Tone & Setting Alignment in Bræd | World Anvil

Tone & Setting Alignment

Noble vs. Grim & Bright vs. Dark


What is Tone/Setting Alignment?

Terms established within the fantasy genre, such as Grimdark and Noblebright, are utilized to quickly identify the tone and setting of a universe. Commonly known as the mood alignment this terminology has been adopted to provide a potential reader / player an idea of what kind of adventure they should expect.   Grimdark is often potrayed as a bleak and evil place where existence is suffering incarnate. Within a Grimdark universe, there are no heroes, only protagonists of questionable goals and bankrupt morals. Truly pure indviduals may attempt to carve out a niche of hope, only to be snuffed out by a tide of rancor.   Inversely, the world of a Noblebright setting is cheerful and overflowing with hope, justice, and joy; often portrayed as fairytales with another happy ending just around the next corner.

Noble vs. Grim - Tone

Represented by a scale of { Noble, Knight, Gray, Bleak, Grim } the x-axis describes the agency and impact characters, and primary actors, of a setting are capable of making. Within Noble worlds, the actions and sacrifices of a single individual will often become widespread and even permanent. Grim settings by stark contrast are not always evil or bad by nature, but instead are locked in their ways and unchangable by the means of a single person or entity. Either enforced by a great power, god or government, there is little in the way of worldly change. The people of this world accept it for what it is. It would take an incredible exertion of effort to create meaningful impact, and even then those changes are often temporary and short-lived.
Determing Noble / Grim
  • How much agency do protagonists / antagonists have?
  • How permanant are the actions of heroes / villains?
  • How common are heroes or villains?
  • How self interested are the people of this world?

Bright vs. Dark - Setting

Ranging on a scale from { Bright, Glow, Core, Dim, Dark } the
y-axis represents the general 'feel' of the world or setting. It's in the air you breath, the food you eat, the ground you tread upon. Most commonly these terms will correlate with how naturally good or evil the setting is, or rather how frequently the average occupants of a setting will experience either hope or despair. Life within a Bright world are often very safe and peaceful, even if that peace is often at the cost of personal liberties. Dark settings are more akin to a hopeless abyss. Things could always improve, but doing so will usually involve great irreversible sacrifice.
Determing Bright / Dark
  • What is the life of the average citizen like?
  • Is the world filled with hope or wracked by despair?
  • What is the general morality of the world?
  • What are the general aesthetics of the world?
Noble Knight Gray Bleak Grim


Things are good and always will be good. Heroes are plentiful and good natured. The world is a peacful place full of hope.
  • Disney (the movies)
  • Adventure Time
  • Pokemon


While things can occasionally get tense, a select group of heroes is all that it take to bathe the world in light and keep evil forces at bay.
  • Marvel Universe


A world of adventure and discovery. Often less about changing the world, and more about exploring it as it is.
  • Star Trek
WorldAnvil Examples


The agency of the indvidual is slipping away. Either by choice or force, the world is kept safe even at the cost of personal liberties. A utopian democracy where citizens might have a say, but can influence very little within the grand scheme of things.
  • Ghost in the Shell


Peace and prosperity are assured through superior force. The evils of the world are kept at bay, at the cost of the indvidual. A utopia built upon a foundation of unseen despair.
  • Disney (the corporation)
  • Roman Empire
WorldAnvil Examples


The world has seen better days, but the people still live comfortable lives and happy existences. A single champion can shape the entire world as an avatar of justice.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
  • Princess Mononoke
  • Chronicles of Narnia
WorldAnvil Examples


Occasionally unruly, the driving combined efforts of groups can collectively alter the world and shape its very nature. Organizations are actively seeking to improve the livelihood of eveyone, even if met with frequent opposition.
  • My Hero Academia
  • Minecraft
WorldAnvil Examples


Often a large place filled with many beings, the effects of a single person can often be lost in a universe of decisions. Evil may have a role to play, but the world often self corrects with an overwhelming force of hope.
  • Star Wars
WorldAnvil Examples


While hope wafts through the air, things are bad and a mere stumble away from getting worse. Heroes and villains alike may fight for their own objectives, even if the world at large often has its own plans and intends to see them through.
  • Mass Effect
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion


Usually your dystopia with a silver linning of hope. There is often an active effort to stoke the embers of resistance, to make a better world. Even if met with limited success.
  • The Handmaid's Tale


Often fighting over a teertering world between virtue and chaos, a single hero is all that is needed to turn the tide and decide the very fate of the universe.
  • Fable - Lionhead Studios
  • Harry Potter
  • Death Note
WorldAnvil Examples


Hanging on a thin thread between hope and despair; given enough effort, groups of indviduals may be able to make a dramatic effect on the world. Even if true permanence is just beyond reach.
  • D&D: Forgotten Realms
WorldAnvil Examples


The world is neither good nor evil, but possesses some degree of both. Heroes do not decide the fate of this world, but the collective efforts of everyone partaking in it will shape the direction it takes. As close to the real world as you can possibly get.
  • The Office
  • The Sims
WorldAnvil Examples  


Filled with protagonists doing bad things with good intentions, proverbally passing the hot-potato of despair from one party to the next. The only way the world can improve is a complete cultural overhaul.
  • The Matrix
  • The Last of Us


The world exists as it is and it always will. Stagnation rules the day, and the status quo will always be preserved by the powers that be. The world is neutral because the natural order is enforced.
  • 1984 - George Orwell


Either actively recessing into an age of darkness, or on the verge of escaping one. Heroes have the power to steer the course of the future, even if doing so almost garuntees sacrificing their life in this noble pursuit.
  • Lord of the Rings
  • Halo: Combat Evolved
  • Hollow Knight


The line is blurred between criminals and leaders as those in power are pushing ever further towards oppression. Life for a commoner is hard and getting harder -- key figures among the community stand as the final word; occasionaly banding together to suppress any opposition of their collective power.
  • The Witcher
WorldAnvil Examples


Life sucks and the powers that would be are often bickering too much to make it better. While small sparks of faith preside in the people, they'll be fighting an uphill battle against organized relgions, governments, and even the elements to improve things.
  • Dune - Frank Herbert
WorldAnvil Examples


Things never seem to go well for the protagonists at hand. While almost always escaping the cold grip of death, characters in these worlds are often constantly tormented by misfortune and have seldom much power to prevent it.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events
WorldAnvil Examples


Life is rough, one moment you're a hero, the next a corpse. Many agents may be struggling to achieve their own objectives, but in doing so will cause the end of another's journey, and eventually their own.
  • Game of Thrones


The world is ruled by suffering and misery, while the overall setting can be a miserable place to exist the actions of a single individual can often be enough to turn the tides and carve out a niche of peace.
  • Dark Souls
WorldAnvil Examples


A rugged place to live, often run by criminals, thugs, and other seedy characters. Despair has made a home on the streets, yet the organized actions of key groups would be enough to fuel embers of hope, or snuff it out altogether.
  • Gotham
  • Batman Series
  • Mad Max: Fury Road


As it stands, things are bad, and the only way to fix it would be through hard work on a grand scale. The world is evil because people accept it as evil, and insufficient change has been made to rectify it.
  • Hunger Games


The world is a dumpster fire, and there never seems to be enough water to put it out. As opposed to making the world better, many would rather find ways to live with how it is now. Even if doing so means either sacrificing your life or your morality.
  • Fallout
WorldAnvil Examples


The world is hopeless and all is lost. The lights of hope are quickly extinguished under the trampling foot of evil influences and ill-intentions.
  • Warhammer 40k.
  • Call of Cthulhu
  • Darkest Dungeon

Tone & Setting WorldAnvil Map

Mood Alignment

Add your world to the Map!

If you'd like to have your world appear on this alignment map please contact me! I'd be more than happy to offer such an oppourtunity to anyone who is interested. When making a world submission application please include the following information in your message:
  1. World Title
  2. Author to Credit
  3. The chosen mood-alignment for your world
  4. A brief description of your world and why it belongs in your chosen alignment
  5. The article block ID for your world meta or chosen landing page, it will look something like this:


    You can obtain a copy of it at the bottom of any given article by clicking on the 'copy article block' button
  6. a screen cap of the above map with a rough estimate where you believe it belongs

Limit one per person

Contact Me

Contact me through one of the portals below to make your own contribution to this page!

