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Low Fantasy is a catchall, and inexact, term for secondary world fantasy which is neither High Fantasy nor Heroic Fantasy, though it may overlap with other sub-genres. Not a good way to define a genre, but English is funny like that, especially our particular brand of it.

The designation is not a description of the quality of the work, but rather the prevalence of fantastic elements (usually) and tends towards less “traditional” (simplistic) morality. Sometimes comedies are also excluded from the genre, but either way the works that remain don't have a natural unity.

However, while there are no complete defining features, in all Low Fantasy works there are features common in many; each is the opposite of one of the defining features of High Fantasy:

  • Settings: Historical, or even futuristic but usually only sparsely supernatural. (Compare with Mundane Fantastic.)
  • Scope: Down to Earth. Tends to focus more on the survival and tribulations of one or a few individuals rather than the whole world.
    • Heroes: Usually normal people that have taken up a cause rather than The Chosen Ones of High Fantasy.
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    • Villains: Posses more modest (but no less villainous) ambitions than their High Fantasy counterparts, mainly concerned with the material world while using the fantastic elements as a means to an end. A villainous king who steals a magical artifact is less likely to be trying to bring back the Infernal Legions of Hell and conquer the world and more likely to be trying to make himself immortal or conquer a few nearby kingdoms.
  • Shades of Grey: While High Fantasy usually features Black-and-White Morality with clear cut heroes and villains, many Low Fantasy works have a Gray and Gray Black and Gray or Blue-and-Orange Morality. More importantly, the success of the victor has no bearing on their motives or honor.
    • War: While High Fantasy features battles between good and evil, wars in Low Fantasy are usually fought for power, land, and resources.
    • Methods: Victories are usually achieved through physical combat and cunning, not magical battles and certainly not by moral superiority. The good guys winning because of their goodness more or less defines High Fantasy.

Not to be confused with Demythification or with Mundane Fantastic which removes the magical elements, but can keep the Black-and-White Morality and such.

Compare with Magic Realism and Dark Fantasy. Contrast with Standard Fantasy Setting, Dungeon Punk, and Urban Fantasy, plus the tropes mentioned above.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • +Anima: Is a story about a group of children (the oldest being 17) that are +Anima, people that can transform to varying degrees into animals, which is the closest thing to magic the setting has. The setting is a world with (with very few exceptions) medieval or renaissance technology, full of wars, slavery, discrimination, ethnic conflicts, insecurity, inequality, amoral researchers and abuse of power. The story however is fairly optimistic about it, with the main characters and most people they meet merely trying to survive and find happiness despite everything.
  • Attack on Titan has no real supernatural beings other than the titular Titans, and those are treated more scientifically than other fantasy races.
  • Berserk during the Golden Age Arc has many shades of this, with the setting focusing less on the Cosmic Horror Story backdrop of the universe and moreso Guts surviving years after years on his own before joining the Band of the Hawk to continue fighting a war that's been going on for more than a hundred years. Almost no supernatural qualities are present, and the setting remains firmly entrenched in a world of political intrigue and wars fought between nobles and knights. Subverted with a vengeance once The Eclipse happens and Griffith pulls a truly-horrific Face–Heel Turn and condemns his friends to The Legions of Hell for another chance at living. Afterwards, the setting permanently shifts to Dark Fantasy with some Cosmic Horror Story undertones, and any chances of it ever shifting back to Low Fantasy is thrown into the fire after Griffith's fight with Emperor Ganishka, where Griffith fuses the physical and astral planes together to bring the magic back to the world. The results aren't pretty.
  • Blue Ramun: Focuses on the life of Jessie, a girl with minor healing powers who works as a type of healer called a Blue Doctor, using the curative properties of her own blood to treat her patients. The story takes place in a low-magic "Arabian Nights" Days setting, where what little magic that exists is limited to the innate healing powers of the Blue Ramun people (who are still recovering from genocidal attacks against their tribe centuries ago) and the research of alchemists like Sierra. Even with healing powers, the Blue Doctors dedicate their lives to learning the healing arts in order to supplement their natural abilities and the limits of how much blood they can give on a daily basis. There are dragons in the world, but they're endemic to a totally different country, showing up infrequently and being treated a bit like an elephant taxi (that just so happens to be able to fly) when they do. The main conflict comes from the presence of a cartel of Fantastic Terrorists who traffic in illicitly obtained the blood of healers.
  • To Your Eternity: An immortal being is placed on the earth. It can do only three things: Remember, learn, and take the form of things that have had a strong impact on it. There are few things that could be considered magical or otherwise supernatural, and those that are are either treated as rather normal, like Oniguma, or are treated as monstrous and terrifyingly "other", like Gugu's booze organ.

    Comic Books 
  • Red Sonja fits here. She's not on an epic quest to defeat a great evil, nor is there even a great evil to defeat in most instances. There are quite a few warlords or slavers or town toughs that need defeating, usually when they stand between Sonja and the nearest tavern. She's occasionally motivated to a larger quest but never for more than a month.

    Fan Works 
  • The only fantastical element in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars Transplanted Character Fic By the Sea is the presence of merfolk, and exceedingly mundane merfolk, at that. Despite what Obi-Wan seems to think based on stories about magical mermaids, there is no magic or truly fantastical elements, merfolk-related or otherwise. The sequel opens with an author's note stating that there is no magic in this AU of any kind, with the implied statement that Obi-Wan would not be getting turned into a merman so he can be with his love.
  • Although The Night Unfurls (moreso the original version) is predominantly a Dark Fantasy, it also contains several crucial elements of this genre to make it qualify as such.
    • Human Dominance: Most of the main characters are human beings. While Standard Fantasy Races do exist, it is clear that humans and elves are not so different except for age. Half-lings, while similar to dwarves, are portrayed as shorter humans upon closer inspection, and orcs are counted as The Horde. Surprisingly, classic mythical creatures don't exist — no dragons, no phoenixes, no unicorns, only beasts.
    • Methods: Victory is achieved mostly through physical combat, small or large. Magic exists, but "sorcerer versus sorcerer" battles don't. Warfare is a common element in this story, where people fight for power, land, and resources. For extra realism, strategy, tactics, and logistics do play a role in determining whoever side has the upper hand.
    • Morality: All characters fall somewhere between white, grey, and black, but the truth is that the one party who is the strongest, the most efficient, and the most effective is undoubtedly superior. If a character, regardless of motives or morality, makes an unwise decision, they'd better wisen up, lest they would either be frowned upon, or suffer dire consequences.
  • A Scotsman in Egypt is mostly a Historical Fiction/Alternate History story, but it also contains a few low-key fantasy elements, mostly consisting of the visions various characters experience, coupled with the one witch who uncannily recites a conversation from decades ago, mostly spoken by dead men half a continent away.
  • Splint (and its Spin-Off Freedom's Limits). Despite being set in Middle-earth, beyond having Orcs as major characters and Sorcerous Overlords as Predecessor Villains, Splint really doesn't delve that heavily into more fantastical elements, focuses more on personal or small-scale conflicts than an epic-scale good-vs-evil conflict, has rather mundane antagonists and threats and features characters with varying degrees of morality, if not outright Grey-and-Gray Morality at times.

