A post in the fourms has once again led me to ask a question, what does alignment mean? Really….?
So what does alignment mean?
Well the basic view, in the 2ed Players Handbook (my source, I would like 3rd and 4th Players to post with what it means in their version…)
Characters of this alignment believe that an orderly, strong society with a well-organized government can work to make life better for the majority of the people.To ensure the quality of life, laws must be created and obeyed. When people respect the laws and try to help one another, society as a whole prospers. Therefore, lawful good characters strive for those things that will bring the greatest benefit to the most peopleand cause the least harm.
An honest and hard-working serf, a kindly and wise king, or astern but forthright minister of justice are all examples of lawful good people.
These characters believe that a balance of forces is important, but thatthe concerns of law and chaos do not moderate the need for good. Since the universe is vast and contains many creatures striving for different goals, a determined pursuit of good will not upset the balance; it may even maintain it. If fostering good means supporting organized society, then that is what must be done. If good can only come about through the overthrow of existing social order, so be it. Social structure itself has no innate value to them.
A baron who violates the orders of his king to destroy something he sees as evil is an example of a neutral good character.
Chaotic good characters are strong individualists marked by a streak of kindness and benevolence. They believe in all the virtues of goodness and right, but they have little use for laws and regulations. They have no use for people who “try to pushfolk around and tell them what to do.” Their actions are guided by their own moral compass which, although good, may not always be in perfect agreement with the rest of society.
A brave frontiersman forever moving on as settlers follow in his wake is anexample of a chaotic good character.
Order and organization are of paramount importance to characters of this alignment. They believe in a strong, well-ordered government, whether that government is a tyranny or benevolent democracy. The benefits of organization and regimentation outweigh any moral questions raised by their actions. An inquisitor determined to ferret out traitors at any cost or a soldier who never questions his orders are good examples of lawful neutral behavior.
True neutral characters believe in the ultimate balance of forces, and they refuse to see actions as either good or evil. Since the majority of people in the world make judgments, true neutral characters are extremely rare. True neutrals do their best toavoid siding with the forces of either good or evil, law or chaos. It is their duty to see thatall of these forces remain in balanced contention.True neutral characters sometimes find themselves forced into rather peculiar alliances.To a great extent, they are compelled to side with the underdog in any given situation, sometimes even changing sides as the previous loser becomes the winner.
A true neutral druid might join the local barony to put down a tribe of evil gnolls, only to drop out or switch sides when the gnolls were brought to the brink of destruction. He would seek to prevent either side from becoming too powerful. Clearly, there are very few true neutral characters in the world.
Chaotic neutral characters believe that there is no order to anything, including their own actions. With this as a guiding principle, they tend to follow whatever whim strikes them at the moment. Good and evil are irrelevant when making a decision. Chaotic neutral characters are extremely difficult to deal with. Such characters have been known to cheerfully and for no apparent purpose gamble away everything they have on the roll of a single die. They are almost totally unreliable. In fact, the only reliable thing about them is that they cannot be relied upon! This alignment is perhaps the most difficult to play.
Lunatics and madmen tend toward chaotic neutral behavior.
These characters believe in using society and its laws to benefit themselves. Structure and organization elevate those who deserve to rule as well as provide a clearly defined hierarchy between master and servant. To this end, lawful evil characters support laws and societies that protect their own concerns. If someone is hurt or suffers because of a law that benefits lawful evil characters, too bad. Lawful evil characters obey laws out of fear of punishment. Because they may be forced to honor an unfavorable contract or oath they have made, lawful evil characters are usually very careful about giving their word. Once given, they break their word only if they can find away to do it legally, within the laws of the society. An iron-fisted tyrant and a devious, greedy merchant are examples of lawful evil beings.
Neutral evil characters are primarily concerned with themselves and their own advancement. They have no particular objection to working with others or, for that matter, going it on their own. Their only interest is in getting ahead. If there is a quick and easy way to gain a profit, whether it be legal, questionable, or obviously illegal, they take advantage of it. Although neutral evil characters do not have the everyman-for-himself attitude of chaotic characters, they have no qualms about betraying their friends and companions for personal gain. They typically base their allegiance on power and money, which makes them quite receptive to bribes. An unscrupulous mercenary, a common thief, and a double-crossing informer who betrays people to the authorities to protect and advance himself are typical examples of neutral evil characters.
These characters are the bane of all that is good and organized. Chaotic evil characters are motivated by the desire for personal gain and pleasure. They see absolutely nothing wrong with taking whatever they want by whatever means possible. Laws and governments are the tools of weaklings unable to fend for themselves. The strong have the right to take what they want, and the weak are there to be exploited. When chaotic evil characters band together, they are not motivated by a desire to cooperate, but rather to oppose powerful enemies. Such a group can be held together only by a strong leader capable of bullying his underlings into obedience. Since leadership isbased on raw power, a leader is likely to be replaced at the first sign of weakness by anyone who can take his position away from him by any method. Bloodthirsty buccaneers and monsters of low Intelligence are fine examples of chaotic evil personalities.
So that’s what the Players Handbook has to say, but what does that actually mean? Does it mean that good characters never commit Evil acts? Or that Evil Characters never have consciences?
An alignment is a moral code, its a way of saying: I will act like this… most of the time:
A Lawful Good Character is going to do Good Acts, consistent with a Lawful outlook, BUT… Its his perspective of what good is… He’ll kill Evil Characters, because its what he does, he fights evil and tyranny wherever he goes, but wouldn’t some people think his self righteous killing is well.. Evil? Maybe but as far as the LG Character is concerned, he’s doing the right thing.
The Neutral Good Character he is good, he doesn’t go for the total Law abiding attitude of the LG Character, he won’t upset the balance, but if he feels like something needs to change he’ll go ahead and change it, his intentions will be good, but he’ll do what he has to.
The Chaotic Good Character would be John McLane, yeah he’s got good intentions, but he really doesn’t care about the laws or even possibly morals that stop the LG Character from doing things that would be considered rather “dodgy”. The Ranger who sticks up for his forest, protecting those who are weaker than himself, but really doesn’t care for laws or rules.
The Lawful Neutral Character believes in law and the Status Quo, he is not going to be bothered about good or evil, just doing his job.
The True Neutral Character, despite the book is probably the hardest to play, no one is that neutral, we all have some kind of slant or angle, playing someone who ALWAYS maintains his impartial stance is almost impossible, I have never played a character like this.
The Chaotic Neutral Character, is well fun, but short lived, if you manage to live to be a rich you will be very lucky. This Character lives for the moment, he decides his actions on a whim, often doing whatever he feels at the time. You try playing someone who can be up, then down, then well… your guess is a good as mine.
The Lawful Evil Character, is well… he’ll stick to the laws of society, and use them to his advantage, he do anything he can to twist them, to make what money he can.
The Neutral Evil Character, will happily work with a group of others, otherwise he’ll lie, cheat, steal, torture… he’ll do all the things society considers bad, only he does it for self gain, commonly money.
A Chaotic Evil Character…. Your worst Nightmare, he’ll do anything to get ahead, he’ll as the saying goes “Sell his Granny for a Buck” He has no use for society, for laws for well anything…
So that’s my view on what they mean, like I said, I’d like your views on what the other Editions think of these views, I believe the 4th Ed has a “looser stance” on this….?