View Full Version : Alignment

2007-07-16, 02:58 PM
I wrote this essay in 1995, it's been quoted many, many times on the net as can be witnessed by googling for 'Telsindria', the proper name of a character mentioned in the article that is unique enough to not occur on it's own. I'm posting this with regards to the continued fracas concerning Miko's alignment, and what each of the alignments mean. Unlike a lot of things I've written this has stood the test of time even though I no longer use it myself (preferring a more flavorful 5-alignment system a 'la Magic: The Gathering). Still, when I do play in the standard D&D alignment system this is my guide, and my counsel.

Fair warning - this is long - about 3 pages printed out.


One of the more misunderstood aspects of the AD&D game system is the presence of the alignment system. Designed to be a very simplistic method of sketching out a character's moral and ethical beliefs, alignment can run much deeper than that, and to be useable in the Dusk campaign setting it has to be.

Alignment, is the character's moral and ethical outlook. The word "outlook" is the key of the sentence, for what a character believes and how he behaves can be two different aspects entirely. The character's innermost beliefs and urges are his alignment; once everything else about the character has been boiled away.

For a beginning role-player dealing with this alone can be a challenge, since declaring alignment is like saying, "I'm going to play a character who will do this because he believes this." Although somewhat one dimensional, it is important that this first step be mastered before attempting to play a character who has multiple views - some of which will may seem to conflict on the surface.

Alignment is also important to the DM, since at a glance it can give him some very sketchy ideals on how to approach the character and what to expect of him. In a way alignment is more important to the DM than the player, for with his cast of hundreds of roles the less he has to learn about any particular NPC to play him well the better.

Still, alignment is seen by master role-players as a straight-jacket to be left behind with the other training wheels of life. But casting away alignment is not so simple: many magic spells and items have their results at least partially based on alignment. To cast away the alignment system cripples or eliminates these items, and with it a large part of the AD&D game.

Remember however, that alignment states tendencies and beliefs that the character may hold. Not all of what the character does may coincide with this, but the greater average will. To illustrate this point the nine basic alignments are discussed once again with broader interpretations than those of the Player's Handbook.

Ethics: Law vs. Chaos

The ethical component of the character's alignment is where he stands between law and chaos. Lawful characters view the world as essentially ordered, or at least a place where order must be established and maintained. Chaotic characters see no such order, and usually disdain its establishment unless necessary. A character who is neutral in this regard has not remarkable views either way, or they may be mixed. He may see no order in the universe other than what is established by sentient creatures, but may see that imposed order as necessary.

Morals: Good vs. Evil

The definitions of what is "good" and "evil" change wildly between societies, and for the purposes of alignment play these definitions must be broad based as well. As a rule, "good" is the concern for the welfare of other sentient creatures. "Evil" is the inverse, a lack of concern for the welfare of others. A character who is morally neutral would not take active participation to further the welfare of others or to hinder it. There are no absolutes here, and within the context of an individual character his beliefs come into play since they are likely to be less universal.

As an example, in traditional "Western philosophy" suicide is wrong. Most Christian sects go so far as to state that it is a damnable act. A character with these believes would, in his mind at least, be committing an evil act by committing or assisting in a suicide. On the contrary, in Medieval Japanese society, suicide was morally righteous to the point of being the ultimate, final means of atonement for failure or an evil act. A character with these beliefs could commit or assist in a suicide without endangering his alignment standing.

It is important to stick to the more universal precepts of the first paragraph for the general determination of what is good and what is evil, especially between societies. They may be less exacting, but they give the DM more flexibility in his judgments and choices.

Michael Lloyd Morris
"Advice is one of those rare things that is far easier to give than to receive." -- Telsindria.

Lawful Good

Often disdained as the paladin's goody-two-shoe alignment, Lawful Good is a far more subtle alignment than that, for very few characters who happen to be Lawful Good actually stick to anything approaching the Paladin Code in stringency.

A character who is lawful good holds strongly to the principle that the good of the society can only be maintained via order. The exact specifications of what is "good" may vary wildly for this purpose, but on the whole "good" implies concern for the safety and comforts of others, and that all persons have a right to safety and comfort. The character may build up other definitions in his own moral code, but this is essentially the heart of the matter. Lawful Good, unlike the other Good alignments, also holds that it is sometimes necessary to sacrifice what is "good" for a few persons in order to preserve order, which is "good" for society in general.

On a personal level Lawful Good characters have a tendency to at least strive for an ordered lifestyle. Many, if not most of them, have an "everything has a time and place" attitude. Most tend to organize their behaviors to suit the group, although they are reluctant to do so at a personal loss unless something worthwhile can be obtained with the sacrifice.

A Lawful Good alignment does not rule out chaotic behaviors, particularly impulsiveness. Impatience is another fault that some Lawful Good characters are guilty of. On the other side of the coin, hedonistic behavior is not often observed in Lawful Good characters, unless in one or two activities.

Lawful Good characters believe that order is the best way, they don't necessarily maintain it. A character with a particularly poor willpower may allow his life to get quite out of shape. And also remember that the character will maintain order from his point of view. A Lawful Good merchant's shop may look like an explosion in a mattress factory, with nobody other than the character able to find anything. But the apparent chaos is deceiving most of the time, ask him where something is and he'll usually be able to find it much faster than appearances would seem to dictate.

Lawful Good societies tend to avoid overdoing laws. The laws of the society are usually well coded, but one individual, or sometimes a council, has the right to overrule the law to achieve something "good" (or at least perceived as such). Lawful Good justices are more concerned with the spirit of the law and the intent of its author in achieving a worthy purpose. If the law does not achieve this most Lawful Good characters will dispose of it, although some more reluctantly than others.

