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A man in a wheelchair gazes at a tree during the winter in this image from HBO Entertainment.
Fantasy stories can only go as far as their setting lets them. (Image: HBO Entertainment)

It’s a great time to be alive for fantasy TV fans. Whether you’re into dragon-laced quests, adventures full of monsters and villains, ancient powers resurfacing after centuries, or you just think elves and dwarves are neat, odds are there are plenty of fantasy series and movies that will scratch your itch.

Not all fantasies are created equal, however, which also applies to fantasy worlds. If you’ve been keeping up with the massive amount of popular fantasy content audiences have been inundated with in recent years, you know some fantasy characters have it a little tougher than others.

If I were in their shoes, I’m not sure if I could pull off a grand, heroic adventure while wearing plot armor to keep me alive until the final season. Some places are more forgiving than others, but some are downright merciless. Let’s see how long I think I would survive in these fantasy settings.

Middle Earth — The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, ‘The Rings of Power,’ The Hobbit Trilogy

A group of people walking barefoot in a forest in this image from Amazon Studios.
Don’t let their size fool you: the harfoots know how to live. (Image: Amazon Studios)

If you know what an elf or a dwarf is, you have “The Lord of the Rings” to thank. The original LOTR trilogy does a stellar job showcasing the dangers of Middle Earth, as does the Hobbit trilogy and the Amazon Prime Video series “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.”

Fans of Middle Earth and the stories it contains know the world is as diverse as our own. No two civilizations are exactly alike, and humanity shares a world with elves, dwarves, orcs, and more. For our purposes, I’ll assume I would live in a way that best fits my personality, lifestyle, and personal needs.

So I’d probably be a hobbit.

I like to eat, and I think everyone should have two breakfasts. I like to attend extravagant but not stuffy social gatherings. I know my way around a longleaf, I can whip up a hearty stew, and when my wizard friend shows up in town, you best believe I’m lighting all his fireworks and ignoring any and all warning labels.

Can I swing a sword? Well, yes, but not as well as my larger friends can. Do I end up involved in potentially harrowing situations in which I’m in over my head? Oh, hell yes. Do I inexplicably escape the aforementioned harrowing situations remarkably unscathed? More often than I would care to admit.

I don’t suffer from main-character syndrome, so I don’t think of myself as a Frodo or Sam or Bilbo or even Nori — but Merry and Pippin really seem to have it all figured out. I think I’d hang with those guys, especially after we get into Gandalf’s fireworks.

Nate would live a long and healthy hobbit life in Middle Earth.

The Forgotten Realms — ‘Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves’

A woman chows down on food in this image from Paramount Pictures.
Holga (Michelle Rodriguez) shows exactly the level of comfort I’d expect in the Forgotten Realms. (Image: Paramount Pictures)

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” had no business being as fun as it was. Anyone who has ever played a game of Dungeons and Dragons will attest that the movie managed to capture much of the tabletop gaming experience while still telling an exciting story and doing its source material justice.

The Forgotten Realms, or Faerûn if you’re nerdy, is one of the oldest fantasy settings, and it features fantasy icons such as Drizzt Do’Urden and more, many of whom have been around for almost 40 years.

“Honor Among Thieves” doesn’t delve into many of the intricacies of the Forgotten Realms nearly as much as something like “Baldur’s Gate 3,” but it rewards people with insider knowledge. That knowledge is exactly what would keep me alive — I’ve been playing Dungeons and Dragons and similar tabletop games for half my life.

This is the setting I’m most confident in — other than our own, of course — so I’m best equipped to navigate its threats. As long as I keep my feet firmly out of the Underdark and planted in the Material Plane, I’d at least survive, if not thrive.

Nate would live lavishly in the Forgotten Realms.

Ravka — ‘Shadow and Bone’

A man and woman hold hands in a forest in this image from 21 Laps Entertainment.
Don’t let the pretty scenery fool you; Ravka is a dangerous place. (Image: 21 Laps Entertainment)

Unlike the shows we’ve discussed so far, the setting in “Shadow and Bone” doesn’t have a cute name for itself in totality. The fictional country, Ravka, though, seems to be central to the goings-on.

The series is a little less dark and mature than other titles on this list, but that tracks since it’s based on a young-adult novel series. Despite the show’s obvious YA origins, it holds up to serious fantasy scrutiny, partly due to its unique setting.

Traditional fantasy takes place in a very sword-and-sorcery, castles-and-moats environment, but “Shadow and Bone” eschews those conventions in favor of a magic-infused pre-World War I setting. There are swords and sorcery, but there are also trains and revolvers.

If anything, the world seems a little more inhabitable than any of the others, but maybe that’s because it isn’t in the middle of an intense multinational war like our other settings. That doesn’t mean it’s without danger though.

The Shadow Fold dividing Ravka into two parts is a supernatural hazard in and of itself, and one I would avoid at all costs. The growing conflict between East and West Ravka, although engrossing as an audience member, would probably stress me out as a citizen of the world. But at least it’s a stress that mimics that of our own world.

The Grisha, the magic-users in Ravka, seem to live dangerous lives, which doesn’t bode well for protagonist Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) as she discovers her latent powers. I doubt it would bode well for me either.

Nate would likely live a decent life in Ravka, unless he were a Grisha or recruited into one of the armies.

