Follow TV Tropes


Medieval European Fantasy

Go To
Fantasy Tavern by Javier Charro.

"Fantasy, for us, is a knight on horseback running around and killing things."
Todd Howard, Game Informer Issue 138

No matter where a fantasy story may be written, whatever rich history the author's homeland might have, most fantasy stories take place in Medieval Europe (or a facsimile thereof, possibly reasonable). People will fight with swords and shields, and the government is usually vaguely feudal: it may not map well to any real-world political system, but it usually has hereditary monarchs and nobles (which many other cultures also have, but if European titles are used, you're in a Medieval European Fantasy). Medieval European Fantasy settings are sometimes littered with Schizo Tech, though Fantasy Gun Control is often a limiting factor.

The modern Trope Codifier for Medieval fantasy is The Lord of the Rings, which was based heavily on European folklore, but this trope has older roots in the tradition of fantasy works set in actual medieval Europe, especially those connected to or influenced by the tales of King Arthur.


Christianity may appear, as it almost always did in Medieval and Renaissance literature,note  but it is fairly rare to find Christianity—or any real life religion—in modern fantasy settings: that might attract distracting controversy towards the work, and wouldn't make sense for a setting that's supposed to be a different world than our own. Mythopoeia is possible, as well as Crystal Dragon Jesus. This will partly depend on whether it's a High Fantasy or Low Fantasy setting, as religion and magic are often closely associated.

This is also frequently the setting of Japanese RPGs, Wutai aside, as well as mostly Western RPGs in between Sci-Fi games. The first settings of Dungeons & Dragons are perhaps the most well-known example - even though many later D&D settings avert this trope, the sheer popularity of Faerûn makes this trope almost synonymous with D&D. Notably averted however in Wuxia, which is a sister trope (Chinese fantasy with a long literary tradition, set in a pseudo-historical Alternate Universe China, featuring magic, wandering errant martial artists, legendary artifacts, dragons and the rest). Played straight in most fantasy anime.


Often depicts the setting as more Arcadia and the Ghibli Hills than the actual medieval Europeans viewed it as, though not always.

Prone to People of Hair Color.

May be imported in a Feudal Future, with or without advanced technology.

If the setting's history starts with The Time of Myths, jumps straight to the medieval period and stays there forever, it's trapped in Medieval Stasis.

See also Heroic Fantasy, Standard Fantasy Setting, Fantasy Counterpart Culture and Hermetic Magic, all of which may overlap with this. See Urban Fantasy and New Weird for alternatives fantasy fans, who were getting tired of this setting, came up with.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 