As a DM running a Lawful Good PC, be careful not to be paladin strict on them. While it is true that paladins must be Lawful Good, the reverse is not true. Some Lawful Good character may take active disagreement with the Paladin's Code, let alone try to live with it. Most Lawful Good characters respect the Paladin's Code, and respect members of the class for trying to live up to it, but they hardly make such an attempt themselves in their day-to-day lives. For the vast majority of Lawful Good characters the occasional charitable act is enough, unlike paladins they usually won't go out of their way to help someone. But they will never go out of their way to harm someone either - indeed most Lawful Good characters that do this accidentally will try to rectify the situation as soon as possible.

Neutral Good

It is the belief of most Neutral Good aligned characters that morality must be maintained beyond all other virtues. As long as someone is not harming others then he is doing nothing wrong. Neutral Good characters also perceive both too many laws and too few of them to be a threat to the common good. Too many laws and freedom will be unjustly restricted, too few and it will not be protected. Hence, a balance must be struck.

Neutral Good characters strive to act to the benefit of as many persons as they can, and if that includes themselves that is an added bonus. If they cannot personally benefit from a good act they will still probably perform the act. They will not intentionally harm anyone who is not a known enemy, and such dealings are usually short and to the point. Neutral Good characters are perhaps the least tolerant of whatever they perceive as being "wrong" of the three major good alignments.

Individuals of this alignment can be quite interesting. Not overly concerned with establishing order in their lives, they may have the appearance of being chaotic, yet unlike chaotic characters they rarely rebel against a just authority simply because it is overbearing. Although it varies greatly from individual to individual, Neutral Good characters do not usually rock the boat. A Neutral Good leader is rare, for the individuals of this alignment often lack the sense of duty or the sense of individualism it requires to take on such a task.

As is mentioned previously, there is a balance between the lawful and chaotic sides of a Neutral Good character, although it should be noted that the vast majority of those characters do not consciously maintain this balance in their lives. It is this lack of a conscious awareness of the balance that may explain why there are so few Neutral Good characters when compared to Lawful or Chaotic Good ones: they simply fall to one of the two waysides.

An entire society made up of Neutral Good characters is rare, although it should be noted that the gnomic society bears this trait. Such societies are usually quite small. Government is achieved through a few leaders and a few, broad edicts that everyone is happy with. The happiness of the greater part of society is the only real concern, any laws that would affect something else are usually not to be found.

Dungeon masters that run a Neutral Good character should pay attention to the balance between law and chaos in the character's general behaviors, but don't be to quick to penance aberrations with the members of this alignment. A Neutral Good character may follow every order given to him faithfully until he doesn't agree with one, at which point he simply leaves. When gauging alignment shifts, look for chaotic and lawful actions whose natures precede over the greater good. For instance, a paladin may follow (or at least capriciously twist) a questionable order, a Neutral Good character would ignore it altogether. A Chaotic Good character may disobey a just order because he doesn't agree with it, even if he's been proven wrong. Neutral Good characters will concede (usually) in such cases.

Chaotic Good

The Chaotic Good mindset is a paradox of the desire for individuality and a benevolent concern for others. Chaotic Good characters are almost always strong minded and each tends to possess a unique moral compass about what exactly is right and what is wrong. These characters have a tendency to pass moral judgments based on their beliefs, and to hell with what anyone else thinks. Despite this individualism, the definition of good, for most Chaotic Good characters, is don't hurt anyone else.

Chaotic Good characters tend to be popular among players since it is mistakenly viewed as the only good alignment with room to slip up once in a while. That isn't true, for all good alignments can waver quite a bit. Chaotic Good characters, consciously or not, resist authority because they have a tendency to equate law with evil. They have the universal precept that every man should be left to his own to make up his own mind. In this aspect Chaotic Good characters can be very anarchistic, since they have a trust that people are capable of governing their own behavior.

There is a lot of variety in Chaotic Good behavior. Some are hedonistic, others have a paladin-like piety, but lack the follow through of the members of that class. Most are restless however, some are meticulous. Just as it is a mistake to believe Lawful Good characters to be devious of chaotic streaks, so too is it a mistake to believe Chaotic Good characters to be incapable of order. Indeed, often the characters of this alignment have to follow orders, even when they don't want to, but they can be quite capricious in their dealings with authorities they do not like. On the other hand, they can be quite methodical in order to get what they want. Still, the chaotic mindset is there. Chaotic Good characters who fall into a routine will break it occasionally for no apparent reason to anyone but themselves.

Chaotic Good societies tend to be wide spread and lacking of any real central authority. These societies rarely have a set of laws set in stone, just a series of precedents and understandings. "Rule" per se, is often deferred to one person at a time. Large Chaotic Good societies will enact more laws, but they will still be very broad based. Often these societies are republics with a democratic (or at least semi-democratic) leadership elected from time to time. But no matter what the intentions of any proposed law in such a society, it will always have opposition from those who feel that too much government is wrong, or even evil in nature. Enacting any new law in such a society is often a long and laborious process (If all this sounds familiar, the United States is an example of a Chaotic Good society and government).

DM's running Chaotic Good characters should take care to watch the player's lawful leanings. If he is too cooperative too much of the time, he's probably playing Chaotic Good because he things that Lawful (or Neutral) Good is too restrictive. On the contrary, Chaotic Good can be just as restrictive in the sense that it details a certain type of mindset and society. Still, don't be too harsh on this or any alignment. Even a Chaotic Good character will not rebel without any reason, although said reason may be whimsical at best.

Lawful Neutral

In a sense, Lawful Neutral characters can be the most dangerous of all the character types, especially in large numbers simply because, for the most part, they are easily controlled. Lawful Neutral characters place order above all other concerns. To them the presence of a natural order is the way things must be, and any moral issue stemming from the use of order is completely irrelevant to them.

Lawful Neutral characters look for patterns in everything. They cannot accept the world as being chaotic, and they therefore devise systems to explain away anything chaotic in their lives. It is chaos that they fear more than anything else, a Lawful Neutral would endure a thousand tyrannies before living in an anarchistic situation.

