View Full Version : Romanticism vs. Enlightenment

2013-03-16, 04:08 AM
The arguments spawned by alignment debates are endless. I thought I might throw another one at you.

Law v. Chaos has always been very poorly-defined. It's a morass of weirdness, possibly more so than Good v. Evil. But what if we framed the debate in different terms?

How would folks feel about this (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RomanticismVersusEnlightenment) conflict replacing the tension between law and chaos?

Enlightened: Rational, logical, puts their trust in science and industry (or magic, if it passes for science). Methodical and calculating, but not rigidly so. Believes in rules, laws, tangible systems. Favors the benefit of the society over the individual. Can be patriarchal and oppressive.

Romantic: Passionate, independent, believes in the power of the individual. Spontaneous and charismatic. In tune with their emotions and gives full expression to them. Believes in "to each their own." Can be reactionary and superstitious. Not "giant frog."

This divests some of the baggage involved in the words "Law" and "Chaos." A Chaotic Evil character is no longer a destructive random jester, but more an objectivist taken to the extreme. A person is judged by what they can achieve, what they can earn. A Lawful Good character is no longer a complete stick in the mud, but an optimistic utilitarian who believes fervently in the greater good and bringing it about. Although "Romantic Hammer" and "Enlightenment's Wrath" don't have the same ring to them.

Alternatively, one could use Dionysian and Appollonian, but that seems a bit more obscure.

2013-03-16, 04:19 AM
I think the idea is nice, especially if the explanation is clear enough (like I think it is here), but if all you're really worried about is the terms, consider this:
while Law and Chaos may have unnecessary strong meanings, Enlightened and Romantic may actually be a little too obscure. The former sounds like it would be associated with Divine types the most. For the latter, a lot of people will be unable to think of anything but "romance" when they hear the word Romantic, and even those who know the full meaning of the word will probably think of that first.
If the whole point here is to help remove the connotations of Law and Chaos, replacing them with even more bizarre and varying ones probably won't help.

I don't think a lot is really accomplished just by changing the terms.

2013-03-16, 04:27 AM
That could work great in a game/setting built around it. In D&D... enh. Those contain mostly personality traits, which isn't a good way to handle alignment, IMO.

The easiest solution for D&D is always to go back to the original Law/Chaos cosmic power alignments, in the style of Poul Anderson's Three Hearts and Three Lions. Law/Chaos is your alignment in a cosmic struggle (a bit similar to Moorcock's Eternal Champion series), whether you are a knowing participant or not.

2013-03-16, 04:46 AM
I like it, but I'm worried most of my PCs in this system would be neutral. It seems they're not really contradictory to me. Rational and logical does not preclude passionate and independent, does it?
The problem, I guess, with L v. C is that it adds several things to one side (discipline, laws, traditions, gregariousness e.g.), and you might find someone who is both disciplined and also a firm believer in personal achievement, maing them both L and C. With E v. R, it certainly removes that problem, but as I said, it might go too far.

But then again, as I think someone else above said, in the right context it could do very well.

2013-03-16, 05:02 AM
Well, I wouldn't sum it up as "Rational and logical" vs "Emotional and independent".

It's the idea of "Progress is always better" vs "Traditional values are the best".

2013-03-16, 05:15 AM
I used the first two words on each side that OP provided. But even with your summing up, I think very few people would ascribe to either. They might lean one way or the other, but I don't know anyone who is so fervently in one camp or the other on this count.

2013-03-16, 05:20 AM
Maybe think Blood War?

Devils: hierarchical, methodical, tactical, firmly believe in ordered, rational evil. Finite resources set to their most efficient use.

Demons: passionate, independent, emotional, capricious, believe that evil devoid of passion is no such thing. An infinite well of power, but no rhyme nor reason to its application.

I admit that these concepts are more obscure than Law or Chaos. I was an English major. I wanted to introduce cool English major stuff to D&D!

2013-03-16, 08:57 AM
Alternatively, one could use Dionysian and Appollonian, but that seems a bit more obscure.

To be honest, I think I prefer that solution. We could always use more Nietzsche.

The problem that one encounters the most with this sort of thing is the inevitable (and often false) dichotomy. Somebody can be rational and logical, and still be in tune with their emotions and favor a more liberal philosophy. Playing these things up as opposing metaphysical forces, instead of simple descriptors, is viable to exactly the degree to which you are willing to handwave away the contradictions and inconsistencies which will certainly abound.

Personally, I maintain that it's best to just describe your character, and throw alignment to the winds. If your playing in a game where you're actually liable to describe your character in terms of 19th century philosophy, a simple two letter code probably won't be much help anyway.

2013-03-16, 09:36 AM
Yeah, I'm with Othesomo on this. Instead of spawning more and more alignment types, it's better to scrap alignment entirely. You know, like almost every RPG but DND does.

The former sounds like it would be associated with Divine types the most.

Ironically, that's pretty much the opposite of what the enlightenment movement is about.

2013-03-16, 11:00 AM
I'd like to play a D&D game with that alignment spectrum, and I understood the terms right away (gots me a lib'rul arts eddymacation), but I don't feel it's at all related to Law vs Chaos.

2013-03-18, 09:27 AM
Well, I wouldn't sum it up as "Rational and logical" vs "Emotional and independent".

It's the idea of "Progress is always better" vs "Traditional values are the best".

What about when "Progress" has been one of the most important "Traditional value" of a society for centuries?

In RL people've been jailed in prisons or madhouses, or just slaughtered because they were opposing Progress?

Makes me think of Canudos (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_of_Canudos) and Contestado (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contestado_War) wars in Brazil. The previous happened in the Northeast and the latter in the South, two regions pretty different culturally, but in both cases it was about religious fanatics (who also happened to be poor or having their lands stolen) revolting against progress. In Canudos, they wanted the Monarchy back and thought the Republic was a Devil's thing. In the Contestado they revolted against having their lands taken from them to build railroads. In both cases the media and central government accused them of being "savages", and current racial theories were used to explain their behavior.

We even have a lot of modern theories saying that people are conservative because they're emotionally imatture or something along these lines. My point is that in some times and societies, breaking the norms is the most important social norm.