The World of the Wheel — ‘The Wheel of Time’

Trollocs stand menacingly in this image from Amazon Studios.
What it may look like when the Trollocs finally come for me. (Image: Amazon Studios)

I’m a latecomer to “The Wheel of Time” series. I never got into the books, and I had only a vague awareness they existed until the Prime Video series debuted. It’s safe to say it’s the series on this list I know the least about. That doesn’t bode well for my survival in the series’ setting.

I’m not trying to tap into the One Power, which would probably keep the Aes Sedai off my back, but they aren’t the only danger floating around in the World of the Wheel. In the face of a Trolloc or the Mashadar, I’d be too busy soiling myself to do much else unless I had some serious training, backup, or both. Who knows? Maybe I’d get it.

From what I gather, the everyday folk of the World of the Wheel are resilient. They’d have to be to face some of the threats native to their world.

Nate would last a couple of months in the World of the Wheel and then would get eaten by a Trolloc.

The Dreaming — ‘The Sandman’

 A silhouette of a man inside a broken temple in this image from Warner Bros. Television.
If the King of Dreams wants my help cleaning up this mess, he must be dreaming. (Image: Warner Bros. Television)

Don’t let the setting fool you — “The Sandman” is one of the most imaginative fantasy series in quite some time. Much of the action in “The Sandman,” the Netflix adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s iconic comic book series, takes place in our own reality — albeit a version of it inhabited by supernatural entities.

The premise of “The Sandman” is that there’s a world just out of sight to us regular folks, inhabited by all manner of paranormal and metaphysical forces and fantasy staples, including the personification of death, the ruler of hell, a descendent of Constantine, the personification of despair, and more.

“The Sandman” may seem a little on the heady side, especially compared to other settings and series on our list, but what did you expect from a series that revolves around the King of Dreams (Tom Sturridge) being captured by an Aleister Crowley wannabe for over a century and his quest to rebuild his realm, known as the Dreaming, to save mankind?

What “The Sandman” has going for it in terms of survivability is that the vast majority of regular schmucks don’t even know what’s going on most of the time. Outside of a handful of exceptions, the average Joe’s day-to-day life seems unaffected by a lot going on with the main characters.

Nate would be fine in “The Sandman” as long as he stayed firmly planted in our world and didn’t go messing with powers he didn’t understand. So he would last about a month.

Westeros — ‘Game of Thrones,’ ‘House of the Dragon’

A group of armed soldiers walks across a bridge in this image from HBO Entertainment.
Nothing about this setting — the people or the landscape — inspires confidence in my survival in the world of “House of the Dragon.” (Image: HBO Entertainment)

“Game of Thrones” made fantasy sexy. There’s no way around that part of its legacy. Before “Game of Thrones,” you’d be bullied into submission if you got caught talking about dragons and magic in public. Since “Game of Thrones” and its prequel series, “House of the Dragon,” however, a stranger may butt into your conversation to tell you who they want to see topless next.

Westeros and Essos more closely mirror our own reality — you can see those dragons, too, right? — but the denizens of these continents know they’re in plenty of danger at any given moment without the addition of fantastical races. Humanity is scary enough, and that’s before we add dragons, direwolves, and promised-prince prophecies.

I’ll be blunt: I don’t have a mind for political scheming. I don’t have the patience for subterfuge or plots. If I were born into one of the political powerhouses, I wouldn’t last long. I’d piss off the wrong blonde and end up being fed to a dragon. I can throw a halfway decent punch, but I would prefer not to take one, so I likely wouldn’t fare well on the battlefield either.

I like spending my time outside and with animals, but I’m afraid of horses and hate being cold, so a Dothraki or Wildling life probably wouldn’t work out great. I love the ocean, but I doubt I’d make a good Ironborn.

I may survive in Braavos for a time, but outside that one specific region, I can’t think of a life I could survive in the “Game of Thrones” universe — prequel series or otherwise.

Nate might last two weeks if he’s lucky.

The Continent — ‘The Witcher,’ ‘The Witcher: Blood Origin’

 A doe meets a grim fate in this image from Little Schmidt Productions.
I empathize with this deer. I would meet a similar end. (Image: Little Schmidt Productions)

Longtime “The Witcher” fans know that, like in “Game of Thrones,” humanity and its political schemes are as dangerous as the fantasy beasts and mystical forces. The Continent in “The Witcher” and “The Witcher: Blood Origin,” however, is much fuller of strange beasts with even stranger ways of eviscerating, disemboweling, haunting, or otherwise murdering you right to death.

It’s doubtful I would last long as an everyday person. I’m too curious for my own good, and we all know what curiosity does to cats. If I had the misfortune of being a Witcher, I may carve out a niche for myself, but only if I survived the Trial of the Grasses, the Witcher-creation ritual, and I don’t like drinking weird concoctions that make my eyes go black.

The Brotherhood would likely chew me up and spit me out. I’d be a magical eel in a week flat, and that’s being generous.

Let’s not even get started on the political scheming centered around Ciri (Freya Allan). It seems everyone wants a piece of the “it girl,” and I don’t have the patience or wherewithal to fend off emissaries and political figures from five different super-powerful factions and countries.

If you’re an avid CordCutting.com reader, you may have seen me espouse at length the crimes against the source material “The Witcher” writers have perpetrated. I’d like to think that, were I born on the Continent, I would survive just long enough to break the fourth wall and punish the writers, Witcher-style, for the hackneyed Witcher-flavored nonsense they’ve been shoving at us.

Nate would survive long enough to bring the writers’ room to justice, and then he would get eaten by a bruxa.

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