The characters of this alignment tend to always follow rather than lead. Leaders in Lawful Neutral societies are almost always Lawful Good or Lawful Evil, for rarely does a character gain a position of preeminence without gaining some moral baggage along the way. Even when Lawful Neutrals do lead, they follow whatever laws and precedents that preceded them. Lawful Neutrals are notoriously lacking in initiative, but to say they must have no willpower or individuality would be a mistake. Although they will fit in quietly and nicely when the powers that be follow the letter of the law, they can be a very painful hindrance to those who would try to follow the spirit of the law (Lawful Good) or twist it to their own ends (Lawful Evil). Order for its own sake - Lawful Neutral characters will stubbornly defend this principle to the bitter end. Just as there are few Neutral Good characters, so too are there few Lawful Neutrals. Most of these characters fall to the waysides of Good and Evil before holding their alignment long.

Lawful Neutral societies are almost always large, and always come with large cumbersome (and despite all efforts, usually comically ineffective) bureaucracies. Everyone in such a society is assigned a place in life. The goal of a Lawful Neutral society is to achieve perfect harmony, where everybody has a job, a place to live, and through the benevolence of a well run government everyone is happy (communism is an example of a Lawful Neutral governing system). Unfortunately, the willingness of these societies to follow orders and laws proves to be their undoing, as inevitably a few evil persons become entrenched at the upper echelons of government and are virtually invulnerable from removal or attack.

DM's should be wary of Lawful Neutrals. As with Chaotic Neutral it is an alignment that rarely lasts over a character's career. Lawful Neutrals are only occasionally interested in self-advancement unless they feel that their advancement (via their talents) will benefit society as a whole. "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" is the Lawful Neutral creed, no character of this alignment will go long without sacrificing material possessions, themselves, and even their friends for what they perceive to be for the benefit of their society.

True Neutral

True Neutral is at once the rarest and the most common alignment in the multiverse. Neutral characters are either incapable of making moral and ethical decisions or refrain from them actively. "Actively" is the key phrase here. A character who is incapable of moral and ethical decisions would have an intelligence and wisdom scores no higher than 6 each. Very few player characters qualify on that account, therefore the vast majority of PC Neutrals actively refrain from moral and ethical judgments.

Within this context there are two reasons a character may not actively pursue ethical and moral thinking. The first, and most storied in the AD&D tradition, is the druidical "preservation of the balance" mentality. However, this view, for obvious reasons, is uncannily rare.

The second and most common example is the character who simply doesn't care. Neutrals of this type aren't concerned for the welfare of anybody (except themselves), but they aren't willing to advance themselves at any cost like Neutral Evil characters. They are comparatively lazy and lacking in drive in this respect, still there are certainly other reasons. The character may see advancement beyond reasonable comfort through reasonable risk as pointless. Not surprisingly, these Neutrals have a bleak view on life. As for the ethical (law vs. chaos) leanings of these characters, they may follow orders if it serves them, disobey if it doesn't, act on the occasional whim but otherwise keep to a reasonably predictable life.

True Neutrals are all about reason, and perhaps that's why they are so few. Everybody seems to get behind some banner or cause, Neutrals couldn't care less about such trivial matters. Often they have one fascination in their lives which they are preoccupied with, and everything else doesn't matter to them. In the case of druids, this is the "preservation of the balance."

True Neutral societies are very rare, but when they do occur they tend to be primitive. The concerns of simple survival dominate the daily lives of such people, and for them further complications aren't worth the effort to create. In a way, Neutrals are the most peaceful of societies, but they are also the most infuriating because of the nearly universal lack of a drive the members of this alignment possess.

DM's running a True Neutral should watch for any consistent behaviors that lean towards another alignment, but often he will find that there is a balance between the various aspects of the character's life, whether he consciously maintains them or not.

Chaotic Neutral

Perhaps the most misunderstood of the nine alignments, many people believe that all chaotic neutral characters are insane. While it is true that none of them are very predictable, insanity is not the province of the members of this alignment alone. Indeed all characters of all alignments are capable of insane and compulsive behaviors, but Chaotic Neutrals are not only the most inclined to this type of behavior, they are also the most famous for it.

Chaotic Neutral characters have little to no discipline. That is perhaps the only statement that can be made about this alignment that applies to all the personalities contained within its context. As a rule, the only concern of Chaotic Neutral characters is themselves. They seek to do what pleases themselves and don't really care if that pleasure includes anyone else. Chaotic Neutrals can also be surprisingly snug and unambitious. This lack of personal greed separates this group from Chaotic Evil characters, who are often very concerned with getting ahead. Chaotic Neutrals are also unconcerned with philanthropy in the least. They will help someone that it pleases them to, or someone who will pay them.

Chaotic Neutrals do not consider morality in their judgments, and about the only thing they stop to consider is whether or not they have a remote chance of success. The odds aren't usually considered, but even Chaotic Neutrals will not attempt the obviously impossible unless desperate (then watch out, anything could happen). Chaotic Neutrals aren't suicidal, neither do they shy away from trusting sheer luck, and hence the alignment has reputation for brash behavior.

Chaotic Neutral societies are anarchies. Everyone does pretty much what he wants, and therefore Chaotic Neutral societies are either very small, or do not last long at all. The only real example of such a situation are the Mad Max movies and others in the post-apocalypse genre. The very lack of authority invites its institution, usually by force of arms.

Dungeon Master's need to watch this alignment carefully. Unscrupulous players sometimes play this alignment instead of Chaotic Evil if the DM bans that alignment from play. Outside of that, there is an oddball balance between good and evil in the personalities of Chaotic Neutrals. They may assassinate a good and benevolent ruler for cash, then spend the money on the poor. Although the contrast is rarely that sharp, it will be there when the alignment is played right.

It is also necessary to remind all that Chaotic Neutrals aren't insane, or crazy by definition of alignment. Chaotic Neutral characters as individuals may not take high risks, especially intelligent ones. However, they have a tendency to take odd approaches to objectives. Chaotic Neutral characters also thread intricate plots, but unlike lawful characters these plans are flexible and can change as whim and situation demand.

