aka: Setting Trope
Picking your place is very important for the story.
The time, place and circumstances of the narrative.
- After the End
A catastrophe - manmade or natural - has wiped out a large portion of the human civilization and/or population. The survivors fight for survival in a post-apocalyptic world.
- The Apunkalypse
Punks usher in the collapse of civilization; the apocalypse ushers in the age of the punks. It's all the same song and dance, and the punks are here to stay.
- Ruins of the Modern Age
The Empire State Building is growing moss and most of its concrete is fading away.
- Scavenger World
The world has been ruined, and people rely on what they can salvage from the old world to survive.
- Alternative Calendar
If the end of World War II were used as an era, it would be the year 69 as of 2014.
- Anachronism Stew
Is that man wearing a toga, wielding a Katana and listening to an iPod?
- Big Fat Future
Obese is slim in 25 years.
- Chandler American Time
A nastier relative of Genteel Interbellum Setting
- Cold War
Iron curtains, nukes and spies.
- The Dark Times
Between the dinosaurs and early human civilization there were dragons, wizards and evil beyond imagination.
- Day of the Jackboot
War's over. We lost.
- Days of Future Past
Middle Ages + Spaceships = Star Wars.
- The Dung Ages
Happens during Dark Age Britain.
- During the War
- Earth Is Young
- The Edwardian Era
Between Queen Victoria's death and the outbreak of World War I, everybody's upper-class indulgent and foreshadows a lot.
- Enforced Technology Levels
Only certain kinds of technology, or a certain level of technology, is allowed. By law, manmade or natural.
- Fantastic Nature Reserve
A zoo, wildlife reserve, or other home for supposedly extinct or mythical creatures.
- Feudal Future
Sub-category of Days of Future Past.
- The Future
100 - 200 years into the future. Think of how every house in The Jetsons looks.
- Genteel Interbellum Setting
Sometime between 1918 and 1939.
- Golden Age of Piracy
Scoundrels, treasure, and swashbuckling adventure upon the high seas.
- Here There Were Dragons
Once upon a time, Kings had wizards as courtiers and knights slew dragons.
- Hole in Flag
When everybody got tired of the nukes and spies.
- Just Before the End
We are a few days from extermination.
- Just One Second Out of Sync
A time out of place.
- A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far Far Away...
Far distant in space, time or both. They've probably never even heard of Earth.
- Medieval European Fantasy
Swords, kings and Tolkienian lore.
- Medieval Prehistory
Pre-industrial human society set against a prehistoric backdrop.
- Medieval Stasis
Technology hasn't changed since 1250.
- Modern Stasis
4000 years later, still no jetpack.
- Place Beyond Time
A place out of time.
- Popular History
When movies set in 1968 look like they are set in 1968.
Hollywood Stone Age. All cavemen look Neanderthalish and live in harmony with dinosaurs.
- Present Day
When a show is set in the same year it is produced in.
- Present Day Past
The city wouldn't let the production close down streets so our movie set five years ago is full of recent car models and billboards.
- The Soviet Twenties
- The Time of Myths
Ancient Myths (Bronze Age Greek, what-have-you) are not only real, they are mashed together into one time period.
- The Troubles
Between the 1960s and 1998 in Northern Ireland.
- Next Sunday A.D.
Just ahead of the present. That's why you haven't noticed the Alien Invasion.
- Space Age Stasis
You have the jetpacks, but they're the same as the ones made a thousand years ago.
- Twenty Minutes into the Past
Not a Period Piece, but not quite the present, either.
- Twenty Minutes into the Future
In the year 2015 everyone is a robot and speaks 10 languages.
- The War on Terror
9/11 to the Present.
- The Wild West
Every Spaghetti- and Western.
- Wooden Ships and Iron Men
The Age of Sail.
- Abandoned Hospital
The places of injury, illness, probing and needles can be creepy enough without being derelict. And it's never just because the funding ran out.
- Abandoned Laboratory
Likely to be stocked with strange and alarming tools, there was science being done here. Odds are, things have Gone Horribly Wrong (or worse, right).
- Abandoned Warehouse
Who even abandons warehouses?
- Absurdly Spacious Sewer
Because sewers in real life are at least two meters high and have enough space to hold a castle.
- Academy of Adventure
In every class you learn to fly and shoot laser beams out of your eyes.