    Films — Live-Action 

  • The Cup of the World by John Dickinson is set in a world that strongly resembles Medieval Europe, albeit one in which some sort of magic exists. It's also mentioned that the ancestors of most of the world's inhabitants arrived as settlers from an unidentified land to the North.
  • The Deryni works of Katherine Kurtz feature feudal governance and a Christian Church to rival the secular government.
  • Dragon Bones: Vaguely medieval, vaguely European, with a couple of little countries unified under a high king, castles, swordfights, dragons, dwarves and all that. The king's court seems a bit anachronistic, as the king's habit of keeping a male concubine seems to be largely accepted, and everyone knows that the queen has a lover. Like in Lord of the Rings, the botany isn't accurately medieval European, either.
  • Being based on the setting that gave birth to RPGs, more or less any book universe based off of Dungeons & Dragons. Especially Dragonlance.
  • The First Law trilogy is mostly this setting, though it would definitely be late medieval or even early Renaissance. Or at least the corruption and backstabbing politics of the Renaissance. As the timeline progresses, the series apears to settle in Early-Modern European Fantasy.
  • The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion popularized the setting in modern times, though it bears less of a resemblance to High Medieval Europe than many of its successors.
  • The Iron Teeth is occupied by humans that live in a medieval society with Kings, nobles, peasants,and medieval levels of technology.
  • Jack Vance's Lyonesse trilogy is set on the mythical island of Hybras, off the coast of France, and shares a style and approximate era with many ahistorical Arthurian romances.
  • Osten Ard, the setting of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, strongly resembles Medieval Europe in terms of society (though not so much geography) with a number of direct Fantasy Counterpart Cultures and an obvious Catholic Church-analogue.
  • The Mortal Instruments: Idris positively screams this, and thus City of Glass could be seen as fitting this genre, whereas the rest of the setting is Urban Fantasy, especially being focused mostly on New York City.
  • The setting of No Good Deed... is heavily patterned on mid-15th Century Europe, particularly the Holy Roman Empire.
  • Ranger's Apprentice is a young adult/children's series with this setting. Occasionally the stories move beyond "Europe", however.
  • The Kingdom of the Isles from The Riftwar Cycle, although it's implied this may be because its people are directly descended from European refugees fleeing the Enemy, in the same way that Kesh is of Asian stock.
  • George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire is set primarily on the fictional continent of Westeros, based on medieval European culture; its geography and history are also loosely based on England/Great Britain (the North is analogous to a blend of Northern England and the Scottish Lowlands, while the Westerlands with their mineral wealth correspond to Wales and Cornwall). Dorne in the south has Spanish flavor, setting it apart from the rest of the continent. Locations in Essos generally are further removed from the medieval Europe archetype and have a variety of influences: for instance, the Free Cities bring to mind the Mediterranean city-states of Italy, Greece, and Phoenicia, while the cities of the Slaver's Bay (Astapor, Yunkai and Mereen) and Qarth seem primarily inspired by ancient Mesopotamian civilizations such as the Assyrian and Babylonian empires, with elements of Dynastic Egypt.
  • The Sword with No Name trilogy by Andrei Belyanin has a modern-day man transported by unknown means to such a setting, full of deliberate anachronisms. For example, the Big Bad is an Evil Sorcerer terrorizing the land from his floating city and is Wicked Cultured (he actually wears a modern-day business suit).
    • Belyanin's Jack the Mad King books are also set in this sort of setting, minus the Fish out of Temporal Water scenario, but still full of anachronisms (like the protagonist and a giant using modern street slang, although that could be Translation Convention). Until the last story, though, when the characters head East to save a sultan's daughter.
    • A variation in Belyanin's Tsar Gorokh's Detective Agency series, where the setting involves a Fish out of Temporal Water scenario, in which a modern-day Russian cop is transported to an idealized fantasy (almost fairy tale) version of Medieval Russia. There are still many aspects of the trope, but its more their Russian equivalents. For example, there are no brave knights in the books, but there are brave druzhinniki (the Tsar's guard), armed with sabers and Hand Cannons. While the Tsar is just and beloved by the people (it's the boyars, the aristocratic advisors, they don't trust), he can get a little hot-headed and is quick to punish when he's sure the guilty party has been found. The protagonist, being a fresh-out-of-police-academy rookie cop is insistent on following due process and finding enough evidence. Also, all supernatural is straight out of Russian fairy tales, with the Big Bad of the entire series being Koschei the Deathless, a prominent figure in those tales. There are some Western influences, though, such as zombies rising out of their graves.
  • Fiona Patton's Tales of the Branion Realm are set in a Fantasy Counterpart Culture version of Britain, with many unusual names.
  • William Morris's The Well at the World's End and its other related novels, which helped inspire the above.
  • Widdershins Adventures is set in a late medieval/Renaissance fantasy counterpart of France.
  • A Wizard in Rhyme takes place primarily in a Fantasy Counterpart France. (Specifically, it's an actual Alternate History version of medieval Europe; the splitting point was that at the founding of Rome, Remus won instead of Romulus, so the city is called Reme.)
  • The Traitor Son Cycle is very obviously based on Western Europe circa 1300s, with a dash of Arthurian mythos and hermetic magic thrown in.
  • Ankh-Morpork and environs started out as this, since Discworld was initially just a parody of fantasy tropes. However, since Sir Terry didn't believe in Medieval Stasis, it progressed very rapidly, reaching a level he described as "Late Georgian, but without the late George" for much of the series, before Raising Steam dragged it kicking and screaming into the Century of the Fr ... er, the Victorian period.

