab destroyed in an unrelated matter. The Ixians have also improved the heighliner design against the opposition from House Corrino.
Said opposition has nothing to do with technology and everything to do with money. House Corrino receives a set fee for each fold-jump. The new heighliners are able to carry 20% more cargo. This means that less jumps would be required to move the same amount of cargo or number of people. Thus, House Corrino would receive fewer profits.
In Succession (published as The Risen Empire in the UK) by Scott Westerfeld the Risen Empire has been technologically stagnant for about 1,000 years as a result of the ageless Risen controlling the entire government. The Empire's enemies, who lack immortality, do keep advancing.
The Star Trek novel Here There Be Dragons features a medieval culture which has been transported off Earth and apparently remained the same for 900 years. The stagnation is explained by the low population and isolation of the cities (because of the eponymous dragons), and it's demonstrated that the culture hasn't completely stagnated, as apparently they've managed to invent a better suspension system for their horse-drawn carts. At this rate they'll invent steam power around the time their sun burns out.
A similar concept is used in an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, only with an Old West town with a period drift of about 300 years or so. They were kidnapped for slave labor but rebelled, destroying the alien ship which brought them. Similar to the above example, these people were stuck on a desert planet with the towns separated by a fair distance. Their stagnation is partially justified through paranoia; they're unwilling to let the descendants of the original aliens know that they were once a spacefaring race that enslaved the humans, even though said aliens are forced to live in the remains of the very ship the humans destroyed. One of the characters even lampshades the lack of progress.
Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen is an extreme example: The world has a history stretching back three hundred thousand (300,000) years and more, yet technology is still medieval (except for the existence of dynamite-like munitions). Lampshaded and justified by Samar Dev in The Bonehunters: She noted (lamented, really) that the power of The Warrens means will never really have a need to strive for technological solutions to their problems. If they can't magic it, they'll just buy or trade for what they need from another race.
An additional reason is that most human empires in the Malazan world are very short-lived and humanity is thrown back culturally and technologically regularly over the millennia, due to violent upheavals. The one empire that did survive since the fall of the First Empire, Lether, has magical reasons for being put in a - literal - stasis.
And of course ancient civilizations were more technological advanced: The Short-Tails had anti-gravity devices, lasers and nanobots while the Jaghut heavily dabbled with genetic manipulation.
In David EddingsBelgariad and Malloreon book series the stasis of the world is explained to be a side effect of the accident that divided creation into two opposites. The future cannot happen until the effects of the accident are undone and the two possibilities are combined back into one.
This doesn't stop technology from advancing throughout the 7,000-odd years that Belgarath the Sorcerer covers. It just moves very slowly. Most of the really drastic inventions and discoveries (especially weapons of war) were made by the sorcerers themselves, usually after centuries or millennia of study, but outside of their fraternity, technological progress seems to have been suppressed by the contrivance of the gods.
Part of the problem is the various countries tend to limit contact with each other to varying degrees,with the inhabitants of Nyissa being the most xenophobic. Once the different countries have to work together against the Big Bad, information starts being exchanged and several inventions are made just to deal with the circumstances.
In the Elenium, soldiers summoned from the ancient past use Bronze Age armor and weapons.
Played more believably in The Redemption of Althalus. The eponymous protagonist is around 2500 years old, and civilisation has advanced from early bronze age to a Greco-Roman level during his lifetime. The main antagonist is significantly older (about 10,000 years), and it's noted that things were much more primitive when he was born and it's heavily implied that he was among the first behaviourally modern humans (although unlike in the Elenium it's not established whether humans were created as is or evolved).
Both justified and averted in L.E. Modesitt's The Saga Of Recluce series. Although some technological progress is made, the eponymous island's government suppresses the knowledge in a mistaken belief in Status Quo Is God, and keeps things under control within its sphere of influence. However, the Big Bad empire on the other side of the world has been busy inventing....
That universe's laws of chaos/order physics also mess with thermodynamics, making some technology, such as steam engines, require wizards to hold it stable.
The series is very good at illustrating how a cultural dependence on magic will tend to cause stagnation, or at least greatly limit technological progress. A fact which is actually lampshaded in at least one book. It also takes the logical course of having the nations most dependent on magic be ruled by their most powerful mages; and shows the effects this would have on politics.
Also, the laws of that universe are radically different, so stuff like electricity might not even work. There were at least 2 civilizations that came from other universes; Westwind and Cyador (although they possibly come from the same one). Of course, in the story line, civilizations and technological level rise and fall. Cyador, in the earliest of the chronological order, had something that sounds like nuclear reactors, although, to be honest, they were failing. Cyador was industrialized, before it was wiped out by disaster, although they were declining by then anyway. Fairhaven, the next city to hold a major chaos civilization, got wiped out by what could be best described as a nuclear blast (extreme application of magic powers). Guns are around, but since a wizard can blow them up from afar they are not used. Of course, the biggest justification is that if you have a steam engine outside of water, it has to be constantly tended to by a wizard or else it blows up. Ships can have them though. The Order civilizations like Westwind and Recluce prefer no advancement because advancement is chaotic, and thus frowned upon. Of the civilizations that balance the powers of Order and Chaos, one is a bunch of tree hugging druids who believe in communing with nature, and Hamor hasn't really been featured enough of yet to tell. Hamor does seem to be advancing though. Oh, and if you come from a civilization that is not run by mages? You get trampled by the ones that do.
Assuming Cyador is a descendant of the ancient Rationalist Demons (as seems probable) they were using laser-based tech, and the towers were likely fusion, not fission. This world is /not/ a good example of the trope, however, as technology advances from crude iron swords to highly advanced cartridge rifles and steel battleships in a reasonable timeframe despite the magic issues, and you can see the progress in each and every book (except for the ones written about the same characters).
In The Memory of Earth by Orson Scott Card humanity has been stuck at the same technological level for 40 million years.They're colonists, genetically modified to be susceptible to mind control by an advanced AI which was programmed to prevent technological advance past a certain level, since its creators have seen that as the cause of wars and misery back on Earth.
On the bright side, they do have the chariot now! This amazing feat of engineering was baffling and unheard of until lately. Technology that isn't applicable to war is actually fairly common, though, such as levitation pads for cripples, some advanced data storage and one or two things like that.
In Captive Universe by Harry Harrison an Atzec culture survives unchanged over centuries, hidden in a remote valley. They turn out to be unwitting travelers inside a huge spaceship.
In A Song of Ice and Fire, technology hasn't advanced in any significant way during the last couple of millennia. The author has hinted that there's a sinister, plot-important reason why technology has stagnated. Several characters also point out that history books tend to inflate numbers and use anachronistic terms, suggesting that historical events weren't as distant or as medieval as they're described.
In Janny Wurts's Mistwraith series, five immortal wizards have forcibly maintained medieval stasis for more than 10,000 years, by removing the memories of anyone who discovers technologies they disapprove of.
In Steven Brust's Dragaera novels, this is a Justified Trope within the Dragaeran Empire. While magic leaps forward after the Interregnum due to divine intervention, the Great Cycle of the Empire keeps society spinning through an endless stasis. Dragaeran Kingdoms and the Eastern Kingdoms, however, have also stagnated for hundreds of millennia without any apparent justification.
In Yulia Latynina's Wei Empire cycle, the basic political, social and economical structure of the empire has been preserved for about 2,500 years... or so the official sources of Weians say, and some of the Earth characters are somewhat skeptical of this, apparently with good cause. In any case, though the same order was preserved for at least the last few centuries, it did not exactly exist without interruptions, so it's more of a persistent cyclical thing. As for technology, it is again clearly shown to have progressed from bronze weapons made 2,000 years ago to advanced steel, early gunpowder and friggin' poison gas thanks to a certain mad scientist; it is also pointed out as some point that the Wei Empire, much like the Roman Empire in real history, had failed to take advantage of numerous potential technological breakthroughs that could've led to an industrial revolution because it had no need of it and because some of its past rulers were ardent technophobes. In any case, the plot of the last novel has to do with the rapid and rather ugly breakdown of this stasis in the aftermath of the contact with "men from the stars" who have recently discovered and infiltrated the empire.
Such a stasis is also arguably the main theme and plot point of another Yulia Latynina novel: Inhuman, which is set in the dystopian interstellar Empire of Humans where, according to one of the characters, no technological advances were made for the last several centuries. The, uh, antagonists (both sides involved are villains by most measures), effectively an alien conspiracy masquerading as a government conspiracy, want to remedy this.
The Lizards in Harry Turtledove's Worldwar novels have been technologically stagnant for nearly 50,000 years, as have been the other alien species they conquered and subjugated in that time. Their leaders are quite surprised when, in the mere 800 years between their first reconnaissance flights over Earth in the 12th century and the arrival of their invasion fleet in 1942, that the human race has gone from horseback to radar.
It's also stated in the books that their slow technological development is at least in part on purpose. When something new is invented or discovered, they don't release it until it's been tested, examined, refined and made 100% safe and reliable. Even then, it's introduced into their society over the course of decades or centuries, so they can study its impact on society. They consider humans insanely reckless for "field testing" their inventions.
In the final book, one hundred years later the Lizards are only just beginning to consider what the difference in advancement might mean to their future when the first earth FTL ship arrives in orbit of their Homeworld. The Lizards didn't think FTL was possible and haven't thought about it, or even considered it, in their 50,000 year history.
An important plot point in Dan Simmons Hyperion Cantos is the fact that the Hegemony of Man is culturally and technologically stagnant, albeit with AI-given toys, while the Ouster "barbarians" have continued to progress.
Justified in David Weber's novel Safehold. The last human colony has been in Medieval Stasis for eight hundred years, thanks to a religion designed to prevent the re-emergence of technology (not to mention an orbital kinetic weapons platform programmed to smack any location with evidence of advanced tech like electrical power), so that the colony isn't found and destroyed by aliens. However, cracks have begun to emerge — water power and gunpowder have been invented. Note that eight hundred years is a period of time not far out of line with how long the real medieval period lasted, and the goal of the protagonist is explicitly to break the Medieval Stasis and restore the advanced technology.
A similar situation is set up in Weber's Heirs of Empire. The novels set in the Armageddon Reef setting seem to be an attempt by Weber to revisit his basic plot concept in Heirs of Empire in more depth. There are differences between the two settings, but in the broad sense the similarities are striking.
The Achultuuni in that series have stasis enforced on them by the AI that controls their species: in order to maintain a constant threat which justifies it having control, the AI prevents the species from advancing technologically to that the aliens it encounter will inflict significant casualties before being defeated. The AI only introduces new tech if required to ensure the achultuuni will win, but prevents any extrapolations from that technology.
The Bahzell series, being a Fantasy Series, actually strives to avoid this at all costs. The Author has said as much as he's tired of fantasy novels being written as Luddite sounding. The original Empire of Ottovar was rather Magitek in nature, instead of their being a grand total of one wizard and barely enough mages to be worth anything, there were entire orders of Wizards, with most people of noble blood being noble because they were wizards (the king and queen founding the Empire being the two greatest wizards of all time). The Magitek was very advanced, but the Empire was limit to only the continent of Kontovar due to the Dragons forbidding Wizards from colonizing Norfressa after the original Wizard War. There was evidence of gradual advancement, as the Warlocks and Witches became the elves, and much research was done (including Time Travel!). The Dwarves are at the cusp of the industrial revolution with Bessemer ovens and shock absorbers but still no steam engines. Until recently they were trying to recreate what they knew was possible but without the help of Wizards (before large scale steel production required the help of a Wizard to do it).