Add this map to your world!

Map Code:
  Article Code:


Author's Notes


  1. Don't let yourself get pigeonholed. Just because your world or setting heavily alligns with a single mood, don't feel like you can't sprinkle in elements from other terms into your project. The inclusion of contrasting content to your primary mood will act as a nice foil, highlighting your targeted alignment. In doing so further conveying the state of your book, world, setting, etc making it overall more intersting and dynamic.
  2. This mutation of the mood alignment occoured because I've been unhappy with the generic scales populating both the internet and associative writing communities. Middling terms have been lacking distinguishable character and came with the insidious undertone in which if your world was not set in one of the four extremes your setting would be uninteresting and wasn't worth exploring. I wanted to give those of us in the 'middle-road' terms we could be excited about when sharing our work.
  3. This article is an eternal WIP, I'm always looking to more deeply flesh out each indvidual alignments and forever seeking additional universes to convey their corresponding moods. If you feel like your favorite setting is under represented or listed within the incorrect category, leave a comment below! This chart will continue to change as the community molds it with collective insight.

Please Login in order to comment!
Aug 20, 2020 23:36 by Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull

This is a really cool way of seeing settings. Like you, I didn't really see my world fitting in with the generic scales, and you've kind of made up for that by expanding it all. :) I'll have to have a long thing about where my world belongs.

Aug 21, 2020 03:46 by Jakob Bolt

Yes! I didn't feel enough creative freedom with the other mood alignments, so now here we are. When you discover where Etrea lies, let me know! I would be happy to include it here as well.

Aug 22, 2020 03:01

It's really interesting to see where various WA projects sit on the Grim-Bright//Noble-Dark continuum laid out like this. At least as of 8/21/20, looks like most of us are fans of noble stories. I wonder if it's because of how many of us are role players, seeing as RPGs tend to value individual agency?   I'm not sure how to send images through WA, but I'd love to be on the map! Reading through the definitions, I'm pretty sure my own world (Manifold Sky) would fall smack-dab in the middle of KnightGlow territory. Because the Manifold is self-contained and sparsely populated, every person's story matters to some degree. There's still a lot of the world to discover, and scientific and cultural advancements promise to bring a brighter future - but only if the factions don't destroy themselves first The block link for the world primer is

The Manifold Sky Primer
Generic article | Jul 26, 2022

Aug 22, 2020 03:02

Sorry, the contents of that block are articleblock:beb38181-d1a9-44ed-b95f-646ca689d5a0

Aug 22, 2020 04:58 by Jakob Bolt

Yesss! I'm very happy for you to include Manifold Sky. Your world now rests upon the map.   I would concur with the conclusion many worlds will likely ere' on the side of noble. WorldAnvil has made a considerable effort in smoothing out the world-building process and the act of running TTRPGs through them. Most of the current community likely values and cherish the control and creative freedom that comes with the joint story-telling experience of such games.

Dec 9, 2020 12:32 by Laughing Prophet

Well this is just delightful. I love the fact that this is now an actual thing I can reference on-site for people that are curious about things. It's surprisingly difficult to find these in a nice, clean format. Only thing I'm used to is 'Neutral' over 'Gray', but those are sufficiently interchangeable that it doesn't quite matter.   I'd offer Kelicho up for some extra reference for Neutraldark but, uh, I'm experiencing a bit of a dearth of things to share, with that. The spirit is willing, the text is weak.

Jan 10, 2021 20:16 by Wyld Bill Strammy

Fantastic and very logical layout for describing these different characteristics! It also helps me to realize that my "world" is actually a world of several different settings and they mostly range in the Gray to Grim spectrum along that axis. I would love to have more examples (especially form literature) as I am extremely unfamiliar with video games and Anime.

Jan 23, 2021 18:12 by Jakob Bolt

I'm glad you've found it useful! Honestly, I believe many of our worlds will slide wildly along the scale depending on the region you're focusing on, the character you're following, etc, etc so don't feel like you necessarily need to pigeonhole yourself into one.   In the words of a very wise sparrow, they're more like 'guidelines'   OH! I would love to add more literary examples, alas I hate to admit I'm not as well-read as some of my fellow peers and would not be speaking from a place of confidence.

