Standard Fantasy Setting

"There's something terribly weird about the standard fantasy setting, not least of which that 'Standard Fantasy Setting' can be uttered completely without irony. Look at us; we're a civilization so steeped in escapism that we've managed to find mundanity in something that doesn't exist and never will (no matter what your Otherkin friend might say). Why is it accepted fact that Elves fire bows and arrows and commune with trees? That was Tolkien's thing; without him, elves would just about be qualified to sell Rice Krispies. And he made Dwarves wear braided beards and wield battle-axes. Real dwarves don't do that, they get hired by Lucasfilm or take corporate office jobs because they're an equal-opportunity bonanza. Are we all but children, playing eternally on the same swingset while JRR is the grumpy dad watching from the park bench and trying not to get aroused?"

The generic fantasy setting. High Fantasy, Heroic Fantasy, and Low Fantasy are usually set here, along with many Tabletop RPGs and Video Games; however, this is not required. This is Newer Than They Think. Trope Maker The Lord of the Rings, though written earlier, only developed a cult following in the 1960s. Dungeons & Dragons and The Sword of Shannara, the first novel by Terry Brooks, acted as the Trope Codifier in the late 1970s. (D&D had, however, originated a bit earlier.)

Another Trope Maker is William Morris, who wrote many such works in the 1890s. Four were reprinted by Ballantine's Adult Fantasy Series from 1969-73. That series is another likely Trope Maker in itself.

The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones will tell you pretty much everything you would like to know about the place (minus a few dead horses and unicorns). If you can get your hands on a copy, Barbara Ninde Byfield's 1967 guide The Glass Harmonica (reprinted in 1973 and 1994 as The Book Of Weird) is informative and funny. See also Airport Novel. For the antithesis of Standard Fantasy Setting-style fantasy see Urban Fantasy, Magical Realism and Mundane Fantastic.

Common ingredients:

The following are allowed to be removed if the setting falls in certain values of Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, or due to other Implementation Details:

All of the above are inherited, to one extent or another, from Following The Leadership of Dungeons & Dragons and The Lord of the Rings.

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Examples of settings conforming to this standard include:

     Comic Books  

  • Sojourn which, being part of the multigenre of Sigilverse, deliberately invokes all fantasy tropes.


     Tabletop Games  

     Video Games  

  • Majesty
  • The Elder Scrolls (Note that the Dwarves are not compliant with ANSI standard Dwarves, but this deviation is allowed by this standard.)
  • Age of Wonders (although it has a lot more races than 5)
  • Dragon Age adheres to most of the above-mentioned tropes, but gleefully takes a Deconstructor Fleet to them.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics is limited to humans and averts Fantasy Gun Control, but all Magitek is Lost Technology and the world itself is a rather grim Medieval European Fantasy.
  • Ravenmark Scourge Of Estellion generally fits. You have The Empire of Estellion, The Kingdom in the form of the Commonwealth of Esotre, The Horde in the form of the Lyri warbands (although the Cardani also fit). There is no Alliance, although Estellion and Esotre have been allies for a long time (at least, until the sequel). As typical, humans make up the largest population group. Jackdaws are this setting's Hobbits. Dwarves are a minority (but they typically don't have beards). The game's take on Elves is fairly unique, though. Unlike Tolkien's tall, high-and-mighty elves, the Cardani Elves are short rat-like people whose culture is based around the idea of insatiable greed. Their homes are the treacherous Cardani Swamps. While every other power uses small units called Daggers that can be joined with like Daggers to form more formidable (but less maneuverable and vulnerable to flank attacks) Deuces and Trines (this also includes the wild Lyri), the Cardani fight in large Swarms that rely on speed and We Have Reserves tactics. Functional Magic isn't used much, although certain people are able to call on the elements. The Empire owes its foundation to wind magic, allowing La Résistance to fight off the Carsis nobles' flamesoul magic. Blood Magic is occasionally used by The Empire's assassins (all Heroic Bastards). Medieval Stasis is played straight for the Tellions but averted for the Sotrans, who live in much a harsher climate and need to innovate to survive. Thus, front-line Sotran troops are armed with muskets and bayonets, while Tellions rely on swordsmen, pikemen, and archers. Sotrans also have prototype inventions such as armored walkers and hovering artillery platforms.

     Web Comics  

A few particularly non-compliant fantasy settings include:

     Collectible Card Games  

  • A few of the Magic: The Gathering settings, especially Rath, Mirrodin, and Ravnica. (Some are compliant, though.)
    • However, the earliest core sets had a setting best described as this. (That plane, Dominaria, gradually changed over time and is now amid an After the End phase following the conclusion of the Time Spiral block.)

     Comic Books  

  • Fables — The Homelands are a patchwork of technologies, cultures, and magics of all types, with literally every imaginable fantasy or mythical creature or race.

     Fan Works  

  • With Strings Attached is an almost 100% noncompliant fantasy setting, to the point where the only trope that really applies is Medieval Stasis, and that only in one of the two cultures on C'hou; the other is a thriving quasi-Victorian land with guns, factories, etc. Also, there are elves, but Word of God says they're just a pointy-eared race of humans.


     MMORP Gs  

     Tabletop Games  

     Video Games  

  • Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VIII, Final Fantasy IX, and Final Fantasy X.
    • Also Final Fantasy XIII; the setting is 100% sci-fi except for the magic using Jerkass Gods the characters are being controlled by. Their idea of "medieval times" is basically the 20th century, except everybody is some kind of Warrior Poet living in hippie communes.
  • Fable — The first game is largely compliant, although it lacks most of the usual Five Races; it has mundane humans and High Men, but that's it for the "civilized" types. The second and third games deviate further from the formula by progressing through a renaissance and all the way to an industrial revolution, introducing firearms, factories, etc.