In Larry Niven's Kzinti histories. The Kzin aren't terribly intelligent to begin with, and gained the great majority of their technology by rising up against their Jotok masters and offing most of them, and in a universe without FTL technology, it takes a LONG time for things to propagate over several hundred light-years of empire. Imperial standardization as well as simple physics kept the Kzin at a very, very, painfully minuscule level of advancement. The Kzin even have a priestlike caste called the Conservers Of The Ancient Past, whose job is to prevent unneeded change. Though after the first couple wars with humanity they become much more motivated to advance, even acquiring hyperdrive shortly after Earth does.
Justified, then averted in Ian Irvine's The Three Worlds Cycle series: in the first series just about every culture is enormously traditionalist, and magicians are highly secretive. By the second, a mere few hundred years later, one magician decided to start a proper school and the military is now equipped with Dungeon PunkHumongous Mecha, thanks to a cataclysmic war with a race of extradimensional ubermensch. Irvine (a scientist) has described the books as Darwinist fantasy, and appropriately the main theme of the series is punctuated equilibrium.
In The Darksword Trilogy, the use of magic has caused society to stagnate. The idea of The Magocracy essentially suffocating itself by suppressing all non-magical innovation is an important motif throughout the series.
They did develop mathematics considerably due to its use, though to a lesser extent than in the outside world (ours). In the third book we finally have enough backstory to realize that the populace is mostly descended from refugees from Dark Age witch hunts, who equated education with priests inciting violence against them, and subtext implies their "Death Mages" (engineers) stayed behind to help start the Renaissance and start changing attitudes toward magic to prepare for a future reunion. Anybody wanting to organize and control the relocated people for their survival practically had "Technology Is Evil" dropped into their laps as a tool... and so the project to keep magic in the human gene pool started going horribly right.
Thoroughly averted in Sarah Ash's Artamon's Tears trilogy. The borders of the nations of Rossiya have changed often over the past millennium. Old artwork and stories in-character portray people using swords and bows where they currently use muskets. Some areas are more technologically advanced than others (the Renaissanceesque Tielen, Francia, and Muscobar are quite different from the medieval Azkhendir, barbaric Khitari, and the unnamed tropical islands of palm-branch clothing and tikis). Even during the less-than-a-decade in which the actual plot takes place, Rossiya experiences significant changes in technology.
In The Arm of the Stone, 'Hand Power' is harshly suppressed and even minor innovations are punished severely.
Somewhat subtle in Orson Scott Card's Ender books. Enders Game is set Twenty Minutes into the Future, and the next book, which takes place 3,000 years later, is also Twenty Minutes into the Future, more or less. Not only have technology, politics and linguistics seen few apparent changes, but also social, cultural, and religious attitudes, which can seem rather incongruous, given the amount of change in all those fields during a comparable span of Earth history.
In the Mistborn trilogy, the Final Empire has writhed and bled in the iron grip of the Lord Ruler for a thousand years... and he has no interest in letting the world change. The Skaa are worked hard, uneducated, and have no real opportunity for technological innovations, while the nobility are so closely monitored by the Lord Ruler's Obligators that any new invention would need to be approved by them. One of the only advancements made in a thousand years was the recent invention of canned goods, which the Lord Ruler personally considered useful. The Lord Ruler's plan was to wait until the power of the Well of Ascension returned after a thousand years, and thus his primary interest was in creating a system that would let him remain in power that long; stasis was precisely his goal.
However, the newest book, The Alloy of Law, averts this entirely. It is set a few hundred years later, and technology has progressed to an early 1900's Diesel Punk level. There are guns, electric lights, universities, and trains.
In The Stormlight Archive, fabrial development is constant and it's potential is just starting to be explored, even though civilization in general was at a similar level of development thousands of years ago. The reason why things are so medieval is explained by the Desolations, which are generally so terribly destructive that by the time they're over civilization will have completely collapsed, to the point that when the Heralds show up to fight off the next one, they don't know if this particular round of civilizations will be able to forge bronze yet. In fact, the unusually long gap between Desolations at the start of the series means that they've advanced more than usual.
Elantris justified the Medieval Stasis with Elantrians ability to provide nearly everything with the lack of need for actual technology.
Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern novels feature Medieval Stasis for two thousand years. Partly because roughly every two hundred years, alien organisms would rain down from the skies and try to eat everything carbon-based, which tends to put "staying in a safe place" much higher than "technological advancement" on the average person's list.
The colonists were deliberately looking to build a largely non-industrial society - plus, the "resources negligible" status possibly means that the planet doesn't offer the means to do so if they wanted to. Thread just accelerated the process and pushed it a little further along than the colonists intended.
In Rescue Run, contained in the Chronicles of Pern - First Fall the ship that picks up Stev Kimmer and Kenjo Fusiaki's family requests the planet be placed off limit due to the thread organism.
The Book of the New Sun tetrology of novels take place a looong way in the future (the techno-fantasy "post-historical" era where Stone-Age Man, the Modern Era, and the Galaxy-Spanning Imperial Era are all lumped together as the "Age of Myth"). The world is roughly at medieval levels (even though fragments of other tech levels are scattered about) and has been for perhaps a million years. It is implied in the books that this was done deliberately - time travel had become a common technology at one point, so accurate record-keeping was abolished and cultural stasis enforced to prevent time-travelers from targeting historically-important points.
The average person is at medieval levels because the Urth has used up all its resources (Word of God says this is the future where "mankind stays home and waits for the money to run out"). The government is too poor to educate the population so they have lost most of their scientific culture, although they scrupulously talk about the world rotating away from the sun (rather than "the sun setting" as we would say.) As for the Anachronism Stew elements, that is partly a Scavenger World effect, partly due to genetically-engineered species surviving in the wild (their war "horses" are fast enough to charge lasers) and partly the fact that the ruling class can trade with other planets and get things like anti-gravity and life-extension.
The Book of the Long Sun has this going on too. After a sizable population left Urth on a generation star ship thousands upon thousands of years back, their society has reverted to city states that worship computer programs that emulate once-living aristocrats.
Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms seems to be in a stasis of sorts - but it's heavily implied that this is due to The Tradition, which really likes things to stay the same. Sometimes, this can be a problem, since The Tradition also likes to fit things into tidy little stories...and it doesn't especially care if the story has a happy ending or not.
The Heralds of Valdemar series by the same author is also set in a medieval stasis, though there are hints that an industrial revolution (using a techno-magical blend) is in the works.
In Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light, interplanetary colonists, who use advanced technology to create personas as members of the Hindu pantheon, purposely keep the planet's indigenous population in low-tech stasis so that they will not be able to rise up and overthrow their "gods". The printing press, for instance, was repeatedly independently discovered, and despite their best efforts the "gods" had to resort to using nuclear weapons against regions where forbidden technologies had become entrenched. The moment the gods lifted up their collective thumb (during a "war in heaven") people immediately began to improve their lives with innovations like indoor plumbing. And the priesthood didn't even try to stop the one-armed bandits, but coopted them as 'pray-o-mats'.
The Wizarding World in Harry Potter generally avoids this, as magical techniques are shown to be constantly developing new aspects, though many cultural elements (architecture and fashion, for example) are held over from previous periods, mainly the high Middle Ages, the Victorian era, and the 1930s-1940s. The latter part possibly justified by wizards living much longer than normal humans, and being fairly isolated from outside trends.
This is averted in the movies, when the Hogwarts uniform was changed to be reminiscent of boarding school uniforms and the Yule Ball "dress robes" were basically regular tuxedos and dresses.
Averted pretty thoroughly in one Michael Stackpole book, Once A Hero. For the first half of the book, the protagonist heroes around with his elf companion in your basic medieval fantasy setting, fighting with his broadsword. At one point he forces a feuding pair of clans to make peace. Then he ends up magically Human Popsicled and wakes up four hundred years later to find that his elf companion had a daughter and got old, the clans, under altered names, are feuding again, all these things have different names and roads are different, and people fight using rapiers and newfangled weapons called "flashdrakes", which are basically primitive guns.
Partially averted in the Dragonlance books; technology has not changed all that much but there have been profound cultural and political shifts over the millenia: the collapse of the Ergothian Empire, the splintering of the Elves into three different kingdoms, the rise of Solamnia and Istar and the destruction of the latter, the rise of new religions and the abandonment of the true gods (and then their return).
Possibly justified in that most technological advancements are developed by Gnomes, which in and of itself is a reason for other races to want to steer clear. When other people see a toaster that uses multicolored explosions and flying serrated blades in its standard operational process, most will decide they don't need their bread warmed up that badly.
This is a common complaint/question about The Chronicles of Narnia. Without even worrying about, say, the decades between The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Silver Chair — a thousand years pass between The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian, and seven generations between The Silver Chair and The Last Battle. Technological achievement consists of one channel dug at Cair Paravel and one bridge built at Beruna. (Of course, this is one of those aggressively nostalgic cases where development is actively opposed by the protagonists and anyone who tries it gets put down in a hurry. Caspian actually says as much in Dawn Treader — the issue is slavery, but they're talking in general terms. Even the author/narrator, when he's writing about our world, is always dropping in things like how sweets used to be cheaper and kids don't know to swear on the Bible anymore, and Eustace's liberal, modern upbringing is described basically as code to show that he's going to be an unsympathetic jerk. There are also a couple of technological anachronisms in Narnia, like Mrs. Beaver's sewing machine, to combine the medieval and twentieth-century nostalgia. Sewing machines good, Plumptree's Vitaminized Nerve Food bad.)
Well, it makes sense, given that C.S. Lewis and his literary friends (notably J.R.R. Tolkien) were greatly concerned about the effects of industrialization and the loss of the English countryside. This was apparently a theme in the Lord of the Rings, so the fact that it's the secondary theme of Narnia isn't that surprising. Still, it is kind of jarring when you realize that Narnia starts out medieval straight off the bat and remains utterly unchanged until the world ends a few thousand years later.
The Chronicles of Prydain series is another fantasy setting in a medieval vein like the Lord of the Rings and Narnia. It's strongly implied at the end of the last book that the Big Bad steals any technological advancements from humanity and squirrels it away to keep them in this Medieval Stasis. He's defeated, and The Magic Goes Away, clearing the way for humanity to develop naturally, presumably towards modern technology.
Redwall's world doesn't seem to have evolved at all in twenty books covering several hundred years. Maybe it's because they're all too busy dealing with the rapidly-breeding vermin threat to have time to invent much.
The map has evolved, the Abbey seems to have expanded over time as new additions are built, and the animals have become more anthropomorphized (in series order, not chronological order). But the in-world technology hasn't budged.
Short lifespans may also be a factor, as most Dibbuns only have about half a year to grow up and become productive members of woodlander society. Not much time for basic education under those circumstances, let alone trying out new ideas.
Christopher Stasheff's Warlock of Gramarye series, while largely set in a spacefaring civilization, has one installment where the protagonists find themselves in an alternate Earth with much stronger magic than in the main series...and which is, surprise surprise, stuck in medieval stasis. One of the characters hypothesises that this is because the presence of magic has reduced the incentive towards technological development, but since magic can only be wielded by its practitioneers (as opposed to technology, which can be used by anyone once invented), the reliance on magic kept society in a feudal-style Magocracy.
Justified in Poortvliet and Huygen's Gnomes books, in which gnomes have maintained a steady level of technology (metalsmithing, balloons, water and wind power) for many thousands of years, being only recently surpassed by humans. Being a Friend to All Living Things, no gnome would even consider using any form of technology that creates pollution or otherwise endangers the wilderness.
The worlds of KJ Parker feature Medieval Stasis. In The Fencer Trilogy, a metaphysical force known as the Principle has the world in its grip, forcing history into circular patterns. The Scavenger Trilogy has traces of identical civilizations from thousands of years ago. This world is the plaything of a god of death, periodically crushing progress. The Engineer features a pivotal scene where a man trying to introduce cannon into the world is blown up by his creation: it isn't explicit but the sense is no good comes to those trying to break the stasis.
