• Andrew Johnston

66,355,200 (More or Less) Fantasy Writing Prompts

We've done character voice and we've done science fiction, so now it's time for the fantasy writing prompts. But since so many people are trying to write fantasy these days, a list of 30 or so prompts seemed grossly insufficient. No, we're doing this D&D style.


Below are nine categories with between four and twelve items each. Roll the appropriate die for each, or use Random.org if appropriate dice aren't available. Not every combination will be appropriate, and you may wish to skip around. The first four entries tie into worldbuilding, making them most useful for short stories and novels without definite settings. You may wish to roll more than once, or skip the dice altogether and pick what you want.


If you find an interesting combination that helps you out, I'd love to hear about it!


Fantasy Writing Prompts


Setting


A. Nature of Magic: d4

  1. Low magic - Magic exists but is rare, virtually unknown to most people. Users of magic are either feared or respected.

  2. High magic - Magic is a part of daily life for most, almost mundane for some. Magic use is essentially one skill of many.

  3. Divine magic - All supernatural elements stem from an interventionist deity or deities. Depending on the nature of the divinity, magic may be viewed as a gift or as something sinister.

  4. Lost magic - Magic was once common, but has largely disappeared from the world. The arcane arts are either unknown (perhaps considered a myth) or forbidden.

B. Geographical Quirks: d10

  1. Archipelago - The oceans cover a larger than average amount of the planet (>80%) and there are no major, continent-sized land masses.

  2. Primeval - Large parts of the world are unexplored and undeveloped. The land is dominated by giant forests, marshes and jungles.

  3. Subterranean - The surface of the planet is largely barren. Most development is in large cave networks.

  4. Landlocked - There are no known oceans, only a collection of large, freshwater lakes.

  5. Great mountain - The world's surface is dominated by a single, gigantic mountain, ringed by a collection of smaller ones.

  6. Ice age - The world's climate is very cold. Large parts of the land are unusable, and waterways are obstructed by ice.

  7. Stormy planet - The weather is especially volatile and violent. Storms are common and last a long time.

  8. Depleted - Mineral resources are very rare. Iron, gold, silver, copper and bronze are found only in small deposits in hard-to-reach areas.

  9. Sprawling - Geography is normal, but the land mass is far larger than expected for the population. Towns, kingdoms, and empires are likely to be very far apart.

  10. Blighted - This world was recently struck by some manner of disaster. Much of the land is uninhabitable and covered by ruins.

C. Organization and development: d6

  1. Tribal - The world is largely undeveloped. Most people live in small, homogeneous communities and have little contact with outsiders.

  2. Confederation - Slightly more advanced than tribal. Groups with similar cultures are loosely united and are organized enough to claim territory.

  3. Feudal - The world is dominated by small, weak states that have complex alliances for mutual benefit.

  4. Imperial - The world is dominated by a handful of strong, well-developed, cosmopolitan states. Standard organization for most fantasy.

  5. Nationalism - The world is dominated by a collection of culturally homogeneous states with fixed borders.

  6. Nomadic - While sedentary states exist, large swaths of land are controlled by nomadic peoples.

D. Demihumans: d4

  1. Isolated - Nonhumans live only in very remote places and are seldom seen by humans. Most humans view other races as mythical.

  2. Cosmopolitan - Humans and nonhumans enjoy regular contact, economically and socially. Nonhumans are a common sight in large human cities.

  3. Divided - Nonhuman races live almost exclusively in monolithic states. They may have contact with humans (and each other) for purposes of trade.

  4. Hostile - Due to either historical animosity or some recent breakdown in diplomacy, there is strong hostility between humans and nonhuman races.


Character and Plot


E. Protagonist: d10

  1. Peasant hero - The protagonist is a commoner - a farmer, herdsman, or hunter, depending on the society.

  2. Highborn - The protagonist was born into an aristocratic, noble or other ruling class.

  3. Famous bloodline - While not personally accomplished, the protagonist is descended from a legendary figure.

  4. Arcane - The protagonist has studied the magical arts and possesses supernatural powers.

  5. Mercenary - The protagonist is a professional soldier.

  6. Criminal - The protagonist has a criminal background, and may be either a professional thief or a reformed criminal.

  7. Frontiersman - The protagonist is an explorer, scout, tracker, or otherwise most at comfort outside of the bounds of civilization.

