I'm looking for a fantasy setting which should fit these rather specific key points:

  1. Overall dark feeling. This will be a Monster Hunters game, so heroic sillyness, a comic-book feel, and so on are unwanted. This shouldn't be a full-grimdark setting, but life is short and cruel, and there are monsters out there, and some of them people.

    Important point: this doesn't mean realism and "low fantasy" — there should be magic and the possibility to become a great hero... it's just that becoming a great villain is so much easier.

  2. Pre-made and detailed. I would like to leave worldbuilding to someone else; I suck at it. The more pre-written material, the better.
  3. No non-human Tolkien races (elves, dwarfs, orcs and derivatives); only humans and the monsters around them, both wild and human-related.
  4. Magic is present and relatively powerful (as in "high fantasy"), as are supernatural abilities and powers.
  5. Not based on Earth; not "urban fantasy"; medieval tech-level.

I would say it should be like World of Darkness, but more fantasy-like and less monster-centred. No WoD: Dark Ages, please: it's not high-magic enough and focuses too much on the monsters instead of the humans.

I will playing using GURPS 4ed, so system advice isn't needed, thank you in advance.

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    \$\begingroup\$ except #3 looks a lot like WFRP to me. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 15, 2015 at 15:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ I was going to to recommend the Witcher Series as a great setting with exception to your #3 requirement. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 15, 2015 at 15:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Why don't you just ignore #3 and skip over the details mentionning other races? Might make your search easier without too much hassle afterwards \$\endgroup\$
    – Mouhgouda
    Jan 15, 2015 at 20:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ >Why don't you just ignore #3 and skip over the details mentionning other races? Because this is kinda the point. If I take Witcher world, there inevitably will be player who would like to play an elf, or dwarf, or (insert race name), and this is kinda destroying human-centered feeling I want to develop. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 15, 2015 at 20:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ You said no WoD, but are you familiar with Dark Ages: Inquisitor? It's a Hunter-esque line for WoD Dark Ages, in which PCs play humans, sometimes with divine & magical powers, who are hunting the WoD monsters. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jessa
    Jan 15, 2015 at 21:36

5 Answers 5


Shadows of Esteren

  1. It is a medieval-style fantasy setting based loosely on Scotland, and caste in a dark, gritty light. Magic and monsters are very much part of world, which makes it a dark and scary place for the common person to inhabit.
  2. The setting is detailed in the source book. It provides multiple social/political factions and groups that provides tension between different philosophies, religion and approaches to magic.
  3. It's about humans.
  4. Common people don't normally have much direct interaction with magic, but it's pervasive enough that everyone knows it's there and probably as some first-hand experience of seeing it. Players who want their characters to gain access to magical abilities over time have options for doing it.

There's a free starter book available here: http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product/109112/Shadows-of-Esteren---Book-0-Prologue It comes with an overview of the setting and three playable intro scenarios. I've played Loch Varne, and found it frightening and compelling.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks! That look like just what I need, and I definetely will give it a try. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 15, 2015 at 22:10

Anima: Beyond Fantasy is a game inspired by western fantasy with a manga-inspired kinaesthetic.

  1. Dark: It is. Not all the time - but the darkness is always waiting below the surface, and will form a significant element of most campaigns. There are spells that annihilate souls; Creatures dwell in the wake of the world feeding on fear and hope; There are usurpers of gods and twisted humans, and a blurred line between them; Anyone with any kind of supernatural power will be considered a witch if discovered by the populace, and the inquisition tries to burn witches. (To be fair, most supernatural powers in the setting are incredibly powerful; People are right to fear them.)
  2. Pre-made and detailed: I'd say so. The game has a rather detailed world setting book and a number of published adventures. If I were you, I'd set your monster hunter game in the nation of Moth, which is close enough to the wake that strange things can creep in to the mortal world at the bidding of their nightmare lords.
  3. No non-human Tolkenien races: There are no non-human civilised beings, because they've been dead so long that their existence has become a myth. The closest thing is the Nephilim - humans born with the ancient reincarnated souls of nonhumans - but they're rare, and appear entirely human to outward appearances under normal circumstances. (Also, the nonhuman races were mostly non-Tolkenien even while living).
  4. Magic and supernatural powers are present and powerful: Yes. Broadly speaking, the three forms of supernatural power in the setting are magic, which manipulates the flow of souls to create incredible effects, Ki, which allows martially-minded types to perform superhuman feats, and Mentalism, which is psychic. All three of these are very versatile, and can be absurdly powerful; With the right specialisation and training, a ki user can destroy mountains, an magic-user can alter the memories of the world, and a mentalist can reforge matter on the molecular level. Fortunately for the safety of the world, supernatural abilities are rare enough, and their practitioners sufficiently clandestine, that most educated people consider them myth.
  5. Not based on earth, mediaeval technology level, not urban fantasy: Yep, yes, and yeah. It has it's own setting. The technology level varies by region but is mostly mediaeval, with the most technologically advanced nation in the world having just achieved something similar to the renaissance. That said, there were a number ancient civilisations that were more advanced technologically (or magically, for that matter) than what's currently present, and their relics can still be found in the hands of secretive and powerful organisations that use them to further their own ends.