    Films — Animation 
  • Hoodwinked! is about as low as fantasy gets, being an adaptation of a story that's normally considered a fairy tale but features little one would consider "magic" per se. Just a wolf that can talk and somehow pass for an ugly grandmother. This movie expands that to a world of Lions and Tigers and Humans... Oh, My!, which is still no more "fantasy" by today's standards than Looney Tunes. There is mention of a witch hexing a goat so he can't talk, only sing, but he might have just been lying as an excuse to sing all the time.
  • How to Train Your Dragon, despite having numerous varieties of dragons, is fairly low fantasy. There is little or no actual magic involved in the narrative, and dragons are treated as a separate order of animals that can be tamed and domesticated. The sequel drives this home with the revelation of an alpha dragon, the Bewilderbeast, whose dominance can be challenged by other dragons.
  • Mulan takes place in a mundane fantasy version of Ancient China, where the only fantasy elements include animal guardians and the spirits of ancestors. Besides that, it's pretty much about a war, the main character is a human girl and the fantasy stuff is only a bit of flavouring.
  • Tangled in a similar vein has very little magic — with the only source of it being Rapunzel's hair. Besides the animals being somewhat more intelligent than normal, there's little else. The protagonists are all human, and the story is mainly Rapunzel's journey to the kingdom. The antagonist is said to be a witch, but she has no powers other than knowing how to activate Rapunzel's magic. As far as Grey-and-Gray Morality goes, one of the lead characters is an unrepentant thief and various side characters are implied criminals with Hidden Depths.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Despite taking place in a world filled with somewhat sentient animals and Fairy Godmothers, more emphasis is placed on the human characters in Cinderella. It could have passed for a decent period piece if not for the various fairy tale tropes that crop up from time to time.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl in contrast to later entries in the franchise, is quite Low Fantasy. The only magic is the curse that keeps the pirates immortal. And the plot is merely about rescuing Elizabeth from them, and them trying to break their curse. The sequels abandon this element and introduce sea monsters, ancient goddesses, mermaids and trips into the underworld.
    • On Stranger Tides, while definitely higher than Curse kind of lowers the High Fantasy of the previous two sequels. Outside of mermaids and Fountain of Youth, the movie turns back into standard action-adventure film. That still does not seem to affect the critics and lots of fans who still think the entry is the lowest in the series.
  • The Princess Bride is an example of low fantasy; it has a medieval setting, a few fictional creatures, and some ambiguous moments of Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane. Other than this, it could be a standard adventure/comedy film that takes place in the real world with few, if any supernatural elements.
  • Similar to the Cinderella example, Snow White: A Tale of Terror is implied to take place in The Dark Ages and the only magic comes from Claudia's tricks. The heart of the plot is the relationship between the stepmother and stepdaughter, with Claudia being turned to murder Lilli due to a succession crisis. The fairy tale stuff is mostly just flavouring.

