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"These look like crops! Who the heck farms in this kingdom?"

An interesting phenomenon in Worldbuilding in gaming, and certain kinds of Speculative Fiction: the focus of a game or story dictates aspects of the setting in many subtle ways.

Typically, a heroic setting focuses on a handful of characters able to accomplish things sufficiently great to create a story about. This means the authors increase the potential impact of individuals while the accomplishments of large masses of people such as armies and society as a whole are toned down. In order to justify that, the authors frequently extrapolate the Anthropic Principle and imply that it is a valid choice for characters to embark on a given adventure precisely because the world is designed to encourage adventures of that type.

To provide an example, let's say you want to have legal duels to the death over a matter of revenge; well, in order to have that, you need to have very weak law-enforcement (a relatively strong law-enforcement body takes, of necessity, a very dim view of revenge, as it runs directly counter to the very premise of strong law-enforcement), a heavy honor code on the part of the background culture (otherwise, why take lethal revenge, and even if you do take revenge, why not just assassinate the target?), and a world where life is cheap (why risk your life on such a matter if it isn't?).

Can be explained in several different ways:

  • Functional — how the various natural or unnatural laws of the universe ensure the universe is what it is in spite of the tendency of its sentient inhabitants to change it. For example, using functional magic and fictional natural phenomena to explain why the world inexplicably never seems to run out of monsters and dungeons despite the fact that a single party of adventurers can clear them rather handily.
  • Cultural — why people act in various implausible ways. For example, explaining how the local navy hasn't managed to hunt down the Pirates for centuries despite being able to, by a combination of social and political factors: political instability, corruption and occasionally having said pirates being useful pawns in a larger conflict.
  • External — why the world's rules only seem plausible from a certain point of view. For example, using Lampshade Hanging to show that, yes, the authors are aware that a land with More Criminals Than Targets only makes sense from the point of view of a crime-fighting hero, rather than an average farmer or trader, and yes, they decided to ignore it because this is not a story about farmers.

Note that both functional and cultural explanations can be gradually subverted. If at some point during the story, or just before the beginning, the status quo is changed by political reforms, ideological conflicts or technological breakthroughs, you could have a story where characters used to the world being one way are forced to adapt, fight back, or otherwise deal with the realization that their lifestyle is no longer viable since significant resources can now be applied to stop them.

Functional explanations include:

  • The very concept of fictional stasis, whether medieval, modern, futuristic, or just technological ensures that the narrative may continue for lengthy periods of time, from decades to millennia, without the overarching conflict rendered irrelevant or easily solvable simply because Technology Marches On.
  • Certain advances in technology may eliminate types of action and adventure that you want. If you want space combat to resemble the Age of Sail, you probably don't want the possibility of fast, autonomous drone fighters or A.I.-guided missiles to battle at extended range with little human input, or FTL communications, which would cut down enormously on the captains' autonomy. Point Defenseless has to be present if you want the glamour of fighter jocks that don't get unceremoniously blown out of the air en masse by Anti-Air.
  • Recent advancements in artificial intelligence, cybernetic prosthetics and bioengineering made a lot of science fiction readers wonder whether baseline humans in general will remain relevant at all by the point Casual Interstellar Travel is possible. In order to plausibly explain the lack (or rarity) of Transhuman characters or Artificial Intelligence in a Space Opera, the authors often have to resort to "tried it, didn't work" explanations such as Cybernetics Eat Your Soul or A.I. Is a Crapshoot.
  • If you want knights in gleaming full-plate or lots of sword-dueling, you probably don't want gunpowder to be common or useful at all.note 
  • On the other hand, you may not want to deal with a setting with no indoor plumbing or modern medicine, and if you want to have your cake and eat it too, you may end up with the Schizo Tech of most Punk Punk settings.

Cultural explanations include:

  • An old-school Dungeons & Dragons-styled game needs a lot of unexplored wilderness and ruins (possibly even a Dungeon-Based Economy). This strongly implies a recent collapse, or people moving into a new territory if you're willing to forego unlooted ruins. Guess what two things most fantasy roleplaying settings have in their recent background?
  • A more politically-focused game either implies a powerful city, within a relatively stable state, or a closely-connected world.
  • A smaller scale tactical wargame (on the order of a very small number of units) is going to want a very connected world (to maximize the possible pairings), with more Border Skirmishes than outright war. As you go up in scale, the setting will have more and more war and political instability, to better explain why one side or the other is regularly throwing large fighting forces at a target.
  • If you want pirates, you need either virtually no state at all, or fairly weak states. Or, alternatively (or in addition to), you can use their cousins, Privateers, who require at least fairly potent states capable of commissioning and supporting one, but not strong enough to send regular forces out to do it themselves. Another possibility is lacking a desire to do so, maybe due to political complexities where privateers are deniable assets that states can disavow but regular armies obviously are not.
  • Bounty Hunting in the classic fictional sense relies on a similar kind of logic as piracy, in that you need a setting where the police are overstretched (or incompetent) or the criminals are otherwise beyond the reach of the long arm of the law, but the government (or perhaps a wealthy individual with a grudge) has the resources to make a bounty hunting career profitable to anyone who's willing to take the contracts.
    • Alternatively, governments and/or wealthy individuals may use those people as sacrifiable proxies to avoid a direct confrontation.
  • If you want Spy Fiction, you need (at least) two powers at each other's throats (possibly at war, depending on the kind of spy you want).
  • Open conflict between two similarly powerful blocs requires some excuse for why nukes or equivalent WMD don't start flying. Mutually Assured Destruction usually works for this (it did in real life). For bonus points, have the two powers engage in proxy wars instead of fighting each other directly.
  • Wide-Open Sandbox crime games, or mob dramas in general, usually take place in a Wretched Hive where Police Are Useless or Dirty to explain why there can be so many or powerful gangs running around openly while the cops only go after the protagonist for the slightest offence.

