Fantasy media

Genre studies


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Low fantasy is an umbrella term, describing various works within different sub-genres of fantasy, to contrast specific works with high fantasy. Though a vague term, some features that may indicate low fantasy are: downplaying of epic or dramatic aspects, de-emphasising magic, real-world settings, realism, cynical storytelling and dark fantasy. An archetypal example of low fantasy might take place in a quasi-historical setting where the protagonists lack a clear moral initiative, are haunted by dark pasts or character flaws and where conventional fantasy elements (such as magic, elves, or dwarves) are lacking or absent.

There are many arguments about what constitutes the line between Low and High fantasy, but invariably in High Fantasy there is a moral dichotomy of altruistic good and irredeemable evil, and in low fantasy there are many shades of gray, where the "main character" is often an anti-hero.

The Lord of the Rings is seen as the quintessential high fantasy tale that all others either emulate or studiously avoid, and so elves and dwarves and a commonality of magic are seen as the hallmarks of High Fantasy, but in truth it is the stark black and white separation of good and evil that locks it into the "High Fantasy" realm.

Shadowrun, and the lore behind Shadowbane, are both examples of fantasy that includes elves and dwarves, in a setting without a clear good/evil dichotomy. Many of the White Wolf role-playing games would also be considered low fantasy, while including magic and/or "fantastical" races and themes because of the moral ambiguity of the setting. Additionally, Star Wars lacks typical High Fantasy races and has a science fiction setting, yet maintains the High Fantasy good versus evil theme.

The sword and sorcery genre is the style of fantasy writing most associated with Low Fantasy.

Low fantasy in gaming

Low fantasy exists in role-playing games such as Shadowrun, Hârn, Seventh Sea, and the products of many d20 manufacturers like White Wolf and Skirmisher Publishing LLC. [1] Examples in computer and video games include the Myth series, The Chronicles of Spellborn[2], Darklands, Shadow Hearts, Shadowbane, Wurm Online, ArmageddonMUD, The Witcher and the Age of Conan.


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