The back office that administers the organisation, and is likely to be out of touch with the sharp end of the business.
- Advanced Ancient Acropolis
Exactly what it says on the tin. Often found in the darkest jungle. May overlap with City of Gold.
- Adventure Towns
Travel between towns for new quests.
- Adventurers Club
When the globe-trotting hero isn't about his exciting business, he can relax at the club and swap stories with the like-minded.
- Airstrip One
Where The Empire strips a conquered nation of its identity and assigns it a number.
- Aliens in Cardiff
Unusually, the Alien Invasion has gone off the Tokyo-New York-Los Angeles-London tourist route to land in Plymouth.
- All-Ghouls School
Faculty for the freaky and fanged.
- Amazing Technicolor World
A colorful world.
- The Amazon
The biggest jungle ever.
- Amusement Park
It's usually closed and happens during the night.
- Amusement Park of Doom
No one has entered in ages and because of that, the place is riddled with traps that kill you.
- Ancient Africa
Everyone in Africa has a bone in their nose and hair, dances around a bonfire, and lives in a straw hut.
- Ancient Tomb
Tombs, burial chambers, sepulchers, mausoleums, charnel houses, ossuaries, catacombs, crypts, sometimes even dungeons.
Quiet life in the countryside.
- Area 51
A top secret research facility. In the desert.
- Ascetic Aesthetic
In this setting, less is more.
- Athletic Arena Level
Football and Baseball and Hockey, OH MY! And all of them are trying to play at once.
The perfect lost world.
- At the Crossroads
Where the paths of two fates cross.
- Bad-Guy Bar
Everyone inside is a macho wrestler with an evil look on his face.
A bucolic, often English countryside in which tales of ordinary personal comedy and drama take place.
- Base on Wheels
How is it possible to keep an entire city on wheels that can drive anywhere, even submerge? Beats me.
- Bazaar of the Bizarre
A marketplace in the Middle East. You'll find all sorts of this and that in there.
- BBC Quarry
The ISO Standard alien planet set, a disused or rented quarry, full of interestingly dull rocks and fascinatingly monotonous scenery, the perfect alien-landscape-on-a-budget.
- Beach Tropes
- Beautiful Void
Peaceful, but oddly empty.
- Bedlam House
Asylum on steroids.
- Beneath the Earth
People living under the crust. Their technology is primitive and they fear the outsiders.
- The Bermuda Triangle
Where planes and ships go to enter inter-dimensional rifts (maybe).
- Big Applesauce
Because New York is the only city aliens and monsters like to destroy.
- Big Fancy Castle
Much like Big Fancy House, but with more towers. And secret passages. And dungeons.
- Big Fancy House
A house on a hill. It's not dirty. It has more rooms than any other house around.
- Bigger on the Inside
A building that looks small - possibly ridiculously small - but opens up into a giant mansion or other area.
- Big Labyrinthine Building
A huge building consisting of nothing but a maze.
- The Big Rotten Apple
Where New York is a squalid decaying crime-ridden Hell on Earth.
- Big Store
The setting for a Long Con. It looks like a business now, but it'll be empty again next week.
- Bikini Bar
Strip clubs in all but name
Implausible, ridiculous, bizarre architecture.
- Boarding School of Horrors
The breeding ground of Sadist Teachers and cutthroat battles for social dominance.
- Boom Town
Whoa, these guys build and breed fast.
- The Bridge
Where sci-fi guys go to get to know each other.
- Bright Castle
A beautiful fairy-tale castle.
- Building of Adventure
A single building is the setting.
- California University
When kids in a High School drama get too old to be believable, expect most of them to go here.
- Campbell Country
Lovecraft Country...in England!
- Canada Does Not Exist
What do you do when you're ashamed to be shooting your show in Canada, but can't set it in America?
- Chez Restaurant
Expect snails, frog legs, temperamental chefs, and snotty waiters with funny accents.
- Circle of Standing Stones
A ring of giant stones where important events often occur.
- City in a Bottle
There has never been anything outside The City. Beyond its well-policed walls is unknown darkness.
- City of Gold
A country chock full of wealth and splendor.
- The City Narrows
Basically, your typical city slum, but even more dangerous.
- City Noir
Like a city, except it's always dark and rainy, crime is everywhere, and the Police Are Useless (or even worse).