External explanations include:

  • Flat out implying that it would be impossible to imagine a fully fleshed-out ruleset for the world due to the sheer magnitude of Worldbuilding required, so it might as well be kept brief and comprehensible.
  • Proving that acting as an ordinary contemporary human would makes even less sense in this setting than what characters actually do.
  • Arguing for grandfather clause: for example, tactical wargames have a tendency to have more and more unrealistic logistics as their focus expands because they're inherited from small unit warfare.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Naruto: The author has admitted the Schizo Tech depends on how technology would affect relevance of ninja. If a piece of technology would get in the way of ninjas doing cool ninja things, it doesn't exist. This is why you don't have motor vehicles (with some exceptions) or telephones, because they would make running through forests and relying on messenger birds obsolete, but you still have computers, televisions and oddly short-wave radio. Modern telephones do apparently exist but no-one ever uses them.
  • One Piece: The series' world is an argument for Intelligent Design theory, as the very geography seems tailor-made for wacky pirating adventures, and it strains credulity that it could have occurred naturally. The planet is mostly covered with oceans dotted with small islands. The only large landmass is a geometrically circular continent that perfectly bisects the planet at a 45-degree angle to the prime meridian. Perpendicular to it is the Grand Line, bordered north and south by "Calm Belts" with no water or air movement, making it impossible to sail through, and which are infested with giant, incredibly powerful Sea Monsters so attempting to make it through by oar power or other means is inadvisable in most circumstances. Standard compasses don't work (because of reasons), so the only way to navigate is through a "Log Pose", which locks onto the magnetic field of the next island on the Line and requires a varying amount of time to "reset" upon arriving there, explaining why sailors have time to fool around at the Town of the Week on every island, why they can't just sail directly for the MacGuffin Location at the end of the Line, and why there isn't regular trade or cultural exchange between most islands (justifying some of the Schizo Tech in the process). The World Government has special navigational Applied Phlebotinum that allows them to bypass some of these restrictions, explaining why they're able to show up exactly where they need to be to cause trouble for Our Heroes.
  • In Delicious in Dungeon, "dungeons" are a specific type of structure that can occur either artificially — as an Evil Lair or so on — or naturally, as new dungeons appear from caves, basements and the like, and then grow like an organism. Naturally, this attracts adventurers, who are necessary parts of a dungeon's "life cycle", according to in-universe research.
  • Interspecies Reviewers, being an ecchi focused on prostitution of Cute Monster Girls, naturally takes place in a world that optimizes it. There is no stigma attached to prostitution in this world, and the government grants the industry a budget ensuring safe pleasant working conditions, no physical stresses and high profits for low effort. The high profits in particular provide the means for workers to move out from what is admittedly a dead end job whenever they want. The nature of the world they live in also ensures there is always a demand for it, and thanks to a variety of diverse and alien beauty standards from the various fantasy races, sex workers can find plenty of clients who find them attractive for much, much longer than they can in real life. On a more traditional "adventure-friendly" note, the main characters (mostly Stunk and Zel, but sometimes Crim) are adventurers as their primary occupation (Crim also works as a waiter), at least until it becomes more profitable to be a full-time brothel reviewer.

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • Every plane has the five basic land types, even planes where that doesn't make much sense, like City Planets. Almost every setting has five major races of sapient beings, each one strongly leaning towards a specific type of land and the associated terrain, with a dozen more minor races not so closely aligned to colors. Individual races may look drastically different from plane to plane, but almost always have the same basic culture and Hat. A major change to the world almost always happens during or right before the events of the first set on a given plane. There are exceptions to the last three of those rules, but those exceptions are almost always plot-significant.
    • One example resembles RPG settings specifically: the plane of Zendikar is tailor-made for adventurers. A natural phenomenon called the Roil causes entire landscapes to shift regularly, meaning that entire continents are constantly recreated to be rediscovered over and over again while preventing the existence of nations larger than city-states. The plane's chaotic magic also creates immense numbers of elementals and favors the growth of ferocious animals, plants, fungi and creatures of less taxonomical certainty, ensuring the wilderness is always stocked with deadly monsters for heroes to fight or be eaten by. Developers have explained the original concept of the plane was an "adventure world".

     Comic Books 
  • Battleworld, the setting for Secret Wars (1984) is noted to be tailored for all the superheroes poofed there to be able to freely and easily use their powers; Storm finds the atmosphere perfectly conducive to flight, Spider-Man has a lot of things to attach his webs to, and so on. It's justified since the Beyonder created it for heroes to fight on, and it would be kinda anti-climactic if circumstances disabled some of their powers.

    Fan Works 
  • Bird: Played with. A great deal of the worldbuilding is oriented towards explaining how a psychiatric hospital for parahumans would function in the real world. The kicker? It couldn't.
  • With Strings Attached is set in C'hou, such a world, but it ran out of adventure. The society on Baravada is a crumbling anarchy, and the people are literally dying of boredom. In The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World, C'hou has been turned into one of these, complete with new geography, Monsters Everywhere, and ruins that make no sense, as the four constantly lampshade. They're told that the Pyar gods made the world to be more like the G'heddi'onian homeworld, which logically leads them to the conclusion that the gods are crazy.
  • Triptych Continuum: Word of God asserts that roughly 6% of the land and 7% of the sky of Equestria is actually a "settled zone", a place where ponies actually live and work. The rest of the continent is all wilderness, often crawling with monsters.

