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    Default D&D Alignment, a history

    (My very first post to this Forum contained some of this info, and I keep adding to it. Please critique)

    Holy ethical quagmire Batman! I believe I've just seen the EXTENDED DIGRESSION ON ALIGNMENT IN D&D WITH SPOILER INSIDE SPOILERS SIGNAL!


    "I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened"
    at not being able to read a big ol' post on how D&D's Alignment system came to be

    Whichever, 'cause here's:

    Spoiler: D&D Alignment history!
    So, the "rules" on alignment and everything else are up to each individual table:

    Dungeons and Dragons, The Underground and Wilderness Adventures, p. 36
    : "... everything herein is fantastic, and the best way is to decide how you would like it to be, and then make it that way."

    AD&D 1e, DMG, p. 9
    : "..The game is the thing, and certain rules can be distorted or disregarded altogether in favor of play...."

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay R View Post
    AD&D 2E, DMG, p. 3: "At conventions, in letters, and over the phone, I'm often asked for the instant answer to a fine point of the game rules. More often than not, I come back with a question -- what do you feel is right? And the people asking the question discover that not only can they create an answer, but that their answer is as good as anyone else's. The rules are only guidelines."

    D&D 3.5 DMG, p. 6: "Good players will always realize that you have ultimate authority over the game mechanics, even superseding something in a rulebook."

    D&D 5e DMG, p. 263
    :: "...As the Dungeon Master, You aren't limited by the rules in the Player's Handbook, the guidelines in this book, or the selection of monsters in the Monster Manual..."

    (All praise to Jay R, for most of that)

    A History of "Alignment" in Dungeons & Dragons

    Spoiler: Part One: The War between Law & Chaos

    For the Dungeons & Dragons game, Arneson and Gygax got Law vs. Chaos from stories by Poul Anderson and Michael Moorcock.

    Poul Anderson invented Law vs. Chaos in '53 for Three Hearts and Three Lions (which had a Dwarf on the side of Law, and Elves on the side of Chaos, Anderson's Elves were not Tolkien's Elves, though they drew from the same well. The "Ranger" is from Tolkien, the "Paladin" is from Anderson).

    Anderson had Law on the side of most of humanity, and "the hosts of Faerie" on the side of Chaos. When Chaos was ascendant latent Lycanthrope became expressed for example.

    Michael Moorcock adopted Law vs. Chaos for his Elric stories, and it was his works that were far more known by those of us who played D&D in the 1970's and '80's.

    While Moorcock's 1965 novel Stormbringer had the triumph of Chaos being humanity's doom, by '75 he was clear that humanity would suffer under extreme Law as well, and "The Balance" was to be sought.

    Okay, in the novel Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson,

    which was published before and inspired Moorcock's "Law vs. Chaos" conflict in the Elric and Corum novels, and Anderson expressly conflated Holger's struggle against Morgan le Fay and the "Host of Faerie" with the battle against the Nazis in our world.

    Now in the 1961 novel (based on a '53 short story) Three Hearts and Three Lions, we have this:

    "....Holger got the idea that a perpetual struggle went on between primeval forces of Law and Chaos. No, not forces exactly. Modes of existence? A terrestrial reflection of the spiritual conflict between heaven and hell? In any case, humans were the chief agents on earth of Law, though most of them were so only unconsciously and some, witches and warlocks and evildoers, had sold out to Chaos. A few nonhuman beings also stood for Law. Ranged against them were almost the whole Middle World, which seemed to include realms like Faerie, Trollheim, and the Giants--an actual creation of Chaos. Wars among men, such as the long-drawn struggle between the Saracens and the Holy Empire, aided Chaos; under Law all men would live in peace and order and that liberty which only Law could give meaning. But this was so alien to the Middle Worlders that they were forever working to prevent it and extend their own shadowy dominion....."

    .which suggests that Law vs. Chaos is about "teams" in a cosmic struggle rather than personal ethics/morality, which is how the terms are used in the old Stormbringer RPG, and would be my usual preference.

    Before D&D, Gygax & Perren had Law vs. Chaos in the Fantasy appendix to the Chainmail wargame:I suppose it waa inevitably when Greyhawk added Paladins that were "continual seeking for good" but I think that adding "Good" and "Evil" to "Alignment" was a mistake, and it was better the way the predecessor of D&D, Chainmail had it as:

    It is impossible to draw a distanct line between "good" and "evil" fantastic
    figures. Three categories are listed below as a general guide for the wargamer
    designing orders of battle involving fantastic creatures:

    Super Heroes
    Magic Weapons

    Lycanthropes *

    Wizards *
    True Trolls
    Giants *

    * Indicates the figure appears in two lists.
    Underlined Neutral figures have a slight pre-disposition for LAW. Neutral
    figures can be diced for to determine on which side they will fight, with ties
    meaning they remain neutral."

