What do you miss from Old School Epic Fantasy


Journeyed there and back again
I was just thinking about the Wheel of Time and some old school epic fantasies. So many people loved the Lord of the Rings movies and yet new books tend to be trendy, crazy magic systems and less epic. I’m not saying that stuff is bad as variety is good but it seems old school is gone.

  • Basic magic systems including runes. Having traditional wizards, spells and runes isn’t a bad thing. I don’t want wizards over powered but not every new adventure has to have a super unique magic system.
  • Epic in nature. The big bad evil threat is out there and threatens everything. There is a clear agenda and struggle of good vs evil. Not a small scale or political battle, fighting simply for money and control of lands.
  • The young saviour. I know everyone got tired of the young farm boy prophesied to save the world but I still love coming of age stories. I don’t want to revert to every major character able to live through every danger but I don’t need Martin like deaths of all our favourites either.
  • Horses and bows and arrows. Hunting. Rural focal points. Maybe it’s just me but a lot of books I have read lately seem to be based in urban and larger city settings. I don’t want guns or more advanced weapons of any kind. Definitely no flintlock or steampunk fantasy. Swords and scorery please.
  • Orcs and trollocs. Unexplainable hordes of mindless weird creatures are not entertaining to me. I don’t want talking animals or walking trees either.
  • Elves, dwarves and other old school races. I like different cultures within a human race but I prefer them human. Pointy eared archers and small blacksmiths I can still handle to a degree but I don’t think those clear Dungeons and Dragons roles/characters are a good part of old school fantasy.
  • Male dominated stories. Both men and women should play big roles.


Journeyed there and back again
"Small blacksmiths". Hilarious, I laughed. Out loud.

Nice post RJ2. Well thought out. I still like everything about epic fantasy, including dwarves. The more the merrier. Can't get enough. But you made me think about it so you achieved your goal. Thanks for the interesting thread!

Maark Abbott

Journeyed there and back again
See, my novel falls firmly into grimdark territory, but I have:

- A magic system that involves Glyphs (rather than runes, but not dissimilar in principle)
- A story that reaches beyond what is immediately apparent - generally the scope is around a few characters but the events of the prologue set off what could be likened to a cold war between the god-analogues and that causes something of a shitstorm later on
- A protagonist who is eternally seventeen (mostly because she is undead)
- Segments in the wild / forested areas

I fully expected to come into this thread all like 'YEAH BUT' and then I realised actually I fucking do all these things myself so it'd make me a mite hypocritical to do so.


Journeyed there and back again
Weirdly I was just writing a blog post kinda touching on this when I decided I should come back and see what's going down and...

I think Epic Fantasy might have lost a touch of its love of myth.

Look at Wheel of Time, Fionavar Tapestry - they're saturated in it. Song of Ice and Fire has a good dollop of it.

But, looking back at what I've read that seems to be in the ballpark, and little of it seems to have that resonance - and what there is of it mainly seems to be coming from PoC celebrating the myths of their ancestors. Which is totally awesome but I want that in addition to everything else, not the only game in town. The conventional stuff seems to be more interested in the weird history angle and, you know, I don't hate that, but it's like a meal without sauce at times.

Hmm. What else...

Yeah, I do feel like the epic scale got lost in places. I miss people doing clever things with Manichean conflicts. Uhm... in fact, I'm not even sure that I've read anything recently that really falls into Epic Fantasy.

I'm more than okay with Orcs and Elves and what not if people want to do something clever and detailed with them. Hell, it's been a long time since I've read anything with them in really.