  • Fighting Fantasy: Titan, the world in which the majority of the games are set, is constantly having some part of it threatened by some sort of evil villain in order to support numerous homeless mercenaries the reader plays as. Most of the markets only seem to sell adventure-related gear, though it's mostly indicated that they also sell lots of other stuff, and the items the reader can buy are just the useful things that are on sale. Interestingly, Black Vein Prophecy and The Crimson Tide do make some effort to show a wider economy, and the effects of the wars and conflicts on ordinary farmers and craftsmen.
  • Lone Wolf: Magnamund, the setting, is constantly being attacked by the forces of Naar necessitating the Kai Order running about essentially putting out fires. When the Kai Order is down to one person, Lone Wolf has to do this all by himself....

  • Don Quixote is a deconstruction of this. The protagonist wants to be a Knight Errant in a Medieval European Fantasy. Unfortunately, all he can be is the original Lord Error-Prone in a Picaresque novel, and his world (heavily based on Real Life Spain) is really focused on maximizing the misadventures wrought by his idiocy. La Mancha, where the plot of the first part of the novel happens, has a hierarchical structure where everyone knows his place: an innkeeper calls the Victimized Bystander that wants to kill Don Quixote (because he attacked them first) invoking the Insanity Defense so that Don Quixote will never be found guilty. But the population always takes the law on their hands, so they become Badass Bystanders who beat Don Quixote; when Don Quixote doesn’t want to pay another innkeeper, they gave Sancho a Humiliation Conga. There is a rural police called the Holy Brotherhood, but they cannot be bothered with a loony guy. They are seen doing their job escorting criminals to their punishment, but their competence is dubious when Don Quixote can outsmart them. The second part of the novel shows how all the resources of the Spanish Empire are invested in fighting the Ottoman Empire. At the end of the second part, Don Quixote goes to Barcelona where there is currently a civil war. This environment, which you might expect to be more friendly to a Knight Errant, is even more aggressive: the Lovable Rogue, a Affably Evil Anti-Villain, fears treason from his own men; most of the Pirates are the Ottoman Empire's Privateers; and we discover the Spanish crown has convinced the Muslim population to do The Migration as a better alternative to a Final Solution. The idea is that even without a Instant Emergency Response, La Mancha's population knows there is a government and they had better behave. The clash between fictional assumptions and reality is one of the book's themes.
  • Conan the Barbarian: The Hyborean Age is an especially adventure-friendly world since it provides ample opportunity for a self-made man like Conan to have adventures at the outskirts of civilization, being a pirate, a mercenary, a thief, a general, a king etc.
  • Domina: The titular city is a prison city largely abandoned by the mainland, with only the barest touches of regulation on all the guns and Bio-Augmentation going around.
  • Discworld was one of these early on. There were great swaths of unexplored lands filled with ancient temples, marauding 'heroes' and evil monsters. There were cities, but their law enforcement was a joke, fatal brawls were daily events and it takes almost nothing to get the largest city, Anhk-Morpork, burned to the ground in the first novel. However, over the course of the series, this changes. Many of the 'monsters' (e.g. trolls, vampires, zombies) immigrate to the cities and become productive members of society. The City Watch becomes a formidable force for good. Technology advances, and the invention of clacks towers, newspapers, a reliable post and steam power eventually causes the sun to set on the old world.
  • The Peshawar Lancers: S. M. Stirling stated in the afterword "Why Then, There" to "Shirkari in Galveston" in the Alternate History anthology Worlds That Weren't that real-world advances in scientific knowledge had ruined the wonder of traditional adventure fiction, and thus alternate history was a way to bring back the wonder of those stories without the dread and letdown that Historical Fiction brings about.
  • The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: Parodied. The book constantly points out that Fantasyland doesn't entirely make sense economically, geographically or culturally, since it exists purely as a place for an adventure to happen. Later deconstructed in the follow-up novel Dark Lord of Derkholm, where an evil extradimensional mobster is forcing a fantasy world to remain adventure-friendly so that he can sell trips there for tourists, at tremendous long-term cost and damage to its inhabitants.
  • Gaea Trilogy: While the plot of the series doesn't much dwell on it, Wizard explains that Gaea, several decades after her first contact with humans in the first novel, has turned herself into one of these for human tourists — both to keep herself entertained and to avoid looking like too much of a threat to a species whose technology and practical experience with warfare could feasibly destroy her.
  • Delvers LLC: The planet Ludus is a giant lab for the "great god" Dolos to study the magic-granting native species of spirits. To that end, he outlaws all electrical technology, fills dungeons with magic and monsters, kidnaps people from across the universe to populate the world, and provides newcomers with powerful magic items so he can get data from their interactions with the world. Nearly every plant in the wild is edible so that no one has to farm, but they all taste terrible so people farm anyway. It's repeatedly made clear that this has resulted in a planet that is absolutely horrible, with war and bandits being commonplace and no real way to fix anything. If all the monsters in an area are wiped out, Dolos will just replace them. If a country gets too stable, Dolos will drop a bunch of magic items in the middle of it to spark a conflict. Oh, and Dolos is one of the nice gods—his sister is starting a war from her own lab-planet just out of petty competition, another god is infiltrating Ludus and demanding human sacrifice apparently just for giggles, and there is even word of a vague "Enemy," which has something to do with the reason Dolos created Ludus in the first place, that is gaining power and preparing to strike.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Magic (2017): The Shifting Spires are tests that provide magic and power to all those who enter. Once someone has been marked (called an attunement), they gain magical talents and the ability to improve upon them with training and practice. Gaining extra attunements is possible and results in more power, but it is rare.
  • The City and the Dungeon: Deconstructed twice over. First, failure rates for delvers are ridiculously high, especially new delvers. Second, if a delver does succeed in gaining power and money, they quickly become more powerful than either the City or the outside world can handle. Any Blue-spectrum delver or above can crash the economy, fight armies, and altogether do absolutely whatever they want unless another, stronger delver tries to stop them.
  • The Heartstrikers:
    • The Detroit Free Zone. It is ruled by the water spirit Algonquin, who pretty much only cares about protecting spirits, killing dragons, and preventing pollution. Everything else is fair game. Emergency services are privatized (so you need to pay a fee to call 911), and bounties are placed on dangerous magical animals instead of a government organization dealing with them. It's mentioned in a later book that even murder is just punished by a moderate fine.
    • The sequel series, DFZ, takes place entirely in the Detroit Free Zone twenty years later, after Algonquin got ousted and replaced with the Spirit of the DFZ herself. The DFZ is still a free city without any regulations on health or magic use, but at least there are some laws. There is a functioning government (the Cleaners technically work for them, albeit as freelancers), some attempt at public safety is made, and murder is actually illegal.
