Hey Game Fans, we’re back to take another look at the character creation process for Dungeons and Dragons. Today we’re going to take a look at some of the more role-playing heavy aspects of the game. We’ll be discussing alignment and and go over some of the basic personality characteristics. (we’re in Chapter 4 of the PHB if you’re following along at home). First up, Alignment.
Alignment is an interesting idea for a role-playing game because it’s an indicator of your character’s perspective on the two specific concepts. One of these is the character’s moral perspective, falling somewhere along Good, Neutral, and Evil. The second dynamic is the character’s attitude towards order and society, and falls along a spectrum comprised of Lawful, Neutral, and Chaotic. Some creatures (mostly those without the intelligence score need to truly be considered sentient) have an additional alignment called Unaligned. This represents the creature’s lack of awareness of both the Moral and Social ideas needed to have a more complex alignment.
Both of these concepts fall across their own spectra, and every character has an alignment composed of a component from each concept. This means that there are 9 alignment choices available for characters to take as their own. Let’s discuss how this applies to characters and then we’ll talk about some special circumstances involving Alignment as a larger concept.
Alignment is usually showcased in a grid like this:
Lawful Good (LG)
Lawful Neutral (LN)
Lawful Evil (LE)
Neutral Good (NG)
Neutral Evil (NE)
Chaotic Good (CG)
Chaotic Neutral (CN)
Chaotic Evil (CE)
Lawful Good is an alignment that believes society is a good and proper thing, and that the social order is inherently designed to better the lives of its citizens. More society is better than less, and the laws protect the people they are supposed to. Characters like this believe “in the system” and trust that it will do the right thing.
Neutral good looks at what the best outcome for people in a situation is, and attempts to make that outcome a reality. They are ambivalent on the order versus chaos debate and i like to look at Neutral Good characters as focused on “The Greatest Good.”
Chaotic Good characters do what they feel is the best thing at the time. They care little for the laws and expectations of others and help in the way they feel is most appropriate or best at the time they help. They have a very personal relationship with idea of good, and don’t necessarily conform to everyone else’s ideas about what good means. They still are focused on helping others and providing aid and support, but “Do it their way.”
Lawful Neutral characters believe wholeheartedly in a set of laws, traditions, or a code of conduct. They hold tightly to that code without regard for the moral aspects of life. Depending on their chosen set of laws and traditions, they can follow a lot of different perspectives for how they run their lives.
Neutral characters really don’t want to get involved in the affairs of other people. They really just want to avoid trouble and do what’s best at the time for themselves. “None of My Business” is a typical response from a Neutral character in most situations that don’t directly relate to them in some fashion.
Chaotic Neutral characters believe that their personal freedoms are more important than just about anything else in the world. They follow their whims and do whatever they feel like doing at the time. They are self serving characters who aren’t purposefully evil or spiteful, but they don’t necessarily care about acts with unintended evil consequences.
Lawful Evil characters see the law as a tool to do whatever they want to do. They won’t break the law in order to accomplish their goals, but they will use any loophole, advantage, or other situation where they can take advantage of the legal system. These are characters that believe in the letter of the law, not necessarily its spirit, and love to be “technically” correct.
Neutral Evil characters do whatever they can get away with. They don’t care about the consequences for other people or the finer points of personal property ownership. They don’t care in the slightest who else gets hurt in the pursuit of their goals, but are self serving enough to avoid taking the blame or consequences of their actions, if they can avoid it.
Chaotic Evil creatures are arbitrary dispensers of bloodshed, mayhem and violence. They are driven by hatred, greed or a desire to hurt other living creatures. (Not good for social events). These characters are without redeeming qualities in most cases and are acting for a variety of antisocial purposes.
These creatures are incapable of making moral and ethical choices due primarily to a lack of intelligence.
Alignment in a Larger World
In a multiverse with other planes of reality (some of which are created by and exemplify concepts like Law, Chaos, Good, and Evil) there are some creatures that are literally made of these alignment concepts. These creatures specifically have unusual interactions with some types of magic and certain abilities and spells can use this essential trait to their advantage, (Be sure to look through the Spells and magic section for more details).
So you are going to see a little of articles and discussions online about what alignment is and its purpose in the game. My perspective on alignment is that alignment serves two primary purposes in a game.
First, Alignment is a predictor of what your character is likely to do in any given situation. The thought process for me usually looks like “Hmm, this is the situation as i see it. What would my character want to do from the perspective of his or her alignment? Does this action make sense in that context or not? Should i come up with a different plan of action?” Sometimes i hit my alignment dead on, but other times i miss the mark and the action i picked doesn’t quite work out the way i intended for it.
The other key thing i use alignment for is as a compass for helping me make sure i am following the beliefs that my character believes. I can fail to live up to the ideas and guiding beliefs for my alignment, but so long as i am striving to meet the expectations and ideas behind my alignment, i am still playing that alignment in the context of the game.
That’s the way i look at alignment as it influences creating and playing a character in Dungeons and Dragons. Let’s take a look at some other key personality ideas before we close up shop for the day.
This edition of Dungeons and Dragons has introduced a new set of ideas to help you flesh out your character. There are four of these, and they can help you figure out some of the defining ideas about the way your character thinks about things. They can give you wonderful opportunities for role-playing and can provide hours of amusement at the table. Let’s take a look at each thing and talk about what they represent for you.
Personality traits are very minor personality quirks that represent unusual ways of looking at the world around your character. Perhaps your character doesn’t trust clerics of different faiths than his or her own. Maybe your character only eats meat that’s been burnt to a crisp over an open fire. These can be a lot of fun for you to explore your character with. Every character needs at least 2 of these.
What motivates and drives your character? What aspirations do they have and what do they want from the world around them? Why does your character do what they are going to do, and what do they want to achieve? Every character needs 1 of these.
What ties does your character have to the world around them? Are they close to a city or town? Friends in a specific place or a church they belong to? What grounds your character to the larger world and what are the places and things that your character will work for or accomplish things in the service of? Every character needs 1 of these.
Every character has aspects of their personality that can be used against them. Some sort of vice, fear, compulsion, or weakness of character that your character strives through. What can motivate your character to act against their own best interest and what can make your character otherwise act outside your alignment? Every character needs 1 of these.
Putting it all Together
Once you have your character’s Alignment and Personal Characteristics figured out, you have a solid starting point for figuring out what kind of character you are going to play. There are lot of interesting opportunities and aspects to your character that you can work with from these ideas. Remember, these are ideas, suggestions and options to your character, and you can rework your Personal Characteristics before you get settled in. These can also change over time as your character grows and learns new things. Alignment can also change over time, but remember, it’s your character’s Moral and Social compass and those either change gradually or as a sharp reaction to something that radically changes your character’s perspective.
We’re going to leave off here, and next week we’ll dig into the Backgrounds and see if we can add another set of details about the history of your character before they became adventurers. Game on, Game Fans.