    Literature 
  • In Ascendance of a Bookworm magic is so distant from the lives of commoners that Maine doesn't even realize it's real despite having magic herself for years. It just doesn't affect the lives of anyone who isn't in the clergy or a nobleman because it seems to be mainly use for ceremonial purposes and as a proof of status. This gets subverted as she rises into the Church and Nobility, who use far more magic.
  • Glen Cook's The Black Company series is Low Fantasy with a High Fantasy backdrop. The titular Black Company is a mercenary company employed in a High Fantasy-type war of Evil Empire versus Heroic Rebels. However, they aren't working for the Heroic Rebels. Definite gray morality; the "Evil" Empire is more Lawful Neutral, while the "Heroic" Rebels are rather less heroic on closer examination. The main characters are all loyal to each other and the band, but are interested in survival, not saving the world. And as to magic users being rather freakishly evil, there's the Dominator...
  • Tim Marquitz's The Blood War Trilogy takes place in a world where magical artifacts are exceedingly rare and incredibly powerful game-changers — and the Orc equivalents have just found an entire treasure-trove full of them, changing the balance of world power.
  • Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun is a work of Science Fantasy taking place in an Earth so far in the future that the sun has gone red and counting individual years have become meaningless. Before the fall of humanity into an impoverished dark age of ignorance and superstition, humanity had reached levels of technology that borders on the supernatural, having mastered things such as dimensional portals. Now humanity is fighting over the scraps, while the End Times grow ever closer. Psychic powers and bizarre alien creatures from other planets and dimensions further confuse the line between sci-fi and low fantasy, but these are rare. In this world, eating a pork sausage is considered a stroke of luck for most people and until near the end of his tales, the main character is mostly stumbling around between his execution jobs rather than doing epic deeds. (‘’The Book of the New Sun’’ arguably belongs to a category of its own.)
  • The Bridge Kingdom Archives by Danielle L. Jensen. There is no magic in the world, no races other than humans and no magical or mystical creatures. The main conflict is over a bridge that connects two continents over stormy seas and is powered by greed.
  • A Brother's Price has no magic, but a world that is very clearly not ours. The narrative is not clear on whether it is post-apocalyptic, or the environment just happens to be one detrimental to the health of male sperm and male fetuses in the womb. The heroism and battles are more of the low-fantasy type, too.
  • Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne by Brian Staveley has elements of High Fantasy but avoids stock tropes of elves, dwarves and wizards. Its magical system is complex but low-key, it has fantastic creatures like giant birds and a demonic ancient race, but largely the focus is on politics and military training.
  • Harry Turtledove's Darkness Series is a Fantasy Conflict Counterpart of World War II in a world that has used Functional Magic to achieve industrialization.
  • Alan Campbell's Deepgate Codex trilogy combines many Low Fantasy elements with a steampunk setting.
  • Tim Marquitz's Dirge is set in a world almost on the verge of destruction due to a Zombie Apocalypse but which still has a small chance of survival due to, well, people with swords and walls. Assassin Dirge, a Sweet Polly Oliver killer working for the local church, may change the balance of power between the zombie's necromancer masters and The Empire which controls the walled compounds.
  • The Eddie LaCrosse series might count, though equally it might belong to Sword and Sorcery, which is typically not considered low fantasy. It varies from book to book exactly which label is best. Supernatural elements definitely exist, but are reare. The primary antagonists are non-magical and human.
  • Stephen King's The Eyes of the Dragon is features Black-and-Gray Morality, with no Chosen One and The Good King being turned on by his people, who much prefer the Evil Sorcerer, who is eventually spared because, 400 years ago, one of the heroic characters put his need for vengeance above a need for justice. King wrote it as an experiment in writing children's stories.
  • Robin Hobb's Farseer series is classic Low Fantasy. Notable because the events described are very much high fantasy, but the story focuses on characters who barely ever see the significance of their actions, and the plot is very much grounded in their day to day experiences.
  • The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie and following books set in the same world are arguably Low Fantasy at its rawest.
  • Fly by Night Series: So much so that there is no magic at all, just the occasional bit of weird mechanics.
  • The Gentleman Bastard series by Scott Lynch: the main characters are a gang of sophisticated con men, who tend to run around cities rife with organized crime. The magical ability of the world is actually pretty high, but it's all in the hands of a wizards' guild that appears rarely and has it in for the protagonists.
  • The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio is a simple travel tale with little magic involved(mostly dreams and visions which have minor bearing on the plot). The setting is rather like Medieval Central Asia and if you look up place names you will sometimes find them actually corresponding to place names in medieval times.
  • The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake could be seen as an extreme case of this even to the point where it's open to debate whether it actually counts as a fantasy series or not. While it does take place in a rather fantastical setting (i.e. an impossibly large and ambiguously sentient castle) and is doused with a good dose of fantasy imagery (e.g. a giant dead tree suspended many hundreds of feet from the ground on which a set of twins frequently have tea), it contains no instances of magic, dragons, talking animals or any other such elements found in even the lowest of fantasy novels. Also, the nonexistence of major conflict throughout most of the novels sets it apart from other fantasy stories. The third books really brings up doubts about the books' fantasy merit. Still, this doesn't repel book stores from insisting that these books be placed in the fantasy section. The related novella "Boy in Darkness," however, is a slightly more traditional fantasy story, but most of the magic and shape shifting elements present may've just been more metaphor than anything.
  • Graceling Realm starts off focusing on the magical beings known as Gracelings- people who are supernaturally endowed in one particular skill. These skills are based off of things that an actual human can possibly do, such as fighting or disguse. As the series goes on though, it becomes more interested in the politics of its world than its magic.
  • Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash: A group of young Japanese teenagers awaken in the world of Grimgar with no memory of how they got there. Magic is largely limited to minor healing, some sword skills, and a few dark-based spells that inflict minor status ailments. Combat is brutal and savage: many of the battles our main party gets into are more reminiscent of Urban Warfare of the likes seen in Fallujah as goblins take full advantage of buildings and town architecture to ambush and snipe from. The goblins so far are the only non-human race, and the question of how "evil" they are is implicitly asked as they are clearly intelligent creatures who enjoy games and playing with small animals. And even all this, fighting is only a small part of life in Grimgar: much of the time, the characters are living in a much more mundane fashion by doing things such as washing clothes, cooking meals, and paying for daily living expenses.
  • Gunfighter's Ride is about a Pony Express rider and his horse dealing with magical menaces.
  • Most of the fantasy novels of Barbara Hambly, as evidenced by the Sun Wolf and Starhawk, Dragonsbane (a self-aware brutal send-up of Heroic Fantasy), and Darwath series in particular. The world is not a nice place, magic is rare and weird, combat is ugly and dirty, heroes are at least tinged with gray, antagonists are creepy and vile, characters will die, and the cutie will break.
  • Hands Held in the Snow is ostensibly set in a world filled with high adventure and magical creatures, but on the continent of Tsubasa, humans can barely wield their souls to use magic and the plants and animals are all very familiar.