- City of Adventure
All the adventure and excitement you could possibly crave conveniently rolled up into a single city.
- City of Canals
A city where waterways are used as streets. Usually mirrors Venice.
- City of Everywhere
Lady Liberty's just a few blocks from the Louvre.
- City of Spies
City. With Spies. Get it?
- City with No Name
The writers were lazy when thinking about the location, or wanted it to be anywhere.
- Climbing the Cliffs of Insanity
Tall walls of rock keeping you from your destination.
- Clock Tower
The town clock, the one that everybody sets their clocks to. May be a bell tower you have to ascend.
- Close-Knit Community
Whether rural, urban, or suburban, a place where everyone knows each other and looks out for each other.
- Cobweb Jungle
A spooky, abandoned location where cobwebs are as thick as jungle undergrowth.
- Company Town
A town created by a company for its employees, where they're the law for all practical purposes.
- Container Maze
A labyrinth of crates or containers in a warehouse, storeroom or dock.
- Cool Airship
An airship, but with lasers.
- Cool Boat
A boat, but with lasers.
- Cool Garage
A garage, but with lasers.
- Cool House
A house, but with lasers.
- Cool Ship
Anything that's called a ship and has lasers.
- Cool Starship
A starship, but with even more lasers than usual.
- Coolest Club Ever
So great, it's always packed.
- Corpse Land
A devastated location where no one has cleaned up the bodies of the fallen (and maybe never will).
- The Couch
It's very soft, and is always center stage.
- Crappy Carnival
Like Disneyland, if Mickey was a grubby Con Man.
- Creepy Basement
Like a regular basement, but with more
- Creepy Cathedral
The bells are haunting at midnight.
- Creepy Cemetery
The place with the reputation for mass-producing the undead.
- Cult Colony
An isolated group of religious settlers.
- Cut-and-Paste Suburb
Hey, I think I saw that house before. And that one too!
- Cutesy Name Town
The Russian home away from home.
- Dances and Balls
England between 1700 - 1900
- Dangerous Workplace
Drinking from the water cooler will burn down the building.
- Darkest Africa
Tarzan and co. See also Ancient Africa above.
- Decadent Court
The entourage of the leaders conduct warfare in an ostensibly polite and civilised social battlefield.
- Death World
Watch out for that grass!
- Decontamination Chamber
- Deep South
Rednecks, moonshiners, KKK and all that
- Den of Iniquity
Where the Mooks and Minions unwind.
- Derelict Graveyard
- Desert Tropes
- Desert Island
No one lives there. Good place to be marooned. Full of Jungle Japes.
- Domed Hometown
City in a dome. Underwater optional.
- Down in the Dumps
Is that a skyscraper of wrecked cars?
- Down L.A. Drain
The LA storm drain system is used as the setting in a film/TV show, usually a car chase.
- Drive-In Theater
Sit in your car and enjoy the show.
- Dying Town
Having lost its reason to exist, the town is largely shuttered and abandoned, home to only those who couldn't move elsewhere.
- Easily Conquered World
Nothing could ever harm us.
- Elaborate Underground Base
A base that has a hangar, silo and laboratory.
- Eldritch Location
Because Euclidean designs are for morons!
- Elephants' Graveyard
A secret place where elephants go to die.
- Elevator Tropes
- Enclosed Space
Hope you don't have claustrophobia!
- Endless Corridor
Keep walking forever.
- Evil Tower of Ominousness
That tower that's larger than the mountains? Definitely not the Evil Overlord's lair!
- Extranormal Institute
Super-trope of all your schools for people with weird powers or abilities.
- Extremely Dusty Home
A abandoned house with layer upon layer of dust and cobwebs.
- Fan Convention
- "Far Side" Island
A tiny island in the middle of nowhere housing a single palm tree.
- Fat Camp
A summer camp where parents send overweight kids to diet and to get off their butts and go outside.
- Fictional Country
See also Fictional Culture and Nation Tropes
- The Final Frontier
Space as a frontier to explore, rather than a settled area.
- Floating Continent
A floating chunk of land as an exotic locale.
- Flyover Country
The middle of America, where no one from New York or California seems to want to film.
- Forbidden Zone
A dangerous place no one wants to go (except the heroes, of course).
- Friendly Local Chinatown
Sections of large American cities where Chinese culture can be found close at hand.