Gor is technologically stagnant because people who push the envelope too far tend to suddenly burst into flame. However, they somehow managed to invent light bulbs and cure aging. This is also philosophically convenient for Norman as it lets him justify why men on Gor are... uh, better.
Gor is controlled by the non-human "Priest Kings". They allow advances in some areas (medicine, lighting, etc), but not in others (weapons, vehicles, etc), because they fear that if men advance in these areas they might challenge the Priest Kings' power. They enforce this by using a weapon that causes a person experimenting in forbidden knowledge to burst into flame.
The patchwork technology was most obvious in the first few books, which were intentional imitations of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars stories, and feature conveniences like thermostatic sleeping bags which were quickly forgotten when he took the series his own way.
In Codex Alera technology is static and has actually regressed from the original Roman settlers' because of the universal access to Elemental Powers. Magitek is so universal that despite the low tech levels, the quality of life is roughly equivalent to the mid-20th century, and the use of magic has been evolving. There is also an institutionalized traditionalism within Aleran society, thanks to the fact that they've spent a millennia simply fighting to survive against the Death World that is Carna, which resulted in an emphasis on following set, traditional methods. This is, ultimately, a serious problem that the Alerans have, as they have no reference point to deal with enemies using advanced engineering like the Canim, let alone a completely out of context problem like the Vord.
And then Bernard reinvents the catapult. Which turns into a WMD when loaded with lots of small fire orbs children can make with little effort. A WMD in a world with Races of Mass Destruction. This is when the Alerans realize their Medieval Stasis is breaking.
According to Word of God, this will eventually be averted. The author has stated that if he ever writes a book set in the same world again, it'll take place roughly 200 years in the future, and technology will be a kind of magical steampunk. Furypunk, he calls it.
Somewhat toyed with in the Sword of Truth series. In Naked Empire, the protagonists discover the Empire of Bandakar, made up of the descendants of pristinely ungifted D'Haran exiles, which was sealed behind an Underworld barrier for over three thousand years. One Bandakaran, Owen, leads them past an Imperial Order occupation force to their capital city. When he proudly presents their great financial and cultural center, all Richard and Kahlan see is a city block full of tiny shops with studio apartments built above them. Richard even asks, "This is all your great culture has achieved in 3,000 years?", while a flummoxed Owen clearly thinks that the block of two-story shacks is up there with Crystal Spires and Togas. As for the rest of the world, the trope is more played straight, as the ancient world had thousands of mages serving the people's needs and as they gradually died out, the idea of using technology to fill the niche they left behind hasn't quite caught on yet.
Averted in a later spinoff, which states a thousand or so years later, the world is a rather advanced Magitek civilization.
Discussed in Ascending of The League of Peoples Verse, where races that were "uplifted" by the League of Peoples hundreds or even thousands of years before humanity have no significant technological advantage over them. Having been handed everything they could ever need by sufficiently advanced aliens, their own industries and cultures stagnated. What's worse, the League technology was all of the Black Box variety: they didn't understand the first thing about the technology they were using, and thus couldn't make any further scientific progress. The result: a long downward slide into Creative Sterility. This is a fate that threatens humanity as well.
The Heralds of Valdemar series is a case of medieval stasis enabled by the use of Functional Magic to supply many of the conveniences that would otherwise be provided by technology. However, three thousand years with no notable scientific advancement is a bit much, and a very subtle (i.e., blink and you'll miss it) justification is provided in that the Powers That Be have been carefully orchestrating history in order to set the stage to avert the return of a world-shattering magical Cataclysm. As this imperative wanes, it can be seen in the Mage Storms trilogy that Valdemar, by far the most progressive nation from a cultural standpoint, has begun to support a cadre of artificers who are rapidly moving toward late Renaissance and even steam technology. Also, apparently, nobody's figured out gunpowder.
Justified in the novel Terminal World by Alastair Reynolds, where the world is divided into technology-limiting "Zones", one of which runs on Steam Punk in which advanced technology often doesn't work. Science is unknown, and no advancements have taken place for almost 5000 years, except for technologies adapted to specific zones. Ricasso, an important character who wishes to understand the world (he notes that they can replicate TVs, flintlock pistols, revolvers, energy-discharge weapons, and steam locomotives but they really have no idea how they work) pokes fun at this.
The faster-than-light engine does that to societies in Harry Turtledove's The Road Not Taken. One of those (stuck in Napoleonic times, technologically) attacks 20th century Earth. It was a short invasion.
Inverted in R.A. Lafferty's "Slow Tuesday Night", in which brain-enhancements that speed up all decision-making processes have become universal. This accelerates the pace of human activity so drastically that it takes 15 minutes to make and lose a fortune, two minutes to read the hot new (for the hour) doorstopper, and half an hour (on average) to marry, honeymoon, lose interest and divorce.
Enforced by laws known simply as Protocol in the Incarceron series by Catherine Fisher. It's undoubtedly a Crapsaccharine World, as one character in La Résistance says about their Era that it condemns their best minds to work only on sterile reproductions of the past. It's excusable in a world where most knowledge was destroyed earlier, but enforced and anti-intellectual? Not right man.
In Vladimir Vasilyev's Big Kiev series, it can be initially assumed that the setting is an Alternate Universe. It is, in fact, the year 368,764, but technology remains about at the same level as it is now (it may even have regressed a little). Nations have been replaced with mega-cities (e.g. Big Kiev, Big London, Big New-York, Big Istanbul). Machines can function on their own and appear to have animal-level intelligence (possibly, ubiquitous AI). Humans live alongside fantasy creatures like elves, dwarves, orcs, goblins, and halflings. Instead of building machines (which is an inconceivable concept), the living (a new word used instead of "people"; there are no undead) tame the wild machines, teaching them to respond to the living. Technicians use formulas to operate machines, which are, basically, instructions. Even scientists are not tasked with inventing new things but with understanding how to operate the existing machines. According to one character who has access to notes dating back at least 10,000 years, nothing has changed in that time frame. The plot of The Big Kiev Technician is kicked off when the main character finds out that someone is actually building new machines, an idea that can change the world.
The end of the novel heavily implies that the living will now be forced to learn how to build and invent new things, as presence of "built" machines causes "living" machines to die.
In Mikhail Akhmanov's Envoy from the Heavens, Ivar Trevelian works for a human agency dedicated towards studying and advancing pre-space humanoid races. Ivar is sent to a planet that has been stuck in the Middle Ages for centuries with no drive for progress or discovery, mostly due to the political situation on the settled continent being remarkably stable. He infiltrates the society as a Wandering Minstrel and soon finds out that, for various reasons, this society frowns upon attempts to change the status quo with radical new ideas. For example, when Ivar suggests an idea for a saddle for horses to a soldier to ride them instead of using chariots, the soldier looks horrified at the idea of doing this to such majestic creatures. Attempts to build steam engines often result in them exploding, which the natives use to conclude that they are bad. There is a whole undiscovered continent in the other hemisphere, but the natives believe that their world is flat, surrounded by a ring of their head god. Attempting to reach this ring by boat may anger the god with consequences for everyone. Because of this, no one has ever attempted to sail this far. In the end, though, it turns out that another alien race is deliberately causing Medieval Stasis on this world.
However, Ivar does meet a local man who has always dreamed of flying and has secretly built a hot air balloon capable of carrying a good number of people. He realizes that this man, and a tribe he met earlier, can be his Columbus, instructing him to fly over the sea beyond the horizon until he sees land.
David Gemmell's final Drenai novel, The Swords of Night and Day jacks an established character forward a thousand years in time in a Fish out of Temporal Water plot. Despite some political upheaval, technology has more or less remained the exact same, with some advances in monster-making techniques being the only notable difference.
Averted however in his other work, The Rignate Series. The First two books take place in times similar to the height to the Roman Empire, the next two books take place several hundred years later and combat is now based around guns and cannons with society now being similar to the 1600's.
The Prince Roger series has Marduk, a Death World that for the most part hovers around "early Medieval" tech. Partially justified in that the climate does make inventing - or maintaining - the more advanced tech the Imperial Marines are used to much more difficult (torrential rain two or three times a day makes it harder to keep the insides of electrical components from getting compromised, and it makes inventing a good gunpowder rather tricky - although the Mardukans have managed it. This climate has also inspired them to invent incredibly sophisticated pump systems to keep their communities from flooding). The protagonists are also reluctant to change things too much - first, because they don't want to leave any distinct traces that they're there (they are trying to be as stealthy as a several-hundred-man march can be, after all) and second because they're wary of falling into the trap of cultural superiority.
The world of Erna in the Coldfire Trilogy has been stuck at the same tech level for a thousand years thanks to the fae. It turns out Your Mind Makes It Real doesn't mix very well with technology: for example, worrying about a gun jamming/misfiring will make it happen, and humans can't help but worry. Furthermore, all of the advanced technology possessed by the original colonists who landed on Erna was lost when one officer sacrificed all of it, including the colony ship itself, to make the fae into Functional Magic that humans could safely use.
The Wheel of Timeplays this both ways. The level of technology has remained roughly the same since the Breaking of the World destroyed the Magitek culture of the Age of Legends three thousand years ago, but the nations and their borders definitively haven't. On the other hand, these changes usually don't affect day-to-day life all that much: at one point a character is reading about a foreign country in a fifty-year-old book, and notes that "little of any consequence would have changed in so short a time". On the other other hand, the last books of the series have introduced both steam engines and gunpowder used as a weapon.
A good deal of it was implied to be deliberate, largely due to the fact that just about ever faction in opposition to each other had a vested interest in preventing an industrial revolution. The one that would have had a vested interest in the opposite was full of religiou fanatics who would have thought that such a thing would be the work of the Big Bad.
The elements of stasis might also be somewhat justified by the machinations of the Dark One and/or Ishamael. The Breaking of the World is shown in flashbacks to have thrown humanity, pretty much, back to the stone age and just as the new nations born out of it (Manetheren, Aridhol, etc.) started to gain any real... oomph trollocs poured into the civilized lands in the Trolloc Wars which ended with the humans victorious but not much better off than after the Breaking. The next peak in civilization were when Artur Hawkwing built an empire to span almost all the known world (and then some) followed by a new fall as Ishamael orchestrated Hawkwing's death and the subsequent civil war that lead to the world seen in the series.
Its also an example of an Enforced Trope- 3,000 years prior to the story the world was a Magiteknical paradise with all kinds of magical and scientific wonders; the War of Power and the Breaking of the World, and the consequent massive upheavals brought all that crashing down and turned the planet into a Death World. The "Enforced" part comes in the following thousand and two thousand years oe of the major villains, Ishamael, engineered both the Trolloc Wars and the collapse of Artur Hawkings massive continental empire. The villains wanted Medieval Stasis to make the world an easier place to conquer.
Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy makes heavy use of Medieval Stasis on the titular colony's enemies. In its early stages, the Foundation is only able to survive because its neighbors have first regressed and then fallen into an (albeit futuristic) Medieval Stasis where they have forgotten most physical science (most prominently, nuclear power). The Foundation's preservation of such knowledge (via a veneer of mysticism) is what initially propels it to superpower status.
Naturally, this was all planned out by Hari Seldon who manipulated events to get the Foundation to be set up on a world poor in natural resources, requiring interactions with neighbors and constant innovation in order to maximize the use of available resources. Thus, when the Foundation encounters The Remnant of The Empire, the imperials can't imagine that a nuclear reactor can be anything smaller than a huge building, while the Foundation agents carry portable reactors in their pockets.
While R. Scott Bakker's Second Apocalypse series takes place in a medieval setting, roughly around the time of the Crusades, its timeline averts this. The First Apocalypse was two thousand years ago, and took place during the Bronze Age (supplemented by magic and borrowed tech from the Inchoroi). There are also ziggurats left over from civilizations two thousand years before that. The Unmen, on the other hand, are in a state of technological status due to their immortality and its accompanying amnesia.
