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So You Want To / Write a High Fantasy

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High Fantasy! The adventures on an epic scale of good and evil in imaginary worlds, filled with magic, dragons, and no more than medieval tech! Where the young person finds the MacGuffin and defeats the Evil Overlord and saves the world!

You may want to also read Write a Heroic Fantasy — the lines between that subgenre and this one are not set in stone.

Necessary Tropes

  • Setting - A world other than ours. It may have a nominal connection with present day Earth, such as being our remote past or future, but this plays no role in the plot. Mythopoeia is often put into play to define the very metaphysics of the world. Nevertheless it often resembles medieval Europe.
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  • Scale - Epic. Power politics, wars, the death of nations, gods walking the earth, and the real threat of The End of the World as We Know It—which is why the genre is also known as epic fantasy.
  • The Big Bad is the Evil Overlord and really, really, really bad. He tends to be not so much a man as a personification of some evil and destructive force.
  • Winning by sheer brute force is more typical of Heroic Fantasy. The MacGuffin or some such piece of magic is commonly needed, though usually a fair amount of sneaking is needed.
  • Functional Magic


Choices, Choices



Potential Subversions

  • Because Destiny Says So is the commonest reason why the Farm Boy has to succeed. Developing other reasons can work. Perhaps the littlest wizard has to do the job because all the more powerful ones were massacred.
    • Perhaps being a hero helps pays the bills in your fantasy universe? It could be an interesting way to explore the moralities of the people who maintain such an occupation.
  • Morals. Black and White Morality is common. But shades of gray among the heroes and lower ranking villains often works. (Lighting up the Evil Overlord generally moves you out of the genre entirely.)
  • Try incorporating an interesting spin on the common fantasy races. If your works has elves then why not make them a little more alien? One-Gender Race wouldn't hurt.
    • To add to the above example try tackling the downside of elves being eternally beautiful, such as drawing a lot of unwanted attention.
  • How about a story where a character wants to become an evil overlord? In doing so the character becomes a Noble Demon who is up against an evil overlord that is a Complete Monster.
  • To step further outside the Black and White Morality try having the group in your fantasy setting consist of a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits. The kind of fantasy characters that nobody expects to root for but we do in the long run.

Writers' Lounge

Suggested Themes and Aesops

Potential Motifs

Suggested Plots

  • Revolt! The Orcs and/or Beastmen are bloody sick of being herded off to die in their thousands, and it's time for a change! Who is this upstart champion of the downtrodden and musclebound? None other than your main character!
  • War! An Evil Overlord bent on world domination is razing every kingdom in his wake. The heroes must unite the ever-bickering races of the world to stand against him!


Set Designer / Location Scout

Props Department

  • Functional magic items work well.
  • Swords with some sort of plot significance are staples of this genre, usually imbued with magical power.

Costume Designer

  • Tunics and cloaks are common, mainly because they were worn in medieval Europe.
  • Wizards sometimes wear pointy and/or raggedy hats. These sometimes have plot significance.

Casting Director

Stunt Department

Extra Credit

The Greats


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