Lawful Evil

Niccolo Machievelli's The Prince is perhaps the definitive example of the Lawful Evil mentality. Often players and DM's mistakenly think of this alignment as the "kindly, gentler" evil. It is anything but. Lawful evil characters are dangerous alone, and the danger increases with the size of the groups they inevitably form.

"The end justifies the means" is the creed of this alignment. Lawful Evil characters may actually have admirable goals, but the means that they are willing to take are, more often than not, deplorable. Lawful Evil characters are often better versed in the letter of the law than the best paladins, and they stand ready to twist every phrase to suit their goals.

It is necessary to remember that exactly what is and is not evil will vary from society to society. However, evil always includes the complete and utter disregard for anything that stands in the way of the character's desires. An Evil character will hurt anybody or anything to get what he wants, be it wealth or pleasure (sometimes from the inflicting of the pain).

Lawful Evil characters believe that to further their own ends they must impose order onto others and dispose of by any means anything that threatens them or the order they impose. They may have the welfare of society superficially in mind, but their personal welfare always precedes that or anything else. Lawful Evil characters are meticulous, and they are also often very cruel in their aims.

Despite all of this, Lawful Evil characters aren't completely incapable of love or other like emotions, although it is viewed as weakness. Weakness is dangerous in Lawful Evil societies, for if one shows weakness he will be disposed of in order to strengthen the group.

Lawful Evil societies are usually in the shadow of another group, and in that function they excel at undermining that authority in order to establish their own. On rare occasion Lawful Evil groups come into control of an area, and in that situation they are often chaotic seeming as they go about changing laws on whims to suit their goals. However, those goals are meticulously chosen and the roads to these objectives are well mapped out. Lawful Evil groups are ruled by the strongest individual politically. Politicking plays a large role in Lawful Evil groups, as a brash murderous attempt to the throne will be met by the backlash of the entire group without mercy. An example of an underground Lawful Evil society is the Mafia.

Neutral Evil

Neutral Evil characters are perhaps the most simple of all the alignments to run or play. They are concerned only with themselves and what pleases themselves. Not overly concerned with the ethical concerns of Law and Chaos, they act in accordance to what best suits them and all other concerns are left alone.

Neutral Evil characters have a tendency to be more isolated than other alignments. Unable to be trusted, they in turn give no trust to anyone. They always have a double cross ready, but will usually only use one to betray someone who has betrayed them. It is not that they have any moral compulsions about betrayal, Neutral Evil characters recognize that the less you betray others the less likely you will be betrayed. When Neutral Evil characters do betray, they usually kill the betrayed to reduce complications down the road.

Unlike Lawful Evil characters, who view others as tools to be used or Chaotic Evil characters, who see others as persons to bully into submission, Neutral Evil characters view other persons as "complications." Whether or not that person is a desirable complication (or at least tolerable) determines the length of the relationship between the two. The relative power of the characters often determines what the Neutral Evil character will do. Neutral Evil characters can be controlled (somewhat) via the threat of retribution, but they will do what they can get away with. If that is anything then may the gods have mercy on anyone in their path that they take a disliking to.

Neutral Evil societies are usually dominated by a dictator strong enough to keep the underlings in line. When the ruler loses strength he usually loses his life. Neutral Evil societies are rarely long lasting or very large since the members of that alignment rarely cooperate and tend to disperse in order to take advantage of those more foolish than themselves.

Chaotic Evil

Chaotic Evil character will do anything that will have a pleasing result to them. They are interested in maximum gain for minimum risk. They often do not care to undergo the very treatment they inflict, but they have no interest or belief in the principle of "treat others as you expect to be treated." Chaotic Evil characters rarely plan very far in advance, preferring to handle situations on a day by day basis.

The combination of unpredictability and utter disregard for anyone else makes Chaotic Evil characters the most dangerous type of foe the Pc's are likely to face. Chaotic Evil characters often develop sadistic and macabre personalities. They are often spiteful and see everyone as being just as reprehensible as themselves. Chaotic Evil societies are often crude and loose bully associations, where any one individual can jump to the top instantly by defeating the leader and any other challengers. As a result, the leader is rarely in place for long, and if he has been he has weakened the whole group such that no two (or even three) others can threaten him. This is done by murder of anyone who poses a challenge to rule.

2007-07-16, 03:53 PM
This was a very nice read and the neutral alignments' descriptions definitely cleared up some issues for me. I can agree with practically everything there. Also it seems that my neutral good characters are actually more lawful than I once thought before. :P

Duke Malagigi
2007-07-16, 08:27 PM
Good work Alias. This is exactly how I see alingment. Thank you very much.

2007-07-16, 09:10 PM
Very well done. Although this might have been better off in the Gaming forum.

Overall, I'd have to say my major concern is the degree to which the "good" and "neutral" groupings seem to overlap. I heard terminology that seem to cross over into several schools of philosophy, which to a degree got me thinking.

Where would several of them end up if you were to plot them on the alignment spectrum?

Duke Malagigi
2007-07-16, 09:20 PM
This should be stickied in the Gaming forum. That's just my very humble opinion.

2007-07-16, 09:33 PM
A good read, even if I disagree. Unless a person is actively making an attempt to follow a cause, I believe they should be considered neutral. This is a much stricter definition of alignment, mainly due to an expierence with one of my friends playing a quote "lawful neutral" character who attempted to destroy all governments because he "followed his own law". (I argue that he is chaotic neutral).

Based on your description of lawful good and lawful evil alignments , I assume that you value the good versus evil axis far more than law versus chaos. I have been trying to construct a campaign that values the law chaos axis far more, because of the challenge it presents. In a traditional D&D dungeon crawl, this alignement axis rarely creates tension, but put in a more "civilized setting, it can be far more powerful that any "paladin versus blackguard" issues.

2007-07-16, 11:06 PM
As behavior is largely subjective, I consider each interpretation of alignment to be subjective opinion only. With that, this seems like a fair opinion on each alignment. I'm not exactly clear on how it would have any bearing to the Miko alignment argument, however.