  • A Harvest of War: A quasi-historical Constructed World urban setting, the only blatant element is a separate race of rather mundane not-exactly-humans.
  • The Haunting has magic, but it's rare and underpowered enough (and dependent on illusion) that people easily make up reasons why what they saw cannot be.
  • Hawksmaid: The only fantasy elements in the novel are Matty's supernatural affinity for raptors, and hints that the Abbess may have magical powers.
  • James K. Burk's High Rage (and its as-yet-unpublished sequel Taking Hope): intrigue, war, politics, swordfighting and some interesting magic, but no dragons or world-shattering conflicts.
  • Hollow is an interesting take. Everything regarding Das Kagel (actually the ossified remains of the Tower of Babel), the inhuman Oracles, the eternal battle of the dead in the Gland of Mercy, and the monsterous Boschian creatures that are appearing is definitely fantastical, but the main setting of the story is an otherwise extremely grounded and realistic depiction of Europe during the middle ages. The two meet in the middle, and produce something like this.
  • Although there is an evil dark ancient power threatening to come into play in the Inda series, it's mostly a background event and not at all the main focus of the story, which is instead concerned primarily with explaining the life of the titular character and how it relates to the history of his homeland and the rest of the world, particularly the strait which eventually becomes named after him. In fact, the story of what's going on with Norsunder and the most prominent Norsundrian in the story (Ramis), is a plotline that's left hanging for the next book set in the same world, which takes place some 400 years later — and which again primarily focuses on the intersection between different cultures and how characters cope in day to day life. Basically, the whole Sartorias Deles storyline seems to all be shaping up to have a slowburning High Fantasy epic showdown by having multiple installments of Low Fantasy stories leading up to the ultimate confrontation with Norsunder.
  • The Indigo series fits on most counts: It's After the End. Sentient nonhuman beings are rare. Morality is mainly grey and gray. Clan feuds are more likely than actual wars (although one kingdom does get captured by an Evil Overlord who turns out not to be evil after all). And magic isn't particularly reliable or predictable, and is rarely powerful. However, the future of the human race is on the shoulders of our eponymous heroine and her "dog." Or something.
  • The Iron Teeth a free fantasy web serial that features grey morality, a human dominated world, comedy, and magic is of limited use and often unimportant. It does also feature goblins and other races but while human civilization is fragile and decaying they are still by far the most powerful race.
  • In I Shall Survive Using Potions, the Isekai protagonist talks a ditzy goddess into granting her the ability to create magic potions, assuming that since magic exists in the new world, those are common fare and she can thus make a very good living without trouble. It turns out that while there is magic, it's rare, and her potions are borderline miracles. Which is a problem when some unscrupulous people would very much like to lock her up so they can take advantage of those miracles...
  • Kalpa Imperial, by Angélica Gorodischer, is a no-magic alterante world with a vast Empire, destroyed and rebuilt over and over again.
  • Last Dragon has little magic and the dragons are, as might be inferred from the title, extinct. The tone of the novel is on the harsh side.
  • A Memoir By Lady Trent: In most regards, such as politics, culture and physics, the world of the novels is entirely like ours. The only significant differences from real life are geography and the presence of an additional animal clade.
  • Stephen R. Donaldson's Mordant's Need duology features a single conceit, that in the fantasy world's setting mirrors are portals to other places and dimensions. The mirrors have specific rules and a science is devoted to studying how it works. The rest of the setting is a gritty medieval setting.
  • Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit has a disillusioned cynic trying to make up for her past deeds. Fictional medieval setting with limited magic.
  • Mortis: The Blood 'n Flowers Series is set in an urban fantasy-style setting with angels, demons, skinwalkers, and the like running amok. The main focus of the story are the character arcs and their emotional development.
  • D. E. Wyatt's No Good Deed... is set in a world influenced by mid-15th Century Western Europe, with neither fantastic creatures or magic to be found.
  • The Paladin by C. J. Cherryh is an example of the "no visible magic" variety of Low Fantasy.
  • The Redwall novels are another example of low fantasy, where the villains often go to war for petty reasons, magic is almost nothing more than prophecy and ascended parlor tricks, the scope is limited to Mossflower woods (or if they do go afar, wherever that place happens to be; our heroes are not going out to save the world as you'd expect in High Fantasy), and where in the earlier books, Anyone Can Die. What breaks that mold is the Funny Animal cast, the Black-and-White Morality, and the fact the Brian Jacques himself ostensibly writes these books for kids.
  • Return of the Reaper, where we see little to no magic, except that of the demons and angels.
  • The Reynard Cycle: Grey-and-Gray Morality? Check. Anti-Hero? Check. An almost complete lack of magic? Check. It would actually be easy to mistake the setting of the series for Europe of the mid-1400's if were not for the presence of a polytheistic religion, as well as the chimera, giants, sea monsters, etc. There is some fan speculation that the setting is our own world, long After the End.
  • Ronja the Robber's Daughter is a great example of a Low Fantasy children's book.
  • The Old Norse Saga of Grettir the Strong (from c. 1320 AD) fits the definition rather well. Its main plot is the title hero's struggle to survive as an outlaw, but it also features black magic and fights with undeads and trolls.
  • K.J Parker's The Scavenger Trilogy is good example of a low fantasy. The series sticks to mundane settings and has a dark tone. It provides a troubling take on heroism. Supernatural elements are present but low-key. The wars are inglorious, both in the field and their aims.
  • The Shadow of the Lion by Eric Flint, Dave Freer, and Mercedes Lackey is set in ancient Venice, and, though magic exists, it has little more to do with the day to day life of most citizens than historical "witchcraft" did, and, indeed is treated in much the same way. Except for protagonist Marco Valdosta who ends up fulfilling his destiny as a mage by acting as a vessel for the Winged Lion of Venice and saving the city. Virtually the only other fantastical elements are spirits/demigods and demons (from whom humans draw magical power, so arguably these two are just different aspects of the same element).
  • A Song of Ice and Fire is a generally low-magic setting, with a cynically pragmatic worldview and a focus on political maneuvering between rival factions who are all at least morally gray; however, the politics spans two continents and reaches epic levels on its own even without more traditional, stirring High adventure elements. However, because The Magic Comes Back slowly over the course of the story, the fantasy does get progressively Higher as the series goes on, even though the general tone remains Low in nature. The magic and other mysteries are treated as ambiguous, yet highly dangerous, potentially world-changing and complicating factors in an already combustible political and social situation.
  • Eisenstein's Sorcerer's Son is fairly idealistic, but the small scale plot and human dominated world are enough to mark it as low fantasy.
  • Spice and Wolf: one of the two main character is a wolf goddess in humanoid form, but the plot is mostly about the mundane things she and the trader she travels with encounter.
  • Lilith Saintcrow's aborted trilogy Steelflower edges close to Heroic Fantasy at times and has an elf protagonist (which is not seen as unusual In-Universe). The world is low magic, however, and Kaia Steelflower gets by as a thief and sellsword in a story that mainly revolves around her personal problems rather than major calamities.
  • The Stone Dance of the Chameleon takes place in a world with no magic at all, but has all the worldbuilding hallmarks of a fantasy series.