- Garden of Evil
A place where most or all of the plants are poisonous, carnivorous, or otherwise dangerous.
A neighborhood where the population is predominantly openly LGBT in a city where most people aren't.
- Genius Loci
A place that is intelligent and often in control of itself or the things living in it.
- Geographic Flexibility
When the setting grows, shrinks, adds, and loses features as the plot demands.
- Ghibli Hills
Pristine, untouched wilderness, often within easy reach of civilization.
- Gingerbread House
A house or other building made of food, usually candy and sweets. Usually a fairy-tale setting.
- Ghost Town
An abandoned town.
- Good Guy Bar
Where the heroes hang out after hours. Villains are welcome if they behave.
- The Good Old British Comp
Modern British schools
- Grass Is Greener
An idealized place that a person desperately wishes to leave and go to.
- Greasy Spoon
A roadside diner, often stuck perpetually in the American 1950's and serving anti-diet food.
- Great Big Library of Everything
An absurdly large and well-stocked library.
- Hacker Cave
A room filled with an over-the-top mess of computers and monitors and other bits of geekery, where hackers somehow get work done.
A setting with a very stylized creepy, gothic, Halloween theme.
- Haunted Castle
A spooky castle where there be monsters.
- Haunted Headquarters
A spooky place where there be monsters, and you're stuck living or working there.
- Haunted House
A spooky house where there be monsters.
- Hedge Maze
A maze made up hedgerows, usually found somewhere fancy and rich.
- The Hedge of Thorns
A large bramble of nasty thorns, usually where faeries or evil sorcerers want to block your way.
- Hell Hotel
A creepy hotel where bad things happen.
- Hell of a Heaven
When Heaven sucks just for you.
- Here There Be Lions
A distinctive, two-peaked mountain feature near Vancouver, BC.
- Hidden Elf Village
A secret, safe place far from the eyes of those other meddling nations.
- High School
School for teenagers, grades 9 (or 10) through 12.
- Holy Ground
- Home of Monsters
Any place monsters call home, whether it be a lair, a whole dimension, a Monster Town or Island of Mystery.
- Hospital Paradiso
A seemingly perfect hospital or other workplace. Often rejected by a hero who wishes to focus on the downtrodden instead of the kind of people who can afford to get help there.
- House of Broken Mirrors
Where someone gone mad from loathing their appearance has smashed all their mirrors and left them.
- Hungry Jungle
Jungles are out to kill you.
- Ice Palace
A castle made of ice or one that's completely frozen over.
- I Don't Like the Sound of That Place
A place with a sinister name.
- Incompetence, Inc.
An office culture where nothing of value gets done, and where it's a mystery how they stay in business.
- Indian Burial Ground
A place where someone desecrated the graves of Native Americans by building something on it. Expect ghosts.
- Industrial Ghetto
A slum near or inside an industrial area, often made of scrap and filled with crime and pollution.
- Injun Country
The North American lands filled with folks who were there before the settlers arrived.
- The Rez
The modern-day Hollywood version of the Indian Reservation.
- Inn Between the Worlds
A pub that connects to multiple worlds, where people of all types can relax and swap stories.
- Inn of No Return
An inn or hotel where the owners kill and then rob or eat their customers. Often a Hell Hotel.
- Inner City School
An impoverished city school where the teachers have given up, and students are on the fast track to prison.
- Inside a Computer System
Inside a self-contained virtual world (unlike Cyberspace, in which locations correspond to the real world).
- In the Doldrums
A featureless location, often an empty plane or void. More than just somewhere boring.
- Island Base
A Supervillain Lair on an isolated island.
- Island of Mystery
An island with any one of a number of unusual things on it.
- It Came from Beverly Hills
Takes place in Beverly Hills, California.
- The Kingdom
Where good monarchs reign. Usually small, pleasant, and an underdog against The Empire.
- Kirk's Rock
A distinctive set of striated sandstone slabs, sharply-angled and pointed at their tops, conveniently located about 30 miles north of Hollywood.
- Lady Land
Where women rule, and men are either subservient or absent.
- Landmarking the Hidden Base
A secret base hidden under or in some famous landmark.
- Last Fertile Region
The last bit of nature and greenery in a wasteland dystopia.
- The Lava Caves Of New York
- Layered Metropolis
A city with multiple, vertically-separated levels, usually with the rich on top.