    So it was clear that it's sides in a wargame, not an ethics debate.

    But the turning of a heavily house ruled Chainmail into what we now call a "role-playing game", brought character behavior in the mix:

    Dave Arneson wrote that he added "alignment" to the game he made up because of one PC backstabbing another

    "We began without the multitude of character classes and three alignments that exists today. I felt that as a team working towards common goals there would be it was all pretty straight forward. Wrong!

    "Give me my sword back!" "Nah your old character is dead, it's mine now!"

    Well I couldn't really make him give it to the new character. But then came the treasure question. The Thieves question. Finally there were the two new guys. One decided that there was no reason to share the goodies. Since there was no one else around and a +3 for rear attacks . . .. well . . Of course everyone actually KNEW what had happened, especially the target.

    After a great deal of discussion . . . yes let us call it "discussion" the culprit promised to make amends. He, and his associate did. The next time the orcs attacked the two opened the door and let the Orcs in. They shared the loot and fled North to the lands of the EGG OF COOT. (Sigh)

    We now had alignment. Spells to detect alignment, and rules forbidding actions not allowed by ones alignment. Actually not as much fun as not knowing. Chuck and John had a great time being the 'official' evil players.
    They would draw up adventures to trap the others (under my supervision) and otherwise make trouble"

    And here's in 1974's Gygax & Arneson's Dungeons & Dragons: Book1, Men & Magic

    (Orcs can be Neutral as well as Chaos, as can Elves, Dwarves/Gnomes as well as Law, and Men may be any)

    And "Law, Chaos, and Neutrality also have common languages spoken by each respectively. One can attempt to communicate through the common tongue, language particular to a creature class, or one of the divisional languages (law, etc.). While not understanding the language, creatures who speak a divisionsl tongue will recognize a hostile one and attack."

    Easy "detect alignment"!

    Originally there were three classes; "Cleric", "Fighting-Men", and "Magic-User" (as in "wake up the user, it's time to cast the daily spell"). Clerics didn't have any spells at first level, but they could "turn" some undead (a bit like a 5e Paladin really), and other than hints that "Law" Clerics, and "Chaos" Clerics were in conflict, there wasn't much info on what was meant until the Paladin class was introduced in La Chanson de Roland the 1975 "Greyhawk" supplement (which also introduced Thieves hmm... what a coincidence funny that). From "Greyhawk":
    Charisma scores of 17 or greater by fighters indicate the possibility of paladin status IF THEY ARE LAWFUL from the commencement of play for the character. If such fighters elect to they can become paladins, always doing lawful deeds, for any chaotic act will immediately revoke the status of paladin, and it can never be regained. The paladin has a number of very powerful aids in his continual seeking for good......".
    (Ok this is the fun part the special powers which include......PSYCH! Back to the restrictions)
    "Paladins will never be allowed to possess more than four magically items, excluding the armor, shield and up to four weapons they normally use. They will give away all treasure that they win, save that which is neccesary to maintain themselves, their men and a modest castle. Gifts must be to the poor or to charitable or religious institutions , i.e.not tho some other character played in the game. A paladin's stronghold cannot be above 200,000 gold pieces in total cost, and no more than 200 men can be retained to guard it. Paladins normally prefer to dwell with lawful princess of patriarchs, but circumstances may prevent this. They will associate only with lawful characters"
    Huh? What's lawful? What's chaotic? What's associate? And what is this charitable? I don't believe PC's know this word.
    Well...helpfully there are some clues:
    " Chaotic Alignment by a player generally betokens chaotic action on the player's part without any rule to stress this aspect, i.e. a chaotic player is usually more prone to stab even his lawless buddy in the back for some desired gain. However, chaos is just that - chaotic. Evil monsters are as likely to turn on their supposed confederate in order to have all the loot as they are to attack a lawful party in the first place".
    OK Paladins are "continual seeking for good", "All thieves are either neutral or chaotic - although lawful characters may hire them on a one-time basis for missions which are basically lawful" "Patriarchs" (high level Clerics) "stance" is "Law", and "Evil High Priests" "stance" is "Chaos". So we can infer that Law = Good, and Chaos = Evil in early D&D, which fits how the terms were used in novels Gygax cited as "inspiration", first in Anderson's "Three Hearts and Three Lions", and than later in Moorcock's "Stormbringer" (though Moorcock eventually in his novels show that too much "Law" is anti-human as well, which is probably why Gygax added the separate Good-Evil axis so you could have "Lawful Evil" and "Chaotic Good" alignmemts later).