  • Tales of the Otori: A series in which magic is rare (and controlled by a secretive network of supernatural spies and assassins), magic-users are generally feared and mistrusted, all but one of the main antagonists are non-magical, political intrigue and military strategy play as big a part in the plot as the supernatural elements, and the protagonist is a former religious pacifist turned vengeance seeker after the massacre of his village.
  • Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis. Somewhat surprising from the author of The Chronicles of Narnia.
  • Uprooted is set in a fantasy version of Poland with magic and Grey-and-Grey Morality. Even the wood is more complicated then it first seems.
  • War God by Tim Marquitz has plenty of magic but it's not very powerful and the world is a Black Comedy fantasy setting where it's only used to make money or make people miserable.
  • Although a series about talking cats may sound like High Fantasy, Warrior Cats has distinct Low Fantasy qualities, with its dark tone, Gray-and-Grey Morality, increasingly dysfunctional characters, and minimal involvement of supernatural forces.
  • The Witcher stories fit very much. There are non-human races like elves, dwarves, halflings, trolls, dopplers, and succubi, but they act more or less human, their fantastical attributes follow consistent and easily identifiable rules, and most of them are dominated by the humans (who are not above the occasional pogrom or two). Magic exists, but it's functional instead of fireworks wizard or king's healing power, and its users seem to spend most of their time plotting, Eminence Grise-ing, or basking in vanity. Said magic is known only by a handful of people and fairly modest in what it can do, meaning any given village, town, or battlefield will look nearly identical to its equivalent in real-world 14th century Europe (in fact in the game-only sequels, one of the greatest conquerors of the era is a man who entirely disregards all magic, including in war). Minor magic is contained in some potions and slightly enchanted objects (like swords) which are more common (more so among the nonhumans), but also even less impactful (in many cases basically just being a fantastical shortcut to a real-world object, e.g. a magic potion that mimics penicillin, another magic potion that's basically just an adrenaline shot, or a one-handed sword that due to its enchantment hits harder than normal but still not as hard as a regular two-handed axe). Most of the fantastical creatures hunted by the protagonists are treated like regular megafauna that just happen to have weird attributes to them (in Wild Hunt, for instance, it's explicitly stated in the Bestiary that a mere brown bear is as dangerous as most monsters). Those creatures that are genuinely magical fit the usual trend of being so in a modest and self-consistent way. There is no central Evil Overlord or Horde, most conflicts encountered by the heroes are with wild animals or small-time criminals, and the larger conflict comes from politicking between more or less realistic power-hungry nobles. The "good" category is inhabited by protagonists and their friends, and almost no one else (and the protagonists themselves have some Kick the Dog moments in their biographies). Also, fairy tale elements often show up in more-or-less their original forms only to be subjected to Dark Parody.
  • WorldEnd: What Do You Do at the End of the World? Are You Busy? Will You Save Us?: In the distant past, the world of World End was a standard high fantasy setting. This all changed with the emergence of the 17 Beasts who wiped out humanity, along with dragons, elves, and the majority of the world’s magical knowledge. Few people in the present day setting know of the advanced magic of the past, which is regarded as Lost Technology. Only characters who were alive before the apocalypse possess any knowledge of these lost arts. The story also tends to focus more on the mundane lives of the people left behind, rather than the heroes who go off to battle. There is also no obvious evil in the story, with the 17 Beasts being more akin to a force of nature, while later reveals show that the conflict with the beasts was more complicated than first shown.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Brazilian drama Deus Salve O Rei takes place in a fictionalized version of Medieval Europe that contains some mystical elements, but the larger focus is on politics between kingdoms and forbidden romance. The conflict between the two main kingdoms of Montemor and Artena is also closer to White-and-Grey Morality, since they are mostly sympathetic sides placed at odds with each other due to unfortunate circumstances beyond anyone's control.
  • Game of Thrones, like the book series it's based on, definitely falls into this in the first through sixth seasons and to a lesser degree the seventh. In fact, the series has even less fantasy than the books because it is a Pragmatic Adaptation.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Bunnies & Burrows: A game about intelligent rabbits trying to survive in a modern setting. Magic does not exist, but there are mild psychic powers (rare) and herbs can be combined into medicine. Your average monsters include humans, dogs, and owls.
  • While Magicians, Witches, and magic in general, exists in the setting of Citadels, they do not play a significant role in the actual gameplay, which focuses more on city-building rather than character battles. The "magical" skills of the characters have no inherent difference from their non-magical counterparts.
  • d20 Modern: The "Shadow Chasers" setting.
  • While the exact details of the setting for Dungeon Crawl Classics are left up to the GM and players, player characters are created with the assumption that they don't have much more information about the world beyond a day's walk from their homes at the start, outside of rumours at most.
  • Ironclaw emphasizes interpersonal conflict, politics, and characters who actually have a place and role in society other than "adventurer". The relative paucity of "monsters" (Guilt Free Slaughter Victims) in a Funny Animal-populated setting gets a Lampshade Hanging in one supplement:
    Frater Perphredo: Where are the monsters? My friend, we're all monsters.
    • That said, it's not dark fantasy; most of the factions have a sympathetic side and magic is treated similarly to High fantasy, aside from Unholy magic which is unquestionably evil (though White Magic isn't necessarily good), and the setting is reaching a renaissance.
    • The 2019 supplement Book of Monsters adds several (mostly plant-based) creatures that can be slaughtered practically free of guilt, but with one exception they're not sapient and most are hunted for food or other commodities if not outright domesticated.
  • Iron Kingdoms (at least in their RPG incarnation) take a pretty good shot at this one. Even in the tabletop battle game, wars between nations are usually concerned with either land-grabbing or religious differences (the kind with fire), but anything involving the undead Cryx faction usually veers off into ludicrous world-threatening territory.
  • Ironsworn and its Ironlands is not a high-fantasy setting. Rituals are rare and low-key and could even be of a mundane nature if deemed so during world creation. Supernatural creatures and monsters are also rare and could be easily excluded from a campaign. In any case, the Ironlands is a perilous land described in hues of grey where the inhabitants survive not through epic magic but through their own grit.
  • Maelstrom is set like this. The magic only exists as the power of God or as part of a mystical, mistrusted force. (There IS a character class of Mage.) Otherwise it is just normal Tudor England. You could even remove the magic with no major changes.
  • The Hyborian Campaign went even further than Conan the Barbarian on which it was based, doing away with magic all together and just keeping the Fantasy Counterpart Cultures in Hyboria intact.
  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is this to the Dark Fantasy setting of Warhammer. In this game the sweeping battles of the army tabletop game are far away, and you take the roles of humble adventurers (often from working-poor backgrounds like ratcatcher and beggar) trying to get by. Combat is very lethal (what would be a "mere" Elite Mook in the army tabletop game is capable of cutting through your party like a chainsaw through tapioca here, to say nothing of the really big monsters!), and PCs will live in Perpetual Poverty for most of their careers — you might not start with a proper weapon if your character generation goes badly, any armour you gain will be moth-eaten and nabbed off a dead bandit, and magic is both extremely rare and hard to learn because it comes with great costs (and we're not just talking financial).

    Theatre 

    Video Games 
  • The Age of Decadence: It's a cynical, brutal, low-magic world set After the End. There are stories of a long-dead empire that used to employ fantastical magical powers and who fought with gods at their side, but naturally all that power in the hands of mortals ended up leading to the current status quo because Humans Are Bastards. Pretty much all magic is of the enchantment type: unlike many other Role Playing Games, being a wizard is simply not an option here, as your character will never be able to cast a single spell.
    • It is however possible for a very skilled Loremaster to unlock many of the secrets left behind by the ancient civilization, including some of their nearly invincible armor and regenerative machines.
      • In the case of very skilled, and particularly callous Loremasters, it's even possible to unlock enough of the ancient secrets to destroy the world again.
  • While not gritty or cynical in the slightest (just the opposite, really), the Atelier series of games tend to have many of the other marks of Low Fantasy. In the earlier (and Japan-exclusive) games especially, the setting is dominated by humans, there is very little blatant magic (most "magical effects" are at least manufactured by the alchemist heroes of the games, often with recipes that have at least a little grounding in actual science), and the setting of the games only encompasses a single country or principality (on purpose, as the protagonist is working in a time limit and typically is running a business anyway, and doesn't have time to go casually Walking the Earth). The Atelier Iris trilogy, the first games in the series to make it to America, received some criticism for moving away from most or all of these elements; Mana Khemia and Atelier games on the DS, Liese and Annie, brought the Low Fantasy elements back to the forefront to at least some degree, with Atelier Rorona deliberately going back to it full-force. At least one installment in the series was even deliberately advertised as being Slice of Life in nature.
  • Battle Brothers takes place in a human-centric medieval world where you manage a mercenary company. Mundane medieval line and manoeuvre tactics are the name of the game and magic is heavily restricted, usually found in the hands of hostile Necromancers. A crisis event introduced in the late game to shake things up however leads to a Greenskin invasion or a Zombie Apocalypse.
  • Chivalry: Medieval Warfare is a multiplayer medieval first person game with melee and archery and had no magic whatsoever.
  • Crusader Kings II is ostensibly a 4X politics simulator set in the actual medieval Europe (barring the odd fictional ruler due to incomplete records), but occasionally leaned on Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane with the justification that what your characters believe to be supernatural might have a perfectly mundane explanation. The later DLCs (especially The Reaper's Due and Monks and Mystics) have included an increasing number of unambiguously supernatural events, up to and including a Chess with Death event chain that can make you immortal. The game also has an optional Alternate History DLC called Sunset Invasion where Western Europe is invaded by a centuries-early Aztec Empire (no Native American culture possessed ships capable of a transatlantic voyage, and the Aztec Empire didn't form until nearly the end of the game's timeline).
  • Darklands sits comfortably between high and low, although its roots are firmly planted in Low Fantasy due to taking place in 15th century Central Europe in the Holy Roman Empire. You spend a great deal of time simply making enough money to survive, and spend a lot of time visiting very mundane cities and villages, negotiating with local lords (most of whom don't have the time to talk to you anyway), studying at universities and cathedrals, and tackling robber knights and brigands. Magic comes only in the form of alchemical concoctions (recipes for which are supposedly, but not really, based on the works of real-world alchemists and philosophers), which take a long time and precious (real-world) ingredients. The supernatural elements, however, are pretty strong, with many mythical creatures from European lore lurking in the countryside, and an over-arching plot involving the summoning of demons from hell. Also, Christian saints apparently have great powers to bestow upon their followers.
  • Disco Elysium is fantasy so Low that, even though your capacity for 'the actual supra-natural' is one of the stats on your character creation sheet, you may not even realise it's a fantasy setting until you're a good ten hours into the game. Your character may have Helpful Hallucinations and learn information from the city's Genius Loci that verge on magic/psychic, but might just be your character having a mental illness, and at one point you may investigate a business-bankrupting curse for which there is ample evidence for it being either a magic event, the result of capitalism working as designed, or some combination of both. Supernatural creatures are regarded in-universe as 'cryptids' that most people do not believe in, and the most explicitly supernatural element of the setting is treated more as a natural phenomenon/fact of nature. Most of the rest of the setting is a mundane Retro Universe combining French Revolution and The '70s.
  • Dwarf Fortress may have humanoid species besides humans (with the spotlight, naturally, on the dwarves, though all of the races are assholes in their own way), but it's quite low as fantasy goes. Technological advances range between the bronze and medieval ages (though, with a little creativity, the dwarves can go well beyond). Magic is rare for the everyday person, and when it does show up, it's of a vicious Dark Fantasy variety. The most common threats to your colonies are rather mundane issues such as the local wildlife, the scarcity of natural resources, and invasions from the malevolent goblins (or, perish the thought, running out of booze). Dragons and megabeasts may exist, but they are few and far between unless you've Dug Too Deep and found the Hidden Fun Stuff. With that said, the game is relatively easy to modify, allowing code-savvy players to add their own mythical terrors and magic if they wish.
  • While The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim traditionally follows The Elder Scrolls series' high fantasy template, the civil war subplot has very little in the way of great magic or mages, mythical beings or, save for a small dungeon romp at the start, fantastic monsters or undead. Just battle between a legionary Vestigial Empire seeking to reclaim and restore order to one of their provinces, against a bunch of nationalist rebels fighting for what they believe should be a sovereign land. As if to emphasize this, one side of the civil war explicitly rejects using magic and nonhumans in battle (or even any technology you couldn't find in antiquity) unlike practically every other group in the setting, yet do fine.
  • For Honor takes place on a fictional world where samurai, Vikings, and knights fight one another. There are small magical elements, however, such as healing points, Spontaneous Weapon Creation, Charles Atlas Superpower for some characters, and special events where enemies are turned into monsters and have to be killed. Also, there are Valkyries — in this case, mortal Viking women who have made a Bargain with Heaven to secure places in Valhalla for those who did not die in battle.
  • While the amount of Low and High Fantasy elements fluctuates wildly between individual installments, the Gothic and Risen games generally fit into this quite nicely. The general point of the games is often some personal goal like escaping a Penal Colony or reclaiming your stolen humanity (even though you may save the world in the process, it's never your main motivation). Magic exists, but isn't widespread with the only practitioners being either arrogant high mages or morally questionable Necromancers and Voodoo Priests. Gothic 3 even implies that, since magic comes from the gods, it actually might be a corrupting, evil force after all. And even though there is another humanoid race — the Orcs — their only true difference to humans seems to be the worship of a different god, a simple difference in philosophy.