    Live Action TV 

  • from Gloryhammer: Their first album,Tales from The Kingdom of Fife is set in Medieval Fantasy Scotland. It starts with an evil sorcerer and an army of undead unicorns laying waste to Dundee and rides the tropes from there. This is because it is an Affectionate Parody of Power Metal Heavy Mithril bands.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons plays this straight and averts it, depending on which campaign setting you choose to explore:
    • Forgotten Realms plays this straight...ish, given its inherently High Fantasy setting leads to certain changes. Still, for overall aesthetic, it fits this much better.
    • Greyhawk plays this trope straightest of all, and is perhaps the original reason for D&D's association with this kind of setting.
    • Dragonlance is essentially this with some heightened emphasis on chivalry.
    • Mystara zigzags it; whilst some areas are definitely playing this trope straight, others subvert it, and the setting as a whole is so incredibly weird that it probably counts as an aversion, what with the Hollow World, the civilization of catfolk samurai who ride flying sabertooth tigers on the moon, the flying city built from magitek, and so forth.
    • Eberron is a strict aversion; whilst the setting has some overtones reminiscent of post-World War Europe, its foundations lie in Dungeonpunk by way of Magitek Dieselpunk, Pulp Fantasy, and Noir.
    • The Nentir Vale averts this; the World looks absolutely nothing like Medieval Europe and is clearly shaped by the many fantastical races, creatures, events and powers. Floating islands are called out as an uncommon but natural part of the background scenery, whilst the different races have very distinct aesthetics to gear and building structures. Dwarves, for example, prefer strong geometric symbols, whilst the tieflings of Bael Turath favored twisting, cylindrical buildings and weapons with a half-melted, jagged aesthetic.
    • Planescape subverts this; the setting's centerpiece, Sigil, can be described as Industrial Revolution London turned into a Fantasy Kitchen Sink, whilst the planes themselves run off literally every heaven and hell trope you can think up.
    • Dark Sun is another aversion, being set in a fantasy version of The Apunkalypse, where everyone uses bone, chitin and stone weaponry because metal is so rare that metalworking skills have gone extinct.
    • Ravenloft both plays it straight and averts it, depending on where you go. Different Domains have different technological levels, so while many (like Barovia and Darkon) are this, some, like Dementlieu, are closer to the Victorian era, and others, like Har'akir, are even earlier, being more akin to ancient Egypt.
  • Pugmire is a post-apocalyptic setting populated by Uplifted dogs after Man's disappearance who use plastic as currency and treat human Lost Technology as magic. Otherwise though it's effectively a more story-based version of D&D with dogs.
  • Most countries in 7th Sea, although the ruins of the ancient Syrneth civilization mix things up a bit.
    • Again, only Ussura is truly medieval. Other countries are well into mid-17th century Renaissance, with Age of Exploration and Thirty Years' War playing key roles in the world development.
  • Ars Magica even calls its setting 'Mythic Europe' and is set in historically correct settings with many folklore and religious fantasy thrown in for the good measure. In a nutshell, it is the actual medieval Europe with all fantastic beliefs made true.
  • Citadels is set in a Low Fantasy Medieval Europe style age of conquest.
  • The Dark Eye has Aventuria, a rough equivalent of Europe with Mittelreich modeled after the Holy German Empire. Other countries and lands also fit the role of Fantasy Counterpart Culture.
  • Justified in GURPS Fantasy with the world of Yrth, where a massive magical backfire several centuries before the current date transported in large numbers of humans from medieval Europe, who then did their best to build themselves a new home that looked and worked more or less like what they came from. Simultaneously double subverted by the nation of Sahud — first, it was populated with medieval Asians, and second, they were mostly peasants from four or five different cultures, who tried to do the same as the Europeans but ended up with a society that looked less like any actual Asian nation of the period and more like The Mikado on acid, as written by Monty Python.
  • Havok And Hijinks
  • King Arthur's Pendragon, as the name suggests, is based on Mallory's version of Arthurian England, mixing high-medieval setting with magic and Celtic paganism.
  • The default setting of Ironclaw is the kingdom of Calebria, split between major houses based on different European cultures (Avoirdupois=French, Bisclavret=Scottish, Doloreaux=Germanic, Rinaldi=Italian), and overseen by the monotheistic Church of S'Allumer. The "Book of Jade" supplement (Jadeclaw in 1st edition) introduces the nation of Zhongguo across the seas from Calebria, for a more Wuxia campaign, while "Book of Horn and Ivory" has fantasy counterparts to Africa and the Middle East.
  • While Rifts is set in the future, the England Sourcebook has heavy overtones of this, right down to huge heaping handfuls of Arthurian Legend. Justified in that the setting is a Fantasy Kitchen Sink with more than enough Anachronism Stew, Days of Future Past, and Schizo Tech to go around.
  • Warhammer Fantasy partially played the trope straight and partially averted it: Its 'focus' faction, The Empire, was modelled off the Holy Roman Empire during the 16th/17th century (pre-Thirty Years' War). Its neighbour, Bretonnia, started out looking like pre-revolutionary France during the 16th-18th century, before regressing into this trope by becoming a The High Middle Ages-style feudal nation, while its northern neighbour Kislev was modelled off the early Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth during the 16th century (but with more emphasis on empty steppes and Cossacks). Other factions ran the gamut of 'feudal monarchies with steam power and guns' (the dwarfs) to '18th century enlightenment monarchy with 11th century technology but magic' (high elves), 'Spain and Italy in the 16th century' (the Southern Realms) or 'stone age-era absolute theocracy/magocracy' (the lizardmen). The forces of disorder similarly ran the gamut from '13th century absolute military dictatorship' (the dark elves) to 'The Horde' (Chaos, greenskins) or 'Social Darwinist nightmare' (Skaven). Its RPG spin-off, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, bases much of its setting on the Empire, making most adventures in the game an example of this trope but with guns present.

