1. A fantasy in which no animal is the same as on Earth, but nor are they simply replacements with different names and designs.
2. A theology-focused fantasy in which the characters do logical debate about God and gods. By logical, I mean make all sides logical, not just the one you think is right.
3. A healing system where healing is possible, but the injury or sickness healed would be imposed on the healer forever. Bonus points: don’t make this one dark and depressing.
4. A fantasy world without humans. Bonus points if they’re not all furries.
5. A fantasy in which there are tens of contradicting and intertwining prophecies and no one knows which ones to believe.
6. A world where every aspect of the environment is different. For example, two blue suns rather than one yellow one, sentient plants, currency-growing trees, trees that grow downward.
7. A technologically-advanced society living literally on top of a medieval one, and a valid justification for why the medieval one doesn’t shape up and get techy.
8. The protagonist being a researcher or engineer whose conflict comes from which side of a war or political spectrum to give his creations first.
9. The protagonist being the world’s god. Making him or her interesting goes without saying.
10. A guard protagonist. Bonus points if this guard doesn’t end up joining some sort of rebellion and traveling the world in search of a McGuffin to destroy the Evil Overlord.
11. The Evil Overlord as a protagonist. Bonus points if his actions are justified enough to make him just as “good” as the rebels.
12. A story in which the protagonist’s parents, siblings, and love interest are all alive and not evil traitors in the end.
13. A protagonist who is not interested in romance to begin with and is still uninterested in the end.
14. A magic system subtle and discreet enough that 99% of the world doesn’t believe it exists. Bonus points if it’s not stupidly obvious.
15. A world made of water, water-faring races, and nothing else.
16. A musical protagonist whose music is not magical and whose music doesn’t stun everyone into silence or make everyone cry, but is still regarded as talented.
17. A world with gravity, breathable air, floating debris, races to inhabit it, and nothing else.
18. A fantasy in the gunpowder age.
19. The protagonist is a goblin. Bonus points if s/he’s not either the exact stereotype or the exact inversion of the stereotype.
20. A world in which a disease rendered 90% of the population mentally ill in some way or another.
21. The protagonist is the only mentally healthy person in the world.
22. A third-person limited fantasy that never strays from the protagonist’s viewpoint.
23. The protagonist develops the world’s first bladed weapons. Bonus points if you can figure out a justification for this not to be in the stone age.
24. A fantasy in which mind-control magic is so prevalent that at any given second, any given person is probably being controlled by someone else.
25. No magic at all.
26. A world in which magic was so powerful that it created an apocalypse, and now your protagonist is living in a non sci-fi post apocalypse.
27. A seafaring fantasy where your protagonist is not a pirate. Bonus points if s/he’s not in the navy, either.
28. An underwater fantasy where the primary race is an underwater race and not humans in air bubbles. Bonus points if they’re not mermaids or renamed mermaids.
29. A fantasy where research has advanced differently and computers exist, but not guns or much of anything else.
30. An astrology-based fantasy where astrology does not just mean star-based magic. Maybe your people have just discovered that their world is round.
31. Develop an entire new language and writing system, then base at least one society or way of life on the language itself.
32. A fantasy world that has developed electricity.
33. A gray versus gray war. No evil overlord. No chosen hero.
34. Write a story where a chosen hero is supposed to defeat an evil overlord. Then make the hero fail.
35. Write a scene where the hero holds a formal debate with the evil overlord. Bonus points if the overlord wins without cheating and without relying on the audience being corrupt.
36. Write a short fantasy that takes place within a single building.
37. A sky-faring fantasy where there is no such thing as ground.
38. A magic system where anything written in red ink becomes true. Bonus points if this magic is commonplace and the world isn’t destroyed.
39. Due to some kind of magic, the hero and evil overlord switch bodies and take each other’s place. Bonus points if you successfully use gray v. gray rather than good v. evil.
40. In a gray v. gray setup, the protagonist is darker gray than the antagonist.
41. Write a fantasy comedy that doesn’t rely on English wordplays and puns. Bonus points if it’s actually funny.
42. Write a scene or scenes where the hero defeats the evil overlord, but the people don’t accept him as the rightful king because he was an absolute jerk during his hero’s journey.
43. The evil overlord does the intelligent thing and kills the hero as a baby. Now what?
44. The evil overlord takes the baby hero and his family and brainwashes them all. What happens?
45. The protagonist is a troll. Bonus points if he’s not the stereotype or the inversion of the stereotype.
46. A group of races that have certain advantages and disadvantages over each other. Bonus points if the majority of them are not combat-related.
47. The hero overthrows the evil overlord without talking him into submission or beating him into submission.
48. Create a world where grass grows over a hundred feet tall within an hour of being planted. Plan societies and races around it.
49. A magic system that acts like computer programming. Mages write reusable programs and people buy them. Hint: learn at least one programming language in real life for research.