  • Last Scenario straddles the line between this and high-fantasy. On one hand, there's a race of elf-like people (though they don't have the longevity that are typically associated with elves,) and in the past everyone had to contend with demons though this turns out to be propaganda. On the other hand, much of the game is spent contending with a messy war involving three different nations and lots of political intrigue and scheming.
    • The spiritual successor, Exit Fate, is most definitely in this category. While elves, magic, spirits, and a destined hero all exist, the focus is primarily on the wars fought between two nations over territory and a third nation that invades both lands as part of a plan to unite the world by force. Furthermore, while spirits exist (and may actually be the souls of the departed), they are inherently eldritch beings who seem either indifferent or actively malevolent towards the living.
  • While relatively high on the Fantasy scale, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask is a low fantasy take on the typical high fantasy of the series. While Link is able to use basic magic, the fact that he can puts those who witness it in awe and leads them to assume that he's capable of even greater feats like resurrection. And while there is a prophecy that the world will be saved by a hero, it never specifies Link or any vague description of him. Not to mention that the villain isn't a conquering tyrant, but a lonely child corrupted by dark power.
  • Monster Hunter has many of the hallmarks of Low Fantasy. Humans are overwhelmingly the dominant race (others exist, like the Felynes and Wyverians, but they get little focus), magic is almost unheard of, and the plot scope is centered on individual hunters trying to get by in a world where Everything Is Trying to Kill You. What little supernatural elements do exist are typically reserved for the Elder Dragons, rare and powerful monsters that appear completely disconnected from natural evolution.
  • Mount & Blade takes place in the Constructed World of Calradia, and other than the total lack of magic and the supernatural it fits the mold quite well. You take on the role of a wandering hero seeking to make a name for himself in a land of warring kingdoms controlled by Feudal Overlords who are out to expand their holdings and gain personal glory.
    • Prophesy of Pendor mod fits to the mold even better with a mostly human populated Constructed World with some fantasy races such as Elves and Demons and low amounts of magic thrown in. Though unlike most low fantasy stories it is an epic about a hero attempting to unite a war torn land and stop the forces of evil infesting it.
  • Octopath Traveler: Subverted. While magic and monsters both exist in the game's world, they have little bearing on the story. Moreover, each character's specific quest tends to be very personal (e.g., revenge or solving the mystery behind a missing object) rather than epic in scale. However, towards the end of the game it takes a sharp turn towards Heroic Fantasy upon revealing that much of the game's events were masterminded in part by an evil cultist attempting to bring about the resurrection of the Dark God Galdera, and the final battle of the game takes place in a portal to the netherworld while the party do battle with the Dark God himself.
  • Pigskin takes place in a "Seventh Century A.D." where Vikings battle barbarian hordes on the English countryside for no determinable reason or purpose, with trolls sometimes joining either or both sides. Historical accuracy is definitely not the point.
  • RuneScape during the classic era and throughout most of Runescape 2 had allot of this going on in booth game play, setting and design. The player was depicted as just a random adventurer (one among many running around), Magic was very limited and expensive compared to other combat styles and scope itself was relatively small with very few 'world-ending' threats around. The years leading up to Runescape 3 and 3 itself changed a lot though, with gods starting to become active players in the story rather than just being in the background and with them much higher stakes, the player character became The Chosen One rather than just a random dude, the Medieval Stasis was broken in favor of Schizo Tech, and the games designs started becoming allot more stylized towards High Fantasy (compare the old wizard's tower with the new one)
  • Sunset Over Imdahl hits seven items out of nine on the checklist, and barely avoids the last two — it's a pointless war to keep a crumbling empire together, and magic is barely present, let alone good or evil.
  • Thera: Legacy of the Great Torment is a Medieval II: Total War mod that puts the player behind the reins of a civilisation in an Earth-like world that has just survived a cataclysmic event known as the Great Torment. The presence of stat-boosting and possibly supernatural artifacts, non-human creatures on the southernmost and northernmost continents, and vague hints of prophecies in some faction's backgrounds, all suggest there is something else going on besides the mundane and scientific. It's much, much more cynical than the average High Fantasy, though — there is no good or evil here, just different civilisations all fighting each other for different reasons, be it freedom, faith, self-defence, revenge, or simple lust for power (mostly that one).
  • Thief fits this trope to a tee and even adds a very gritty Film Noir aesthetic coupled with medievalish Clock Punk and Steampunk into the overall mix...
  • The Trails Series is less about world-shaking events and more on the daily lives of characters. While there's definitely more of a plot here in comparison and there are villains to defeat, the world itself is never really in danger. While non-human beings exist, they are rare in the extreme, and only occasionally make an appearance. Magitek called Orbments replaces combustion-based technology but mostly behaves like our own electronics. The battle Orbments that allow use of spells are expensive and slow to be produced, and those that do own one are either members of the Bracer Guild to protect civilians or the mercenary Jaeger Corps. Most of the time, the protagonists are doing all they can to protect their own home countries/cities, let alone saving the world and rarely step outside their nation's borders. Plots tend to be concerned with the grounded lives of its characters and local politics, even villains tend to have understandable motives that rarely effect other parts of the map. The cynicism is entirely absent in spite of the low stakes, the protagonists are flawed but heroic people with good hearts and several antagonists aren't as black as they first appear, though genuinely evil characters do exist. That said, the later-end of The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel series of games does bring in an element of the world being very much in danger.
  • The Witcher, as noted. The games are slightly more fantastical and optimistic than the books (with the third one in particular bordering on a Genre Shift due to the world-endangering plot and heavy narrative importance of the Aen Elle), but still fit this classification, being remarkably grounded by the standards of mainstream fantasy RPGs.
  • The world of Valkyria Chronicles mostly looks like Europe circa 1940 with different borders and names. The only thing that's really otherworldly are the eponymous Valkyria; rare individuals who wield power that makes them one-woman armies.