Zigzagged in the Destroyermen series' backstory. Prior to USS Walker's arrival in the books' Alternate History in 1942, the last time the Lemurians advanced much technologically was by moving their entire race onto giant seagoing "Homes" centuries ago in order to escape the series' Big Bad, the reptilian Grik, by crossing the Indian Ocean to the islands of southeast Asia. The stasis returned partly because there was no driving force for innovation (why mess with what works), and partly because of a trade secret-hoarding guild system that developed in some Lemurian cultures. It takes the Grik finding them, coupled with an influx of World War II-era technology from human ships, to knock them out of the rut once and for all.
The Grik in turn are technological locusts. While they're very good at reverse-engineering and replicating, innovation is largely beyond them; the last time they advanced was by disassembling and replicating a British East Indiaman that crossed into the Alternate History sometime in the 1700s. This enabled them to expand their territory from Africa across the Indian Ocean and find the Lemurians again.
The Lemurians do, however, note that the Grik ships keep getting bigger and bigger. Possibly, the Grik were still trying to successfully replicate an East Indiaman (minus the guns, which are beyond their understanding).
Averted in the Circle of Magic series, albeit mostly in quiet ways. An equivalent of gunpowder has just been developed, greenhouses (and necessarily the means to make largish transparent panes with relative ease) are a new thing, a mage just created a machine that transforms wind magic into lightning magic, and ten or twenty years before the first quartet, a team of mages developed incredibly detailed scientific methods to study and cure diseases, involving taking fluid samples from infected patients and distilling those to the "essence" of the sickness.
Also averted in her 'Tortall' books, said aversion being especially visible now that she has written a series set outside the timeline of the rest of the Tortall books. The most visible changes are social ones: for example in Beka's time there is greater gender equality although more misogynistic views are starting to take over. By the later-set Alanna books, a woman's place in considered to be the home. The events of her books continue to affect society through the later-still Daine and Kel books. And so on. Technologically too we see some developments (particularly in the area of magical technology).
Averted in Joanne Bertin's The Last Dragonlord, though technological progress is very slow and culture is even more sluggish. The first Dragonlords, were-dragons born as humans, came into being when humans were tribal nomads. By the time the books are set in, it's a medieval equivalent. The youngest Dragonlord, a mere six hundred and keeping the same appearance he grew up with, is recognized by humans as a Yerrin noble of the Snow Cat clan by a look at how his hair is braided - six centuries and that didn't change at all. He's surprised and pleased by the invention of wind chimes, and states to an older Dragonlord that it's weird seeing glass windows everywhere; when he grew up it was a rare thing. His elder agrees, saying he never saw glass except for beads until long after he first Changed. In the next book two Dragonlords in a port city are dismayed to find that it's completely changed in the centuries since they'd been there, and they have no idea where anything is.
In Jack McDevitt's Priscilla Hutchins series, the Noks—the first living alien race discovered by humanity—appears to be permanently stuck at a medieval level of development. They've been that way for an estimated 14,000 years, and show no signs of developing further. They're also extremely hostile and xenophobic, so it's probably just as well.
In David Brin's Uplift series most species of the galaxies get all their technology from the Library and their Patrons. Because the Library provides everything there is no incentive to develop new technologies. Earthclan sees the Library as a sociological trap and try to use as much of their own "less advanced" tech as possible. In Sundiver the refrigeration laser on their solar exploratory craft saves them when the Library-provided shields are sabotaged.
Averted massively in later books, when it turns out that by refusing to accept Calculus because it is not in the library, everyone but the humans are caught by surprise when an entire galaxy moves so far away (due to galactic expansion) that the hyperspacial links with the other four inhabited galaxies are broken. Some of the older races were clearly hiding this intentionally, as they arrange to use the event to catapult a long distance ship on a journey to another luster of galaxies that were lost in this way previously.
In The Lost Regiment, the 35th Maine gets transported by a Tunnel of Light after the Battle of Gettysburg and finds itself on an alien world along with other humans, who have gotten there the same way in different time periods. The first people they meet are the Medieval Russians who appears to have crossed over around the 10th century. In the 900 years since then, their society hasn't advanced in any area. They later find out that the same is true for the other human societies who have been transplanted to this world, including even older cultures like Carthage and Rome. They quickly find out why this is the case. This world is ruled by hordes of 10-foot-tall hairy Human Aliens who constantly circumnavigate their world on horseback and collect tribute from their human subjects in the form of people to eat. They maintain the status quo among the humans and crush any attempts to break it, including inventing new things. Averted in later books.
Enforced in Ring World. The eponymous structure consists of a (relatively) thin layer of soil on top of a ribbon of super-hard, unworkable Phlebotinum. After civilization collapses and high technology is lost, it can never be rebuilt because of the lack of workable metal.
Averted in the Clandestine Daze series. The fairy-like Aels are as advanced as humanity. They have their own spy networks, technology, and modernized countries.
A very low-key and unnoticeable at first glance version is present on the decidedly-Space Western border planets of Firefly, which background material describes as intentional on the part of the Core planets to keep them backward and controlled. There's even intentional technological stasis where the villain of the episode has the money to build a real city, but keeps it at a wild-west level so he can 'play cowboy' and be the one with the best toys.
An interesting variant appears in Stargate SG-1, in which the Goa'uld are shown in ancient Egypt sequences as using the same technology as they do in the regular episodes. In the time that humans went from simple bows to nuclear missiles, the Goa'uld haven't added trigger guards to their guns. This is justified by Goa'uld culture being antithetical to good scientific practice (although Goa'uld scientists like Nirrti and Nerus do exist), and all their technology being stolen anyway, but to be this extreme, they need to be quite the Planet of Hats. It's shown a few times that some isolated worlds, free from Goa'uld control, had actually advanced FURTHER technologically than humans on Earth.
While some worlds have advanced farther and made changes to their culture, many more seem to be trapped in stasis, their society, culture, and technology having advanced no further than the day they were transplanted to that world, despite centuries or even millenia having passed.
Similar to below, the advanced human race Aschen reduce the fertility of less advanced races under the pretence of bringing medical technology. The Aschen then create farmworlds on top of other races' civilization, keeping the descendants of the original inhabitants as uneducated farmhands.
In Stargate Atlantis, the Wraith systematically destroy any society advanced enough to pose a threat to them, meaning the most likely type of society will be of medieval level, or lower. Subverting this is the Genii, who pretend to be at an agrarian level of development, but it's all just a ruse to keep the Wraith away from their secret underground facilities, which are about... somewhere between the 1940s and the 1960s.
An interesting variation occurs with the Asuran Replicators, who emulate the Ancients that created them by purposely keeping their technology at the same level as the Ancients, despite over 10,000 years passing in the meantime.
In the Australian-Polish series Spellbinder the Spellbinders have remnants of advanced technology in the forms of powersuits and walkie-talkie like stones. While they themselves have little understanding of how these things work, they non-the-less imprison any non-spellbinder who creates any new invention or innovation as they fear that technological progress will end up leading the commoners to overthrowing if they don't nip it in the bud.
In the classic Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Errand of Mercy". The Organians live with medieval technology and have absolutely no interest in help developing from The Federation or the Klingons. Subverted in that the Organians are actually advanced Energy Beings who simply have no need for technology anymore and the town was just a front so they could interact with physical beings.
In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Up the Long Ladder" The Enterprise rescues a group of Space Amish who have lived as they have for 200 years, even keeping their Irish accents. In the same episode they come across the other, technological, group from the same original colonists of whom only five survived landing and they have been breeding through advanced cloning for 200 years - but evidently keeping their stasis so as not to develop space travel to go back and get more humans for their genetic pool.
Another episode had the Enterprise run into another lost colony of humanity, who have not advanced a lot since they landed on the planet. It was discussed and justified, as the people had been using genetics to make themselves nearly perfect, and the city that have is a sort of Utopia. They didn't have many problems or communications with the galaxy at large, they didn't have much of a reason to seek new technologies.
The Bajorans from Star Trek have culture going back over half a million years, but whose first space travel was roughly 800 years before The Next Generation era, and were surpassed by the Cardassians who conquered them. Their society has been directed by their (accurate) faith in the race known as the Prophets for much or all of that time, so it is probably deliberate.
In BattleTech, a series of violent civil wars have destroyed almost all the factories for Battlemechs, and the equipment that goes into them. Battlemechs from 500 years ago are more advanced than the ones being built at the time. ComStar is dedicated to retrieving LosTech and preserving/worshiping it.
This is eventually subverted as the timeline progresses. By the time of the FedCom Civil War and Word of Blake Jihad, the Inner Sphere powers have rediscovered and even improved upon Star League technology, or invented entirely new equipment.
The Warhammer 40,000 game setting is another sci-fi example of this trope: thanks to the Imperium of Man's Cargo Cult approach to maintaining technology and its leaders' unshakable belief that the Status Quo Is God, or rather that God is Status Quo, human technology and culture have remained largely unchanged for the past ten thousand years.
According to some of the lore, certain planets have actually slid back into a quite literal Medieval stasis. This can be quite disastrous when facing down armies of Necrons, Tyranids, or anything else that might attack, considering none of the weapons these planets would have (spears, catapults, e.t.c) could even pierce the armor of their enemies.
This has bitten the Imperium in the ass on occasion. In one case a planetary purge and colonization was postponed indefinitely (due to a violent warp storm that enveloped the planet) abandoning the spear-wielding natives for over 6,000 years (technically 5,953 years, but who's counting?). They were more than a bit surprised when said spear-wielding natives showed up on some of their frontier colonies with railguns and plasma rifles.
The Eldar, as well as being quasi-immortal, have been trapped in a decadent, decaying culture since The Fall; expending their very limited resources on simply maintaining their existence in a universe where Everything Is Trying to Kill You.
Ork culture is far too chaotic and violent to ever manage to develop very far and their basic technology is innate knowledge coded in their genes. That said, they have managed to develop rough-and-ready tractor beams and mass teleporters that are much more effective (if more dangerous to the user) than any other race's equivalents quite recently in the current setting.
The Necrontyr turned themselves into mindless automatons serving star sized soul eating monsters. On the other hand, they are so far ahead of everyone else already that it hardly matters. The armies used on the tabletop are scouts and raiding parties; their full-powered war machines aren't even reactivated yet.
Pretty much the only races that are advancing/evolving are the Tau and Tyranids.
If the Tyranids constant taking of the genetic code counts as "developing tech."
The fantasy counterpart setting, Warhammer, is an interesting example. In its earliest incarnation it was essentially based on Early Modern Europe (roughly the era of Luther and the reformation), with printing presses and firearms being known albeit early, experimental and sometimes dangerous. Over the years, each new edition of the setting has advanced the date and the technology level in some cases.
The Empire ("Germany") has developed Dwarven technology into such advances as steam tanks as well as developing firearms technology to the extent that the handgun has become the prime Imperial ranged weapon. At the same time, with the assistance of the High Elf mage Teclis, wizards have been "unionised" into a number of colleges of magic.
The other main human faction, Bretonnia ("France") was originally portrayed as on a similar technological level to the Empire but with a social situation more akin to the 18th century with powdered and bewigged nobles mincing about effetely and ignoring the plight of the massed poor. Recent editions have regressed Bretonnian technology to a High Medieval level and given a more "heroic" slant with a culture of bold knights and doughty peasants straight out of Malory's La Morte d'Arthur. It has been implied that this is due, at least in part, to manipulation by the immortal rulers of the Asrai (Wood Elves). For game balance they apparently have blessings from their goddess to protect them from bullets, making them equal in overall effectiveness to the Empire.
Or at least theoretically making them equal. The reality of the game looks different since the game suffers a certain amount of Power Creep with every newly released army book (GW wants to sell miniatures) and the Bretonnians are currently the oldest of the army supplements, dating back ten years and two editions of the game.