My few complaints:
- There's a lot that you've written about these alignments... It makes a better book reference than rule of thumb, if you get my drift. But that does make it more precise for when you have time to review.
- I've never been fond of Selfish Evil systems, since I've always considered Selfless Evil to be a very fascinating possibility in fantasy. In reality the closest you'll find to Evil are often selfish traits, but by that same token, there are no alignments in reality.
- Neutral and Chaotic Evil have markedly less definition than the other alignments.

2007-07-17, 09:58 AM
Thanks everyone for the comments. I'll reply to some of them and then present the alignment system I use now in place of the traditional system. Granted, on those occasions my players insist on a traditional 9-alignment system I still use these guidelines, but I've become rather enamored of a new treatment of alignment. Considering the effort and thought I gave to the old system I can assure you that it took a considerable intuitive link to do so. First though, my responses regarding the old alignment system above.

As behavior is largely subjective, I consider each interpretation of alignment to be subjective opinion only. With that, this seems like a fair opinion on each alignment. I'm not exactly clear on how it would have any bearing to the Miko alignment argument, however.

Much of the Miko argument hinges on two matters. First - what constitutes lawful good and second whether one can be a lawful good character and not be a paladin. Now I've played a lot of lawful good characters and it is one of my favorite alignments. Only one of them has been a paladin though. There's a lot of lawful good outside the paladin pool as it were - paladins account for maybe 5% of the classed lawful good characters of any world. The code of behavior is just that strict. An alignment allows for occasional deviance in behavior - a code, especially the paladin code, does not.

My few complaints:
- There's a lot that you've written about these alignments... It makes a better book reference than rule of thumb, if you get my drift. But that does make it more precise for when you have time to review.

Precision was the goal - not quick reading. Also note that this was written in the days of 2nd edition 5 years before 3e would come to be. And yet 3e interpretations of alignment, however brief, are closer to this than they are to their 2e counterparts. I think this has been read at WotC :)

I've never been fond of Selfish Evil systems, since I've always considered Selfless Evil to be a very fascinating possibility in fantasy. In reality the closest you'll find to Evil are often selfish traits, but by that same token, there are no alignments in reality.

I too had this problem. It was one of the reasons I adopted a new alignment system, read on :D

- Neutral and Chaotic Evil have markedly less definition than the other alignments.

This was written at a time that I didn't allow evil characters at all in my games so it wasn't something I was inclined to discuss at length.

Next response.

A good read, even if I disagree. Unless a person is actively making an attempt to follow a cause, I believe they should be considered neutral. This is a much stricter definition of alignment, mainly due to an expierence with one of my friends playing a quote "lawful neutral" character who attempted to destroy all governments because he "followed his own law". (I argue that he is chaotic neutral).

Not all characters of a given alignment agree on things. Without more context I can't comment to this. Delusion however is a hard thing to rule on in the current alignment system.

Based on your description of lawful good and lawful evil alignments , I assume that you value the good versus evil axis far more than law versus chaos. I have been trying to construct a campaign that values the law chaos axis far more, because of the challenge it presents. In a traditional D&D dungeon crawl, this alignement axis rarely creates tension, but put in a more "civilized setting, it can be far more powerful that any "paladin versus blackguard" issues.

Yet good and evil gets most of the press. Internal party conflicts are often law vs. chaos in nature, but while fun to play this is a manageable conflict.

Anyway, so much for the traditional alignment system - this is what I use today:

Color Alignment
In the Dusk setting alignment is a link leading back to creation itself. The setting has not nine but five alignments, and those alignments not only describe what a character believes is important in his life but also how he responds to magic and how it responds to him. Each alignment is named for the outer plane it is linked to: Aborean, Balcridrean, Sodrean, Shunrean and Valrean, but most characters refer to the color each alignment presents under the scrutiny of a Know Alignment spell – green, blue, black, red and white.
While the forces of alignment play an even more significant role in Dusk, they don’t interpret good and evil. Alignments are thoughts and natures – not actions. Only actions can be judged as good or evil, and this interpretation is rather left up to individuals who naturally interpret good and evil according to their own alignment.

Aborean (Green)
“Everything begins and ends in life – for even as one passes on, they give life to the scavengers feeding upon them.” - Sashana, Grand Druid

The aborean alignment is associated most strongly with life, nature, and green magic. Druids and rangers are required to have this alignment in order to receive their spells.

The Aborean is an interesting and often misunderstood alignment. Sure, it’s about nature and the natural way, but what does that really mean? Well, to Aboreans life is the most important and powerful thing in the world. In life all things are possible. Life will overcome – it will find a way. To an Aborean death is a necessary part of life. To kill to acquire food is a part of life, for the strongest and most able will survive and life, as a whole, grows stronger. Killing for sport is another matter entirely, and a hideous evil in the Aborean mind.

Aboreans are happiest watching things grow – be they grains or the cows grazing upon them. On an individual basis the Aborean belief is that everyone is born with potential, and it is best to let them live to see that potential.
Aboreans look to nature to see cycles and they revere and adore them.

Coexistance with these cycles is a source of strength. Coming to understand them is a source of wisdom. However, the Aborean doesn’t wish to take the world apart to figure out how it works – given time and observation the world will reveal its secrets to the Aborean on its own terms and in its own time.
All the other alignments tend to want to reshape the world in some fashion to suit their desires, but the Aboreans want the world to remain exactly as it is and don’t want anyone to change it. Artificial change they feel is always for the worst and ultimately futile – for eventually nature takes back the land taken from her.

Aboreans see in the Valrean mindset a fellow alignment that values community and coexistance. They each understand that there is order in the world, though the Aboreans don’t understand why Valreans seem to need laws for every conceivable thing – to the point of denying the emotions that are part of themselves much of the time.