    I'm gonna stress that I didn't know Anderson's novel when I first played D&D in the very late 1970's, and I'd bet that most other players didn't either, but knowledge of Moorcock's Elric was far more common then, from comic books!:

    If you've read the "Elric" series, from which D&D "borrowed" much of this, you may remember that Elric visits a "world" (plane/dimension/alternate reality) of "Chaos" and finds a whirling cloud, in-which creatures and objects sometimes flash in and out of existence. He also visits a "world of Law" which is nothing but a grey mist.

    (BTW, a nice 21st century use of the Law vs. Chaos trope is in Genevieve Cogman's Invisible Library series, in which different worlds (alternate realities) have more or less "Chaos" or "Law".

    Heavy Chaos worlds are ruled by the Fey, who are the main antagonists, Law world's are ruled by (often hidden) Dragons, and we are told that while too much Chaos is worse, with too much Law humans are controlled by Dragons and not free)..

    Going back to the 1962 Moorcock story To Rescue Tanelorn we have:

    "...At the place where the winds met they found the second gateway, a column of amber-coloured flame, shot through with streaks of green. They entered it and, instantly, were in a world of dark, seething colour. Above them was a sky of murky red in which other colours shifted, agitated, changing. Ahead of them lay a forest, dark, blue, black, heavy, mottled green, the tops of its trees moving like a wild tide. It was a howling land of unnatural phenomena.

    Lamsar pursed his lips. "On this plane Chaos rules, we must get to the next gate swiftly for obviously the Lords of Chaos will seek to stop us."

    "Is it always like this?" Rackhir gasped.

    "It is always boiling midnight-but the rest, it changes with the moods of the Lords. There are no rules at all."

    They pressed on through the bounding, blossoming scenery as it erupted and changed around them. Once they saw a huge winged figure in the sky, smoky yellow, and roughly man-shaped.

    "Vezhan," Lamsar said, "let's hope he did not see us."

    "Vezhan!" Rackhir whispered the name-for it was to Vezhan that he had once been loyal.

    They crept on, uncertain of their direction or even of their speed in that disturbing land.

    At length, they came to the shores of a peculiar ocean.

    It was a grey, heaving, timeless sea, a mysterious sea which stretched into infinity. There could be no other shores beyond this rolling plain of water. No other lands or rivers or dark, cool woods, no other men or women or ships. It was a sea which led to nowhere. It was complete to itself-a sea.

    Over this timeless ocean hovered a brooding ochre sun which cast moody shadows of black and green across the water, giving the whole scene something of the look of being enclosed in a vast cavern, for the sky above was gnarled and black with ancient clouds. And all the while the doom-carried crash of breakers, the lonely, fated monotony of the ever-rearing white-topped waves; the sound which portended neither death nor life nor war nor peace-simply existence and shifting inharmony. They could go no further.

    "This has the air of our death about it," Rackhir said shivering.

    The sea roared and tumbled, the sound of it increasing to a fury, daring them to go on towards it, welcoming them with wild temptation-offering them nothing but achievement-the achievement of death.

    Lamsar said: "It is not my fate wholly to perish." But then they were running back towards the forest, feeling that the strange sea was pouring up the beach towards them. They looked back and saw that it had gone no further, that the breakers were less wild, the sea more calm. Lamsar was little way behind Rackhir.

    The Red Archer gripped his hand and hauled him towards him as if he had rescued the old man from a whirlpool. They remained there, mesmerised, for a long time, while the sea called to them and the wind was a cold caress on their flesh.

    In the bleak brightness of the alien shore, under a sun which gave no heat, their bodies shone like stars in the night and they turned towards the forest, quietly.

    "Are we trapped, then, in this Realm of Chaos?" Rackhir said at length. "If we meet someone, they will offer us harm-how can we ask our question?"

    Then there emerged from the huge forest a great figure, naked and gnarled like the trunk of a tree, green as lime, but the face was jovial.