The Skaven (essentially Ratmen) are also continuing to progress forward with some of their more recent innovations being trains, long range communication devices, and gatling guns (many of which have puntastic names). Their technology generally sacrifices safety for results though, and is prone to exploding and other malfunctions.
The Dwarves are advancing in certain areas, in Gotrek & Felix, one of them built a zeppelin to take them over the Chaos Wastes. Let me repeat that. A culture at a technological level of about 1600 AD Europe has built a Zeppelin.
The Dwarves advancements are often held back as they tend to have their hands full. With their old empire broken and divided since the war of vengeance(the beard by the Elves), and constant Skaven, and Greenskin attacks means they focus more of producing and improving their old weapons first before inventing new ones.
Different areas of the Warhammer world are not advancing. The Elves are locked in stasis, and other human settlements like the island of Albion are still in a stage of cavorting druids and priestesses prancing naked round the maypole and where it never stops raining.
For those Elves that don't go around hugging trees, this is handwaved by suggestions that the Elves have avoided an industrial revolution for "aesthetic reasons" (even Dark Elves, apparently... maybe they're allergic to smoke) but can make "intricate clockwork and torsion-powered" artillery pieces that are supposedly every bit as good as equivalent gunpowder weapons. They don't live up to the hype. The stasis of the Dwarves, on the other hand, is explained by Dwarven society being in an old-is-good mentality. This actually has some resonance with real-life scientific theories - it is sometimes said that what it takes for a new theory to be accepted is for the older, more respected figures in the field who don't like the theory to die off... and Dwarves can live for a lot longer than humans. That the younger Dwarves with new ideas apparently have a tendency to run away to Imperial engineering schools where their ideas might meet more acceptance probably doesn't help.
There's an interesting case with the Lizardmen - they're the oldest inhabitants of the Warhammer world, and apparently haven't invented the wheel yet, something even the Orcs have got around to. However, when some of them tried to colonise a new area, they were cut off from their froggy leaders and regressed to a less advanced society, with less magic and overall co-ordination. Those that tried to colonise a nearby island had no contact whatsoever, and pretty much became beasts. This seems to suggest that not only are the Lizardmen locked in Medieval Stasis, but that it's only due to the Slann that they're not going backwards.
History of Empire and Westerland shows the progress from the barely-united barbaric tribes (think 1st-2nd century AD) to medieval feudalism, to early Rennaissance and, in case of Westerland, to the equivalent of early XVII century (Marienburgers introduced, among others limited democracy and early stockmarket). Kislev is locked in medieval stasis though (what may be justified by unnatural cataclysms and rather barren lands, also Kislev is an expy of Russia with dashes of Poland, the former known for having been somewhat behind Western and Southern Europe, and both for their general cultural isolation from the West).
Pathfinder has Alkenstar, a duchy where magic does not work anymore. They have rifled guns, experimental revolvers, and a gun factory. Taldor also uses cannons for artillery, and most of the nations seem to be at a more Renaissance level. Most countries have printing presses. However, most tech is expensive as hell. If I remember correctly, a gun costs as much as magic weapons.
To some degree this trope is justified by the setting's history; it seems every few thousand years some sort of catastrophe causes empires to crumble and progress to revert to more primitive times. The big one was Earthfall, when the Starstone fell from the sky causing massive cataclysms and destroying the mighty empires of Azlant and Thassilon. A more minor one happened just a hundred years before the setting opens; Aroden, the god of humanity, was supposed to return and usher in a golden age. Instead he died (somehow), and this causes a massive rift to the Abyss called the Worldwound to open, an endless hurricane several hundred miles wide to form, and weeks of storms and earthquakes.
The Forgotten Realms setting generally falls under this, with a few notable exceptions. Countries come and go, several fallen kingdoms/empires may have been built on the same spot, and politics has dramatically changed. To the extent there's enough ancient-to-modern history to have a splatbook (Lost Empires of Faerun) devoted to it. And while swords-and-bow technology hasn't changed all that much, humans have advanced out of the Bronze Age and into the Iron Age, new spells and fighting styles are constantly being developed, and one church (Gond) has the invention and development of technology as one of its primary goals, thus leading to things like the printing press and the alchemy equivalent of gunpowder.
The Lantanese inventors also avert this trope a bit in Forgotten Realms.
Guess what? There's no smokepowder in Faerun in 4e.
The gnomes also avert this. Heck, the only reason that gnomish inventions aren't more widespread (and more willingly accepted) is that the gods are ''deliberately'' meddling to keep things in stasis. The only reason the gnomes have accomplished as much as they have is that they are very innovative: every single thing that the gods warp to try to discourage them from playing around with technology is repurposed to do something that fits with the warping.
Netheril, one of the lost empires, had medieval technology over a thousand years before the 'present'. This was justified by the Netherese reliance on magic, which was both more readily available, and more powerful than it is now. Also wizards really did run this empire.
Justified in the Hollow World, where the Spell of Preservation acts to inhibit cultural and technological change, thus maintaining what amounts to a planet-sized anthropological museum. Elsewhere in Mystara, technical and social progress is much faster in some regions (Darokin, the Savage Coast) than others.
Partially averted in Ravenloft, where the northwestern Core has undergone significant (Clockpunk-level) technical and scientific progress in recent decades. The fact that most domains in the Land of Mists are less than 200 years old also helps spare it from accusations of Medieval Stasis; Barovia is over twice that old, but is openly derided as an archaic backwater by its neighbors. However, the Dark Powers do interfere to maintain some cultural stasis, often by mucking about with people's minds, especially those of the darklords. For example, the proximity of Falkovnia (solidly Medieval) to other domains with Renaissance era technology does nothing to change its culture, largely because the resident darklord is averse to both magic and technology.
Averted in Dragonlance if the tinker gnomes have anything to say about it. Societies have come and gone, especially with The Cataclysm wiping out the most advanced empire on the planet and sending the rest into a downward spiral. But through it all, the tinker gnomes continue to plug away at their inventions (doomed by the gods to fail, however). Despite their handicap, gnome ships sail the seas and rivers powered by steam (occasionally exploding); labor-saving devices process wheat (usually exploding); and other gnomish inventions milk cows, shear sheep, walk dogs, groom horses, and collect eggs (at the same time. While exploding. If you're lucky).
One short story features an insanely evil tinker gnome whose latest invention, while complete, is still theoretical. His loving, if sociopathic, description of how it works place it squarely in the category of an atomic bomb.
An extremely tongue-in-cheek article in a Dragonlance Splatbook describes one gnome's theory on constructing a giant span of strings sprawling across the continent, connecting every town and place of interest. Since the springs resemble an interconnected rope net, he calls it The Internet. And given it's appearance to a spider's web, he suggests calling it The 'Web for short.
Magic The Gathering's city-plane of Ravnica has apparently been ruled by the exact same ten guilds for ten thousand years. This is handwaved to some extent by the existence of a powerful magical pact binding them all, and some change seems to still have happened (it's hard to picture the fractious slum-dwelling Gruul Clans having been the way they are 'now' from the beginning, for one thing)...still, considering how much happened in the same time in real life (basically all of recorded history), it's probably a good example of Game Designers Having No Sense Of Scale.
Of those ten guilds, four are still ruled by the same immortal magical creatures that signed the Guildpact, two are ruled by immortal councils, one is basically the physical manifestation of hidebound bureaucracy, and the other three are more or less insane and generally poor at long-term planning.
With the Return to Ravnica block, the Simic actually went back to melding with magic rather than using the cytoplasts they favoured in classic Ravnica, because an unfortunate incident involving the Guild's leader and a giant blob monster Kaiju made them virtually unsellable.
GURPSBanestorm's world of Yrth has been kept at a Late Medieval level of technology and society, in part due to the Megalan Empire's Ministry of Serendipity, a secret police charged with hunting down inventors, technologies and other ideas which threaten the status quo. The other nations of Yrth appear to have similar organisations.
Iron Kingdoms deconstructs this (with the possible exception of the elves). A few centuries ago the IK were invaded by a nation with more powerful wizards, so to retake their home they had to develop new technology powered by magic. To make it even more shocking, it isn't just the humans that have advanced. At some point they noticed that certain bands of goblins, trolls, and ogres seemed smarter than others, and these sub-species were incorporated into the societies (gobbers are the most advanced, and make excellent mechanics).
Later it turns out that the Elves (the ones form Ios anyway) are even more technology advance than the other other races as they have laser guns (or guns that fire magic laser beams) and force feilds.
Exalted has an interesting take on this, based on the setting's conception for how technology works. It typically requires supernatural powers to develop and build anything more advanced than 16th century technology, and how easily this is done depends on the people in question. The Solars had the best powers, and governed an age of technology at least as advanced as what we have now, and frequently greater. The Dragon-Blood ruled Shogunate didn't have the means to maintain the Solar infrastructure practically anywhere at all, and was slowly falling apart due to infighting, invasions of reality and simple entropy. The Realm (also run by Dragon-Blooded) maintained a social and technological level roughly equivalent to medieval Japan (with the occasional remnant of previous ages) for about 800 years, but that was due to deliberately enforced restrictions. Development in the rest of Creation at during that period varies, depending on factors like security from raksha or Underworld attacks, Realm influence, and available resources and Essence-users.
In Fading Suns the church blames technology for the fall of the Second Republic, so the Engineer's Guild has mostly focused on maintaining or at most duplicating old technology. What little research they do has to be done in secret.
The Vau are even worse than humanity; they have not advanced at all since the Second Republic first made contact two thousand years ago due to having an (even more) rigid caste system that prizes stability over all else. Though they were largely more advanced than even the Republic at its height.
The Vilani First Imperium in Traveller was quite stagnant, leading to their defeat at the hands of the Terran Federation.
Inverted in Pendragon, which starts off in post-Roman Britain until King Arthur takes the throne, then each phase of his reign parallels a period in the history of England from the Norman Conquest to the Wars of the Roses with technology to match.
Enforced by Rokugan's ruling samurai caste in Legend of the Five Rings. Technology and magic are both very stringently regulated, with a strong cultural emphasis on the "Celestial Order."
Averted in Ironclaw, even the oldest of the Great Houses are less than a thousand years old, the youngest two centuries, and they all have detailed histories that are anything but static. In the past hundred years in particular the gun and printing press were developed, and the High King surrendered direct control of the capital city to a council of merchant guilds.
BIONICLE's planet of Bara Magna. Following a literal Earth-Shattering Kaboom, during which the planet Spherus Magna split into three, the society of the desert region-turned-planet found itself in shambles. They created a system in which disputes over resources would be settled with gladiator matches, and when the story continues 100000 years later, nothing is any different — even most of the people are still the same, thanks to their long-ass lifespans. Characters who were treated as inexperienced youngsters a hundred millennia ago are still seen as such. Super-powerful beings still continue their war that to the rest of the planet is only a memory. Some people, like Vastus, still feel guilty over what they've done in that war. True, the Iron Tribe died out and at some point the Skrall Tribe moved from the Northern mountains to the desert, but that's pretty much it. Society and technology never moved an inch forward, even though the characters built high-tech implants into themselves and had the war-machines of old to study.
Starbound- Starbound features a race of sentient robots left over from a failed society experiment that, due to a glitch, are stuck in the medieval ages both socially and technologically. This ironically allowed them to survive as all of the other experiments eventually wiped themselves out once they had the technology to do it.
Medieval II: Total War- If you continue to play the game well after you pass/fail the requirements needed to beat it, and assuming you and another faction is still playing, you could potentially see Europe celebrating the year 1900 AD, yet have everything look as it did way back 900 years ago.
On the one extreme, the Night Elves have existed in what seems to be a state of technological and societal stasis for ten thousand years. However, this is explicitly shown to be part of the (very conservative) race's way of life; a large segment of their population goes into otherworldly trances, sometimes for centuries at a time, and the remainder are so devoted to their sylvan ways that until recently they tended to disparage all technology or arcane magic. The fact that they were immortal at the time and this represented a single generation also contributed.
