I've been thinking of imagining a world and am currently decided whether its gonna be science fiction, science fantasy or fantasy.

However unlike the first two, fantasy is very hard to make immersive (for example like The Elder Scrolls and Dragon Age). To test if a world is immersive, i ask myself. Can a normal person live a normal life in this world if he wanted to? If the answer is yes, mission complete.

I take games as inspiration and look at the world they play in and a setting like Dark souls might be cool as hell, but just look how many enemies of different sizes there are, all getting destroyed by a small knight. Besides if i was a normal guy in that world, i most likely wouldnt be able to survive there.

So i think size restrictions must be there. (Skyrims giants are smaller than many other fantasy fiction illustrates them)

So, what restrictions do i have to set, to make my fantasy setting immersive? What tips do you have for me?

PS: It should have a feel like - The Elder Scrolls - Dragon Age - Dark Souls - Bloodborne and similiar which i cant remember atm

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    $\begingroup$ What do you mean by "normal" life? The life of an NPC? Nobody living in a world of magic and monsters is going to have a life that anybody in our plane of existence would consider normal. $\endgroup$
    – Chris M.
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 22:35
  • $\begingroup$ With normal life i mean the life of: - A simple farmer - A Merchant Someone who doesnt want to fight huge dragons or giants Imagine it like that, if you put one human of our world in the universe of Warhammer 40k, he would die, everyone would. But in one like Witcher, survivable. Skyrim, survivable. You know? $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 22:40
  • $\begingroup$ What do you mean by low fantasy? Most of the fantasy realms and worlds have been in place for decades++ and have many iterations that have expanded and fine tuned the various realms to it's current state. $\endgroup$
    – ggiaquin16
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 22:42
  • $\begingroup$ @ggiaquin en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low_fantasy First and second paragraph $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 22:44
  • $\begingroup$ @ggiaquin "Low" fantasy usually means our world with fantasy elements (magic, etc.) superimposed on it. I apologize if you knew that and that wasn't related to your question. $\endgroup$
    – Chris M.
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 22:45

7 Answers 7


A few things to consider:

1. The existence of a stable society

Elder Scrolls does this pretty well. You are the adventuring hero, but many are not. Ordinary people living ordinary lives, depending on you/the king/the army to defend them.

Dark Souls, by comparison, takes place in an apocalyptic medieval-age city that is inhabited solely by violent and formidable creatures. Presumably, somewhere, there is an actual civilization responsible for rounding up the Undead in the first place.

Having a stable society that defends itself from outside threats is crucial for the existence of "normal" laborers and business owners, as opposed to just roaming adventurers. Which leads us to:

2. Monsters that can be defeated by sheer (overwhelming) force

The Chosen Hero is usually unique in some way that allows him or her to prevail over threats no Mere Mortal would challenge. But for normal society not to collapse utterly, common men need to be able to defeat them either through sheer numbers or training or some manner that isn't unique to a Hero. Alternatively, there could be comparatively few violent and aggressive beasts, or they only live in certain areas that normal humans can avoid.

Basically, in order for normal people to have a shot, they need to be able to band together and fend for themselves against the outside world, independent of the goodwill of any roving Heroes.


So, I would consider Lord of the Rings to be high fantasy. I'm going to say Harry Potter is low fantasy. These are my baselines.
Size restrictions seems like a strange place to start on your part, but I can see where you're coming from, in an Attack on Titan world, a normal life would be fairly difficult. I will come back to size in a minute.

Sharkn8do's guide to the "normal"

As pop culture has told us for the past two decades, normal is a fantasy... I would presume a low fantasy, but a fantasy nonetheless. I'm going to assume what you mean by a normal life is the ability to have a chosen profession: farmer, shopkeeper, guard, etc, without needing to interact with the insane fantasy that the protagonist will in movies and video games. This is done in a number of ways, so let's look at them all.


There are a couple classic tropes in movies and video games that explain how the dragonborne can shout skeletons across rooms, but people are disabled by taking arrows to knees. Because tropes require specific examples, I'll be pulling from everything, and will be looking at all fantasy, not just high.

Bloodline/Race/Chosen one

I lump these together because at the heart, they are all the same trope. One person or group of people is special. Whether this is because of their bloodline, their race, or they were chosen by a deity or higher being. This is your skyrims, your harry potter, or basically every superhero movie ever, where others can't do what you do because you are special, and that's the way it is.


