Firstly let's review the definition of "Fantasy":

1.

imagination, especially when extravagant and unrestrained. 2. the forming of mental images, especially wondrous or strange fancies; imaginative conceptualizing. 3. a mental image, especially when unreal or fantastic;

So; based upon this definition, how is it that we can have any sort of complacency in this area? Well first of all, it's impossible to not reiterate at least one element of a past story in another. We'll call this our Super-class: "Humanly Comprehensible".

Now underneath that, we have sub-class1. Sub-class1 is where we find conflict. Conflict is what we find most interesting/inspiring in a story, because; as humans, our lives are fraught with conflict. Hence we find somebody facing conflict (preferably somebody with a very human personality) easier to identify with. In subclass1 we see three basic types of conflict: Man against Man, Man against Self, and Man against Nature. Now, seeing as how this is fantasy we're overall trying to explain, we can also identify "Man vs Man" as Man vs Alien, Government, or any other antagonist(s) that have any human traits. Nature may also be depicted as a Dragon, the concept of mortality, or any other thought/obstacle that cannot be identified as a personal flaw or human-related adversary.

Sub-class2 of Man vs Man can be broken into two principle elements: "a man(or woman) goes(or is forced) on a journey, and "a stranger comes to town."

Sub-class2 of Man vs Self is easily the widest area of the three, as it can be based upon the elements of psychology and psychoanalysis, as well as being inherent to the characterization of most deep characters in sub-class1 (1&3).

Sub-Class2 of Man vs Nature can be divided between "Man goes into nature", "Man goes into nature prepared, but has accommodations taken from him", and "Man is thrust into nature".

Sub-class3 can then be divided between "Hero Succeeds", or the far less common "Hero fails". Both of these revolve around the growth of the character.

From there the sub-classes get to broad and are more or less up to the imagination.

So how does all of this relate to the "Generic Fantasy Setting"? Well, after J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit proved massively successful, author's (of books, movies, tv, games, etc.) found that rather than running the risk of constructing a universe of mythos for a character to explore and people not accepting it; they could simply take a previously defined fantasy world and put new characters in it. For games we see developers simply trying to figure out how to define the standard fantasy characters within the standard fantasy setting, but seeing as how Bioware is the only company I can think of who have done this well, we'll probably be seeing more of attempts at capturing it within the next five-ten years.

Don't get me wrong there's still fantasy that's off the beaten track, (for sake of consistency I'll just use games) Bioshock, Mass Effect, No More Heroes, and Deus Ex have shown us that. I just find it ironic that we can even have the phrase "Standard Fantasy Setting" when fantasy is supposed to be anything but standard. I don't find the concept of fantasy uninteresting, I don't hate Tolkien, and I don't think games, books, or movies shouldn't be made on the subject matter. I simply mean to say that for us to call a linear set of elements (derivative of Tolkien) "Fantasy" seems an improper use of the word. We shouldn't have a "standard" fantasy setting.

So, those are my thoughts on that subject, if you would like smart commentary on games that's less boring than the above paragraphs, check out my youtube channel. www.youtube.com/user/RetIntVids?feature=watch