And on the other extreme, the civilizations of capital city of Dalaran, the Burning Legion, the gnomes, the goblins, the high elves, and the draenei and their naaru patrons all have access to exotic (and in the case of the gnomes, goblins, and dwarves, extremely quirky) Magitek technology.
Last but certainly not least is the fact that many of these cultures, having allied and interacted, are beginning to pick up each other's tricks. This leads to some interesting interactions in the present, more internationalist era, such as an Alliance Steam Punk airship, golems being produced like mass-produced robots, or a druid of the Cenarion Expedition excitedly studying super-advanced Ethereal Magitek for possible ecological renewal purposes.
In Warlords of Draenor, Garrosh Hellscream goes back in time and helps the Orcs of Draenor avert this by granting them a powerful artifact that kickstarts an industrial revolution. The new "Iron Horde" rejects the Fel magic that corrupted the original Horde in favor of the power of iron.
Timeline A, containing The Legendof Zelda A Link To The Past through Zelda II The Adventure Of Link has first a lengthy period of stasis, but then averts the trope in a strange way as there is a great technological regression. There is, after the long period of stasis, a clear loss of historical and architectural knowledge, loss of more complex clothing technologies, a large population crash, and the loss of much of the Schizo Tech artifacts such as juke boxes, telephones, hardhats, etc.
Timeline C, containing The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker through The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks averts the trope the normal way, with a slow but noticable technological progression, including photography, steam engine powered boats, and trains. This is likely caused by the massive social shift and need to adapt to the Fall of Hyrule and migration to island living.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword hints that Hyrule's current state may be the result of a past cataclysm, which could explain the schizo tech in some areas. The prevalence of magic and the supernatural may also justify the slow pace of technology progress in some areas (think how much of modern medicine would be rendered obsolete in the face of cure-all potions), and the devastating reach of the Triforce Wars - as well as the various civil conflicts mentioned in backstory - probably didn't contribute much to its advancement.
Tamriel in The Elder Scrolls. The reason The Dwemer, the last race to advance beyond the medieval level, were instantaneously banished from the face of the world (or used their newfound knowledge to leave voluntarily - it's a subject of much in-universe debate) when they attempted to scientifically reproduce the powers of a god. According to the descriptions in the book 2920, The Last Year of the First Era (found in Morrowind and Oblivion), the technology of that date was pretty much the same as it is in the games. Oblivion is set at the end of the third era (after its main quest, era 4 begins), which is 1,330 years after the events described in the book, so technology was stagnant for at least 1,330 years, maybe more. Seeing as man and mer only existed for ~7,000 years, this actually makes it worse because it means that they were in stasis for at least 20% of their existance. On the other hand, 2920 is fiction, so it might simply be in-universe Anachronism Stew.
Final Fantasy VI. After 1,000 years after the War of the Magi, civilization has rediscovered steam engines and "...high technology reigns." However, 80% of the world is locked in Medieval Stasis with a Victorian skin, as the only signs of any sort of technology are Narshe (steam and coal), Figaro Castle (but not South Figaro), and the Empire's Magitek. Although there are also gramophones in most houses.
Averted in Final Fantasy XII and the other Ivalice Alliance games, where the further you go along the in-world timeline the more things have gone to hell, mostly likely due to the sort of turmoil caused when your religious warfare gets even the gods involved. In Final Fantasy Tactics mention's made of how they no longer have the technology to make airships and by Vagrant Story even magic's been largely forgotten.
The Legacy of Kain games jump around by millennia, but always stay firmly stuck in vague middle ages with very little technology thrown in. However, the world of Nosgoth is in a permanent state of biological and spiritual decay, so advancement might be hampered.
In the original backstory of the first game, there was minimal to no advancement in a 5,000 year period; later games retconned this to only 500 years.
Interestingly, one game in this series completely averts this; Blood Omen 2 takes place 400 years after the original Blood Omen, and in that time has Nosgoth go from a midieval fantasy world with sparse dashings of magitek and steampunk to a full on industrial revolution(still, technically, magitek and steam punk, but on a much grander scale). Averting this trope is one of the reasons that Blood Omen 2 is the least popular game in the franchise; most fans felt it didn't fit withe the over all tone of the series. Possibly justified, since the ones spearheading this revolution are the Hylden, demonic beings mostly unaffected by the decay affecting everyone else since they rejected being part of the Wheel of Fate. And their reason for doing so is hardly benevolent — they want to complete the weapon that will wipe out everyone on Nosgoth but themselves.
The Myth prequel Myth III: The Wolf Age' changes little from the original games despite being set 1000 years earlier, as commented on in this review. Dwarves still fight mainly with grenades, and at one point get a flamethrower to boot.
The backstory has them at this level for several millennia before that. They never have more than a millennium at a time to progress before the Leveler knocks civilization back down, though.
The Humans and Dwarves were down to one city each at the end of Myth III, so even maintaining the status quo is impressive. The backstory is that civilization rises up only to be toppled again every thousand years, but even so they've been locked for at least six cycles.
Adventure game The Longest Journey and its sequel posit that, way back in history, the inhabitants of the world in question had to make a choice between "magic" and "science", and two parallel worlds were created, between which the Player Character can skip. Our PC is from the Science world, apparently Twenty Minutes into the Future, whereas the Magic world is still on swords and bows, because anyone born with ingenuity and inventiveness ends up in the Science world.
There's also the fact that the laws of physics exists in a state of flux in Arcadia. Making a power plant must be hard when the technical principles you relied on yesterday have been inverted and will probably invert again by the end of the week.
Twice, however, groups have attempted to introduce the Arcadians to new technology. In the first game, the Vanguard are offering people inventions from Stark (the science world) so as to subvert the power base of the Sentinels who believe that Status Quo Is God. In the sequel, the magic-hating Azadi Empire takes over a large chunk of Arcadia and introduces airships and steam engines. However, it is mentioned that this is still Magitek, as this is the only way to make them function reliably.
On the other side of the coin, most advanced Stark tech suddenly fails after the Collapse (the rebuilding of the Barrier between the worlds). Most in fandom speculate that this is because some of this tech (e.g. antigravity, FTL) defies the laws of physics and only worked through the unintentional use of magic. This explanation also justifies the high number of antigravity accidents prior to the Collapse, as magic is inherently chaotic. The entire world had to revert to using old tech, losing all contact with extrasolar colonies.
In the 116 years between Fallouts 1 and 3, the world has changed very little. Even century-old settlements look like they were just recently built out of the scrap available, even if the settlers have plenty of food and protection (so no reason they wouldn't be making their towns any more comfortable). Take Megaton for example, whose been inhabited for 3 generations, and it's still full of crap lying around like discarded tires.
Some have tried to say it's justified due to the high levels of radiation saturating the area, but Bethesda admits in the Fallout 3 art book that it isn't realistic, it's only that way to keep with the series style.
If you look at the timeline closely, F3 setting doesn't fit into the current Fallout chronology in any way (The NCR was already a huge unified nation in F2, fifty years ago while D.C. survivors just sat on their ass for the last 200 years), so really the best course of action is to ignore that aspect or mentally move all the dates to twenty years after the bombs fell.
One, often over-looked, factor is the presence and danger posed by Super Mutants. On the west coast, the large-scale threat these monsters posed was dealt with in the first game, leading up to the formation of the early NCR. The DC area was not so lucky and was on the brink of being completely over-run by the time the Brotherhood of Steel shows up in the recent back-story to Fallout 3. Additionally, other areas of the east coast have experienced significant scientific advancement. The Institute controls much of what was previously New England and has technology capable of creating Ridiculously Human Robots so advanced they pass for human and can even question their own existence as well as the morality of killing humans and/or other androids. It's implied the Institute was founded by the remnants of MIT or the in-universe equivalent.
The series also implies the world never left The Fifties in style and culture, despite the war happening in 2077. While transistors were never invented, fusion power was, in the late 1950's, causing technology and society to develop differently.
It doesn't help much that there's countless dog sized (at the smallest) mutated creatures, feral ghouls, haywire homicidal commercial and military robots, psychotic raiders, etc. all over the Capital Wasteland. It's actually more of a surprise that there's anyone left alive not to mention able to make new tech in Fallout 3 at this point.
The Brotherhood of Steel IS this trope, they only care about preserving Old World Tech, they are in a slow death, mostly thanks to the NCR who don't care much about this trope.
A large part of Mr. House's plan in Fallout: New Vegas involves subverting this trope. He intends to use Vegas to kickstart a new era of scientific progress, eventually culminating in space travel so humanity can abandon their craphole of a planet for something better.
The same goes with the NCR just not to that scale as much slower, by the time of New Vegas California is near pre-war standerns.
This would be easier, if the Lone Wonderer would just share the captured alien ship from the Mothership Zeta DLC. Of course, the first thing most would do is fire that Wave Motion Gun at any area of the planet they don't like.
The fan-made mod "Mothership Zeta Crew" addresses the issue of the wasted potential of the orbiting alien ship with an ongoing story-driven questline on par with official DLC.
Lampshaded in Wizardry VII, where the party comes across a laser rifle of sorts and wonders why anyone would create such a thing when a few sword swipes would do just as well.
Played straight in Battle for Wesnoth, whose timeline crosses nearly 1,000 years without any tech level change, then an unspecified time passes during which technology advances far enough to put another star in the sky (well, technically a big nuclear moon) to improve the climate, which then crashes back down enforcing Medieval Stasis just in time for us to pick up the story again.
Touhou, sort of. The setting was a backwater back in the Meiji area when it was sealed off from the rest of Japan, so this really makes sense. Then the kappa started building sci-fi technology and a hell-crow turned into a living nuclear furnace, and things are starting to head towards Schizo Tech.
This was averted earlier with Rinnosuke; the man runs a shop that sells "odd things," although most of the stuff consists of things that fell across the border. Among other things, he has a Game Boy, and iPod, and a small personal heater. All of these things work, he just doesn't know how.
Also in the second game of the series, Rika is apparently the only human character who possesses the knowledge needed to construct motorized vehicles. She uses it to build tanks.
Averted, to a degree, in Might and Magic VIII. Three plot points centres around recent technological and magical inventions (though you only deal with two of them in any one given play-through): The stolen Nightshade Brazier, the Necromancers' Skeleton Transformer and the Regnan Pirates' Prototype Super-Cannon. In addition, the Handwave given for vampires in the party being able to walk around at day is that the Necromancers' Guild recently developed a new sort of amulet that protects a vampire against the sunlight. It's too costly for producing in any larger numbers, though, so it's only vampires that need to travel around that gets them.
Might and Magic games don't even sport a medieval stasis. It's actually a sci-fi series where worlds have been created or seeded by a highly technologically advanced race, called the Ancients. However, due to a war with an alien race, the Kreegans, the whole system collapsed and many worlds fell into barbarism for as much as 12 centuries. Considering the fact that this actually happened in the course of our own history, it's not strange. Also changes in styles, fashion and sophistication in building, etc., are clearly evident. Newer castles are depicted with different styles, weapon technology changes, newer metals are used, etc. It's just that the actual games span a time-frame of no more than a century, so these changes are not evident from game to game, so much; it's rather historical evidence present in the games (items that you find, building styles, etc). Games other than Might and Magic VIII or IX, feature actual laser guns, which are from the time prior to the event marked as the Silence (see spoiler). There are also spacecrafts and robots from the same period and tons of other technological stuff, depicting the advance of the Ancients.
Heroes Chronicles used the same towns as Heroes of Might and Magic III while covering a period many centuries in length (the chronologically first has been fan-dated to around 200 AS, while the chronologically last takes place around 1172 AS). Given that the series also used a grass/forest town to represent the Vori Snow Elves, this is likely Gameplay and Story Segregation, however.