- Layered World
A world with multiple dimensions, where locations in each dimension map to each other, creating "layers" of reality.
- Legitimate Businessmen's Social Club
Where mobsters hang out and plan crime.
- Lethal Eatery
A restaurant that violates health codes in staggering ways. Usually played for comedy.
- Level Ate
A Video Game location made entirely of food.
- Lighthouse Point
- The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday
A magical shop that appears out of nowhere to sell a MacGuffin and then disappears when it causes trouble.
- Local Hangout
Where the cast spends most of their time hanging out. Brits may use My Local (pub) instead.
- Locked In The Dungeon
A medieval-style underground prison / torture chamber.
- Locomotive Level
A Video Game level that takes place on a train.
- The Lost Woods
A large, old-growth forest in which nature (and often magic) are supreme.
- Lost World
A mysterious, isolated place not found on any maps where exotic adventures can occur.
- Lovecraft Country
A creepy, horror version of rural New England, where Corrupt Hicks conspire with dark forces.
- Lover's Ledge
An outside window ledge where The Casanova must hide to avoid being caught during Interrupted Intimacy.
- MacGuffin Location
When the MacGuffin everyone is competing over is a place.
- Mage Tower
The Tower where a wizard does his research (or plotting) above and away from the people. Often contains telescopes, orreries, hidden artifacts, secret passages, tomes of eldritch lore, etc.
- Magical Library
A library of magic books, often itself enchanted and often safekeeping magical artifacts.
- Major World Cities
An index of the largest and most important real world cities used in fiction.
- Make-Out Point
A secluded place, often with a good view, where teens go for Auto Erotica. Bad things often happen there.
- The Mall
A modern, indoor, shopping complex, peaking in The Eighties. Home of the Valley Girl and the Mall Santa.
- Malt Shop
A popular teen Local Hangout in The Fifties where burgers, hot dogs, and malted milkshakes are served while the jukebox plays.
The Red Planet. Not (necessarily) the planet where communism rules.
- Martyrdom Culture
A culture that glorifies death in the name of some cause or belief.
- Masquerade Ball
An elaborate, period dance where all the attendees wear masks. Duplicity often occurs.
- The Maze
- Mega City
A city with the size or population of a country.
- Merchant City
A trade city, ruled or mostly populated by merchants, bankers, and traders.
- Mercurial Base
A base on a planet close to a star that stays out of the sun by following the night around the planet.
- Metal Poor Planet
A planet where the key ingredients for technological civilization are missing.
- Micro Monarchy
A modern, very tiny nation ruled by a royal family. Usually an eclectic mix of tradition and modernity.
- Middle-of-Nowhere Street
A very small location that is a Weirdness Magnet, and no one outside notices or minds.
- Mishmash Museum
A museum with no apparent rhyme or reason to the ways its exhibits are laid out.
- Misplaced Wildlife
A place where animals that don't belong are present, usually due to creator error.
- Missing Floor
A secret floor in a multilevel building. Often skipped by the buttons in an elevator.
- Mobile Maze
A maze which changes (itself) to make it hard or impossible to escape.
- Moebius Neighborhood
Conservation of Detail applied to a TV neighborhood, usually to save budget on actors and sets.
- Monster Shaped Mountain
A rocky terrain feature resembles, or is, a giant creature or portion thereof.
- Monster Town
A town entirely populated by monsters. May have a twisted, alien culture or one Not So Different from ours.
- Monumental Battle
Dramatic battles always seem to take place around major landmarks.
- Monumental View
A place with an impossible cool view (often of a landmark) that is way beyond the means of its owner.
A Shadowland where the Big Bad's Fisher King-ness poisons the land and makes it utterly inhospitable and Obviously Evil.
- Museum of Boredom
A boring, often extremely niche museum in which (almost) none of the cast is interested.
- Museum of the Strange and Unusual
An awesomely eclectic museum with a collection of impossibly cool and downright bizarre stuff.
- My Local
A pub, where the main cast usually hangs out. A British-specific Local Hangout.
- Mysterious Antarctica
One of the last explored places on Earth's surface. Popular location of lost civilizations and hidden Nazi bases.
- Native American Casino
All movie Indian reservations have casinos.
Cyberpunk Africa, often with all the problems of today made worse by the technology of tomorrow.