  8. Ascetic - The protagonist is a priest, monk, or other holy figure.

  9. Sailor - The protagonist is employed on a merchant or military vessel.

  10. Elder - The protagonist was once some kind of adventurer, but is now retired.

F. Initial crisis: d12

  1. Protracted war - Neighboring states (including the protagonist's home) have been engaged in a generation-spanning war with no signs of ending.

  2. Succession crisis - The ruler has died suddenly (perhaps suspiciously) and a pretender has seized the throne.

  3. Inhuman attack - People have been killed by a mysterious, monstrous entity. Neither the locals nor the government seem to have any means to stop further attacks.

  4. Curse - A curse has befallen the protagonist's country, town, family, or the protagonist personally.

  5. Magical disaster - Misuse of magic and/or an angry magic user has invoked mass destruction across the land.

  6. Prophecy - A soothsayer (who may or may not have genuine powers) foresees disaster unless drastic action is taken.

  7. Brutal treatment - The people in the protagonist's city have been the victims of cruel treatment by either the legitimate government or an occupying force.

  8. New religion - Tensions run high as the result of a fast-spreading religion, widely suspected of being a cult.

  9. Ritual - The time has come for the protagonist to participate in some manner of ritual - coming-of-age, religious, etc.

  10. Corruption - A criminal organization has gained power in the protagonist's home country or city, and has become a serious threat.

  11. Unstable government - Many people no longer see the ruler as legitimate, and rebel groups are starting to form, seeking to overthrow the ruler and/or gain independence.

  12. Personal gain - There is no instigating crisis - the protagonist is on a quest to gain wealth, status, or some other personal prize.

G. Objective: d8

  1. Artifact - The protagonist is seeking some object which possesses magical powers and/or great cultural significance.

  2. Execution - The protagonist is seeking to kill someone or something.

  3. Rescue - The protagonist is seeking to save someone's life, release someone from jail, or otherwise rescue someone from peril.

  4. Council - The protagonist wishes to speak with some elusive figure who can presumably bring an end to the crisis.

  5. Treasure - The protagonist is seeking a source of great wealth.

  6. Survival - The protagonist is the one in peril, and is seeking to escape from some dire fate.

  7. Leadership - The protagonist is tasked with leading a group (or even a nation) - to safety, to war, or to some other end.

  8. Discovery - The protagonist is seeking out some secret information and/or delivering that information to someone else.

H. Complication: d12

  1. Previous failure - The protagonist has tried to achieve this goal before, but either failed or let someone else down.

  2. Duress - The protagonist doesn't actually want to achieve this goal, but is being forced by someone else.

  3. Self-Sacrifice - The protagonist expects to die achieving this goal.

  4. Rival - Someone else (who is seemingly better qualified) is trying to achieve the same end as the protagonist.

  5. Marked for death - Just by pursuing the goal, the protagonist has been targeted for death.

  6. Personal curse - The protagonist is afflicted by some curse that routinely interferes in the quest.

  7. Ticking clock - The protagonist doesn't have enough time to meet the goal.

  8. Injury - The protagonist is either recovering from an injury or becomes badly wounded while on the quest.

  9. Persecution - The protagonist is not accepted in the dominant culture. Others refuse to help and may even interfere.

  10. Unclear sides - The protagonist's quest is controversial in some way. In many quarters, the protagonist is seen as a villain.

  11. Betrayal - One of the protagonist's allies is disloyal.

  12. Misinformation - A critical piece of information known to the protagonist is completely wrong.

I. Climax: d6

  1. Personal battle - The story ends with a one-on-one fight between the protagonist and the villain.

  2. Secondary hero - In the end, the protagonist is imperiled and must be rescued by another character.

  3. Noble sacrifice - The protagonist succeeds, but dies a hero's death.

  4. Great struggle - The story ends with a massive battle.

  5. False defeat - The protagonist is foiled, and must find another way to survive/avert disaster.

  6. Heel turn - In the end, the protagonist changes sides.

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