  • Super Minion:
    • The world is regularly beset by "Odd Summers", periods in which any person (or even animal) in a stressful situation might randomly gain superpowers, and various other Oddities pop up as well. Even outside of Odd Summers, there are plenty of supervillains, superheroes, powered animals, mutants, and weird creations running around to keep the place busy, as well as the endemic powered disease "mutavus" providing an ongoing supply of new mutations.
    • The super who founded Fortress City, Overlord, deliberately gave the city a "capes and cowls"-friendly law code; for instance, a supervillain with a bunch of masked henchmen is legally treated as a single well-equipped criminal. Not only that, he built that state of affairs into the city itself. When United North America assimilated Fortress City after Overlord's death and tried to change the mask laws, the city's famous defenses automatically shut down until the changes were reversed.
  • This Used To Be About Dungeons: Dungeons are ubiquitous, having been set up far in the past to keep natural magic from getting too out of control. Occasionally they need to be cleared out as a way to vent the power they accumulate, providing a valid if niche career path. It's pretty common for young people to try dungeoneering, but few have the temperament and inclination to keep at it after the first few.
  • The fantasy parts of Mogworld takes place in an MMORPG computer game (no, that's not a spoiler, they tell you on the back cover) that is specifically set up to have as many countries, implausably well-equipped tin-pot tyrants, shadow-organizations, monster tribes, and even religeons (they bicker over who gets the best quest zones, as churches act as respawn points) at each other's throats as possible. The only faction not fighting with everybody is the Adventure Guild.
  • The Dark Profit Saga deconstructs this. The world's entire economy seems to revolve around the Heroes' Guild, where adventurers are hired to kill monsters and take their stuff for profit. The problem is that there aren't actually that many giant dragon hoards out there for the taking, since unlike in games, gold doesn't magically grow on giant spiders. Most monsters don't have anything worth the trouble of taking, and when they do, it's generally because they stole it from someone else, who won't be happy with adventurers just taking it.
  • Worm: The profoundly unnatural superhero/supervillain system exists only because of the mutual threat of the Endbringers and the manipulations of Cauldron — and both are the result of the Meta Origin passing the Conflict Ball around.
    The entity passed by him, and it leveraged a power. Wiping a memory, setting a block in place. The same blocks that prevented accord between the Wardens and the Shepherds. The same blocks that prevented Partisan’s special sight from seeing the entity’s power at work.
    Interlude 29
  • Goblin Slayer: The world is a Cosmic Chess Game between two rival gods. One puts monsters everywhere, the other keeps creating adventurers.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Base Raiders takes place in a world where all superheroes and villains just suddenly disappeared fairly recently. Organized crime is making a comeback in the absence of superpowered vigilantes, there's a significant population of non-humans that the government isn't sure what to do with, and there's a growing black market in artifacts looted from the abandoned bases of the missing supers. Some of those artifacts are even capable of providing superpowers to Base Raiders or those they sell them to.
  • BattleTech takes place in a galaxy where most international disputes are settled through battles between two to twenty Humongous Mecha. The mechs and their number is the result of Minovsky Physics which discourage large-scale FTL travel and dictate that a giant robot can carry more weapons and armor than tanks, but the most Adventure-Friendly part is the Ares Conventions — one of the most exhaustive sets of Fictional Geneva Conventions ever written — which make non-military targets sacrosanct. It's pointed out in-universe that the Conventions are good in that people and cities are unlikely to be stepped on by giant robots... but they are bad in that without any real consequences for warfare, wars are fought pretty much constantly.
    • The Scavenger World nature of the setting, with centuries-old mechs being constantly captured, salvaged and rebuilt, allows players to justify using pretty much any combination of units on the tabletop.
  • Dungeons & Dragons made this trope a staple of the Role-Playing Game genre, in order to allow the most possible adventures to take place in any given setting. The local monster populations are usually described in great detail, but not how the people in the area/town are able to sustain themselves. Most pantheons read like a list of gods an adventurer would worship, rather than gods that would be important in the everyday life of a commoner. This is an explicitly due to the Anthropic Principle, and secondary sources for many settings detail additional information to add depth to their worlds.
  • Eberron is a notable subversion of D&D's standard use of this trope while on its way to reconstructing it in believable ways, mostly based on comparable real-world situations. Most adventures are rooted in political intrigues in the wake of a huge war while everyone quietly gets ready for the next, adventurers often come from the ranks of traumatized, disaffected, and unemployed veterans, powerful multinational businesses are always looking to push into new markets by means fair and foul, and the cities are rife with racial tension as "monsters" are treated as second-class citizens. It's a world where Al Capone would still be caught for tax evasion instead of murder, but you could make a heck of an adventure out of the investigation and arrest if you wanted.
  • Eclipse Phase has a post-apocalyptic solar system with lots of Killer Robot-infested ruins, a three-way cold war, exploration of new solar systems, and a mysterious alien superintelligence that subverts post-Singularity A.I.
  • Electric Bastionland motivates the players through a combination of a Bizarrchitecture-laden Mega City full of hidden treasure, and characters being in some kind of debt determined at character creation.
  • Exalted: Creation has gone through at least three apocalyptic events in the backstory, most recent one happening seven and a half centuries ago. The Great Contagion (a magical plague) has wiped out 90% of everything living and then the Balorian Crusade (an invasion of The Fair Folk hell-bent on returning the world to Chaos) killing off a lot of the rest. The world has climbed up since then, but it still has vast swathes of unexplored lands and ruins everywhere. Oh, and the Scarlet Empress that stopped the Fae with an ancient superweapon has just vanished and all the threats to the world are stirring with new plans (and new and very powerful champions) in absence of that threat. Have fun!
  • Legend of the Five Rings deliberately seeks to support both a card game, where the squabbling clans often fight petty wars against one another, and a role-playing game, where players (usually) play as samurai both battling supernatural and common dangers while upholding a social order that is likely to clash with its intended audience's at several points. In order to accommodate all of these, it adds a certain degree of violence and instability to the usual tabletop-world mix, which, following the example of Dungeons & Dragons, is already plenty dangerous at times. Players often jokingly note that Rokugan has had more wars in the last few centuries, following the start of the gameline, than in the millenium-plus that precedeed it.
  • Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies is set in a world shaped like a snow globe where the only sizable land masses are large floating islands, and the seasons are dictated by massive weather patterns (the Seven Skies) that rotate around the Dome over the year. Large empires are difficult to establish and maintain, and armies are a challenge to raise, arm, and move effectively — especially since some of the Skies are incredibly dangerous to travel. Everything about the world, in short, is tailor-made to require everything important to get done by small groups of daring heroes engaged in high-stakes intrigue as they travel around the world in small, lightly-crewed flying ships.