    Webcomics 
  • Crystal Heroes has a contemporary setting and a plot that only matters to the main characters, who are just ordinary people fighting for their own (mundane) personal reasons rather than any sort of moral conflict, war, or any sort of large-scale conflict, and magic is not treated as a particularly big deal. Really, the only thing that keeps it from being Magical Realism is that it takes place in a fictional fantasy setting rather than the real Earth.
  • The Overture: The world of East Rondelin is a gritty place resembling feudal Japan. Two warlords have decimated the countryside fighting each other for control of desolate rock, a small, worthless island with no strategic position or resources. Magic does not exist, and even the evil race of Demi has been subdued by the invention of crossbows.
  • Rumors of War: Mundane setting? Ancient Greece. Cynicism? Cloudy with a chance of more clouds. Human Dominance? Yes. Heroism? natch. Rumors of war? Take a wild guess.
  • The Silver Eye: The only magic that remains are a few cursed objects from the time of the Nedarians. Melete is the only Nedarian alive and the only one who can generate curses. Descendants of Nedarians (like the Hollingsworths and the Shephards), have a tiny bit of magic that allow their eyes to change colors and their hands to catch on fire, but that's just about it.
  • Vápnthjófr saga is set in late viking age Scandinavia and features cast of funny animals, but otherwise has no supernatural or magical elements in it.
  • The Wolf At Weston Court is set in a kingdom similar to Regency England, which has a largely human population — though if the fact that they signed a treaty which apparently allows the Fairy military to enter their lands in persuit of (admitedly badass) criminals and boss their police around and not respect the rights of the kingdom's subjects while doing so is anything to go by, the world as a whole may not be human dominated. Plot scope is trickier to pin down, and there's much yet to be revealed. Tone is (largely) comedic, methods tend towards violence (especially with Nova), and our heroes are sarcastic, moody, and not above breaking the law. Oh, and the only actual magic we've seen so far (unless fairies fly with magic) is a cursed bracelet which at the time of this writing is killing one of the protagonist.

    Web Original 
  • Deeper Up the Tower is a serialized fantasy zine telling the story of Florian, a mysterious knight who enters the Tower on a as-yet-unknown mission and encounters a whole host of varying levels of fantastical at play. What makes it low fantasy is the ample presence of Gray-and-Gray Morality. Every monster, every hero, every being Florian encounters runs the gamut and the world of the Tower, albeit colorful and fantastical, has a distinctly gray moral presence.
  • The Legatum series falls heavily under here. Magic is definitely present, but hardly ever used, it takes place during The Dung Ages in the 1500s, the stories are heavily character driven, morality is shady at best, and downright abhorrent at worst (especially in The Green Wanderer), and there rarely seems to be any sort of universal threat lurking about (except in Smirvlak's Stone). The only detail about the series that isn't considered low fantasy is that there is no human dominance, largely since the series has Loads and Loads of Races.
  • Rogues: The fate of the world is not at stake, and character morality tends to be, often very dark, shades of grey. There are definitely both fantasy races and magic present, but how big of a role they play in the story depends upon the path the reader chooses.
  • RWBY takes place in a world where humanity is sequestered into heavily fortified and often bickering nation states and constantly battling for survival against ferocious shadow creatures that are drawn to negative emotion and attack humans indiscriminately. Even though the story starts with a light-hearted tone, it soon gives way to grittier Grey-and-Gray Morality. It is heavily implied and eventually confirmed by Jinn that the world of Remnant was at one point a High Fantasy setting, and a great calamity in the distant past brought it down to this.
  • The Solstice War has elements of this. While primarily a war story where the only fireballs are from cannon shells, it takes place in a world where people can reminisce about hunting "drakes" and "rock bears," there's churches dedicated to restoring dead magic (with some indication that it was once alive), and a character with some outright magic (though it could also be psychic powers). But the overwhelming majority of the story is rifle armed soldiers fighting in a conventional mid-20th century style war.

    Western Animation 
  • The Legend of Prince Valiant: Enforced Trope. This is one of the rare animation series set in a low fantasy world, in part by Family Channels guidelines to not allow dragons or magic. Merlin is more a scientist and cannons were mistaken for dragons. One of the few times Executive Meddling works out better.

 
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How to Train Your Dragon

The protagonist, Hiccup, is a young Viking boy who lives on the island of Berk, where men are tough, women are tougher, and dragons are evil, destructive, livestock-pillaging pests that must be destroyed on sight. Hiccup wants to prove his worth - particularly to his father Stoick, the Viking chief - but he's gawky and brainy in a society that values brawn. Deeming Hiccup to be too weak to fight dragons head-on, Stoick assigns Hiccup to apprentice under Berk's blacksmith, to create weapons and gadgets to use against the dragon hordes.

Then one night, during a raid, Hiccup manages to bring down the most elusive, feared dragon of all: a Night Fury. Of course, nobody believes him—compared to other species of dragons, Night Furies are so rare that virtually no one has ever actually seen one (much less injured one), so Hiccup has to go alone to find the creature so he can kill it and prove his claim. But when he finds the crippled dragon and sees just how scared the mighty creature is, he ultimately can't bring himself to do it. He frees the dragon, which he later names "Toothless," and thus begins a clandestine friendship. As Hiccup nurses Toothless back to health, they form a bond of trust, and ultimately they become an inseparable flying, fighting pair - just in time for an even greater monster to appear.

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