Sometimes, it's not because you're different, it's just because you're smarter, or have put in more time, or whatever it is. You trained real hard to do what you're doing, and others didn't. Anyone could do what you can, they just don't put in the time to do it. This would be like metroid, or assassin's creed.


Maybe they aren't aware of what's going, and don't care to. You saved the world and did all the magic, but no one really knew what happened. They know what the world might hold in the realm of magic, but you've seen it. This would be your lord of the rings, your supernatural, that kind of stuff.

Combination of any of these

Maybe they're oblivious and didn't get the education, maybe you're special and needed to be trained (Jedi), but for whatever reason, they don't interact with fantasy worlds in the way you do, and that's okay.

World Characteristics

There are a couple ways you can build your world so that you don't necessarily have to play into any of these tropes, but can still explain why donkey is having making drankey babies with a dragon, and you're making gingerbread.

World segmentation

The grass is always more magic on the other side of the fence. All the good stuff happens over there, and Joe the mechanic is okay with that. Bilbo had to walk this way to find the magic happenings, while the shire was okay with doing their thang. You can do this fairly easy in a world without mass transportation methods. Just make it so all the good stuff happens over there, and all the normal stuff happens over here.

Town sanctity

For some unexplained reason, the towns in skyrim, shovel knight, and all that good stuff tend to be unharmed, while right outside bad things happen almost constantly. Whether it be a big old wall, or just dragons don't like towns, you can do this fairly easily.

Disregard Fantasy, Acquire Currency

Sometimes a group of people just refuse to do anything about the magic, or the war, or whatever. They set up shop in the middle of a wasteland, and don't care about what's going outside of their world. The fantasy might blow through every now and then, but then they go back to their thing. They have a farm to plow, so they're gonna do that till they die.


Now, there are things in your world you can't have if you want to maintain the plebeian population. You touched on size, you can't necessarily sit in your shop and sell discount produce is you're 3 feet tall, and you have 50 foot behemoths regularly stomping all over your discount produce. That is one example, there are a couple others I can think of.

General population

If everyone's super, then nobody will be. If we all do the magics, and there's a constant threat of dying or world destruction, you're probably not going to feel the need to put in that 9-5.


You will need a central economy to motivate commoners to do the commoner thing. If people can pull all their needed things out their magic pouches, why would anyone do anything? You need that realism of "hey, I want to eat, where do I get that food from?"


The best example I can think of is Avatar. Nobody did anything lame in Avatar. Everyone was awesome, and all they did was braid each others tails and fly on things. You can't have that, joe is now sailing birds and eating fruit out of the air, he's not going to be writing you a paper check for a mortgage.

Three dimensions

This one is going to seem weird, and that's because it is. But, you know, we exist in the third dimension, so somethings have to exist in the 2nd or 4th dimensions. You can't really have that daily grind when you're an nth dimensional being who is everything always.


This one can be overlooked as well, because we are such creatures of habit. But, if your world is constantly getting blown up by vogons, or you have monsters coming out your closet on the reg, chances are you're not going to be doing anyone's taxes anytime soon. You'll probably be dead, or looking for gay monsters.


So, unfortunately, as awesome as it would be to have your universe be an acid trip on the fourth dimension, you need to have a decent amount of realism. If you want a crazy world, add some realism, does it make sense that dragon's attack very few towns? no. but Bethesda decided to allow the poor people of white run not die every two days. Hopefully this helps.

  • $\begingroup$ Whether or not Harry Potter is Low-Fantasy is debatable, there are good arguments for it being high fantasy, as it uses a world-within-a-world trope, see here en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low_fantasy $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 17:01
  • $\begingroup$ I'd put the Lord of the Rings at the low end of high fantasy, as it were; we do see a lot of people leading mundane lives, astonished even to see travelers. In the Harry Potter novels, by contrast, we only get brief interludes in the mundane world, and even then, fantastic things happen; for most of the text, hardly a sentence goes by without some attention being drawn to the fantastic. $\endgroup$
    – bgvaughan
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 21:40

Take a look at the Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher.

In it, everyone has some magical talent. Well.. Everyone but the protagonist of the series. But since everyone has some talent and almost no one has a great deal of talent, it becomes a part of the society. And those with more power tend to more political power as well... so the pieces all intersect well. Also, this world is not D&D like at all. There are certainly fantasy creatures, but not hordes of dungeons to crawl through and dragons attacking the villages and such. The fantasy creatures are few and far between at the beginning.