Dwarf Fortress can generate a world's history covering 200 to 1,000 years with normal parameters - even more, or less, with custom ones - and the only difference time makes to civilisation is that empires will be bigger and more megabeasts will have died. This may change, but the developer has said that the technology present in the game won't become more advanced than "1400 AD."
On the other hand, players can make ludicrously complex death traps, like one that uses water funneled from a glacier to freeze enemies - it's essentially a liquid nitrogen thrower. This isn't even getting into other mechanisms; one player made a Turing-complete calculator.
The Spirit Engine 2 is a borderline example. Gunpowder is just beginning to become used, and classic knights are still being employed, especially by local militias and as headhunters, but the progress is very, very slow. It's later revealed that the Rakari have been trying to hinder progress as much as possible, mentally dulling humanity and mindwiping (potential) inventors, but their grip is slipping, which is why they couldn't prevent the (re-)emergence of gunpowder.
The world of The Legend of Dragoon seems to have barely changed within eleven thousand years. This is even a plot point, as the Big Bad wants to destroy the world so a new one can take its place and advance farther.
Averted in the Fable games. Even over a short period of time, things change, and in the time between games there has been massive changes in culture, science (Guns!) and society. Most notably is that the Guild, once the most beloved organization in the world, fell into disfavour with the public, and has since then been razed to the ground.
Averted in Luminous Arc 2, where lapis-based science and technology was notably being used and developed in Carnava. A few scientists also mentioned steam-power energy from foreign countries without magic.
Fire Emblem uses this trope a hell of a lot. While politics and society may change a bit, architecture, transportation, weaponry, and technology in general is pretty much the same as it was 1200, 1000, 800, or however many years it was since the great cataclysm or war between humans and monsters/demons/dragons that sets up the game's plot.
Awakening, set 2000 years after the original trio of games, confirms that every game in the series takes place on the same world. Apparently, records are well-kept enough that Chrom is able to identify historical figures by sight alone. Chrom is also aware of the majority of the heroes and villains from earlier games. Notably, Priam is descended from Ike, but it is never made clear how long ago Ike lived.
Battalion Wars on a purely technological level. Fluff from BWii reveals that most of the Solar Empire's military hardware has remained unchanged for two hundred years, and still isn't outdated.
The land of Thedas from Dragon Age is hit hard by this. Due to over-reliance on magic coupled with distinct bans on in-depth research on the phenomenon, the nations of Thedas have remained stagnant socially and technologically since the fall of the TevinterImperium over 1200 years before the start of the story. The only groups that seem to have made any technological advancements are the dwarves and the Qunari. Both isolationist peoples with very little reliance on magic. Even then, the advancements are extremely slow and, socially, both are even more rigid than the general populace.
In a Dragon Age II a dwarven merchant tries to "court" the Qunari into selling him the secret to their "blackpowder"; the Qunari leader he's courting explains to all involved that non-Qunari aren't ready for the responsibility to use the substance (not to mention it's a significant advantage for their military to possess). Earlier in the quest Hawke can ask why the merchant he's bothering when lyrium can also act as an explosive. The merchant lists the problems with using lyrium as A) it's lethally toxic, B) it's trade is controlled by the Chantry and C) its blue-white glow makes its user visible at a distance. Blackpowder has none of these problems and would be a great help against the Darkspawn Horde that continually attacks the last of Dwarven civilization. So while the setting's Applied Phlebotinum is useful it's also restricting the development of the cultures reliant on it. Why the Qunari haven't developed personal firearms isn't certain, but who knows why the Qunari do anything they do? While the Qunari sense of honour might prohibit the use of personal firearms, they do have cannons for their ships.
This article takes the same position as the first entry as it postulates that the presence of magic itself is what is holding back Thedas, that technology does not advance because magic can be used to do the same things with greater ease combined with the apocalyptic nature of the Blights and the restrictive dogma of the Qun and the Chantry's holds on magic experimentation. The sentence "that mages are holding the world... back, even as they hold it up" could be used for every medieval fantasy setting.
As of the end of Dragon Age II this all may be changing; at least, it certainly appears that humanity has discovered gunpowder...and that gunpowder plus magic is very destructive. The future ramifications of this remain to be seen.
The Mass Effect universe has a zig-zagging example of the trope. On one hand, technology doesn't seem to have advanced too much since the Council started inhabiting the Citadel. On the other hand, we do know that it is advancing technologically, as more powerful "heat sink," based weapons are the norm by ME2, as well as omni-gel proof systems, and by Mass Effect 3, Mech suits and omnitool lightsabers have come into practice. On the third hand, everything about the technology in the Mass Effect universe is a trap. Everything is reverse engineered from technology left behind by the Protheans, who reverse engineered the tech from another race that came before them, who did the same thing to the previous race, and so on and so forth. The entire tech base is a trap set by the Reapers, who use organic life to further their own technology before taking anything good, while having the benefit of millions of years of development to crush anything in their path.
On the FOURTH hand you have the Geth, the machine race that happen to not only have the most advanced technology (aside from the Reapers) and progress at the fastest rate, but since they believe in self determination, all of their tech is of their own design, and may be the only suitable counter against the Reapers.
Humanity's tendency to avert this is lampshaded in the second game, where by 2185 their businesses have become responsible for nearly every new technological innovation currently out on the market. This has forced the other races to break out of their complacency in order to keep ahead of the curve.
One small aversion. You go out for Wrex's family armor, but it is made very clear that it is obsolete (it's well over a thousand years old) to any other armor you can give him, Wrex wants it for sentimental reasons.
Dark Souls has at least a 1,000 years with no progress past the Medieval European Fantasy seen during the Action Prologue. It is implied that this is one of the problems with the Age of Fire in which the gods rule over man, and that should the player choose to become the Dark Lord, humanity will at least have a chance to break the stasis.
Dark Souls II confirms that there is a constant cycle at play of "fire and dark" and that great kingdoms constantly rise and then come crashing down due to monsters, insanity, and the undead curse. It turns out that the Emerald Herald was an attempt to break this cycle of fire and darkness.
Xenoblade has a very odd mix of technology, featuring flying ships, killer robots and guns that shooting healing magic alongside katanas strange shield spear hybrids. It is nevertheless still in stasis. The back story shows that technology doesn't get much of a chance to develop as their god decides to erase all life when ever he becomes afraid they might stumble upon space travel and leave him.
Guild Wars 2 averts this trope, with the 250 years between the first and second games having given way to full-scale industrialisation by the Charr - to the extent that the Charr have large gun platforms, cannon weaponry and even primitive tanks. Then there's Asuratechnology.
Majorly averted in Chrono Trigger. Despite the "present-day" setting of 1000 AD having a strong medieval feel, a quick trip back to 600 AD makes it obvious that there has been some significant advancement in the intervening years. When the gang travels to 1999 AD, the world is even more technologically advanced than its Real Life counterpart. There is sort of future stasis after 1999, but that's justified by the After the End setting.
The dates are about a thousand years behind the actual technology level. 1000 AD is clearly similar to the late 20th century in our world, just in a land where many of the medieval buildings have been preserved instead of torn down. 600 AD is The High Middle Ages (although 200 AD might have been more appropriate in that case). 1999 AD looks like something out of The Jetsons.
Justified in Golden Sun lore. The Golden Age of Man ran on Alchemy-powered Magitek; when Alchemy's power was sealed away, the Adepts and craftsmen dwindled in power and number, beastmen went extinct, the very world itself began to crumble at its edges, and Muggles who had no way of working with the Magitek became the dominant race. As a result, civilization experienced a huge kickback, but appears to have been slowly rebuilding technology even in the first two games, going by NPC chatter about newfangled developments in architecture and nautical engineering.
Then the heroes reverse the seal on Alchemy, and during Dark Dawn there's obviously a fantasy-counterpart Renaissance in full swing.
The Eastern Kingdom of Mikado in Shin Megami Tensei IV. The Law Faction's goal is to permanently seal it in this trope by putting the Four Archangels in charge (Gabriel's been hard at work keeping it that way for almost a millenia and a half) and detonating a Magical Particle Accelerator in the middle of Tokyo, wiping out what seems to be Humankind's last bastion of wisdom and knowledge in the world. Conversely, the Chaos side wants to blow open the doors to Naraku and allow demons to march straight into the capital, forcing the locals to either fight them and learn more about war and evolution, or just die, leaving the Tokyo natives to reconquer their world.
In Code of Princess, the entire reason magic exists is to keep humanity in Medieval Stasis so they don't destroy themselves again.
Monster Hunter plays with this. Technology has visibly advanced as the series as gone on; the first game was very much Bronze Age/prehistoria with some very primitive firearms, but the latest games feature widespread use of balloons and airships, as well as advanced mechanical contraptions like the Switch Axe. However, society as a whole hasn't progressed past the hunter-gatherer stage after all this time.
Downplayed in After the End: A Crusader Kings II Mod. The mod uses the base game's technology system, so technology does advance as time passes, but aside from a few rare artifacts that can be recovered from old ruins, society can't progress beyond the equivalent of the early Renaissance.
Parodied in 8-Bit Theater, when Red Mage confronts Thief about the supposed superiority of elves, who have technology on par with the rest of the world despite having a 9000-year headstart. Thief responds with something to the effect of "Er... we like it that way. You inferior beings wouldn't understand." Plus there are ruined ancient civilizations everywhere who had helicopters, flying castles, killer robots, cold fusion reactors, which indicates that progress does occur elsewhere, it just keeps getting knocked back in anachronism every so often. Occasionally because of the elves, but mostly because everyone is Too Dumb to Live.
In Floyd by Aaron Williams, at one point "ten thousand years" are mentioned, with an even longer history prior. This is longer, in the real world, than written history has actually existed (though this may be an After the End situation as well).
Nodwick also suggests that a time traveler's mistake knocked society back to a medievel level from which it never recovered, magic is there but used by very few, which contributes to the problem.
Drowtales plays this trope straight concerning the technology, but there is a slow cultural, social and political evolution during the 1000 years of the moonless age. for example, great clans rise and fall, the faith in Sharess was strong, but is now challenged by demonic worshipping.
Arguably averted in technology, as well. The characters are seen using anything from portable music players to artificial limbs and magically enhanced sniper crossbows. And then there are the Jaal'darya biogolems and other organic tech that is an extremely recent innovation. It's all largely based on magic, but it develops and advances very much like the technology in our world.
Averted in Tales of MU, which is supposed to be a "medieval fantasy setting, five hundred years later," with Magitek in place of modern technology. A side story set two hundred years in the past of the main story resembled America's colonial period.
Limyaael has written a rant specifically on how to keep these kinds of settings plausible.
In The Salvation War, the realms of Heaven and Hell are stuck in this state, partially because the angels and demons are very conservative and long-lived, and partially because the respective leaders (Yahweh and Satan) have discouraged technological growth because advanced underlings are dangerous underlings, and instead built cults of personality around themselves that resulted in a societies of fanatical devotion to egomaniacal despots. This is mostly the reason why the humans utterly crushed them both.
The Pactlands in Engines of Creation has made few advances in terms of technology in one thousand years, largely due to the control and flow of information.
The entire world of Dino Attack RPG, due to the fact that it was inspired by LEGO. Though most of the action occurred in relatively modern environments there is "Castle Cove" (providing a literal example), along with the tropical sea in which people are still living as in the late 18th and early 19th centuries (complete with swashbuckling bucaneers), the vast desert region that is home to the town of Gold City- which more or less resembles the setting for a Sergio Leone Western, and let's not get started on any of the crazy futuristic space stuff.