It is in the Shunreans that Aboreans find a fellow alignment that celebrates the power of emotions and instincts, though the Aboreans are sometimes amused by how blindly Shunreans will follow their feelings and disturbed by the destructive power their red magic can give them while in a rage.

As for Balcridreans, Aboreans find them to be distasteful and idealistic fools at best and destructive scoundrels at the worst. Balcridreans too often get so caught up in esoteric theories and formulaes that they can’t see the truth in front of them. Though this can be tolerated, the attitude many Balcridreans have towards the world is offensive to Aboreans. The Balcridreans see the world as nothing more than resources with which to build machines and cities without any care to the destruction these things can cause to nature. Hence the Aboreans actively seek to keep their moves checked lest they recast the world in an artificial mockery of its current self.

Aboreans view Sodreans as short-sighted, selfish morons. While Aboreans allow themselves to bend to nature’s will, Sodreans want nature (and everyone else for that matter) to bend to their will. Many Sodreans think nothing of hunting and killing for sport alone, a horrific concept to an Aborean. Hence the Sodreans must be stopped before they destroy anything in pursuit of their selfish desires.

Balcridrean (Blue)
“All actions have consequence, and often enough the less thought the more consequence.” - Alblasker of Granis

Members of this alignment cherish thought and learning above all else. Balcridreans wish to know as much as possible about anything and everything. Endlessly curious, Balcridreans are equally fascinated by what is and what could be.

Knowledge and the eternal quest for omniscience are the prime goals of the Balcridreans. Knowledge is everything to them, and when they aren’t learning they are developing plans and schemes to learn still more. This isn’t to say that all smart characters have this alignment though – it’s just that Balcridreans are preoccupied with learning before anything else – be that others, themselves, their emotions or the world around them. It’s not that they may not care about these things; it’s just that they are all secondary at best. The Balcridrean is an inquiring mind that has to know, and they don’t understand that the act of discovery itself can sometimes forever change what they have discovered.

Balcridreans are happy curled around an old tome studying or sitting at a desk, writing. Slow to actually take action to a fault, most Balcrideans want to make sure everything is in place before proceeding. This puts them at a disadvantage when haste is necessary – for there is not always time to “sew the last button upon the last coat of the last soldier in the army.”
Balcridreans feel that anything is possible if the right lessons are grasped and the right resources acquired. The world is nothing more to them but those resources – to aquire them, understand them and then use them.

In the Valreans the Balcrideans find an alignment that shares their love of planning and thinking things through, but they can’t quite understand the importance of precedent and they certainly don’t understand the value Valreans place on living in peace with nature. Just go ahead and reshape it goes an old Balcridian sentiment, what could possibly go wrong?

To the Balcridreans the Sodrean alignment is one that isn’t scared of the occasional ugliness of truth. Neither alignment understands the concept of passing judgement on knowledge, though unlike the Sodreans the Balcrideans understand that the application of some knowledge is dangerous no matter the perceived benefit. Balcrideans also can’t understand why Sodreans sometimes allow their selfishness to drive them to rash or reckless (in Balcridrean eyes) actions.

Balcridreans find Aboreans fustrating because they accept the world as is. Balcridreans have a never-ending series of why’s and how’s on the world and resent the Aborean opposition to allowing them to ‘tinker” with nature in order to learn about it their way. Balcrideans think the best way to learn about something is to take it apart. While Aboreans insist that nature is more than the sum of its parts, the Balcrideans want to find out about those parts first and worry about the sum later. If the Aboreans won’t get out of the way, they’ll just have to be dealt with.

Shunreans embrace everything Balcridreans pride themselves in shunning. Balcridreans believe knowledge paves the way to victory – Shunreans believe that passion does; Balcridreans prefer to think – Shunreans prefer to act; Balcridreans believe that rash actions are deadly – Shunreans believe waiting is deadly; Balcridreans are cold intellects – Shunreans are renowned for their hot tempers (and spells).

Shunrean (Red)
“So long as I am free I am alive.” - Trishdare, Elven Sorcerer

Freedom is the most important thing to the Shunreans, and they pursue it with untamed passion. This alignment fully embraces emotions of all types and the Shunrean heart is guided by how it feels, never stopping to think about why. No alignment is as caring in love or deadly in fury than the Shunreans. Barbarians need to have the Shunrean alignment to tap into their hearts and use their rage ability. Bards require this alignment in order to be in touch with the passion that drives music.

Unlike other alignments, Shunreans don’t set long term goals or plans, rather they live exclusively in the moment. Many of them are daredevils seeking to milk every ounce of adrenaline they can out of existence by taking chances. This isn’t to say that they are incapable of planning or setting goals, it’s just that these tend to be short term and their execution haphazard. Methodical is not a word to use to describe them.

Shunreans enjoy freedom, including the freedom gained by living impulsively and without a plan. They are firm believers in the principle that life is a journey and not a destination. Despite the violence they and their spells are capable of, friends are important to Shunreans. They enjoy sharing their feelings after all and enjoy personal relationships with a few others.

Freedom is the principle underlying all other Shunrean thought. As long as they are free to act as they will when they will, they care little for other concerns. They also believe that freedom must be extended to everyone, and to this end they don’t interfere with the lives of strangers unless they present a threat.

Shunreans find Sodreans to be kindred free spirits, though they don’t understand why the Sodreans are so insular and selfish, and they certainly don’t appreciate the Sodrean need to dominate others.

In the Aboreans the Shunreans see fellow lovers of passion and emotion, though they don’t understand why the Aboreans sometimes restrain their emotion for the good of nature. Creatures in nature can act unfettered the Shunreans argue, so why can’t we.

As to Valreans, Shunreans hate them and their uncountable laws. “Who gives others the right to tell me what to do?” is a question asked by many a Shunrean. Sure, you listen to your parents, your lovers, and your friends, but why give authority in your life to someone who doesn’t know you, doesn’t care for you. It’s not so much following orders that bother Shunreans – they can and do follow the orders of their peers. The problem lies in asking a Shunrean to follow orders from an organization or other faceless authority – they constantly balk at this concept. If the Shunreans are to be free to follow their destiny the Valreans must be defeated.