    "Greetings, unhappy renegades," it said.

    "Where is the next gate?" said Lamsar quickly.

    "You almost entered it, but turned away," laughed the giant. "That sea does not exist-it is there to stop travellers from passing through the gate."

    "It exists here, in the Realm of Chaos," Rackhir said thickly.

    "You could say so-but what exists in Chaos save the disorders of the minds of gods gone mad?"...."


    "...The two travellers were given foods, both soft and brittle, sweet and sour, and drink which seemed to enter the pores of their skin as they quaffed it, and then the Guardian said: "We have caused a road to be made. Follow it and enter the next world. But we warn you, it is the most dangerous of all."

    And they set off down the road that the Guardians had caused to be made and passed through the fourth gateway into a dreadful realm-the Ream of Law.

    Nothing shone in the grey-lit sky, nothing moved, nothing marred the grey.

    Nothing interrupted the bleak grey plain stretching on all sides of them, forever. There was no horizon. It was a bright, clean wasteland. But there was a sense about the air, a presence of something past, something which had gone but left a faint aura of its passing.

    "What dangers could be here?" said Rackhir shuddering, "here where there is nothing?"

    "The danger of the loneliest madness," Lamsar replied. Their voices were swallowed in the grey expanse.

    "When the Earth was very young'" Lamsar continued, his words trailing away across the wilderness, "things were like this-but there were seas, there were seas. Here there is nothing."

    "You are wrong," Rackhir said with a faint smile. "I have thought-here there is Law."

    "That is true-but what is Law without something to decide between? Here is Law-bereft of justice."

    They walked on, all about them an air of something intangible that had once been tangible. On they walked through this barren world of Absolute Law...."

    So two vast impersonal cosmic forces struggling for dominance, ultimately neither with any place for or consideration of human happiness if even allowong for the existence of humanity if they triumph.

    Now choose!

    Spoiler: Part Two: Enter Good & Evil

    1976's Eldrich Wizardry supplement added the Mind Flayers which were the first monters that were explicitly both "lawful" and "evil", and it could be a coincidence but while Moorcock's 1965 novel Stormbringer had the triumph of Chaos being humanity's doom, but in later works he was clear that humanity would suffer under extreme Law as well, and "The Balance" was to be sought, so Michael Moorcock in A Quest for Tanelon wrote:

    "Chaos is not wholly evil, surely?" said the child. "And neither is Law wholly good. They are primitive divisions, at best-- they represent only temperamental differences in individual men and women. There are other elements..."

    ..which was published in 1975 in the UK, and 1976 in the USA, and '76 was when Gygax added "good" and "evil" to D&D Alignment in an article that I first read a copy of it in the 1980 "Best of The Dragon" which reprinted the original article in the;
    Strategic Review: February 1976


    by Gary Gygax

    FEBRUARY 1976

    Many questions continue to arise regarding what constitutes a “lawful” act, what sort of behavior is “chaotic”, what constituted an “evil” deed, and how certain behavior is “good”. There is considerable confusion in that most dungeonmasters construe the terms “chaotic” and “evil” to mean the same thing, just as they define “lawful” and “good” to mean the same. This is scarcely surprising considering the wording of the three original volumes of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS. When that was written they meant just about the same thing in my mind — notice I do not say they were synonymous in my thinking at, that time. The wording in the GREYHAWK supplement added a bit more confusion, for by the time that booklet was written some substantial differences had been determined. In fact, had I the opportunity to do D&D over I would have made the whole business very much clearer by differentiating the four categories, and many chaotic creatures would be good, while many lawful creatures would be evil. Before going into the definitions of these four terms, a graphic representation of their relative positions will help the reader to follow the further discourse. (Illustration I)

    Notice first that the area of neutrality lies squarely athwart the intersection of the lines which divide the four behavioral distinctions, and it is a very small area when compared with the rest of the graph. This refers to true neutrality, not to neutrality regarding certain interactions at specific times, i.e., a war which will tend to weaken a stronger player or game element regardless of the “neutral” party’s actions can hardly be used as a measure of neutrality if it will benefit the party’s interest to have the weakening come about.

    Also note that movement upon this graph is quite possible with regard to campaign participants, and the dungeonmaster should, in fact, make this a standard consideration in play. This will be discussed hereafter.