- The Neutral Zone
Territory in between nations in a Cold War that is off-limits to keep a war from restarting. Opposite of Truce Zone.
- New Neighbours as the Plot Demands
Remember the New Guy as applied to a small town setting.
- New York Subway
- No Communities Were Harmed
The geographic equivalent of a Bland-Name Product or Captain Ersatz.
- No Tell Motel
A sleazy motel that caters to a low-class clientele.
- Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here
- Not-So-Safe Harbor
A Wretched Hive of seaside villainy.
- Ocean Punk
Take your standard dystopian Punk setting and Just Add Water.
Cubicle-land. Your standard white-collar workplace, where you'll need an index by Monday.
- Old Dark House
The classic setting for Ten Little Murder Victims. A Haunted House without the actual haunting.
- Ominous Floating Castle
- Opium Den
A 19th century drug house, often far more romanticized than modern equivalents. Associated mostly with the British Empire and China.
- One Degree of Separation
Every character has a direct connection or relationship with every other character.
- One Gender School
Single-sex education. In modern works, expect Situational Sexuality.
- One-Product Planet
For simplicity's sake, a planet in SF is only ever famous for a single good or service.
- Only Law Firm in Town
The law-firm at the center of a show about a law-firm.
- Only Shop in Town
Small towns (or towns of any size in most Video Games) only have a single store run by the town's Shop Keeper.
- Oppressive States of America
A fictional United States in which democracy doesn't exist anymore.
- Orphanage of Fear
- Orphanage of Love
- Outlaw Town
A town run for the benefit of criminals or one entirely populated by criminals.
- The Outside World
Any place outside a place of confinement, isolation, or seclusion.
- Parking Garage
Nothing good ever happens in a parking garage.
- Patchwork World
A world assembled from multiple other worlds or sources. If done haphazardly, may result in a Patchwork Map.
- Penal Colony
A remote land to exile criminals to to make sure they can't escape (in theory). Populated only by crooks & guards. Sometimes used to dump off the poor and other undesirables too.
- The Pentagon
- People Zoo
An alien zoo containing humans and other intelligent life as part of the exhibits.
- Phone Booth
An outdoor booth intended to give privacy to people using public pay telephones. Obsoleted by more space-efficient boothless pay-phones in the 80s & 90s and later by cellphones.
- Physical Heaven
Heaven on Earth... literally.
- Planet England
A series that starts in a small, named region of a greater world will use that name for the greater world once you are introduced to it.
- Planet of Copyhats
Writers use the quirks of a single character as the "hat" for their entire people. (e.g. When you visit the drunk guy's homeland, everyone else is an alcoholic too.)
- Planet of Hats
All alien or foreign cultures are homogenous, and a single stereotype or quirk applies to everyone from that place.
- Pleasure Planet
An entire planet is dedicated to being a perfect leisure spot. May or may not be a trap.
- Polluted Wasteland
A land destroyed by pollution. SF and modern equivalent of Mordor, but don't expect quick fixes.
- Port Town
A city by the sea.
- Possessive Paradise
A paradise setting with an unfortunate tendency towards the yandere.
The name of the place establishes the premise of the setting.
- The Alcatraz
A high-security prison where there's lava instead of the ocean and the guards are huge robots.
- Cardboard Prison
A prison that is way too easy to escape, so that villains can be reused.
- Epiphanic Prison
To exit: Have epiphany.
- POW Camp
Populated by soldiers captured on the field of battle by their enemies.
- Tailor-Made Prison
A prison made specially to hold an individual a normal prison cannot. Frequently fails anyway.
- Privately Owned Society
Everything is owned by individuals, nothing is run by the government (at least not effectively). Expect Straw.
- The Promised Land
The place that promises to be better than where we are. Where the Grass Is Greener.
- Quirky Town
A small town filled with quirky and adorable characters.
- Railroad to Horizon
A railroad disappearing into the distance is used as a metaphor for the journey ahead.
- Red Light District
The part of town where all the brothels, bars, and other places of seedy night-time enjoyment can be found.
- The Rez
Reservations. Communities where Native Americans were herded by settlers and the government.
- Ridiculously Difficult Route
When a route is usually never used because it's just too difficult and/or there are other, easier ways.
- River of Insanity
People who go on a journey down a river into the unknown will not make it back unchanged.