    Video Games 
  • The vast majority of western RPGs (as shown by the page quote). Listing exceptions would probably be easier. This was likely caused by Dungeons & Dragons. Many western RPGs basically seek to be as much like Dungeons and Dragons as possible, even when they aren't actually owned by the same company.
  • One map in Backyard Skateboarding, Merry Old Englandland, fits this trope perfectly.
  • The Breath of Fire series. Subverted in Breath of Fire III (to some extent) and especially in Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter, which, while not necessarily in the same "Canon" as the others, is set inside an underground sci-fi world made to escape the pollution on the surface. It's assumed by fans to take place long after Breath of Fire III.
  • Cadash is a textbook example, except for the Ninja character.
  • Castlevania takes place at various points in history, including the Middle Ages, The Renaissance, the modern age, and even Twenty Minutes Into Thefuture, though the overall aesthetic is Gothic Horror.
  • Chrono Trigger subverts this by starting out with two time periods that fit this trope, then taking you to a high tech future.
    • 1000 AD seems to be pretty schizoid, though, seeing as how they have refrigerators, stoves, apparently large-scale power plants that would be necessary to operate both, guns, mechanized warfare, and steam power (the ferry,) but there are no cars or paved roads, and Guardia's standing army has no firearms. On the other hand, Guardia is the sole world power in 1000 AD, so it's not like they need firearms.
  • Dark Souls is set in a mix between Medieval European Fantasy and Dark Fantasy.
  • The original Diablo has this in full force. Act One of the sequel takes place in the same medieval region, but quickly departs it in favor of Qurac, Mayincatec, Hell, and the a scary snowy place in that order.
  • The Empire in Disciples is a typical example. There are knights, priests, inquisitors, mercenaries, peasants, Christian-themed angels.
  • Dragon Age games and books take place in a Fantasy Counterpart Culture setting, where most countries/cultures having a prototype in our history. The nations of Ferelden and Orlais are based on Medieval England and France, respectively, right down to the accents. Antiva, though never shown, is described like Rennaissance Italy, although Antivans have a Spanish accent for some reason. Other parallels are less Clear. Interestingly, Dragon Age: Origins does not include any horses or mounted warriors, reducing the image of a knight a little. The novels, on the other hand, have them in spades. The Orlesians, for example, fight mostly using their heavy cavalry troops known as the chevaliers (French for "knights"), while the Fereldans prefer infantry, with a mix of magic and war dogs thrown in.
    • The sequel introduces the Free Marches, which are implied to be the equivalent of the Holy Roman Empire, except the Free Marches is just a name, with each city-state being, pretty much, on its own. Kirkwall, for example, doesn't even have a king but a Viscount. However, the city of Starkhaven does have a prince and a royal family, but the Prince of Starkhaven rules only Starkhaven.
  • The Dragon Quest series. Dragon Quest VII is the only one that doesn't play this trope straight, adding in robot NPCs.
  • The Drakengard series uses this theme along with Dark Fantasy. Amusingly if one looks at the games world map one can see that it is Europe just flipped upside down.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Arena and Daggerfall Downplay it. Most of the races show cultural influences from outside of Europe, such as the Middle Eastern/African influences on the Redguard, Native American on the Argonians, and influences of the Chinese and Mesoamerican (in addition to the primary influence of the Romans) Empires on Cyrodiil. Overall though, the atmosphere of the games fits pretty squarely into the standard European Fantasy mold.