    Now consider the term “Law” as opposed to “Chaos”. While they are nothing if not opposites, they are neither good nor evil in their definitions. A highly regimented society is typically governed by strict law, i.e., a dictatorship, while societies which allow more individual freedom tend to be more chaotic. The following lists of words describing the two terms point this out. I have listed the words describing the concepts in increasing order of magnitude (more or less) as far as the comparison with the meanings of the two terms in D&D is concerned:

    Basically, then, “Law” is strict order and “Chaos” is complete anarchy, but of course they grade towards each other along the scale from left to right on the graph. Now consider the terms “Good” and “Evil” expressed in the same manner:

    The terms “Law” and “Evil” are by no means mutually exclusive. There is no reason that there cannot be prescribed and strictly enforced rules which are unpleasant, injurious or even corrupt. Likewise “Chaos” and “Good” do not form a dichotomy. Chaos can be harmless, friendly, honest, sincere, beneficial, or pure, for that matter. This all indicates that there are actually five, rather than three, alignments, namely

    The lawful/good classification is typified by the paladin, the chaotic/good alignment is typified by elves, lawful/evil is typified by the vampire, and the demon is the epitome of chaotic/evil. Elementals are neutral. The general reclassification various creatures is shown on Illustration II.

    Placement of characters upon a graph similar to that in Illustration I is necessary if the dungeonmaster is to maintain a record of player-character alignment. Initially, each character should be placed squarely on the center point of his alignment, i.e., lawful/good, lawful/evil, etc. The actions of each game week will then be taken into account when determining the current position of each character. Adjustment is perforce often subjective, but as a guide the referee can consider the actions of a given player in light of those characteristics which typify his alignment, and opposed actions can further be weighed with regard to intensity. For example, reliability does not reflect as intense a lawfulness as does principled, as does righteous. Unruly does not indicate as chaotic a state as does disordered, as does lawless. Similarly, harmless, friendly, and beneficial all reflect increasing degrees of good; while unpleasant, injurious, and wicked convey progressively greater evil. Alignment does not preclude actions which typify a different alignment, but such actions will necessarily affect the position of the character performing them, and the class or the alignment of the character in question can change due to such actions, unless counter-deeds are performed to balance things. The player-character who continually follows any alignment (save neutrality) to the absolute letter of its definition must eventually move off the chart (Illustration I) and into another plane of existence as indicated. Note that selfseeking is neither lawful nor chaotic, good nor evil, except in relation to other sapient creatures. Also, law and chaos are not subject to interpretation in their ultimate meanings of order and disorder respectively, but good and evil are not absolutes but must be judged from a frame of reference, some ethos. The placement of creatures on the chart of Illustration II. reflects the ethos of this writer to some extent.

    Considering mythical and mythos gods in light of this system, most of the benign ones will tend towards the chaotic/good, and chaotic/evil will typify those gods which were inimical towards humanity. Some few would be completely chaotic, having no predisposition towards either good or evil — REH’s Crom perhaps falls into this category. What then about interaction between different alignments? This question is tricky and must be given careful consideration. Diametric opposition exists between lawful/good and chaotic/evil and between chaotic/good and lawful/evil in this ethos. Both good and evil can serve lawful ends, and conversely they may both serve chaotic ends. If we presuppose that the universal contest is between law and chaos we must assume that in any final struggle the minions of each division would be represented by both good and evil beings. This may seem strange at first, but if the major premise is accepted it is quite rational. Barring such a showdown, however, it is far more plausible that those creatures predisposed to good actions will tend to ally themselves against any threat of evil, while creatures of evil will likewise make (uneasy) alliance in order to gain some mutually beneficial end — whether at the actual expense of the enemy or simply to prevent extinction by the enemy. Evil creatures can be bound to service by masters predisposed towards good actions, but a lawful/good character would fain make use of some chaotic/evil creature without severely affecting his lawful (not necessarily good) standing.

    This brings us to the subject of those character roles which are not subject to as much latitude of action as the others. The neutral alignment is self-explanatory, and the area of true neutrality is shown on Illustration I. Note that paladins, Patriarchs, and Evil High Priests, however, have positive boundaries. The area in which a paladin may move without loss of his status is shown in Illustration III. Should he cause his character to move from this area he must immediately seek a divine quest upon which to set forth in order to gain his status once again, or be granted divine intervention; in those cases where this is not complied with the status is forever lost. Clerics of either good or evil predisposition must likewise remain completely good or totally evil, although lateral movement might be allowed by the dungeonmaster, with or without divine retribution. Those top-level clerics who fail to maintain their goodness or evilness must make some form of immediate atonement. If they fail to do so they simply drop back to seventh level. The atonement, as well as how immediate it must be, is subject to interpretation by the referee. Druids serve only themselves and nature, they occasionally make human sacrifice, but on the other hand they aid the folk in agriculture and animal husbandry. Druids are, therefore, neutral — although slightly predisposed towards evil actions.