Also, look at modifying the standard tropes. Dragon Magazine once had an article in which the author basically said if magic and dragons were a commonplace, real, thing, then castles as we know them wouldn't exist. They are useless defenses against a dragon, or a handful of high powered wizards. While the validity of that assessment is arguable, the idea behind it is solid: if magic/fantasy elements are commonplace, things would develop along very different pathways from the real world.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Early in the history of MMORPGs, there was a lot of interest in trying to make these imaginary worlds at least seem like viable societies. So, "adventurer" was treated as simply a dangerous occupation, and quests tended to be described as non-unique, even routine events. (These days, too much fantasy seems like Dragonball Z to me.) $\endgroup$
    – bgvaughan
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 21:58
  1. Define normal
  2. Make normal places
  3. Define the edges of the normal places
  4. Graduate how close things get, the further from the normal places, the worse the things you'll meet

The army keeps things like dragons and giants far enough away from the major cities that people who stay close to the centre of the civilisations will hear stories of wolves in the night, but won't be out after dark away so they'll never see one. Anything else will be legends of far off places. Remember that this is the job of a standing army, not a job for roaming adventurers. If a dragon has a hunting range of 20miles, then the army must go 20miles into the badlands and make sure there are no dragons nesting within that range of the normal places. Maintain an army that can deal with dragons, giants etc, as needed.

If you're going high fantasy with elves, dwarfs etc, then each race can have its own way of dealing with things that go bump in the night, but in any given case, your average farmer should never have to deal with anything worse than a stray wolf.

The adventurers can go out into the wilds for whatever reason and face the beasts on their own ground on their own lookout, but it shouldn't be for protection of the normal.


You can easily push the fantasy level higher the more dystopian you make the world. Dragons raiding villages and sorcerers changing the laws of physics every morning? That just means more people living desperately on the edge, barely trusting anyone outside of their immediate clan, expecting death at every turn. You want ubiquitous magic? That just means more people heavily armed and many of them thinking they're good enough to get away with it. Or it means a draconian police force that will reduce a 10-year-old to a slime mold if he or she casts a single spell without permission ("There are rules against underage wizardry, Harry. Looks like Longbottom will be the Chosen One.")

Basically, civil society requires rules and limits on individual action. Magic removes those limits. So you either abandon civil society or you raise the rules to such strength that magic cannot overcome them.

Or you choose a species other than humans. A bunch of peacenik elves who think a swift response is one you only contemplated for a century, for example.


Remember that Dark Souls "place of happening" is very small section of the whole world. Even in the first one levels are designed in a stack format rather than spread. And it's a one castle with a borough. In second part it's castle and it's surrounding commune.

And to be there you need to first go to Asylum (first part) and THEN travel to story place. So if you don't want to you don't go there.
The rest of the world just live in this medieval world with people who are cursed. And that's just all.

But to incorporate the size I use a modern metaphor of Chernobyl. A place where things mutate to large size and nowhere else. Also they can't survive anywhere else because only there they can find giant cows to feed on.

In your world it could be some unrefined magic source or an old mage tower where he gathered artefacts and over time they started affecting surrounding.

For the best IMHO "low fantasy" story read Umberto Eco "Baudolino".


Although very old and difficult to find any more, Gene Wolfe's "Book of the New Sun" is perhaps the finest "High Fantasy" setting which would follow your strictures. The setting is actually hundreds of thousands of years in the future, and "magic" is (by implication) the result of high technology and biological engineering from previous civilizations that have remained or continued to function throughout the ages.

In this regard, we can also think of this as a reversion to very ancient Pagan environments, where every object has a spirit or anima controlling it or providing it with some sort of life force. When the trees and flowers can inform you of the local environmental conditions, buildings complain about being old and infirm unless they get needed repairs and so on, I'd suggest that you are living in a "high fantasy" world.

Two other suggestions. Karl Schroeder has written a series of books (Virga) set in a vast 3 dimensional 3D construct in free space. The fact that everything is in freefall and you must think and work in 3 dimensions adds a sort of dreamlike fantasy element to what is otherwise a straight up science fiction setting. He also wrote an essay on what he called the "Rewilding" which expands on the sort of ideas the Gene Wolfe had built into "The Book of the New Sun".

The real art comes from making the assumptions of your high fantasy setting seamlessly integrate with all aspects of your constructed society, so you don't get inadvertent clashes of ideas or setting which take the reader out of the story going "huh? Where did that come from?"


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