    • Averted by Morrowind, which is the most abstract game in the series to date. While some of the Imperial settlements still invoke this trope, the native settlements (such as the Telvanni mushroom cities and Redoran hollowed-out giant crab shell cities) and the landscape itself (ranging from mucky marshlands to ash wastes to Lethal Lava Land) are incredibly alien. It also features significant Earth Drift, where even the majority of the native animal species have no Earth analogues. It is also interesting as it's the only game in the series (besides Arena, in which every province is visited) that takes place in an Elven homeland. Particularly the Dunmer, who have more basis in the ancient Near East with some Biblical Hebrew/Israelite influences. (Led to Morrowind by the Moses/Abraham hybrid prophet Veloth, who are struggling for independence during occupation by a powerful foreign empire and who practice a comparatively unusual religion for the setting.)
    • Oblivion. Despite all prior lore stating that Cyrodiil was a dense tropical jungle, it appeared here as a European-style temperate forest land. (With a Cosmic Retcon Hand Wave thrown in to explain it.) Nearly every non-Daedric foe is based on a real life animal or a creature from real world mythology. Most of the races were portrayed without their connections to the non-European cultures they had in the previous games.
    • Skyrim subverts it by taking place in a Northern Medieval European Fantasy setting. Cultural diversity among the races is restored, and there is a better balance of enemy animal and creature varieties.
  • The first five Final Fantasy games go in and out of this. The seventh, eighth, and thirteenth games are very much not examples, but most of the rest have some degree of this. The tenth is an odd example. It has anti-technology, though that turns out to be the Big Bad's plan. It also has more Asian inspired elements coming across as a mash up of Medieval Europe and Asian Wuxia.
  • The Fire Emblem series.
    • Fire Emblem Fates has two countries that make up its setting - Hoshido is Japan-like, while Nohr is square in this trope.
  • Guild Wars nails this trope in all other aspects but subverts it when it comes to geography: The tutorial level of Prophecies (pre searing) looks like the game would be something like this, with medieval castles, green Ghibli Hills and otherwise European geography. Then the Charr summon their Earth-Shattering Kaboom. Ascalon ends up as a broken wasteland and every other locations tries to avoid this trope. The rest of Tyria is (in order) Death Mountain, a Beach Episode, Jungle Japes, Shifting Sand Land, Slippy-Slidey Ice World and Lethal Lava Land / Mordor. The continent Cantha in contrast is the Far East while Elona has heavy African and Middle East influences.
  • Heroes of Might and Magic has the Haven faction, which is your typical European castle with knights, archers, monks, etc. Until HoMM V, the Tower faction used to be a typical "ivory tower" city full of magical libraries and wizards. It has since been replaced with a more Middle Eastern-themed floating desert city and renamed Academy.
  • The King of Dragons, a Platform Game in which you fight lots of classical fantasy monsters and the red dragon as the final boss.
  • The Legend of Zelda is predominantly medieval fantasy (with notable Greek influences in addition to the standard Western European ones), though the games also have Arabic and Japanese influences. The Wind Waker arc, however, moves into the early modern period with more Caribbean influences and elements of Steam Punk, and Breath of the Wild has outright Sci-Fi/futuristic elements.
  • Played with in Little War Game, while there are Soldiers, Archers, and Dragons, there are also Airships and Ballistas. It can be argued that this is needed for competitive balance considering that the game is a Real-Time Strategy game.
  • Majesty, though it's an affectionate parody and set out to be a Cliché Storm.
  • Mount & Blade, which tries to keep as close to a realistic medieval setting as is physically possible, has this trope as its entire point. The games feature a number of empires based on historical nations such as the Mongolian Empire's 'Khergit Khanate' expy, though not all of the empires existed at the same time or necessarily had contact. On the other hand, the With Fire and Sword Expansion Pack is explicitly set in Poland in 1648. No points for guessing the time and locations of Napoleonic Wars