If you're primarily interested in the setting, the main book you want is Gaia: Beyond the Dreams.


Warhammer Fantasy

This hits four out of your five requirements perfectly: The setting is very dark, extremely detailed, magic is quite powerful, and it's very firmly set in medieval times, despite the occasional bits of steam-punk/clock-punk war machines.

However, there are elves, dwarfs, orcs, and even halflings in large quantities, so it doesn't quite hit your third requirement. However, all of these races are, while not technically monsters in the normal sense, definitely very alien compared to how they appear in other fantasy settings, and even the dwarfs, the most human-friendly of the non-humans, are often at odds with humans.

It would be pretty easy to design an adventure in the Warhammer world where dwarfs, elves, and orcs never enter into the picture, and instead the players spend their time fighting demons, undead, lizardfolk, beastmen, and so on.

You could also create some event that shatters the uneasy alliance that the humans have with the dwarfs and elves, for example the Emperor might die and be replaced by someone more xenophobic, who betrays the treaty with the dwarfs and expels the elves. Or perhaps the high elves are wiped out by the dark elves, and the dwarfs are wiped out by orc and goblin hordes. Or perhaps you simply stage the adventure outside of the Empire, in a place where elves and orcs are rarely seen.


Dresden Files

According to the Dresden Files RPG, there are 5 maxims of the world.

  • Monsters have nature, mortals have choice
  • Things fall apart
  • Science fails
  • Belief is power
  • Magic is what you are

These five things combine to make what I think is a great setting for what you put forth. I'll address them one-by-one:

  1. Dresden Files the books, while they follow an epic, do have incredibly dark outcomes. People are irreparably hurt, loved ones lost, close friend betrayed. While there are moments of awesome power that borderline comic book heroics, they come from points of weakness and do not end up neat. Rage fuels power, and the destruction that power wreaks is terrible. Things become worse.
  2. There are currently 15 Dresden Files books out, which cover a lot of info. If you do not want to read all of them, there is a wiki. But, I would strongly suggest picking up the book Dresden Files RPG - Our World. This gives you all the information you are looking for in terms of what exists in the world, the various supernatural factions, and what happens specifically in Chicago. Also, because it is set in an alternate world, you can easily adapt your current surroundings to the situation, much like World of Darkness.
  3. Most things encountered in the books are human, vampire, or Fey. They are other monsters, like werewolves, demons, ghouls, and ghosts, but nothing like elves or dwarves.
  4. Magic and Supernatural abilities are incredibly powerful. Wizards can level buildings, Sorcerers can control others, Vampires can enslave most mortals, The Fey can summon great and terrible forces, etc.

As mentioned before, you can definitely use Chicago as it is the most fleshed out. The primary roleplaying book Your Story also has Baltimore, which is a great option to avoid Harry Dresden showing up constantly an becoming a Dues Ex Machina.

Unfortunately, there isn't any official conversion for GURPS, but you should definitely be able to come up with something.

  • \$\begingroup\$ >fantasy setting \$\endgroup\$ Jan 15, 2015 at 20:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DarkArchon Could you clarify what you mean by Fantasy Setting? The Dresden Files world has magic, faeries, vampires, and more that are considered "fantasy" and the books are described as "fantasy novels". Do you mean one not based on Earth? If so, I'd add that to the list, as that was unapparent to me. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 15, 2015 at 20:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SurrealAnalysis Without an extra qualifier, "fantasy setting" almost always means swords and castles and other pseudo-medieval stuff. That's why Dresden Files RPG is usually called "urban fantasy" or "modern fantasy". \$\endgroup\$ Jan 15, 2015 at 20:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ 1) Not based on Earth; 2) Not high-tech (medieval tech level) \$\endgroup\$ Jan 15, 2015 at 20:32

Dragon Age RPG

Overall dark feeling.

Yes. From the DM guide: No unicorns and Rainbows. Life isn't fair. Actions have consequences. Sometimes evil wears a smile. Raising the banner of hope.

Pre-made and detailed.

Yes. Three computer games. A roleplaying game from Green Ronin. Two beautiful hardcover books, one out now, one coming soon. A number of novels and graphic novels.

No non-human Tolkien races (elves, dwarfs, orcs and derivatives); only humans and the monsters around them, both wild and human-related.

No. There are elves and dwarves, however they are not your D&D elves and dwarves. Elves are second class citizens who are forced to live in slums. Subjugation and discrimination against them are extremely common. Dwarves are a dying race, locking themselves away in their last underground city (OK, perhaps they are D&D dwarves :-). The world belongs to the humans, except for the Qunari, horned giants with a strange philosophy, invading from over the sea.

There are monsters, known as Darkspawn, but there are also monstrous humans. One of the origin stories for the first computer game has your family wiped out, your castle burned, your lands conquered by your closest family friend.

Magic is present and relatively powerful…

Yes. Also, using magic leads to demonic possession. Because of this, a major conflict in the game is the church's attempts to oppress and control those with magic power.

Not based on earth, mediaeval technology level, not urban fantasy.

Yes. It is a swords and sorcery world with the exception that the Qunari have gunpower weapons (crude cannons and rockets).


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