And the Balcridreans? They are stupid and plodding philosophers scared to come out of their cloistered learning cells and live. What is life without passion? Without love? Without fury and all other emotions? These aren’t as the Balcridreans say “things which cloud the mind,” but rather they are things that make life worth living. A dangerous assumption though is that Shunreans can’t think or plan – they indeed can but when they do they, unlike the Balcridreans, put passion and creativity into their work; as opposed to the cold logic of the Balcridreans. If Shunreans are to be free to create they must stay clear of the banality of Balcridrean thought.

Sodrean (Black)
“There are two types of people in the world – those who use people and those who get used. I spent my time as a member of the latter society, now excuse me if I refuse to return to it.” - Markson of Altania

Sodreans cherish three things: me, myself, and I. They view the world in this light as well – everyone is trying to get ahead in life so why pretend that it is different. While the opponents of this alignment call it selfish, Sodreans call it honest.

Sodreans want to gain as much personal power as they can so as to further advance their own agendas. Their ultimate goal is omnipotence. They have no qualms about taking what they need and what they want unless someone stronger is around to stop them, for isn’t the law of nature survival of the fittest? And Sodreans are intent on doing everything they can to insure they are the fittest. This said most Sodreans understand the value of restraint, for reckless power grabs can backfire. It’s useless to take something you don’t have the strength to keep ahold of.

The term evil is used to describe Sodreans often enough, but this label is unfair. All the Dusk alignments have a capacity for evil actions in order to further their goals. Sodreans put themselves before others and believe that their own needs come before anyone else; but that attitude doesn’t preclude acts of kindness – though admittedly when a Sodrean is being nice to you chances are he wants something from you that he can’t steal for some reason. The “me first” attitude of Sodreans does mean that this alignment has the highest propensity to commit evil acts and it is also the alignment with the most infighting. But there is a difference between being inclined towards being evil and actually being evil.

It should be noted that Sodrean selfishness isn’t entirely bad. The importance of the individual is a key concept in capitalism and modern democracy.
Good implies, among other things, a respect for moral authority. Sodreans don’t believe in morality at all – they are amoral – but this isn’t the same as acting immorally. An immoral person actively seeks to be disruptive in society and to overturn morality. An amoral one simply believes that morality doesn’t mean anything. This having been said, Sodreans have no compulsions about acting in a moral fashion if this helps them get ahead.

The problem is that Sodreans don’t usually have a problem with doing anything to get ahead. They don’t pass moral or ethical judgments on their actions, they just evaluate whether or not the action is a good idea. Stealing is a good idea only if you’re sure you can get away with it. Other Sodreans don’t feel that the problems created defying the local laws are worth their trouble. These are the types who will do everything they can within the law to get ahead. And these guys are no less Sodrean than their outlaw counterparts, though they do have more of an air of respectability.

In Balcridreans the Sodreans have an ally who is willing to learn whatever is necessary to get ahead. Balcrideans aren’t afraid of the occasional ugliness of truth though they are sometimes afraid of the consequences of using that knowledge. Then again, to the Sodreans they seem to be afraid of taking any action at all without over planning.

The Shunreans earn Sodrean respect by acting in their own best interests most of the time. Unfortunately they are easily swayed that they can be tricked into doing things that, in the long run, aren’t in their best interest. Then again, that’s probably fortunate – it makes them more easily controlled.
The Valreans make Sodreans sick. They believe in ludicrous concepts that defy the laws of nature (as Sodreans interpret them). Protect the weak from the strong? Bah, the weak should be culled from the earth. Equality for everyone? Bah, the best and brightest deserve to get ahead in life, and the weak and stupid deserve to eek out whatever lot they can. Valrean emphasis on morality is also repugnant to Sodreans – such idealism is meaningless in the end, and it has no value.

Aboreans embrace a similar sort of idocy as the Sodreans see it. Life is important yes, but only if it can be used to serve you. If its existence doesn’t benefit you, why care?

Valrean (White)
“There is no value in being alone, serving oneself. Each of us are impermanent shadows in a greater play – and he who serves only himself serves a shadow that will pass away into nothing as a flower in the wind.” - Princess Anatole

“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.” This sentiment is the key of the Valrean alignment, the alignment of peace, harmony, order and community. This is the alignment of paladins and monks, each of which follow and excersize rigid discipline in their training and in their lives.

Global harmony for all people is the goal of the Valreans. To achieve this harmony, Valreans embrace and use law. Valreans also have the most extensively codified and developed religions, though gods exist in every alignment – there worship is strongest in the alignment were subservience is a virtue.

It is easy to call the Valrean mindset the “good” alignment of Dusk, but this would be a mistake. True, Valreans thought espouses many of the moral laws most people would call good – The sanctity of human life, peace, harmony, and so on. But Valreans also believe that individuals can and must be sacrificed for the good of their society, though that sacrifice should be voluntary if it must be enforced, so be it. Valreans also believe that those outside the group have no rights whatsoever. Before calling Valrea good consider that facism is a very Valrean concept, and there are few among us that would call facism good.

Valreans believe in a set of moral laws and that these laws should be followed at all times. Morality, to Valreans, is cut and dried – there are no shades of grey. In addition to this, Valreans have a highly developed sense of honor. Honor defines an individuals place in society, and a slight to a Valrean’s honor will provoke a fight.

In the Aboreans the Valreans see an ally who shares their love of community and order, albeit natural order. If only the Aboreans would go by the book more instead of following their gut.

In Balcridreans the Valreans find an ally who loves learning and order, though they are bit too inclined to delve into things best left alone for Valrean tastes.

To the Valreans, the Sodreans are a blight. Their complete lack of moral sensibility and respect for moral authority makes them dangerous mavericks at best and enemies that must be destroyed at worst. If the Valreans are ever to have harmony, the Sodreans must be wiped out.

