Hey Game Fans, we’re back with another one of our articles on gaming concepts and ideas. Today we’re going to take a look at Alignment and the role it plays in both in game interactions and between player dynamics. Alignment can be a touchy subject and not every game uses it, but we’re going to try and cover it in as broad a method possible. Remember, these are my broad opinions on what Alignment is and how it works. Others may have differing opinions, and that’s perfectly ok. We can still talk about things we have different opinions on. Let’s take a look at the Alignment system for Dungeons and Dragons.
Alignment is represented by two separate categorizations on two axes. The Societal Axis represents the character’s beliefs as it relates to Law vs Chaos. The Morality Axis represents the character’s belief towards Good vs. Evil. Between these two end points are a middle ground in both Axes, Neutrality, which represents either an ambivalence towards the concept, or an intentional choice to maintain balance. We have three choices on each access, and that means we have a total of nine possible choices for a character’s alignment. Let’s take a look at each axis, and see what we can derive about character motivating factors and beliefs.
This broadly encompasses how a creature relates to society and social structures. Lawful creatures are societally minded, and look at the social structure as both a means to help reinforce order and provide for the common good. Chaotic creatures typically don’t see the societal benefits of orderly societies and populations and either have their own ways of settling disputes or aren’t typically found in societies. Neutral creatures fall somewhere in between these two ends of the spectrum.
This represents a creature’s tendency towards good and evil. Good creatures tend to do things that better the lives of other creatures. Evil creatures tend to do things that better their own lives without regard to the needs of other creatures. Neutral creatures fall somewhere in the middle, and will behave in a manner that feels appropriate to them.
So let’s take a look at each alignment combination and see what those characters are going to tend to look like, and how they are probably going to behave. Remember, these are typical qualities, and i tend to look at Alignments in two ways. First, Alignment is predictive; If you know that a character or creature is Lawful Good, you have a decent idea that that critter is going to follow the law and behave in a manner that provides for the common good. Second, Alignment is an outlook; A character or creature aspires to meet specific societal and moral attitudes and tries to meet those standards. Not everyone can meet the specifics of their Alignment, but so long as they are trying, they still fall within the Alignment they profess to be.
Lawful Good creatures believe that society is a cure for the ills of the world and strive to make their society better, and spread society as a means to improve the world around them. They are typically honest, hard working people who buy into their social dynamic because it is both good and right. They are more likely to work within proper channels and follow legal procedures to affect the change they are seeking.
Neutral Good Creatures believe that Good is its own reward. They will work to help other creatures in a manner that meets their needs before considering any other notions of order or chaos. They try to provide the most help that they can without considering any other perspective.
Chaotic Good creatures tend to not concern themselves about the “Rules” and focus on what’s “Right”. They don’t care about a greater societal perspective of good when they see more important problems (from their perspective). They mean well, but use methods that others may find extremely distasteful.
Lawful Neutral creatures focus on the structure and spirit of their own laws, personal codes and traditions above all else. They are morally ambivalent, and behave in accordance with their personal traditions and beliefs. They will act in accordance with their personal beliefs, and understanding what those beliefs or traditions are can go a long way in furthering understanding with this alignment. Further, because it’s a personal interpretation of a code of conduct, there can be differences between two practitioners of the same code or tradition.
This is an alignment for creatures that avoid morality conflicts and ethical dilemmas. These are the folks who will keep their heads down, avoid trouble, and do what’s situationally best at the time. They don’t take sides, and some go to great lengths to actively avoid situations where they have to choose.
Chaotic Neutral characters do whatever they desire. They hold their personal freedom above all other ideology and belief, and move as they like and do what they want. They don’t typically care about the consequences of their decisions and most avoid taking sides in any sort of discussion unless they decide that their opinion is relevant.
Lawful Evil creatures are tyrants who use the rule of law to oppress those weaker or stupider than themselves. They are highly ordered creatures that are perfectly happy to follow the law, but use the law to their advantage in any situation they can.
Neutral Evil creatures embrace a philosophy of doing whatever they want without any societal or idealistic pressures to keep them in check. If they can get away with something, they will do it as often as they can, as hard as they can. They are self-centered creatures that will use, bully, exploit, or kill other creatures to meet the personal goals and designs they have decided upon.
Chaotic Evil creatures act with reckless, unprecedented violence. They do whatever they want and will kill, destroy, and rampage across the land for the fun of it. They are often motivated by hatred, greed, or bloodlust, and are extremely unpredictable.
Not really an alignment a player can select (Neutral does that for most of your needs), Unaligned is a catchall category for animals, beasts, and other quasi-intelligent creatures that don’t necessarily have a thinking brain. Bears follow their animal instincts but don’t act out benevolence or malice, they’re just bears.
Putting it Together
So what does this mean? Well, for a player looking for an alignment for their character, you can figure out where you want to be in the various categories. This can help you figure out how your character behaves and what motivates them. If you have discussions with other characters and you either tell each other your alignments, then you have a pretty good idea how they’re going to behave under normal circumstances.
Remember, Alignment is a predictor and a perspective, not a hard and fast contract that you have to follow. Part of having an alignment driven system is that people can stray from their alignments, and eventually, if you stray far enough, often enough, you can end up changing alignments. Trying to play your alignment can be part of the fun of playing your character, especially if you’re playing an alignment you’re either not familiar with, or not comfortable with.
We’ll cover some other aspects of Alignment and how it interacts with the larger Dungeons and Dragons world. Game on, Game Fans, we’ll see you next week.