  • Shadowrun: World politics are an ongoing three-way Space Cold War between Mega Corps, bureaucracy-strangled governments and new nations of magical races and Magical Natives. Players are "Shadowrunners"; deniable mercenaries hired to engage in operations-other-than-war between these factions. On top of that, the return of magic has resulted in plenty of opportunities and perils, including Awakened creatures, mana storms, and oh, yeah, the dragons (some of which run said megacorporations). Expansion of cyberspace and cybernetics have led to the rise of A.I.s, strange memetic horrors, and people who seem to interact with the Internet using only their minds. Everything inside a city is usually a mixture of corporate intrigue and gang warfare; everything outside a city is likely an overrun wildland full of dangerous and hungry magical beasts. Shadowrunners often find themselves in the position of fantasy adventurers, investigating and battling threats the established authorities are unwilling or unable to recognize or confront.
    • Except for the lack of supernatural and fantastic elements, Cyberpunk 2020 plays by the same rules as Shadowrun with 'punks roles including to be disposable proxies for the fights between megacorporations, and often to have to take care of affairs that authorities cannot due to either lack of resources or unwillingness.
  • Starfinder: The Pact Worlds, and the Starfinder galaxy at large.
    • The Gap, a period of thousands of years of which no records, data, or even memories exist, means that there are thousands, possibly millions, of inhabited worlds whose history stops less than 500 years in the past. Every civilized world is filled with remnants of the pre-Gap world and mysteries that arose during the Gap. Heck, entire civilizations may have risen and fallen during the Gap, and while their records may have vanished, the ruins they left behind have not. This means that adventurers will never be short on things to do.
    • The AI god Triune gave the entire galaxy the means to produce a Drift Engine, a cheap and efficient means of faster-than-light travel, and it's now possible to travel the width of the galaxy in a matter of months. However, Drift Space isn't empty. Every time a Drift Engine is fired up, a portion of another plane of reality is sucked into the Drift, meaning travelers in the Drift could run into literally anything. This allows adventurers to go wherever they want, but there will always be a chance for Random Encounters.
    • The Starstone, the mystical power source that lies at the heart of Absalom Station, acts as one of the most powerful Drift beacons in the galaxy. This means that no matter where in the galaxy you begin your journey, you can arrive at the station in about a week. This means that adventurers can very easily retreat to civilized space if an adventure goes south. Or, if they simply want to return, flog their gear, and purchase upgrades, they never have to wait long before flying out on their next adventure.
  • Star Fleet Battles started out as a licensed Star Trek game of ship vs. ship combat, but then the developers wanted to have battles with more ships in them, so a General War broke out, and then another, and then another. Also, because the traditional Star Trek universe avoids warfare and focuses on character interaction and solving problems nonviolently, the Star Fleet gaming universe deviates from the Star Trek universe in many ways, including a more militaristic Federation with more combat-specific ships, some of which originate in the Franz Joseph Star Trek Technical Manual. Gene Roddenberry, for example, was uncomfortable with the idea of the Federation having a dreadnought class of starship, but he never outright vetoed their canonicity.
  • Talislanta is this because of the Great Disaster, a world-spanning catastrophe that dramatically altered the landscape and completely destroyed the Archaen civilization. In the present day, hundreds of years have passed since the Great Disaster, and civilization has been re-established, but it's a pale shadow of what the Archaens once had. Much of the world is dangerous and inhospitable, and travel is difficult. Talislantans are eager to reclaim what they can from their past, and that means searching for, and delving into, ancient ruins and tombs in search of lost knowledge and artifacts.
  • The Witcher Role Playing Game: The world of the continent is currently engulfed by a war between the Northern Kingdoms and the Nilfgaardian Empire. The entire continent is affected by this, even relatively peaceful regions. Villages have all their men and boys sent off to fight, nations are going bankrupt, people are starving, civil order and infrastructure are descending, the authorities that would normally handle problems such as monsters and brigands are too occupied - the perfect environment for a team of adventurers to make their fortune or die trying.
  • Thunderscape: Aden was deliberately designed to allow encounters with varied enemies. A decade ago Darkfall — some ill-defined, either malevolent or mindless force — brought to life all monsters that were considered extinct or never existed outside tales. Additionally, Darkfall seems to grant monstrous powers to anybody who asks. When you venture outside fortified cities, or just enter some real dangerous city slum, you stand an equal chance of being attacked by scrap metal that came to life, ambulatory dead, mutant rats, or a corrupted feral child-serving Darkfall.
  • Traveller has a strong interstellar Imperium, but due to the jump drive taking a minimum of one week to travel from one system to another there is a lot of room for pirates and other trouble-makers. Many players are traders, so there has to be a fairly workable economy. And there have been at least two collapses, and the Third Imperium is still expanding. And then there's Megatraveller, which takes place after the collapse of the Third Imperium.
  • The Unofficial Hollow Knight RPG: Due to the constraints of Hollow Knight's setting of Hallownest, the creators of the RPG have also made an original setting called Oakshade, meant to serve as a world more conducive to tabletop RPG adventures. The centerpiece is a massive tree inhabited by numerous cultures from enigmatic nomads to ruthless autocrats with a Great Big Library of Everything in its leaves and an Eldritch Location beneath its roots; while the land beyond the Great Oak has pirates, spirits, witches, monsters, and mysteries aplenty. Not to mention that the region has been thrown into instability due to a desperate war for survival against an Evil Overlord and his army of twisted Battle Thralls, adding even more chaos and conflict in which adventures might take place both in the Oak and outside of it.
  • Warhammer: One of the reasons the Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000 settings are so prone to violent upheavals that sweep up all the factions is that every army needs to be able to fight every other army within canon (including itself), so high political instability is the order of the day. Notable however in that, for Warhammer in particular, the tabletop RPG version of the setting slightly modifies the setting in order to keep the world Adventure-Friendly for a different kind of Adventure. Although the high degree of political instability, mistrust, and constant war is still present, the rules go to great pains to make it possible (and potentially highly lucrative) to set yourself up as a trader. Indeed the 2nd edition of the rules contained vast supplements detailing the incomes one could make, and the game's careers (read: classes) included things like "Smith" and "Merchant" as well as "Soldier" and "Wizard". The game even included rules for a wizard selling spells and favors to locals.
    • 40k could arguably be a Deconstruction as while there's plenty to do and many enemies to fight, the galaxy is a horrible place to live where everything is trying to kill you, and even your afterlife doesn't guarantee safety.