- Runaway Hideaway
Where The Runaway hides.
- Sapient Ship
Your spaceship has a mind of its own and often flies itself.
- Scavenged Punk
People rely on junk and other "found" technology rather than manufacturing their own, either due to it being After the End or due to living the shadow of human society.
- Scenic Route
Scenery Porn while traveling.
- Sea Stories
Any story taking place with the ocean as its primary setting.
- Secret Government Warehouse
Where the government hides all the stuff the people are better off not knowing about.
- Secret Shop
A shop whose business model somehow revolves around having great stuff and telling next to no one about it.
- Secret Underground Passage
- Self-Inflicted Hell
A character suffers in the afterlife only because they believe they deserve it.
- Set Behind the Scenes
Hollywood, but not Hollywood.
- Setting as a Character
The setting is as important a driver of the story as any character but is not truly an intelligent person in its own right like a Sapient Ship or Genius Loci.
- Settling the Frontier
Can serve as either a setting for a story or as a Plot.
- Severely Specialized Store
We sell one thing, and one thing only.
- Shaped Like What It Sells
A shop's storefront or whole building is shaped to advertise the product it sells.
- Shattered World
A planet broken into pieces and floating in space / the void but still inhabited.
- The Shangri-La
A paradise high up in the mountains.
- Shining City
The greatest and most beautiful city in the world. The home of righteousness, justice, and civilization.
- Simulated Urban Combat Area
- Sinister Subway
The Absurdly Spacious Sewer's more realistic and spooky counterpart.
- Small Secluded World
It may be safe here, but there's got to be a bigger world out there, beyond the walls...
- Skyscraper City
In the future, skyscrapers will be tall. An entire city of Star Scrapers.
- Small Town Boredom
- Small Town Rivalry
Two small towns close by, but that hate each other intensely.
- Smart House
A Cool House with a built-in AI. Hope luck is on your side.
- Smoky Gentlemen's Club
Where stereotypical rich men hang out away from wives, servants, and other common people.
- Soapbox Square
A public park or square where rabble-rousers can make impassioned speeches to cheering or booing crowds.
- Soiled City on a Hill
The ruins of a failed Shining City.
- Solid Clouds
Clouds that you can walk or even build on top of. Commonly seen in Fluffy Cloud Heaven.
- Soul-Sucking Retail Job
Stock Parody of Walmart and other big box retailers.
- Southern Gothic
Creepy, gothic Lovecraft Country in the Deep South.
- Souvenir Land
A disappointing, cheap Theme Park that tries (and fails) to ride on the coattails of A-list parks like Disneyland.
- Space Amish
A space colony that gives up use of advanced technology after making the initial trip.
- Space Brasilia
Everything looks like identical whitewashed concrete towers with the same odd angles.
- Space Cadet Academy
The Sci-Fi equivalent of a Wizarding School.
- Space Station
- Spy School
- Standard Royal Court
An explanation of the structure of a typical fictional royal court.
- Star Scraper
A sky scraper taller than modern technology can build.
- Steel Mill
Lots of large machinery, fiery furnaces, molten metal and heavy objects falling from height
- Stepford Suburbia
When the Cut-and-Paste Suburb meets the Town with a Dark Secret and everyone has a Stepford Smile.
- Strawman U
College stereotypes. You're either a hedonistic liberal la-la-land or a fascist and higher-stakes redux of all the worst, bullying cliques of High School.
Notes on the more prevalent American subcultures.
- Sub Story
A story that takes place on a submarine (not a minor plot in a larger work).
Useful notes on the sprawling residential areas surrounding larger US cities, post WWII.
- Suck E. Cheese's
A Stock Parody of The Eighties wave of family restaurants with arcades and animatronic puppet shows, most of which were pretty run-down by The Nineties.
- Suddenly Significant City
A real-world city becomes significantly more important in the story. (e.g. Chicago becomes capital of Earth.)
- Summer Campy
Summer Camp Played for Laughs.
- Superhero School
Where kids with superpowers go to learn to be superheroes (and maybe math and stuff).
- Supervillain Lair
The cliche, surprisingly elaborate facility in which a supervillain plots and prepares for their villainy.
- Swamps Are Evil
Swamps are out to kill you.
- Sweet Home Alabama
When the Deep South's and the Good Ol' Boy's better sides are played up.