    "As a final note, most of humanity falls into the lawful category, and most of lawful humanity lies near the line between good and evil. With proper leadership the majority will be prone towards lawful/good. Few humans are chaotic, and very few are chaotic and evil"

    - E. Gary Gygax

    So the article added the "good and evil axis", but made clear in this graph:

    ..that creatures don't just exist on one of nine points of ethics/morality, there's a range:

    Also in the article Gygax states:

    "Placement of characters upon a graph similar to that in Illustration I is necessary if the dungeonmaster is to maintain a record of player-character alignment. Initially, each character should be placed squarely on the center point of his alignment, i.e., lawful/good, lawful/evil, etc. The actions of each game week will then be taken into account when determining the current position of each character. Adjustment is perforce often subjective, but as a guide the referee can consider the actions of a given player in light of those characteristics which typify his alignment, and opposed actions can further be weighed with regard to intensity....

    ....Alignment does not preclude actions which typify a different alignment, but such actions will necessarily affect the position of the character performing them, and the class or the alignment of the character in question can change due to such actions, unless counter-deeds are performed to balance things.

    So in general "Law" was the side of humanity, and "Chaos" was on the side of the supernatural in Anderson and early Moorcock, and very early D&D, but 'Good" and "Evil" complicate matters.

    Per Gygax, I infer from that "Alignment" didn't control the PC's actions, PC actions are a guide to what "Alignment" the DM rules a character is for game effects.

    So I leave the entry blank, and let the DM deal with the alignment claptrap (frankly as a player I'd rather keep a character possessions inventory sheet and foist the "stats" on the DM anyway)!

    But oD&D was just "guidelines", nothing was "official" until Advanced Dungeons & Dragons which was a completely different game!

    "No royalties for you Arneson! Mine all Mine! Bwahahaha!
    Wait, what's that Blume?"

    Fitting as a "bridge" between oD&D, and AD&D, the 1977 "Basic Set" had a "5 point Alignment system" (Lawful Good, Lawful Evil, Chaotic Good, Chaotic Evil, and Neutral), but the 1978 Players Handbook had the full "nine-points" that we know today.

    Spoiler: Part Three: The 5-point system of the 1977 "bluebook"
    Characters may be lawful (good or evil), neutral or chaotic (good or evil). Lawful characters always act according to a highly regulated code of behavior, whether for good or evil. Chaotic characters are quite
    unpredictable and can not be depended upon to do anything except the unexpected -- they are often, but not always, evil. Neutral characters, such as all thieves, are motivated by self interest and may steal from their companions or betray them if it is in their own best interest. Players may choose any alignment they want and need not reveal it to others. Note that the code of lawful good characters insures that they would tell everyone that they are lawful. There are some magical items that can be used only by one alignment of characters. If the Dungeon Master feels that a character has begun to behave in a manner inconsistent with his declared alignment he may rule that he or she has changed alignment and penalize the character with a loss of experience points. An example of such behavior would be a "good" character who kills or tortures a prisoner.

    Spoiler: Part Four: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons
    After generating the abilities of your character, selecting his or her race, and deciding upon a class, it is necessary to determine the alignment of the character. It is possible that the selection of the class your character will profess has predetermined alignment: a druid is neutral, a paladin is lawful good, a thief can be neutral or evil, an assassin is always evil. Yet, except for druids and paladins, such restrictions still leave latitude - the thief can be lawful neutral, lawful evil, neutral evil, chaotic evil, chaotic neutral, neutral, or even neutral good; and the assassin has nearly as many choices. The alignments possible for characters are described below.

    Chaotic Evil:
    The major precepts of this alignment are freedom, randomness, and woe. Laws and order, kindness, and good deeds are disdained. life has no value. By promoting chaos and evil, those of this alignment hope to bring themselves to positions of power, glory, and prestige in a system ruled by individual caprice and their own whims.

    Chaotic Good:
    While creatures of this alignment view freedom and the randomness of action as ultimate truths, they likewise place value on life and the welfare of each individual. Respect for individualism is also great.
    By promoting the gods of chaotic good, characters of this alignment seek to spread their values throughout the world.

