- A world where humans are in the majority, with mostly elves, dwarves, and halflings (“hobbits,” for those who speak Tolkien) making up a smaller minority. Except in the worlds where there isn’t anything that isn’t a human.
- Orcs are always evil.
- Demons are always evil.
- You can make statements like “always” about any race that isn’t an elf, dwarf, human or halfling, and be absolutely correct. Mostly.
- Heroes fight mostly humans, or things like goblins and orcs. Real monsters are rarer and much more frightening. Goblins are annoying. Orcs are disturbingly savage.
- Magic is rare and powerful; “magic items” are the subject of legends, and most heroes can go their whole lives without seeing one. Those who do often wind up on a quest to destroy it, ala The One Ring. Magic often does very little to affect the lives of the average citizen.
- There’s pretty much only one world, and maybe a heavenly realm and a hellish one that our heroes aren’t likely to visit. Unless they die.
- Victory will probably be achieved by stabbing something using a pointy object, or otherwise using force.
- Death is usually the end of the story.
- A world where humans are still in the majority, along with elves, dwarves and halflings, but where meeting members of other races is far more common, and you might find people who are descended from dragons, have tails or horns or wings, and so on, but who still basically qualify as ‘humanoid’; basically it’s like Star Trek, only on one planet instead of billions. Also, anything with the same number of limbs as you is probably genetically compatible, and meeting half-whatevers isn’t unlikely. Go figure.
- Conflicted orcs, half orcs, drow, or any number of other races, might be found bearing angst about the actions of their families and wanting to make up for them in some way.
- You can’t really say that orcs are “always” anything, because sooner or later you’ll meet one who proves you wrong. Much like the real world, actually. You can, however, say, “the majority of orcs are ___ ” and be right.
- Demons are probably still always evil, but you might STILL meet one who proves you wrong.
- The sheer number of monsters our heroes encounter is sometimes enough to make one wonder what exactly the world did before they showed up. And how it survived that long.
- Magic is pretty common and powerful; magic items are more likely to be found in your lifetime, and our heroes might have several. Each. Absurdly powerful evil items are still possible, and quests to destroy them might happen, too.
- This might be the only world. There might also be an absurd number of other worlds out there, and they can either be found through dimensional travel or, heaven help us, the far less likely space travel. It all depends, really.
- The heroes might actually visit hell, heaven, or any number of other places in pursuit of their greater goals. And they’ll probably come back alive.
- Real victory will only be achieved through exploiting magical weaknesses, powerful rituals, destruction of an evil artifact, or, heaven forbid … politics.
- Death is an annoyance.
As for the question of High or Heroic, I’m comfortable with either, so long as saving the world does not become a trivial occurrence as it often is in comics (Alien invasion? Huh. Must be Tuesday.) Also, some of the above blurs the two definitions of High Fantasy together, which may only serve to confuse the issue.
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