    Video Games 
  • Empire MUD makes it necessary for the player to farm and chop down trees in order to pick up resources so he or she can create buildings and weapons.
  • Quake III: Arena: The Excuse Plot is basically that the Gods wanted more entertainment, so they put you in the Arena Eternal.
  • Unreal Tournament has a somewhat similar excuse to Quake: the Tournament is backed by the New Earth Government. Unlike Q3A, though, it has some backstory: basically, the NEG reasons that as long as people can sate their bloodlust by watching a Blood Sport, they don't try to kill each other for kicks. And if they do... well, the Tournament is always open to new contestants. Not to mention the hundreds of billions of profit Liandri and the NEG gets out of the broadcasts.
  • Team Fortress 2: The "setting" is a cartoony, 1960s mod-squad style world in order to handwave the paper-thin Excuse Plot. More to the point, the absurd backstory of RED vs. BLU exists to justify why two identical teams of mercenaries fight over small areas of badlands forever (at least until the Plot Tumor of Mann vs. Machine mode made it one of those teams vs. the world): Blutarch and Redmond Mann have a useless area jointly willed to both of them, so they have to take it from the other by force. Somehow, the seemingly immortal administrator that runs both teams for them also controls a weapons company that profiteers off of keeping this small Forever War going.
  • Warlords: Noticeable in the franchise, particularly the Puzzle Quest-related spin offs. The relative political stability of the world depends on what this game's plot demands. In some games, everybody is at each other's throats. In others, the factions have set up a peace sufficient to allow the player to travel the world.
  • Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale explores how an Adventurer-based Economy would have to work. There would have to be a literal Dungeon Master who constantly fills dungeons with treasure. Where they get their resources is not disclosed.
  • In Kingdom of Loathing, the currency is meat. Actual meat, taken from bodies. Naturally, the best way to get this meat is from things that you kill. Combine this with all of the hostile races and a near-universal Healing Factor (the race that the players are have it, as do the pork elves), and you have an economy based around fighting.
  • Ace Combat: The Constructed World of Strangereal was created specifically to encourage conflicts which could be won or lost by Ace Combat. Many militarized pseudo-European continents with opposed ideologies exist, and modern fighter aircraft coexist with World War I-style giant superweapons. In any given conflict, one side tends to have all the superweapons (either by stealing them or building them), so even if the other side happens to have The Hero, Mutually Assured Destruction is never actually assured. Thus, there have been a dozen (and counting!) WW2-level conflicts in Strangereal Earth's history, one for each game.
  • Solatorobo: Red the Hunter has an economy that largely centers on quest brokers and people who sell stuff for adventurers (though there are mentions of musicians, fashion designers, cooks, etc., they tend to get little more than a passing glance in the game proper). And, notably, these quests tend to center on someone who has a functional Mini-Mecha and possibly some basic fighting skills; there are no quests up for plumbers, for example.
  • X-COM: UFO Defense takes place in a Crapsack World: The galaxy is ruled, rim to core and pole to pole, by an Always Chaotic Evil Hive Mind. Humans might be able to destroy the local node if they become The Unfettered — abolish every civil liberty and article of war. And there's another, unattached(albeit slightly less advanced) node in the Gulf of Mexico. And its destruction would reduce Earth's biosphere to the algae level. And there's an entire planet of Hive Mind aliens just one dimension over. And the best weapon against all these irredeemably hostile aliens are Half-Human Hybrids with Psychic Powers... who will eventually become a permanent underclass treated like parolees from cradle to grave and not allowed to breed without permission(which tends to be withheld between invasions). This works out fine as the backstory of a hyper-lethal squad combat game: the utter monstrosity of your enemy means that as long as you have any surviving humans, you can always find vengeance-crazed replacements for troops lost in combat, or at least someone you can wave a carrot at to die at your command, and you never really run out of alien baddies to kill, capture and vivisect. But taken out of context, X-COM is essentially sending unaccountable death squads against an enemy that can never really be beaten.
  • Diablo: In the setting, most of the magical equipment you come by (barring some made using ancient relics) was forged by the demons for use in their wars. The events of the first game created a bustling trade from adventurers dredging the items up from the demons of the cathedral, while most traders in Diablo III admit to getting their goods by stealing, looting corpses, or digging them out of the ground.
  • Defiance takes place thirty years after an alien invasion. What's left of the Earth Republic and the Votan Collective have an uneasy truce, but malfunctioning terraformers have spawned a variety of monstrous creatures and pieces of the Votan Arks periodically fall to Earth, causing destruction but also bringing valuable tech that Arkhunters scavenge (and fight over). And, of course, not all humans and Votan are aligned with either of the big factions (heck the TV series takes place in a multi-species city-state that frequently clashes with both of them). The Irathients and Volge in particular seem to have little interest in "civilization".
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Tamriel is dotted with countless ruins, smuggler dens, bandit caves, cultist hideouts, necromancer lairs, ancient tombs and just about any other standard fantasy "dungeon" you can imagine. A large part of the series' popularity is the openness of the world that allows you to explore all of these places whenever and however you want. Need some quick gold? There will always be some sort of dungeon within a stone's throw of wherever you are at, full of things to kill and valuables to take.
    • In particular, High Rock, home of the Bretons, supports an adventure friendly culture. Rising in class by performing quests and services to curry favor with various rulers is considered the best way to do, which has created a cultural "quest obsession" among young Bretons.
    • NPCs in Morrowind encourage you to see the world this way. If you ask around Seyda Neen, the First Town you visit, the villagers suggest or even request that you head over to a nearby cave and shut down a local smuggling operation. Characters remind you that fighting bandits is both good practice and lucrative, as their stolen goods are legally yours if you kill them. Caius Cosades, Quest Giver of the early main quest, advises you to do quests for some guilds and factions to build up experience, knowledge, and connections, while locals inform you the best way for an outlander to make a name for themselves in Morrowind is to do as many favors for as many people as you can.