Examples of settings that are almost compliant with the standard include:



  • Second Apocalypse (lacks Dwarves; otherwise compliant)
  • The Death Gate Cycle started out as a post-apocalyptic flavor of this standard, but then the world ended again. The current setting is in some ways very close to the standard and wildly divergent in others. See the article for details.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire nominally has all of the stock elements (assuming the (unseen) children of the forest and (barely seen) Others qualify as examples of the Fairy and Eldritch Five Races) except Functional Magic. But most of these elements are used only so that they can be deconstructed.
  • The Garrett, P.I. series goes out of its way to subvert or deconstruct elements of this trope, both by giving them a Film Noir spin and by pumping up the snark quotient.
  • The setting of Sword of Shadows resembles the standard, but is set in the subarctic regions of its world, is missing nonhuman races except for the Sull (a Proud Warrior Race of elf-equivalents) and the Unmade, and the focus is more heavily on the "barbarian" Clansmen than the "civilized" part of the world.
  • The setting of Heralds of Valdemar began as one of these in the original Tarma and Kethry stories, but has since come to play with the tropes quite uniquely. Psychic Powers are far more common than magic in Valdemar proper, intelligent nonhumans are most often Bond Creatures, and Medieval Stasis is strongly averted, with a dawning industrial and scientific revolution in The Mage Storms.
  • The Sword of Truth series shares some of the elements, but mainly uses them as a vehicle for its Author Filibuster, particularly when the latter begins to take precedence over the fantasy elements.
  • The Age of Blood Chronicles does away with Medieval stasis, taking place in a renaissance time period, it goes past Medieval European Fantasy to include Fantasy Counterpart Cultures of such places as Africa, Tsarist Russia, and the Koreas, replaces the Standard Royal Court with a Deadly Decadent Court, and deconstructs most of the race tropes. It also has people who act realistically for their time period and most monsters are fairly mundane.
  • The Dragon Crown War is a borderline example. The only common nonhuman races are elves (the most commonly-encountered ethnicity of whom, the Vorquelves, border on Enslaved Elves as downtrodden refugees from a destroyed homeland) and dragons; the setting's "dwarves", the urZrethi, are actually ancient matriarchal shapeshifters who were created by the Bigger Bad, though they abandoned that allegiance long ago; the Big Bad's armies are composed primarily of the Wookiee-like gibberkin rather than the more traditional orcs; finally, Medieval Stasis is averted as gunpowder and cannons are invented in the prequel and the technology becomes increasingly widespread over the course of the main trilogy.

     Tabletop Games  

  • Eberron is similar, in that it is the logical conclusion of a High Fantasy standard: magic is an industry and the setting's atmosphere is similar to Inter-World War Europe. All races diverge, slightly to significantly from standard (among other things, its response to the Always Chaotic Evil trope is essentially LOLWUT?, so for example the ancient druidic culture that saved the world from Cosmic Horrors ten thousand years ago is actually the Orcs), and industrial magic yields a Steampunk tone without actually using any significant steam or clockwork.
  • Exalted was created specifically to subvert this trope, focusing more on Bronze Age swords-and-sandals fantasy and Chinese mythology than on the Medieval European Tolkienque things. Nonetheless, some parts of it remain (partially because they're old enough or universal enough that they appear in those influences, too.)
  • Warhammer Fantasy; the Empire and the Dwarves heavily utilize firearms and even have experimental Steam Punk technology, while the Skaven's Magitek gives them ratling guns, rat-portable flamethrowers, sniper rifles, energy cannons, mechanical lighting-spewing hamster-wheels, etc.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Though it's diverged a lot, it's still clearly this (or Warhammer Fantasy) at the foundations, but darker, and on a galactic scale and darker - there are the elves (Eldar), dwarves (Squats, wiped out for not fitting the tone), orcs (Orks), the Forces of Darkness (Chaos) in an interstellar Mordor (The Eye of Terror) the Kingdom of Men (The Imperium of Man) with paladin knights (the Space Marines) and the absent True King (the God Emperor of Man, confined to the life-support of the Golden Throne).

     Video Games  

     Web Original  

  • Tales Of MU is set in a formerly compliant setting, but with the Medieval Stasis removed. The current time period is sort of like the modern age, in the same way that the Standard Fantasy Setting is kind of like the middle ages.
  • The Once And Future Nerd is set in a mostly compliant setting, but with an elf with a southern American accent, no Monochrome Casting, and a lot of quirks here and there, including wizards who have the basics for an atomic theory going.

     Western Animation  

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender. While there is The Empire and The Kingdom along with rebel fighters, Magic A Is Magic A , and a variety of other fantasy world tropes, there are several differences. Most prominently, instead of being in a European-esque world, the Avatarverse is a fantasy counterpart to East Asia (mostly China and Japan), with some Inuit culture thrown in for good measure. The only other races with human-level intelligence are spirits who all pretty much reside in a different world, and Medieval Stasis is completely subverted, with nascent Steam Punk in the original series (ironclad steamships, tanks, mega-drills, submarines, and zeppelins), which evolves into all-out Diesel Punk in the sequel (complete with radio, skyscrapers, automobiles, film, biplanes, and mecha-tanks).

Alternative Title(s):

ISO Standard Fantasy Setting, Standard Fantasy Settings