Mar 5, 2021 15:20

This is cool! Not sure how I'm just now finding it :) but this chart is really helpful and nicely presented. Thanks!

- Hello from Valayo! Featured work: How to Write Great Competition Articles
Apr 30, 2021 10:10

For bleakdim you should totally put the oddessy. I feel like that aligns pretty well, except it has a very happy ending.

Aug 12, 2021 23:09

Thank you for this! I've never been able to align my world correctly, and now I might be able to.

Feb 2, 2022 04:18 by Jonathan Thompson

I've got to say that this is a fresh perspective by looking at mood as a spectrum. This is a great article that I'd like to use to direct the feeling I'd like my audience to get when reading stories in my world. Once I find that feeling, I'd gladly add my own world as an example.

Nov 15, 2022 21:19

This is a really handy article for future reference! Thank you for making it!

May 26, 2023 17:49 by Richard Bradley

This is a really lovely and interesting scale, I like it a lot!

ricky -- 25 years old -- he/him, fae/faer, tiger/tigers pronouns -- current project: novanati rebuilt
Aug 30, 2023 21:21

I’d actually argue that Darkest Dungeon isn’t really Grimdark on account of the fact that you CAN do something about the situation. You can kill the cause of everything going wrong with a murderous zealot, a child killer, a mad doctor, and a horny nun.   Instead, I offer you a replacement for what is truly a hopeless realm in which you completely lack agency: Mario Party with friends.

Life is too short to be squandering on things you don’t enjoy or things that do nothing to benefit those around you.
Oct 28, 2023 18:33

I really like the scale - thanks for writing it out so clearly. Much appreciated.

Sit down, my friend, and let me tell you of Aran'sha . A world where the sands shift and the stars sing, where the wind carries secrets and the twin moons keep silent vigil over it all.
Nov 14, 2023 00:19 by Jakob Bolt

Thanks for your comment! Hopefully the greater range of shades will allow your world to find a better niche of where your worlds might find more clear footing

Dec 9, 2023 20:48 by jyliet of the house

This article has been really helpful in designing the kind of world that I want to create. I knew that I wanted it to be a peaceful place, but being able to articulate whether it's more graybright or grayglow has guided some other decisions that have huge effects. Thank you so much!   (Also, quick note, there's a typo in the noblebright description.)

Feb 28, 2024 02:56 by Marjorie Ariel

I know this makes everything *way* more complicated, but I feel like the whole thing could additionally be made into a cube with narrative style as the third variable. I imagine the z-axis would represent how seriously a work takes itself, on a scale from complete seriousness to complete satire.   For example, you listed Game of Thrones as an example of grimdim. While I agree with the assessment, I also think the description perfectly fits the RPG setting Morkborg. Yet, these two settings are wildly different because GoT takes itself very seriously, and Morkborg is a satrical meat-grinder in which characters die so quickly they're not worth the time it takes to roll up. (My group keeps a dozen or so randomly generated characters on hand, so as soon as you die, you grab one off the pile and your new character inexplicably appears in the middle of a bar brawl or under a bed in a dungeon.)   Another example: I think your description of bleakdim is spot on A Series of Unfortunate Events, yet I don't find the series particularly bleak. I think that's because the narrative style leans toward the satirical. After all, the humorous nature of the books doesn't change the lack of agency or the everpresent evil. In contrast, I would place the works of Tamora Pierce in the nobleglow to greyglow spectrum (depending on the series), but they tend to feel heavier than Series of Unfortunate Events. (I suppose, then, that we could refer to the z-axis as "weight.")   Slight apologies for being verbose, (and more apologies for complicating things further), but I hope this has been interesting food for thought.

Apr 3, 2024 03:32 by LexiCon (WordiGirl)

Very interesting article! I feel like my world would be GrayCore because it is very close to the real world we live in. Thanks for sharing and I'm happy Kat linked it in the WorldBuilding Con chat or I likely wouldn't have known this existed! <3

Apr 17, 2024 03:33

I love this! My world, although I’ve just started actually working on it lol, falls pretty solidly in GrayBright. If you’re looking for more examples for things, may I suggest “The Giver” by Lois Lowry for GrimBright?