    • Oblivion is an interesting case, seeing as it takes place in Cyrodiil, supposedly one of the most developed and heavily populated realms in Tamriel, and not far off from the height of its power. Though there are plenty of mostly-peaceful cities and towns dotted across the map, there are still tons of bandit and monster-infested caves, ruins, shrines and other dangerous locations, sometimes right next to or even inside the city walls! Couple this with the more-or-less open operations of the Thieves' Guild and Dark Brotherhood, the uprising of evil Necromancers, and the influence of the Daedric Princes and overall Cyrodiil can come across as less "secure Imperial capital" and more "dangerous wasteland." And all this before the literal doors to Hell start to open!
  • Likewise, Fallout builds its world to accommodate adventure. The world starts off with a significant divergence from the real world in culture, technology, and some of the laws of physics. Fallout's Great War happened after decades of resource strain and international conflict, resulting in piles of weird science kept secret in the name of national security, and that's before the nuclear holocaust remade the planet's biosphere. The end result is that most communities are clustered around what resources remain and separated by long stretches of wasteland with no easy way to travel between them. Any number of mutants, mechanicals, or secret superweapons can crop up anywhere. Finally, the continental US is so large that each game can pick and choose what it inherits from the previous entries, justifying the large distance between them.
  • Mount & Blade: The constant wars between the various kingdoms create opportunities for wandering adventurers to make a name for themselves, and the bandits that pop up in the absence of any effective police force (because most of the kingdoms' resources are going into fighting the wars) ensures there are plenty of targets for guilt-free looting and level-grinding.
  • Touhou Project is a Shoot 'Em Up series (or in the case of the Gaiden Games, Fighting Games) that devotes multiple Universe Compendiums to explaining the type of setting where everyone fights everyone else at the drop of a hat and events that risk upsetting the social order or just killing everyone are a regular occurrence, yet still manages to be a functioning society. Gensokyo is a small, isolated Fantastic Nature Reserve with creatures from all sorts of mythologies, most of whom are Blood Knights that recognise killing your opponent means you can't fight them again, and the humans recognise that youkai need to cause trouble so they don't wink out of existence, so Non-Lethal Warfare was instituted and everyone is remarkably forgiving given that it's all part of the fun.
  • Child of Light: Lemuria is a literal Fairy Tale land, so there's an evil queen and vicious monsters to fight and magical abilities and a child of prophecy and all that good stuff.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic takes place just after a ceasefire has been reached between The Empire and The Federation (well, the Republic) where they kicked the crap out of each other. Tensions are still high but open warfare is off the table for a moment, so both sides focus on sabotage, subterfuge, and commando operations to weaken their enemy behind the scenes. So soon after the war order and law enforcement hasn't been reestablished in a lot of areas, so there's plenty of opportunity for both sides and independent parties to exploit people and regions to their benefit or just cause havoc. And being Star Wars, there are lots of ancient lairs and powerful artifacts lying around waiting for some enterprising individual to find them. Perfect for a MMORPG.
  • Final Fantasy is no stranger to adventure-friendly worlds, but the setting of Final Fantasy XIV stands out, especially since the game's 2.0 relaunch: Eorzea is working to rebuild after being driven to the brink of extinction, The Empire is looming and poised to conquer, and the various beast tribes are summoning their gods in desperation and endangering the world in so doing. Between protecting the realm and various other quests and activities from monster hunts to finding buried treasure, there is much and more to keep adventurers busy.
  • Mass Effect is an interesting example. The way technology was developed makes conflict quite likely, with easy FTL and high levels of energy, but technology for things like terraforming is rather limited, which in turn makes habitable worlds a commodity worth fighting over. Consequently, the state of the galaxy is very conductive to espionage, political intrigue and interstellar wars. This is obviously intentional in universe, as the Reapers rely on conflicts between races to make their military victory over the galaxy easier. They deliberately left behind the technology they did to encourage races to develop along this path.
  • Persona 5 has the Mental World of the Palace: It responds to the hidden desires of evil humans by creating massive dungeons, giving you an excuse for Dungeon Crawling and Boss Battles. Its Clap Your Hands If You Believe properties also make it so even toy guns and fake melee weapons work like real ones, giving your party a way to obtain weapons to fight the monsters that inhabit the Palace, despite the heroes being teenagers in Japan, where real weapons (especially guns) are usually extremely hard to obtain.
  • The Manoa Lai Sea of Endless Ocean is a fictional location, reasonably big in size but not immense, which just so happens to still have enough varied terrain to make several types of diving possible, be it in caves, abyssal zones, or sunken cities and shipwrecks. Blue World brings you the entire globe to make ice and muck diving possible as well.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY is set on a world where humanity is mostly restricted to four kingdoms, with everywhere else being the domain of monsters that grossly outnumber mankind and are out to Kill All Humans. Huntsmen and huntresses are trained to beat back the monsters threatening civilization, but the female narrator of the first episode (revealed to be the Big Bad Salem at the end of Volume 3) thinks their failure is inevitable. In addition, the Grimm are a constant, unrelenting threat. They specifically only target humans (only fighting normal animals due to territorial concerns) and large human expansions outside of the natural barriers protecting the kingdoms tends to result in disaster because of massive Grimm attacks. There are villages outside the kingdoms and nomads who roam the wilderness, who are often protected by the Huntsmen, but they are still vulnerable to being attacked by the Grimm. There is actually an in-universe theory that the Grimm don't even need to eat, and only eat human flesh because they choose to.

  • Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures: The world is partially built around the idea of freelance adventurers. Specifically, they supplement the highly corrupt judicial system. Criminals are supposed to be sentenced by a member of their own race, and society includes creatures that consider beings food.
  • Debugging Destiny: Since most characters have special abilities that directly affect the world, the story quite literally reshapes the world to suit itself.
  • Goblins, being a Dungeons & Dragons-based comic, has adventurer as a separate profession. For their convenience there are several dungeon crawls around the world that is specifically designed to test the strength and wits of adventurers. Of course, most adventurers fail in these and get killed.
    Guard #1 (Kyle): I swear it Jake, tomorrow I'm going to quit being a guard and become an adventurer.
    Guard #2 (Jake): You say that every time we get gate duty.
    Kyle: Well that's cause gate duty sucks. We get three gold a week for this crap, but in one dungeon crawl, I can find hundreds of gold pieces and probably a few magic items too! I don't know why everyone doesn't do it.
    Jake: Two words, Kyle. Mortality rate. Nine out of ten adventurers die in the first month of their careers. Sure, if you can make it to the higher levels, like the Goblinslayer or Saral Caine, you've got it made. But most never make it past 3rd level. Plus, good luck with trying to buy all your adventuring gear.
    Kyle: What do you mean?
    Jake: Well the Player's Handbook lists a sewing needle at a cost of five silver pieces. But a ten-foot ladder is half a silver piece! What's up with that?
  • Latchkey Kingdom: The Kingdom of Hilla, where dungeons are labeled with levels, strange beasts continually carve up new ones, and parental supervision hasn't been invented yet.
  • A Modest Destiny is meant to be a deconstruction of RPG tropes, with an economy dependent on the Thieves' Guild, and an industry of custom made dungeons.
  • The Order of the Stick expands on how "a large number of Dungeons & Dragons settings describe the local monster populations in great detail, but often not how the people in the area actually make their living..." which turns out to be "killing and eating monsters and taking their stuff, obviously". Thus, there are a large number of humanoid Rapid Aging Explosive Breeder races who the gods of the setting created solely to be slaughtered by roaming adventurers. Redcloak is a member of one such race who has lucked into an absurd amount of power, and is planning on doing something about it even if it destroys the entire universe.
  • Overside has an indeterminate number of strange, fantastical creatures who are constantly meeting, merging, or competing with each other, with plenty of ancient legends, relics, and ruined empires from the days of yore to go around (some of which get rebuilt and repopulated by successor empires which later collapse and leave new ruins on top of the old ones).

    Web Original 
  • Critical Hit: The world from Seasons 1 and 2 is one of these — it's a loosely affiliated continent of kingdoms, with monsters to the north, ancient ruins of Tiefling and Dragonborn civilizations, an underground city of robots, and even a moon full of Insane Gods and their creations.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: The world suffered from an apocalypse about 1,000 years ago due to a nuclear war and the return of magic, and still hasn't quite recovered. Civilization is limited to small, sporadic kingdoms, and the rest of the world is filled with ruins, ancient dungeons, monsters, etc, perfect for any young adventurers out there.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Interestingly, Equestria technically qualifies. Within the borders of actual cities, ponies are generally able to go about their lives normally, but there are numerous monsters and lost artifacts outside said borders—even nonpony civilizations appear to be more rough and tumble than what the characters usually experience. It's simply that most episodes focus on the life in the safe zones; there was even a joke where the main character had an epic adventure off-screen, leaving her assistant to lounge about for a while.