Deliberately invoked by the people of Tarkon in Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers. A devastating war happened on their planet many centuries ago, and the people were hell-bent on making sure that they never again reached a technology level high enough to cause the same kind of devastation. Unfortunately, the rest of the galaxy started to notice Tarkon, and the people are Human Aliens, who are implied to be perfectly compatible with the Queen's psychocrypt. Cue one Badass Princess waging open rebellion against her society and her father to try and get her planet catching up.
In the course of the series, the Gummis are known more for their magical prowess and general cleverness, but two standout examples of their technology would be a human-sized, combat-capable Mini-Mecha, and the Gummiscope, which could be used as either a long-distance communication device (complete with an animatronic hand for transcribing the message on the receiving end!), or a colossal Death Ray. In addition, they also had access to heavy ground vehicles, aircraft, and chemical weapons. In a world otherwise trapped in Medieval Stasis, the Great Gummis seem to have mastered Clock Punk.
Avatar: The Last Airbender. In the flashbacks of Aang's three previous lives, which seems to span somewhere on the order of three or four hundred years, most of the world seems to have changed very little (Aang's outdated knowledge of slang aside). Even the Fire Nation, the setting's sole industrialized country, isn't completely immune; its ironclad steamships seen during the bulk of the series are virtually indistinquishable from the ones seen in flashbacks taking place one hundred years ago.
We do see some technological innovation over the course of the war (and the art book states that Zuko's own ship is actually quite old compared with the current Fire Nation standard), but the overall developmental pace over those hundred years still seems quite slow considering that the Fire Nation already had a 19th-century Steampunk level of technology; you'd expect the war to have accelerated the technological development of it and its opponents. Heck, even the innovations we do see were mostly created by just one inventor towards the end of the war.
Even if technology has been slow to change, culture has evolved over time. The Sun Warriors were apparently precursors to the present-day Fire Nation, and had similar but different architectural styles and a very different perception of fire. The Fire Nation itself used to be a theocracy ruled by the head Fire Sage, until one of those Fire Lords became the start of a monarchy. In Kyoshi's time the Earth Kingdom was apparently a collection of warring states with little respect for the Earth King in Ba Sing Se; even in Aang's time another city, Omashu, has its own king, and Kuei isn't particularly considered outside of his own city, wheras in Korra's time the monarch has enough power that her death destabilizes the entire continent. Before Kuruk's time the Water Tribe was united in the north, then the Southern tribe seceded and built its own culture. The culture that seems to have changed least is the Air Nomads, who are clearly recognizable in Wan's time, even having similar tattoos. Given their Avatar statues they might have a collective interest in preserving and maintaining their history and way of life.
Going in the other direction, the flashbacks to Avatar Wan's time 10,000 years ago show a world that is clearly different from the world in both Aang's and Korra's time, but less different than would be expected for a 10,000 year gap.
Notably, Korra subverts the trope not only in terms of simple technology, but it also goes to great lengths to show cultural change. Most notably, the reformed Air Nation, being formed from people from several different nations who joined at various ages, are shown as being far less monastic than their Air Nomad predecessors, and much more active in world affairs. Also, head-shaving is far less common, and modern Airbenders have replaced their traditional clothes with wingsuits developed by Future Industries.
Parodied in Futurama where the professor, Fry, and Bender travel in a forward only Time Machine and see epochs of human evolution that at one point reverts back to middle age castles and knights wielding swords and riding birds.
The series itself could count in a strange way. Due to many alien invasions, robot rebellions, wars with carrots, and brutal dictatorships, Earth has had many years of technological stagnation, and they still use the same technologies for over a thousand years (such as the suicide booths that advertise their use since 2008).
A section of the Ghost Zone in Danny Phantom plays this trope quite straight. Not only is it a Medieval society set seemingly in the Dark Ages, but it is surrounded by a layer of black clouds and all time literally stands still, along with technology failing to work.
Averted in Real Life; the people of the Middle Ages certainly didn't think of themselves as living in stasis (or, indeed, in the 'middle' of anything). The Middle Ages saw a great deal of technological innovation. To name a few, the windmill, spectacles, sophisticated armour, three-crop rotation, the mechanical clock, gunpowder and the flying buttress all were medieval inventions.
However People in the Middle ages also had a skewed view of the past, for example many Roman and Greek myths survived and were expanded upon, but knights and castles added in. Similarly Medieval literature often portray mythological and historical figures as following a weird hybrid of Christianity and the Greek/Roman Pantheon. For all intents and purposes they thought the world had been as it was then since civilization picked up.
In a sense, all of humanity was in a stasis until about 9000 BC when bow and arrow were invented.
During the middle ages art and architecture has evolved from a Late Roman style to Romanesque to the Gothic of course. By the time of the high middle ages fashion and design would have been much distinct from what was present after the fall of Rome. In particular, Hagia Sofia from the Byzantines was created to be a revolutionary new architecture style in its time.
Earth - Industrial technology has existed for at least 2500 years going back to Ancient Greece, but it wasn't till the end of the eighteenth century that one small, damp little island in the corner of Eurasia decided to do something with it.
The kicking off of an industrial revolution requires several complex factors, none of which Ancient Greece had.. To begin with, the place has to have basic law and order. It also has to make economic sense for people to invest in tools and machines to do things rather than just hiring (more) people and animals. Furthermore, people have to be able to get money to pay all these tools and machines - which means (easy-to-obtain) loans and institutions which can issue them at reasonable rates of interest. And that's just for efficient arable-farming, never mind the intricacies of manufacturing industries.
The political, social and technological organization of Japan remained unchanged the same from 1600 to 1853 -while the rest of the world changed- but this was mostly intentional, due to legally enforced restrictions (known in Japanese as the Sakoku or 'closed-nation' policy, though the term has fallen out of use in favour of 'isolationism'). The basic structure of Japanese society and state remained largely unchanged through the Feudal period, 1185-1868, though the 'warring states' period that immediately preceded the rise of the Tokugawa Shogunate saw a lot of (upward) social mobility.
By the time Commodore Perry arrived off what is now Tokyo Bay in 1853 however, there were at least a handful of notable changes from the days of Tokugawa Ieyasu. The Samurai in general had long turned into a landed peacetime caste, though their place in society was gradually being challenged by the merchant classes. With the exception of fringe and particularly stubborn clans, most were either allied to or puppets of the Shogunate. A fair bit of knowledge of the outside world filtered through the Ryukyus, Tsushima, and the isle of Dejima (modern medicine and science being called "Dutch studies/learning", acquired as it was from contact with the Dutch trading post confined to Dejima Island in Nagasaki). This meant that while the Japanese didn't have the technology that showed up on their doorstep (i.e. the "Black Ships"), they knew enough for the better-informed among them to figure out just how far behind they were falling in the seventeenth and eighteenth century.
The list of things invented by citizens of the various Chinese Empires is quite long and rather impressive. It is also definitive proof that even a combination of technology, prosperity, and stability do not necessarily lead to industrialization. The Chinese Empires were the most populous realms in all the world in every age, but none of those Empires were engaged in intercontinental shipping or large-scale gunpowder warfare. A lot of this is due to the physical circumstances of those Empires - sprawling over huge areas, with all the natural resources they could ever need relatively easily to-hand. Europe was resource-poor by comparison, in addition to being incredibly factious and yet having a much better-integrated continental market (due to all the sea- and riverine-trade routes), whereas China was a contiguous country that had been unified (and remained so) long before. The Armies of the Qing Empire, for instance, had zero need for artillery pieces as they spent virtually all their time fighting Mongols, and simply hired lots of (cheap) marines for boarding actions against pirates. Intercontinental shipping made investments in relatively accurate time-keeping devices (to measure longitude for navigational purposes) and other navigational aids worthwhile. Thus did the 17th-century Empire of the Qing (under the Qianlong Emperor) use astronomical knowledge brought by Jesuit priests to make improvements to their Song-era (c. 12th-century) Lunar Calender, which had begun to fall out of sync with the actual moon.
The Amish deliberately shun most or all kinds of new technology due to religious beliefs and enforcing a strong belief in hard work as rewarding, instead electing to live a life that is not very different from the lives of those who lived around the 18th century or before that, on the whole. They do have contact with modern society, and some do use modern technology like tractors, but they mostly aim to be self-reliant and any use of modern technology is rare at best.
This will occasionally move into Schizo Tech territory, with motorized farm machinery mounted on a wooden platform and pulled by horses or sewing machines which are powered by a foot-operated treadle and controlled by mechanically linked dials and switches.
The Amish value group effort when determining whether to use or avoid a piece of technology. Families are discouraged from using mechanical farming equipment in order to motivate them to work together in order to accomplish a harvest. In one case, a governing council actually commanded an elderly Amish farmer to purchase a tractor as his sons had moved out and he could no longer accomplish his harvest. The idea is that relying on the community discourages vanity and other sins.
The Amish will use technology when required by the law-modern pasteurization for dairy products was the first example of this. Likewise, if you hire Amish for construction work and ask them to use power tools or supply them, they will use them without considering it a "sin."
Amish and similar groups are survivalists who don't want to be dependent on other people. They simply don't use technology they can't reproduce themselves but doing a job for someone else does not contradict this rule.
Interestingly, while a lot of people may be opposed to genetically modified food, the Amish love the idea of disease-resistant crops and eagerly grow them.
And while the Amish may not use nor closely follow the latest in technology, they're hardly ignorant about it. They know what computers are and have a grasp of what sort of things they do-if an Amish person is injured and an ambulance takes them to a hospital they will hardly be confused and think there's magic at work-they won't gasp in shock at a person's cellphone. They're Genre Savvy and all, just not involved.
Children raised as Amish are actually expected to spend a few months living in the modern world upon reaching adulthood, so that if they do decide to commit to the Amish lifestyle, it's an informed choice.
Some Amish have started using solar panels in order to have electricity without needing to abandon their self-reliance.
With the popularity of Amish furniture as being extremely well crafted and durable, a few Amish businesses have devised absurdly clever "no-tech" ways to shuttle the one telephone they have between everyone in the building to handle business calls.
In medieval times, this was a popular perception in reverse. Paintings of great battles or events such as the Crusades would often depict the armies in whatever the latest, most fashionable, and most advanced armor of the present time was, when in reality the warriors fought in little more than chainmail.
This is also why the popular images of Jesus, the saints, and many angels look suspiciously like Renaissance-era Italians both physically and in how they are dressed.
Oddly enough, this trope is invoked for the Rule of Drama in non-fiction TV documentaries about the future of our solar system. It is a true that in five billion years our sun will expand into a red giant, and if the sun itself doesn't envelop our orbit the Earth will be blasted with extreme heat. The documentaries like to instill a sense of foreboding as if history, technology and time don't have a LOOOOONG time to march on before this happens. See Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale.
Believers in the Phantom Time Conspiracy Theory argue (among other things) that little to no architectural evolution happened between the years 614 to 911 and take that as evidence that those years of European history are in fact fictitious and the work of Holy Roman Emperor Otto III, who wanted to be crowned around the year 1000, despite it only being the year 703.
We all do this from a psychological standpoint in our heads. It's why we are always so surprised upon returning to our "old neighborhood where nothing ever changed" and finding trees cut down or grown larger, neighbors having moved on or passed away, houses painted differently, etc. It's not that we don't expect things to change, it's just that the human brain isn't usually thinking about how things may be changing back in or old neighborhood as we move on-we're just busy with our lives where we live now, and so our memory of our old neighborhood goes into a medieval stasis of sorts.
There are, even today, a number of isolated societies that have never gone beyond a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, for the simple reason that there was no need for advancement and no resources to spare for it.
During the union times, and before modern communication and roads, Norway came out as incredibly stable. Firearms aside, the farmlands continued to work out things after medieval fashion for centuries. Thus, iron age attitudes lasted among them all the way to 1830. In some remote areas, a proper country road or a railway was the changing factor. Natural household, as opposed to money household, was the rule rather than not in the period, as were the use of the old norse thing to settle disputes.