    Chaotic Neutral:
    Above respect for life and good, or disregard for life and promotion of evil, the chaotic neutral places randomness and disorder.
    Good and evil are complimentary balance arms. Neither are preferred, nor must either prevail, for ultimate chaos would then suffer.

    Lawful Evil:
    Creatures of this alignment are great respecters of laws and strict order, but life, beauty, truth, freedom and the like are held as valueless, or at least scorned.
    By adhering to stringent discipline, those of
    lawful evil alignment hope to impose their yoke upon the world.

    Lawful Good:
    While as strict in their prosecution of law and order, characters of lawful good alignment follow these precepts to improve the common weal. Certain freedoms must, of course, be sacrificed in order to bring order; but truth is of highest value, and life and beauty of great importance. The benefits of this society are to be brought to all.

    Lawful Neutral:
    Those of this alignment view regulation as all-important, taking a middle road betwixt evil and good. This is because the ultimate harmony of the world -and the whole of the universe - is considered by lawful neutral creatures to have its sole hope rest upon law and order. Evil or good are immaterial beside the determined purpose of bringing all to predictability and regulation.

    Neutral Evil:
    The neutral evil creature views law and chaos as unnecessary
    considerations, for pure evil is all-in-all. Either might be used, but both are
    disdained as foolish clutter useless in eventually bringing maximum evilness to the world.

    Neutral Good:
    Unlike those directly opposite them (neutral evil) in
    alignment, creatures of neutral good believe that there must be some regulation in combination with freedoms if the best is to be brought to the world - the most beneficial conditions for living things in general and intelligent creatures in particular.

    True Neutral:
    The "true" neutral looks upon all other alignments as facets
    of the system of things. Thus, each aspect - evil and good, chaos and law - of things must be retained in balance to maintain the status quo; for things as they are cannot be improved upon except temporarily, and even
    then but superficially. Nature will prevail and keep things as they were meant to be, provided the "wheel" surrounding the hub of nature does not become unbalanced due to the work of unnatural forces - such as
    human and other intelligent creatures interfering with what is meant to be.

    Naturally, there are all variations and shades of tendencies within each alignment. The descriptions are generalizations only. A character can be basically good in its "true" neutrality, or tend towards evil. It is probable
    that your campaign referee will keep a graph of the drift.of your character on the alignment chart. This is affected by the actions (and desires) of your character during the course of each adventure, and will be reflected on the graph. You may find that these actions are such as to cause the declared alignment to be shifted towards, or actually to, some other.
    -1978 PHB

    Anyway, the '79 DMG recommended graphing a PC's Alignment, and if they slipped into a new one they'd lose one level of experience,
    "If the alignment change is involuntary (such as caused by a powerful magic, a curse etc.), then the character can regain all of the losses (level, hit die, etc.) upon returning to his or her former alignment as soon as possible and after making atonement through a cleric of the same alignment - and sacrificing treasure which has a value of not less than 10,000 g.p. per level of experience of the character."

    That'll teach those pesky PC's not to stray!

    Oh and
    "Until the character has again achieved his or her former level of experience held prior to change of alignment, he or she will not be able to converse in the former alignment's tongue nor will anything but the rudest signalling be possible in the new alignment language."

    1e AD&D DM's were always supplied with pizza with the correct toppings!

    (Not really, I have no memory of those rules ever being used at any table that I played).

    Wisely the 1981 "Basic rules" went back to Law/Neutral/Chaos, which was retained in the
    Spoiler: Part Five: The1991 "Rules Cyclopedia"

