Pondering Alignment, in the D&D / Pathfinder sense14 September, 2012
So, we have been messing around with the D&Dnext playtest and we have a new player in that group, both of which led to a discussion of alignment in D&D (and similar games) and what it means. These sort of debates is why my Sea of Stars campaign (which uses Pathfinder rules mostly) just ditched alignment entirely.
However, I thought that I would post up about what the various D&D alignments mean to me, I am making no claim to universal applicably in this, but this is how I interpret them:
Lawful Good – For the Good of All
Lawful good is all about harmony and working together to build a better future. Everyone should be able to contribute to the advancement of the society and achieve their person goals, within the framework of what is accepted by society. At its best, it is the Federation or realized Mohism, at its worst is it the crude utilitarian calculation of the greatest good for the greatest number.
Lawful Neutral – The Law is the Law
The philosophical path of legalism gets you this sort of alignment. The law is the absolute core of this society and its members either internalize that law or they suffer extreme punishments (or flee). The best exemplars of this alignment are the Judges of the Judge Dredd series.
Lawful Evil – Your papers please
Authoritarianism at its best, choose your favorite flavor: communism, dictatorship, fascism, whatever. The people in power manipulate the laws to ensure they stay in power though they may drape those laws in nationalism or building a utopia, as Orwell said in Animal Farm, some animals are more equal than others.
Neutral Good – It never hurts to help
These are the genuine nice people in the world, willing to help others even (sometimes) at a cost to their self, bending rules (slightly) if necessary, not stepping on another’s freedom (if they can help it) and generally seeking to make life better for everyone.
True Neutral – A Balance in All Things
The rarest alignment, those called to the service of the cosmic balance which seeks to maintain the equality between the otherworldly factions. Best suiting to annoying NPCs or building a campaign where all the characters share this alignment.
Neutral – Go along to get along
Or just everyday folk, people with no strong commitment to a philosophy or way of living, they just bend with whatever winds blow through their land, coping as best they can under whatever regime is in place. Most people fit here.
Neutral Evil – Ambition in its purist form
These people want what they want and woe to anyone who gets in their way, they will use the law when it suits them or naked force when it is more effective. No tactic is off the table if it advanced them and their endgame. While lacking the ability to subsume themselves into an organization or the raw unpredictability of the other evil alignments, they can blend into either of them for a short time as long as it move their goals forward. I consider this the most dangerous of the alignments, social chameleons making deals, gathering power and betraying those who no longer can aid them.
Chaotic Good – Liberty for All!
This alignment seeks the best for all by giving people the freedom to seek their own best path, they will form loose organizations to solve problems and accomplish tasks but are suspicious of large organizations that try to control people. They can be needlessly aggressive in their attempts to secure freedom from potential threats and to expand into new areas and find new opportunities. The American frontier mentality is my model here.
Chaotic Neutral – There is no fate!
To this alignment freedom is the only goal and their freedom is usually so broadly defined that to gets in the way of other people’s freedoms. The chaotic neutral being wants to do what they want to do when they want to do it, as such, they are often dangerously impulsive balls of ego and ill-manners.
Chaotic Evil – Give that to me!
All that matters is being at the top, take what you can and hold it, crush anyone who tries to take it from you. The Hobbsian state of nature, where life is nasty, brutish and short. No long term planning, just rule of strength and the mob. What passes for societies that are chaotic evil are ugly and unpleasant places, unless you are at the top, and even there you are one fight or knife in the dark away from the trash heap.
How do these line up with your views on the classic alignments? Do you think I am totally off base with any of them?
Edit: I talked about playing evil characters some time ago.