Trope Workshop:Setting Alignment

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Trope Workshop Guidelines

This is the concept of Character Alignment as applied to an entire fictional setting... with all the benefits and pitfalls entailed by that trope.

The two-axis planes used to determine tone of the setting are as follows:

  • Grim - Noble axis determines the people of the setting. They can generally be good (noble setting), or generally be bad (grim setting), or more balanced in-between (neutral).
  • Dark - Bright axis determines the place they live in. Can be generally a very nice place (bright), savage and hostile (dark), or more balanced in between (neutral). Needs a better name - see Light Is Not Good and Dark Is Not Evil.

Compare Character Alignment.

Most commonly used on /tg/ as shown in this thread and on the /tg/ wiki, and has since spread to relevant fandoms on other sites.


(almost) everything is nice, (almost) everyone is nice.
Common for children shows and sorts of utopia that treat audience like children.

Noble Neutral

The world is not that good, or just wild, but everyone is generally good.
Common setting for light Heroic Fantasy [1], or Protagonists Versus Environment plots.


The world is horrible, but the people are generally good. They cannot beat the darkness, but so long as they fight, they hold it at bay.
Common for Heroic Fantasy and settings where banding together for survival is a necessity.


The world is very nice, the people not so much, but most won't do anything really bad until pushed.
Mostly used for argumentative political/philosophical Author Tracts, comedy leaning toward slapstick, dramedy[2], and/or twists of Noblebright in a more challenging direction.

True Neutral (Neutralboring)

Reality is the standard. Risks to become boring[3] and/or to turn into kaleidoscope [4].
Quasi-real settings[5] have to try and stick close enough, while some others just don't move far from it.


The world sucks, the people don't seem to care all too much. A dramatic or nihilistic setting. The place for insignificant heroes who futilely rail against the popular villains, and defeat them, only for another to rise just as soon after. Can be depressing and as such risks Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy[6].
Common for Dark and other non-Heroic fantasy.


The world is mostly nice, but the people mostly are complete bastards.
See also: The Fair Folk and parts of mythology where people create problems. Or perhaps the sillier misanthropic fiction.


The world isn't very nice, but the people make it worse. The way misanthropists see the world.
Common for tragedy.


The world is nasty as it is, and the people make it even worse. There are no heroes, and those that try not only achieve nothing, but often make things worse, for themselves and others. Risks Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy[7].
Common for Villain Sue fiction. Occasionally used for Heroic Fantasy[8].

Examples of Setting Alignment include:

Advertising[edit | hide | hide all]

Anime and Manga[edit | hide]

  • Berserk is nobledark: it's classified as Horror, yet you can see "a mercenary band led by the charismatic idealist" in description. There seems to be light at the end of the tunnel, but it takes much willpower and effort to get there, generally it's a nasty, brutish place roamed by demons.

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • The Sandman is mostly grimbright: cool stuff to see, but Dream's path is tragedy and atonement, and while there are sympathetic characters, they tend to be really messed up and/or get killed.

Fan Works[edit | hide]

Film[edit | hide]

  • Star Trek is Noble Bright, being an utopia. There are opponents, but they will eventually lose or convert.
  • Star Wars is bits of Noble Bright (no shortage of heroes) on average Neutral Bright background: most non-people problems are trivially solvable, while warlords are a recurring nuisance, the underworld is massive, slavery is fairly common… and then there are Dark Side users — who are rare, but don't seem to have troubles with recruiting evil minions if they try (competent ones are harder to find, but screw-ups happen to everyone), and some "good guys" prove to be self-righteous enough to be a danger to themselves, their mission and everyone around (Jedi Truth immediately comes to mind).

Literature[edit | hide]

Live-Action Television[edit | hide]

Music[edit | hide]

Myths and Legends[edit | hide]

Newspaper Comics[edit | hide]

Oral Tradition[edit | hide]

Pinball[edit | hide]

Podcasts[edit | hide]

Professional Wrestling[edit | hide]

Puppet Shows[edit | hide]

Radio[edit | hide]

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Warhammer 40000 is the Trope Namer ("In the grim darkness of…") for "Grimdark", and thus in part for the scales. Its way to remain interesting is to briefly spike all the way up to Noble Dark, then crash back. Repeatedly was driven into "Grimderp" ditch by bad writers.
  • Dark Sun is Noble Dark to Neutral Dark: the world is post-apocalyptic, people struggle with it; they can get quite brutal, but usually have serious reasons for that.
  • World of Darkness is, as the name suggests, Grimdark. Which was both its selling point (challenges abound, and inevitable "murderhobos" can fall in pre-made "not pretty" niches or be exterminated) and perhaps what eventually killed it (misanthropic crowd Running the Asylum naturally results in things like Beast: The Primordial).

Theater[edit | hide]

Video Games[edit | hide]

Many RPGs that don't deliberately mix in extra Grimdark or petty and tangled politics tend toward Noble Neutral or even Noble Bright.

  • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind is mostly Noble Bright: dangers are abundant, yet manageable, and people are more helpful interesting than waiting for an opportunity to backstab you. Occasionally darkening, what's with zombie plague, Tribunal and whatnot, but in general still there are interesting things to see and people to meet, and as a rule it doesn't automatically mean "more dangers".
  • Fallout: generally Noble Dark, like many post-apocalyptic settings.

Western Animation[edit | hide]

Web Animation[edit | hide]

Web Comics[edit | hide]

Web Video[edit | hide]

Other Media[edit | hide]

Real Life[edit | hide]

  1. there are many heroes, and the bad guys are simple, but the world itself offers some challenges too
  2. as the world is too mild to interrupt character drama
  3. without constant shaking along the Grim-Bright axis by dramedy elements, which may eventually move the average from Neutral
  4. if too much shaking is applied along the Dark-Bright axis instead
  5. thrillers, etc
  6. all is dark and characters fail to save the audience's interest
  7. as it's a foregone conclusion that everyone is do-o-o-o-omed either way
  8. in "light shines brightest in darkness" way