And the Shunreans? The Valreans cannot and will not tolerate their constant disregard for civil authority and their attempts to drive the world into chaos and anarchy. If the world is to ever know peace the Shunreans must be put down.

Alignment in Play
Players begin play with one declared alignment. As time progresses their attunement to that alignment either grows stronger or they branch out and develop multiple alignments. Repeated use of spells of a given color can also taint a character's alignment. There is no harm in having multiple colors of alignment in and of itself, just be aware that your character counts for all the alignment colors he has. Some classes require that a character have a certain alignment be dominant – in other words most of the character's alignment history must fall in line with that of the class. The paladin class however requires its members to be purely Valrean with no deviation.

Alignments never disappear from a character unless purged away with an atonement spell.

Alignments of the Order of the Stick
Now under this system these are what I feel the alignments of the Order are.

Roy Greenhilt Red/White: Wait!? Aren't Red and white enemies? Well yes, they are, but this alignment system is able to handle any combination of the five. In Roy we see a sense of duty and honor, defininite white alignment traits, but he's also got an impulsive and brash nature that clearly follow red. He also puts his friends needs before the law and what he holds as good comes before the law. To understand what is abohorent to the red/white alignment you must look for what is in common between the two enemy alignments to red/white. White's other enemy is black, red's other enemy is blue. Blue/Black shares a love of secrets and misdirection and hiding from others. Red/White hates subverison, lies and misdirection. It's the alignment combination that tells you how it's going to kick your teeth in then does it. Roy also hates this behavior which is why he did not get along well with Soho or his father.
Haley Starshine Red/Black: Haley is selfish except where her friends and family are concerned (and even then she's looking to keep a profit going). Chaos is the common theme of these colors and the things Haley hates the most are found in white - faceless thoughtless authority. Red/Black has an anarchist, evil tinge to it but that's a tendency, not a mandate for the alignment.
Varsuvius Red / Blue: Varsuvius presents another blending of enemy colors. Red/Blue is known for having an passion for learning. Everything can be learned and damnit it will be. This is also the alignment of the absent minded professor types.
Durkon Thundershield White: Just white thank you.
Belkar Bitterleaf Green/Red: When these two colors get together you have the opposite of Blue and Blue is pretty much everything Belkar is not -- thoughtful, introspective, learned, smart, passionless. Belkar is the evil expression of the primal alignment to the letter and a definite example of the fact that not all the bad guys in the colored alignment fall under one color.
Elan Red: Like Durkon, Elan only needs a single color alignment.

2007-07-17, 04:19 PM
Adding a few alignment designations to the "NPC" characters of the setting

Miko: Miko begins White, ends up White / Red, ironically like Roy. The red sphere appears when she takes the law into her own hands in violation of the law. IMC paladins are the only class required to maintain a pure alignment of any color. Note also that it is possible for paladins to commit an evil act and remain white - white as an alignment can do evil things.
Shojo: Secretive, manipulative, Soho is complicated as befits his age and has the tri-alignment white/blue/black. Triple alignments are quite rare (though not as rare as quad or quints). I almost pegged him as blue/black - but all his schemes where split evenly between maintaining his own power and the good of the people.
Xycon: Black. This one doesn't require much thought - Xycon is a pretty one dimensional character and very representative of Black's usual sinister mode.
Red Cloak: Ironically I'll place Red Cloak's alignment in the same vein as Roy's -- Red / White. But where Roy is more a 'somewhat chaotic dude fighting for order' Redcloak is more a 'somewhat lawful dude fighting for chaos.' The classic D&D alignments do not allow such paradigms as this.
Nale: Nale may be elan's opposite in alignment in D&D standard system, but he isn't under this system, holding an alignment of black/red. Where Haley shows how such a character can benign, Nale underscores the more stereotypical outlook associated with this color pair.
Thog: Thog is green/red just as Belkar is and for many the same reasons.
Sabine: As with Nale, Black/Red, though her behavior is typical almost exclusively of red. Black though is a racial heritage color if you will. This alignment system allows for such oddities since it reflects upon what a character has done or what they are -- not on what they will do (and one of it's strong points is it's lack of a behavior predictive element).

For those looking for some more research and reading, here are some articles I researched when writing the above. All are by Mark Rosewater:

White (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=mtgcom/daily/mr57)
Blue (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=mtgcom/daily/mr84)
Black (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=mtgcom/daily/mr109)
Red (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=mtgcom/daily/mr133)
Green (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=mtgcom/daily/mr43)
White/Blue (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=mtgcom/daily/mr226)
Blue/Black (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=mtgcom/daily/mr201)
Black/Red (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=mtgcom/daily/mr241)
Red/Green (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=mtgcom/daily/mr213)
Green/White (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=mtgcom/daily/mr196)
White/Black (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=mtgcom/daily/mr221)
Black/Green (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=mtgcom/daily/mr199)
Green/Blue (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=mtgcom/daily/mr229)
Blue/Red (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=mtgcom/daily/mr217)
Red/White (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=mtgcom/daily/mr205)

2007-07-17, 04:33 PM
Soho: Secretive, manipulative, Soho is complicated as befits his age and has the tri-alignment white/blue/black. Triple alignments are quite rare (though not as rare as quad or quints). I almost pegged him as blue/black - but all his schemes where split evenly between maintaining his own power and the good of the people.

Shojo or Hinjo?

2007-07-17, 04:46 PM
Shojo or Hinjo?

Shojo. Sorry bout that.

2007-07-17, 08:19 PM
personally, i beleive alignments are ambiguous (is that how it's spelt?), depending on one's strive for the alignment, or the alignment being something of natural habit. Eg. one lawful being is naturally methodical, and has a certain way of doing things, another is lawful by principal. whereas the first guy is likely to simply be annoyed by a chaotic person, the second is likely to go further, to suggest that chaos is morally wrong. the only alignment i don't think this applies to is Good. a good person makes the decision to help people. a Good person with a lack of convivtion to actually help people are neutral on that axis.