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Alignment Editorial (Different View)

Simeron Steelhammer

Mandos of ALFA recently presented a good view on what he felt the different alignments in AD&D (now just D&D again) meant. However, I felt that much of what he posted were more personal views rather then general rules of thumbs other DMs and players could use for their own information. Therefore, I've taken some time to write this as a "different view" of alignments.

First off, let me say that my own personal background in gaming goes back to about 1975 for playing and about 1977-1979 for GMing. I've played just about every kind of RPG and CRPG you can imagine. Currently, I am a Core DM for the Land of Argyle and the Dwarven Citadel Project and assistant DM for the Gemworld of Amethyst. I also help with the Neverwinter Nexus as I can. So, I have spent a great deal of time on the alignment issues over the years. So, let's look at what alignment really is. Alignment is a way to describe a character's level of morality, ethics and view of law and honor. The evil/good side is for morals and the law/chaos side is for view of law and honor as well as their ethics.

Selfish interests drive evil aligned people. They view issues with a "what's in it for me" attitude. Good aligned people look at issues with a "what is the best course of action for the group" attitude. Neutral people fall in-between the two and try to "balance" out the two extremes. Thus, in a given situation, evil people will look for the "best" choice for their own gains, neutral will weigh the pros and cons of the situation and good will look for the "best" choice based on benefit to the community or their group.

Lawful aligned people are disciplined and ordered. They view issues with a "what is the just thing to do" attitude. Chaotic aligned people look at issues from an individualistic view. They ask the question "what is best for the individual" in a given situation. Neutrals again try to "balance" the two opposing views. Thus, when a issue presents itself, a lawful person will base their choice on what is "just", a Chaotic person will base their choice on what is "right for the individual" and Neutrals will again weigh the "individual's rights" verses the "just" thing to do.

Now, based on these definitions, let's look at the alignments.

Lawful Good:

A Lawful Good individual will base their decisions on what "just" and "best for the group". Thus, a LG person will stand for what they hold to be moral and ethical. An example of this would be a paladin that defies a local warlord who is oppressing a hamlet. The warlord is the ruler and thus, makes the laws. But, the paladin knows that his laws are unjust and are for his own personal benefit. Thus, he stands against the "lawful" ruler because the laws are not "just" and serve to benefit only the warlord, not the greater group. These tend to be the "public supporters" of society. Obi wan, the Lone Ranger and similar people are good examples.

Chaotic Evil:

A Chaotic Evil individual will base their decisions on what is "best for me". Thus, CE people will do whatever is the best choice to further their own ends. An example would be a fighter that becomes a bandit and steals from travelers then kills them to keep them quiet or to cover his crimes. He sees nothing wrong in what he is doing. The valuables he gains are his money and the silence of his dead victims allows him to continue on his way. These are the "psychopaths" of society. Norman Bates, Freddy Kruger and the like are good examples.

Lawful Evil:

A Lawful Evil individual will base their choices on what is "just" but "best for me." Thus, the LE person will honor their word and follow the laws but always seek to twist things in their own favor. Simply put, they know the difference between "right and wrong" but don't care. An example of this is a wizard who serves a powerful king but, whispers in his ear in order to get laws passed that serve his own ends, such as outlawing all arcane magic while having the king decree his magic is divine. Thus, he eliminates the "competition" while still retaining all his own power. These are the "sociopath" of society. Darth Vader, Ming the Merciless and characters like them are good examples.

Chaotic Good:

A Chaotic Good person bases their decisions on what "best serves the people". So a CG person will take matters of justice into their own hands to make sure that what is "right" gets done. An example is a rogue that finds out about a merchant that cheats his customers and then sets about stealing and discrediting the merchant due to the fact that the "local law" won't or can't do anything to stop him from cheating the people. These are the vigilantes of society. Batman, Robin Hood and similar characters are good examples.

Neutral Good:

The Neutral Good person is most concerned with what "best serves the group". So, NG people tend to try to serve their community and do what is "right" by societies standards. An example of this would be the cleric that sets up a church that uses its power (prayers, magic and such) to help heal the sick, bring good weather for farmers or drive out undead from a city sewer without requiring anything in return from the populous. These are the "good Samaritans" of society. Walker Texas Ranger, John Cahill US Marshall and similar heroes are good examples.

Neutral Evil:

Neutral Evil people are most concerned with "what's in it for me". A NE person will try to always get something out of a deal even if it's not the best they could do. A good example would be the ranger that is willing to provide information for a price, but won't be the guide for the party because he "don't want to get involved" or be bothered with it. These are the "informants" and "shrewd businessmen" of society. Sandoval (FBI Agent) and Da 'Orr (Lead Taelon) from Earth Final Conflict show this alignment well.

Lawful Neutral:

People of a Lawful Neutral alignment are concerned with justice above all else. LN people will seek to enforce the laws, uphold their honor and ensure others do the same. The monk that keeps the local peasants from rising up against an oppressive warlord or hunts down bandits of the same is probably this alignment. These are the "lawyers" of society. Tier (from Andromeda), Judge Dredd and characters of that kind are good examples.

Chaotic Neutral:

Despite what most people think, Chaotic Neutral people are not necessarily "insane" nor do they have to act like this. The Chaotic Neutral person is highly individualistic and wants freedom above all other things. They tend to go off on tangents and whims quite often, truly waking up in a "new world" everyday. The bard that charges people to hear him sing one day and gives a free concert the next because he got all the gold he needed from the previous day is a good example. These tend to be the "flippant" or "whimsical" members of society. Trace (from Andromeda, purple girl with tail), Captain Chaos (from Cannonball Run) and similar characters are examples of this alignment.

True Neutral:

Probably the hardest alignment to play right in my opinion, True Neutral people are concerned with the "balance" of things. A True Neutral person takes in all the options and only then decides what needs to be done to maintain equilibrium. The druid that allows a fire to burn down a large part of the forest, killing many animals because he knows that the dead animals will feed the earth and other carrion eaters and the burnt forest will be a needed clearing for flowers and grass is a good example. These tend to be the "naturalists" of society. Ranger Bill (from Flipper), Steve Irwin (the Croc Hunter) and other such people are good examples.

I hope this article helps you when you think of alignments. It is a subject everyone tends to have their own ideas about but I hope in some small way, this will help you to expand on your ideas a little. Until next, I bid you good gaming and peace!

Simeron Steelhammer

Migrate Wizard: 
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