    An alignment is a code of behavior or way of
    life which guides the actions and thoughts of characters and monsters. There are three alignments in the D&D® game: Law, Chaos, and Neutrality. Players may choose the alignments they feel will best fit their characters. A player does not have to tell other players what alignment he or she has picked, but must tell the Dungeon Master. Most Lawful characters will reveal their alignments if asked. When picking alignments, the characters should know that Chaotics cannot be trusted, even by other Chaotics. A Chaotic character does not work well with other PCs.
    Alignments give characters guidelines,to live by. They are not absolute rules: characters will try to follow their alignment guidelines, but may not always be successful. To better understand the philosophies behind them, let's define the three alignments.
    Law (or Lawful)
    Law is the belief that everything should follow an order, and that obeying rules is the natural way of life. Lawful creatures will try to tell the truth, obey laws that are fair, keep promises, and care for all living things.
    If a choice must be made between the benefit of a group or an individual, a Lawful character will usually choose the group. Sometimes individual freedoms must be given up for the good
    Lawful characters and monsters often act in predictable ways. Lawful behavior is usually the same as "good" behavior.
    Chaos (or Chaotic)
    Chaos is the opposite of Law. It is the belief
    that life is random and that chance and luck rule the world. Laws are made to be broken, as long as a person can get away with it. It is not important to keep promises, and lying and telling the truth are both useful.
    To a Chaotic creature, the individual is the
    most important of all things. Selfishness is the normal way of life, and the group is not important. Chaotics often act on sudden desires and whims. They have strong belief in the power of luck. They cannot always be trusted. Chaotic behavior is usually the same as behavior that could be called "evil." Each individual player must decide if his Chaotic character is closer to a mean, selfish "evil" personality or merely a happy-go-lucky, unpredictable personality.
    Neutrality (or Neutral)
    Neutrality is the belief that the world is a balance between Law and Chaos. It is important that neither side get too much power and upset this balance. The individual is important, but so is the group; the two sides must work together.
    A Neutral character is most interested in per-
    sonal survival. Such characters believe in their own wits and abilities rather than luck. They tend to return the treatment they receive from others. Neutral characters will join a party if they think it is in their own best interest, but will not be overly helpful unless there is some sort of profit in it. Neutral behavior may be considered "good" or "evil" (or neither).
    Alignment Behavior
    Take this situation as an example: A group of player characters is attacked by a large number of monsters. Escape is not possible unless the monsters are slowed down.
    A Lawful character will fight to protect the
    group, regardless of the danger. The character will not run away unless the whole group does so or is otherwise safe.
    A Neutral character will fight to protect the
    group as long as it is reasonably safe to do so. If the danger is too great, the character will try to save himself, even at the expense of the rest of the party.
    A Chaotic character might fight the monsters or he might run away immediately—Chaotics are, as always, unpredictable. The character may not even care what happened to the rest of the party.
    Playing an alignment does not mean a character must do stupid things. A character should always act as intelligently as the Intelligence score indicates, unless there is a reason to act otherwise (such as a magical curse).
    Alignment Languages
    Each alignment has a secret language of passwords, hand signals, and other body motions.
    Player characters and intelligent monsters always know their alignment languages. They will also recognize when another alignment language is being spoken, but will not understand it. Alignment languages have no written form. A character may not learn a different alignment language unless he changes alignments. In such a case, the character forgets the old alignment language and starts using the new one immediately....

    Unfortunately 'Law' was "usually "Good"', and 'Chaos' was "usually Evil", but "not always".

    Because my 2e to 4e books are on a higher shelf (and I never played those versions) than my 0e/1e AD&D/BX/RC/5e books (which I have played some) I'll just give you this link for info on those editions Alignment systems (all praise to Kish for the link).

    For 5e I still see the point of Alignments in the Monster Manual, but now that D&D has dropped ""Alignment Languages", I'm not sure what the point is of players writing one on their character record sheets, as "Ideals", "Flaws", "Bonds", etc. seem to replace "Alignment" as a role-playing aide.


    Now, I'll just tell you which Alignments are what most DM's (in my experience) are less likely to tell you that "You're not playing your Alignment",
    Spoiler: Alignments in order:
    (From least likely to incur "You're not playing your Alignment", to most)

    1) Neutral Evil

    2) True Neutral

    3) Chaotic Evil

    4) Lawful Evil

    5) Lawful Neutral

    6) Chaotic Good (most are wrong in their interpretation of this Alignment IMNSHO, but whatever)

    7) Chaotic Neutral

    8) Neutral Good

    and the one that your DM is least likely to consider you "Doing it right":

    9) Lawful Good.

    Now make with the pizza slice already.

    Extended Sig
    D&D Alignment history
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    Does the game you play feature a Dragon sitting on a pile of treasure, in a Dungeon?
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    Dwarf in the Playground

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    Default Re: D&D Alignment, a history

    Being not very good at critiquing anything whatsoever, I have only one thing to say - this deserves to be put up with the rest of the notable threads!
    Quote Originally Posted by bc56 View Post
    REAL mages speak Modron!
    Quote Originally Posted by KOLE View Post
    If I ever tried to cast animate dead or conjure animals at my table, my DM would reveal an AK47 and kill everyone in the room and then himself.

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