- That Nostalgia Show
Our world, as you remember it, 20-50 years ago.
- Theme Park Landscape
The land of all-natural rollercoasters and water slides.
- Thirsty Desert
Deserts are out to kill you.
- Tidally Locked Planet
Natural satellite where one side always faces the body it orbits and the other always faces away.
- Thriving Ghost Town
Cities in RPGs and other Video Games have impossibly low populations.
- Tokyo Tower
A broadcast tower in Tokyo that is the single most unlucky landmark in all of Japanese media.
- Torture Cellar
The room in which unspeakable things are done to captives. Modern equivalent of Locked In The Dungeon.
- The Tower
A tall, ominous, and frequently symbolic structure that seeks to elevate someone above and away from the base earth.
- Town with a Dark Secret
Everyone in town is in on some terrible secret that the hero is not.
- Trailer Park Tornado Magnet
Trailer parks have a reputation for attracting tornadoes due to the disproportionate damage they receive.
- Traveling Landmass
Makes it kind of hard to find on maps. May serve as a Base on Wheels.
- Treasure Room
Here there be dragons! Expect difficulty leaving with it.
- Treehouse of Fun
A popular hang out for a kid's closest friends.
- Tree Top Town
When adults make an entire town out of Treehouses of Fun. Don't expect safety railings.
- Trophy Room
Where a character keeps mementos of their greatest adventures.
- Truce Zone
Neutral ground between two hostile nations where their peoples are encouraged to mingle to help warm relations and build a future peace. Opposite of The Neutral Zone.
- Tunnel Network
- Turtle Island
A turtle, whale, or other creature big enough and old enough to support a mobile ecosystem on its back.
- Uncanny Atmosphere
Some vague sense of wrongness in an area sets the heroes on edge.
- Uncanny Village
A seemingly idyllic small town isn't quite what it appears on the surface. The townsfolk may or may not be in on it.
- Undefeatable Little Village
A small, close-knit community manages somehow to repeatedly repel an enemy power far more massive than it.
A city that suffered some calamity has been built-over and forgotten — but it's still there.
- Underground City
A city Beneath the Earth which may have been buried, built by non-humans, and/or as a bunker to survive the apocalypse.
- Underwater Base
An underwater Supervillain Lair.
- Unholy Ground
- United Europe
Europe is one, united superpower, acting as a single unit.
- Unnecessarily Large Interior
Buildings with impractically high ceilings and cavernous rooms. Architectural Rule of Cool.
- Urban Segregation
Cities in fiction are very neatly divided between rich parts and poor parts with little patchwork or mixing.
Peaceful societies don't eat meat.
- Vestigial Empire
The corrupt, declining remnant of a once mighty empire.
- Vice City
A crime-ridden urban setting that has not quite yet declined into Wretched Hive status. The default setting used in most Wide Open Sandbox games, particularly Grand Theft Auto and its imitators.
- Video Arcade
- Volcano Lair
A Supervillain Lair in a (usually inactive) volcano. Saves time digging. Beware victory.
- Wacky Homeroom
A High School comedy setting, focused on a class of eccentrics who share an arbitrarily assigned homeroom.
- The War Room
Hollywood's version of a command and control center. Rarely well-lit.
- Watching a Video Game
When movie heroes are forced to navigate a Platform Game environment, such as a Death Course.
- Water Is Air
Underwater shows ignore water resistance.
Where British shows about government agencies and politics take place.
- The White House
Home and office of the President of the United States.
- Where Everybody Knows Your Flame
Hollywood gay bars, where everything is cooler and more stylish, and stereotypes are taken Up to Eleven.
- White Void Room
A white featureless location, often an empty plane or void. Sometimes just meant to look futuristic.
- Wild Wilderness
The untouched wilderness is a place of adventure and is treated as almost another world.
- Wizarding School
Where kids with magical talent go to learn to cast spells (and maybe math and stuff).
- Wretched Hive
A lawless land, populated almost entirely with cutthroats and other scum.
- Wrong Side of the Tracks
The bad places to be in a setting with Urban Segregation.
- Ye Olde Nuclear Silo
In the future, abandoned nuclear silos are ready-made Elaborate Underground Bases.
- Youth Center
Places for kids with little parental supervision to play that's safer and more wholesome than the streets.