50. A magic system that works by hooking everyone in the world together like the Internet. Speeds vary by location.
51. A religion that worships technology.
52. Write at least ten physically distinct sentient races.
53. Your protagonist invents ice cream.
54. A world where gravity flips every night. Bonus points if you can explain it. Extra bonus points if you can explain it without infodumping.
55. A world in which there are two sentient races, one evolved from a single cell (where that cell came from is up to you), one created by God or gods.
56. A world where the sentient race(s) petition their god(s) to create certain things. And the gods listen. Catch: the god(s) will only create things. Not destroy them. Not change them.
57. A world consisting of islands floating in the sky. Bonus points if the people there don’t have wings, but have other methods with which to travel from island to island.
58. A world in which the magnetic poles shift frequently. Bonus points if the world’s magic system is based off magnetism.
59. A magic system that only works half the time and starts and stops in unpredictable patterns.
60. Technically a sci-fi, but future sentient races have created a world where fantasy conditions exist. Dragons, magic, evil overlords, and everything. Pick and choose, though.
61. A protagonist without arms or legs. Bonus points if magic doesn’t allow him or her to get nifty replacements.
62. A fantasy where artists can create something by drawing it from both sides, top and bottom, and front and back.
63. A fantasy where wars are settled by Olympic-style competitions rather than battle.
64. A world where people respawn after they die from anything but old age or a disease of your choice. Imagine how much more reckless people would be.
65. A fantasy world advanced enough to parallel Earth in 2012.
66. A magic system that could actually work in real life if one thing was changed. You’ll really have to study this one.
67. A magic system that only allows mages to change their appearance and nothing else.
69. A sentient race without mouths. Bonus points if said race is not telepathic.
70. A religion or race that considers speaking profane and thinks mouths are only there for eating. Hint: study sign language.
71. A math-based magic system.
72. A chemistry-based magic system. That makes it just chemistry, doesn’t it? I know. Run with it.
73. Your protagonist doesn’t get stronger with every battle, but weaker as his or her injuries pile up.
74. A magic system based on emotions, where an angry mob could set fire to a stick by looking at it or something like that. Catch: no one person could change much of anything.
75. A world shattered by earthquakes and a sentient race adapted to it. People would be really good at jumping, I think.
76. A fantasy where the world actually is flat, or at least a cube instead of a sphere. Bonus points if you can come up with a feasible reason for it.
77. A world where the primary race is mini-sized and insects are an actual difficult battle. Cats, dogs, horses, and elephants would be monstrous.
78. A world without magic suddenly gets magic.
79. A world with magic suddenly loses its magic.
80. The protagonist is an engineer. Yes, I’m still giving fantasy prompts. And yes, engineers should still exist in fantasy. They’re just people who use science to solve problems.
81. Death makes people into zombies of sorts who age backward, and once they’re infants again, they become human again and start aging normally.
82. Every fifty years, the magic system changes.
83. Every fifty years, a new sentient race is created.
84. A fantasy in which there’s a fantasy equivalent of K-12 education. And college, of course.
85. A fantasy where falcons or birds can’t be used for long-distance communications.
86. A fantasy where an underground (literally) communication network exists. If you don’t know where to start, try Minecraft.
87. Invent a new non-sentient race. Make it do something completely off the wall as its primary function (i.e. Minecraft’s creepers exploding), and then justify it.
88. A world where structures are built out of a material not found on Earth.
89. Structures on land are built using water.
90. A world of all men or all women, with no apparent means of reproduction. Bonus points if they can save themselves without blending into sci-fi or using deus ex machina.
91. A society where people don’t have names. Bonus points if you don’t take the obvious route of making it a pseudo-communist individualism-hating thing.
92. A world where raw ideas are actually worth something–where the people generally act on their ideas, and where ideas can literally be stolen from people’s heads.
93. A world where the god or gods made a mistake in their creation. What that mistake is and what it does, I’ll leave up to you.
94. Write about the very beginning of your fantasy world. Bonus points if you don’t infodump. Extra bonus points if you don’t just re-write Genesis.
95. Fish can swim through land. Sharks can, too.
96. Trees don’t fall down. They uproot and disappear into the sky.
97. Your protagonist has some sort of mental disorder that fantasy people have no idea how to cope with.
98. People are walking bombs, and when their hearts stop, they explode.
99. Everyone in the world operates with a different magic system.
100. Go ahead and write 100 of your own ideas/prompts. This will help you get your creative gears going, as you’ll inevitably think in some depth about each item.
That was fun. I think I’ll do it again sometime.
Note from Rio:
The idea behind this prompt is basically what it means – it’s a list of story ideas for you to start writing and creating your own stories and manga. Most of what Matt has written are types of prompts that have a twist or new take on your typical run-of-the-mill stories. I hope they get your imagination going and have fun with it!
This article was originally written September 16, 2012 at Matt’s blog and is re-posted here with permission. Thanks Matt!