Gateway Fantasy
rating: 0+x

Basic Information

Nothing to do with ideas about long expired supermarket chains, nor (necessarily) an entrypoint into the genre, a gateway fantasy is one in which (a) protagonist(s) from the real world are transported into an alternate reality in which fantasy tropes apply. This transportation can be physical - via a toy tollbooth or the back of a wardrobe or may involve some sort of astral projection, dreaming or other transmigration of consciousness. The traveller may enter the new world as an outcast, the answer to a prophecy, its owner (if extremely unwise in the real-estate business) or even as a complete wild card immune to some of the "laws" governing his new reality. The reality of the transition may even be in doubt, possibly causing him to maladapt to his new environment.

Gateway fantasy differs from wainscot fantasy in that the fantasy elements are very clearly confined to another world - a wainscot fantasy might include access to other dimensions, but presumes fantastic elements hidden within our actual reality.

In anime and manga, this type of story is called isekai, meaning "another world", and has become a popular sub-genre.


  • Erfworld Webcomic by Rob Balder - J.P. Gotti is a wild card, making a transition of doubtful reality by a means as yet unknown.
  • The Silver Key cycle by H. P. Lovecraft sees Randolph Carter dream his way into a fantasy world where he rises from common man to a peer of the gods.
  • The Narnia books by C.S. Lewis sees various mortals physically transitioning to Narnia, often in answer to prophecy or otherwise to take part in mythical events.
  • The Phantom Tollbooth puts Milo through a physical transition, albeit into a distinctly allegorical world.
  • In Magic Kingdom for sale - sold! has its protagonist Ben Holiday buy a magic kingdom on a somewhat sceptical whim in despair at his life in the real world. The property to which he is physically transported turns out to "need work".
  • The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant puts its titular and frankly hard to tolerate protagonist through a transition of dubious reality to a world in which he is identified as a chosen one and saviour.
  • The old TV series Time Tunnel features a technological gateway leading to other eras in history
    • As does the Guardian of Forever, a gateway built by Sufficiently-Advanced Aliens in the Star Trek episode "City on the Edge of Forever"
  • Kagome, the heroine of the manga/anime series Inu-Yasha, travels back in time to Japan's Feudal Era when she falls down a well in an old Shinto shrine in her back yard.
  • The anime series GATE involves a magical gateway appearing in the middle of downtown Tokyo through which an army from a fantasy realm attacks. The invasion is quickly halted, but the Japanese government next sends an expeditionary force through the Gate to establish a foothold on the other side to prevent future attacks and to create diplomatic relations with the people there.
  • The webcomic Namesake combines several classic gateway fantasies, including Oz, Neverland, and Wonderland.

Game and Story Use

  • This type of story works well for a campaign in which the players are ordinary people from the real world who find themselves in a world of fantasy and adventure.
    • This arcanist has often used it in "solo" games involving a single character. For a larger group, make sure all the players are okay with the premise.
  • It also works well for "D-hopping" campaigns, in which the characters come from different worlds and travel through alternate realities.
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License