  • Ogre Battle
  • Phantasy Star III has a variant: it turns out that the entire medieval-style world the game takes place in is in reality an Arc-like spaceship that was fleeing the destruction of a very technologically advanced planet, and all the inhabitants are descendants of the ship's original population. After about 1,000 years and a lot of conflict, they lost their ancestors' technological advancements as well as the knowledge about the real nature of their world.
  • The default tilesets in the RPG Maker are designed for making RPGs in this setting, although RPG Maker VX supplied an alternative tileset catering to games set 20 Minutes into the Future.
  • Runescape, though with Arabian and African/Caribbean based settings, as well as some post-Medieval European technology.
  • For the most part the Shining Series is set here.
  • Sonic and the Black Knight - Justified in this case, since it's based around the Arthurian myths.
  • Most of the Star Ocean games attempt to avert this by setting up a sci-fi universe, but fall right back into it by leaving you stuck on an 'undeveloped world' (which are mainly Medieval European Fantasy worlds) for most of the game.
  • Super Robot Wars NEO has you visit Earth Tear from Lord Of Lords Ryu Knight.
  • The Sword Coast from the Forgotten Realms campaign setting. Unfortunately, most videogames set in the Forgotten Realms take place in the Sword Coast.
  • The Tales Series. Some tend to have an anime-like blend of Technology (mostly Abyss) but that still doesn't keep them from having royalty.
  • Medieval Mode in Team Fortress 2 and the cp_degrootkeep map, which surprisingly has modern-day computers hidden in the castle.
  • Thief is part this and part Steampunkish Film Noir.
  • Total Annihilation: Kingdoms: the kingdom of Aramon takes the stereotypical theme of European Fantasy. It has knights, wizards, dragons, along with gunpowder cannons.
  • Played with in Valkyria Chronicles, which used to be one of these settings, complete with magic crystals and people born with mystical abilities, but has since progressed into an analogue of a different bloody and war-torn period of European history. Even so it still has many stylistic nods to the genre, with The Empire's soldiers wearing combat armor designed to look like Diesel Punk knights, wielding anti-tank rocket launchers shaped like jousting lances and their heavier tanks even looking like mobile castles. Ragnite itself meanwhile, the mineral that's key to fueling industrial civilization, is what would in any other medieval fantasy be considered a mystic orb.
  • The Warcraft series, at least as far as the human kingdoms are concerned. The third game and the MMORPG add a slew of other settings, such as the vaguely Asian nightelves, the Native American-ish Tauren, Caribbean Trolls, the Steam Punk gnomes (and goblins), the Magitek-using draenei, vaguely Persian-ish Blood Elves, and the nordic vyrkul. Later on, there's the addition of the Asian-themed pandaren (the trailer revealing them has a pandaren monk (in a conical hat, no less) using a bamboo staff to thoroughly beat the crap out of a human and an orc with kung fu), originally introduces as a joke.
  • The Witcher, and the books it's based on. In this case though, it's based on Slavic mythology while making use of Eastern European (more specifically Polish) culture and history as inspiration.
  • Played with in Wurm Online, which seems to be set in a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of the Mediterranean; there's wine instead of ale, you can plant olive groves and some of the architecture has a faint Ancient Grome vibe.
  • While Paladins is a Dungeon Punk world with a variety of settings, the maps Stone Keep and Magistrate's Archives are the most European-styled of all the maps. Taking place in a stone fortress, Stone Keep appears to be a cross between a medieval castle and a monastery. Magistrate's Archives appears to be a cross between an observatory and a library.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation