The alignment system is a two-dimensional grid, one axis of which measures a "moral" continuum between good and evil, and the other "ethical" between law and chaos. Those characters that fall on one of the extremes are "good" or "evil", "lawful" or "chaotic"; in addition, there is a middle ground of "neutrality" on both axes, describing characters that are indifferent, committed to balance, or conflicted about the struggle between good and evil (or law and chaos). By combining the two axes, any given character has one of nine possible alignments.
Certain classes are restricted in the sorts of alignment they can take. A paladin traditionally must be of lawful good alignment; rogues and barbarians are seldom lawful in alignment. Clerics and other priests must typically uphold the alignments favoured by their deities. Druids must be wholly or partially neutral in their allegiances. Assassins are usually evil. These restrictions have been somewhat relaxed in the 3rd edition of the Dungeons & Dragons game, although a character's alignment may shift if he acts in marked variance from his declared alignment.
Chaotic Good: Creatures of this alignment view personal freedom and flexibility of action as necessary to promote the life and the welfare of each individual. Respect for individualism is great, but individual freedom does not remove responsibility for the consequences of one’s actions. Individuals are valued on the basis of their actions, rather than by their position in society. Acts of kindness and mercy are to be lauded but not enforced.
Neutral Good: Unlike those directly opposite them (Neutral Evil) in alignment, creatures of Neutral Good alignment believe that there must be some regulation in combination with freedom if the best is to be brought to the world – the most beneficial conditions for living things in general and intelligent creatures in particular.
Lawful Good: While strict in their prosecution of law and order, characters of Lawful Good alignment follow these precepts to improve the common weal. Only through the group can any individual gain security and meaningful position. Certain freedoms, such as rights to private property, must of course, be sacrificed 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.
Chaotic Neutral: Above respect for life and good will, or disregard for life and intentional cruelty, the Chaotic Neutral places the personal freedom of each individual. Whether these individual choices lead to good results or ill is beside the point. Chaotic Neutral creatures disregard all authority unless compelled by the circumstances. While Chaotic Neutrals believe in personal responsibility, they consider both compassion and willful cruelty to be abject folly. A Chaotic Neutral neither goes out of their way to benefit strangers or cause harm.
True Neutral: The “True” Neutral looks upon all other alignments as unimportant and distracting. Thus, Evil and Good, Chaos and Law are mostly irrelevant; they are neither individualistic nor collectivist, and neither are they kind or cruel. The main goal of True Neutrals is to benefit them selves and or families without causing needless harm or risking injury. True Neutrals also try not to go out of their way to protect or benefit those outside their immediate family or espouse any particular ideological views. Animals and other creatures incapable of moral action and ethical action are also True Neutral.
Lawful Neutral: Those of this alignment view their group and its regulation as all-important. Whether any individual – or even large groups of individuals – benefit or are harmed by following rule and tradition, doing so is the responsibility of all creatures. This is because the ultimate harmony of the world is considered by Lawful Neutral creatures to have its sole hope resting upon law and order. Individuals exist only as parts of the whole. Evil or Good are immaterial beside the determined purpose of bringing all to predictability and regulation.
Chaotic Evil: The major precept of this alignment is that of personal freedom unshackled by responsibility. Whatever advantage can be taken should be taken, and the woe of others is often to the benefit of oneself. Laws and order, kindness, and good deeds are disdained, except where they can be paid lip service to one’s own benefit. Others’ lives have no value. Those of this alignment hope to either bring down all restraint and prohibition, moral and otherwise to achieve power, glory, and prestige in a system of individual caprice and governed by their own whims or to create a state of perfect freedom abandoning all laws and restrictions as acts of oppression. They don't consider themselves in any way wicked for such plans or actions.
Neutral Evil: The Neutral Evil creature views Law and Chaos as unnecessary considerations, for he seeks the greatest benefit both within the group and without it. Either might be used, but both are disdained as foolish clutter useless in eventually bringing maximum benefit to himself.
Lawful Evil: Lawful Evil creatures respect law and order, believing that the individual good of creatures is of no consequence compared to the strength and stability of the group. Individual freedom is held as valueless, or at least scorned. Any cruelty or atrocity is justified if it serves the interests of the State, and the suffering of enemies is to be enjoyed. Truth is important, but only where it serves the group. These creatures place but scant value on individual lives – even their own lives. The goal of each individual creature is first to know its place in the group, and then to increase its station in that hierarchy for the perpetuation of the group. By adhering to stringent discipline, those of Lawful Evil alignment hope to impose their yoke upon the world.
Lawful Good Lawful Good is known as the "Saintly" or "Crusader" alignment. A Lawful Good character typically acts with compassion, and always with honor and a sense of duty. A Lawful Good nation would consist of a well-organized government that works for the benefit of its citizens. Lawful Good characters include righteous knights, paladins, and most dwarves. Lawful Good creatures include the noble golden dragons. Lawful Good outsiders are known as Archons.
Lawful Good characters, especially paladins, may sometimes find themselves faced with the dilemma of whether to obey law or good when the two conflict - for example, upholding a sworn oath when it would lead innocents to come to harm - or conflicts between two orders, such as between their religious law and the law of the local ruler.
Neutral Good Neutral Good is known as the "Benefactor" alignment. A Neutral Good character is guided by his conscience and typically acts altruistically, without regard for or against Lawful precepts such as rules or tradition. A Neutral Good character has no problems with co-operating with lawful officials, but does not feel beholden to them. In the event that doing the right thing requires the bending or breaking of rules, they do not suffer the same inner conflict that a Lawful Good character would. A doctor who treats soldiers from both sides in a war could be considered Neutral Good.
Chaotic Good Chaotic Good is known as the "Beatific," "Rebel," or "Cynic" alignment. A Chaotic Good character favors change for a greater good, disdains bureaucratic organizations that get in the way of social improvement, and places a high value on personal freedom, not only for oneself, but for others as well. They always intend to do the right thing, but their methods are generally disorganised and often out of alignment with the rest of society. They have no use for those who would try to push them around and tell them what to do.
While they do not have evil intentions, they often do bad things (even if they do not necessarily enjoy doing these things) to people who are, in their views, bad people if it benefits their goal of achieving a greater good. Most elves are Chaotic Good, as are some fey.
Lawful Neutral Lawful Neutral is called the "Judge" or "Disciplined" alignment. A Lawful Neutral character typically believes strongly in Lawful concepts such as honor, order, rules and tradition, and often follows a personal code. A Lawful Neutral society would typically enforce strict laws to maintain social order, and place a high value on traditions and historical precedent. Examples of Lawful Neutral characters might include a soldier who always follows orders, a judge or enforcer that adheres mercilessly to the word of the law, a disciplined monk.
Characters of this alignment are neutral with regard to good and evil. This does not mean that Lawful Neutral characters are amoral or immoral, or do not have a moral compass; but simply that their moral considerations come a distant second to what their code, tradition or law dictates. They typically have a strong ethical code, but it is primarily guided by their system of belief, not by a commitment to good or evil.
Neutral Neutral alignment, also referred to as True Neutral or Neutral Neutral, is called the "Undecided" or "Nature's" alignment. This alignment represents Neutral on both axes, and tends not to feel strongly towards any alignment. A farmer whose primary overriding concern is to feed his family is of this alignment. Most animals, lacking the capacity for moral judgement, are of this alignment. Many roguish characters who play all sides to suit themselves are also of this alignment.
Some Neutral characters, rather than feeling undecided, are committed to a balance between the alignments. They may see good, evil, law and chaos as simply prejudices and dangerous extremes. Mordenkainen is one such character who takes this concept to the extreme, dedicating himself to a detached philosophy of neutrality to ensure that no one alignment or power takes control of the Flanaess.
Druids frequently follow this True Neutral dedication to balance, and under Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules were required to be this alignment. In an example given in a D&D rulebook, a typical druid might fight against a band of marauding gnolls, only to switch sides to save the gnoll's clan from being totally exterminated.
Chaotic Neutral Chaotic Neutral is called the "Anarchist" or "Free Spirit" alignment. A character of this alignment is an individualist who follows his or her own heart, and generally shirks rules and traditions. Good and Evil come a distant second to their need for personal freedom, and the only reliable thing about them is how totally unreliable they are. They typically act out of self-interest, but do not specifically enjoy seeing others suffer. Many free-spirited adventurers are of this alignment. Alternatively there are madmen whose actions are chaotic, but are not themselves inclined towards evil.
An unusual subset of Chaotic Neutral is "strongly Chaotic Neutral", describing a character who behaves chaotically to the point of appearing insane. Characters of this type may regularly change their appearance and attitudes for the sake of change, and intentionally disrupt organizations for the sole reason of disrupting a lawful construct. Characters of this type include the Xaositects from the Planescape setting, and Hennet from the third edition Player's Handbook. In Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Chaotic Neutral was frequently assumed to refer to this subset.
Lawful Evil Lawful Evil is referred to as the "Dominator" or "Diabolic" alignment. Characters of this alignment see a well-ordered system as being easier to exploit, and show a combination of desirable and undesirable traits; while they usually obey their superiors and keep their word, they care nothing for the rights and freedoms of other individuals. Examples of this alignment include tyrants, devils, undiscriminating mercenary types who have a strict code of conduct, and loyal soldiers who enjoy the act of killing.
Like Lawful Good Paladins, Lawful Evil characters may sometimes find themselves faced with the dilemma of whether to obey law or evil when the two conflict - however their issues with Law versus Evil are more concerned with "Will I get caught?" vs "How does this benefit me?"
Neutral Evil Neutral Evil is called the "Malefactor" alignment. Characters of this alignment are typically selfish and have no qualms about turning on their allies-of-the-moment. They have no compunctions about harming others to get what they want, but neither will they go out of their way to cause carnage or mayhem when they see no direct benefit to it. They abide by laws for only as long as it is convenient for them. A villain of this alignment can be more dangerous than either Lawful or Chaotic Evil characters, since he is neither bound by any sort of honor or tradition nor disorganized and pointlessly violent.
Examples are an assassin who has little regard for formal laws but does not needlessly kill, a henchman who plots behind his superior's back, or a mercenary who switches sides if made a better offer.
Chaotic Evil Chaotic Evil is referred to as the "Destroyer" or "Demonic" alignment. Characters of this alignment tend to have no respect for rules, other peoples' lives, or anything but their own desires, which are typically selfish and cruel. They set a high value on personal freedom, but do not have any regard for the lives or freedom of other people. They do not work well in a group, as they resent being given orders, and usually only behave themselves out of fear of punishment.
It is not compulsory for a Chaotic Evil character to be constantly performing sadistic acts just for the sake of being evil, or constantly disobeying orders just for the sake of causing chaos. They do however enjoy the suffering of others, and view honor and self-discipline as weaknesses. Serial killers and monsters of limited intelligence are typically Chaotic Evil.
Lawful Good characters believe that law, order, and stability are the best path to achieving the ends of Good. They see stability as providing a foundation on which people can build plans for their futures, and thus as providing people with the best chance of eventual happiness. They may accept strict laws, if they believe these to be necessary; for instance a Lawful Good culture could have capital punishment for extreme crimes. (The crimes must generally be extreme, or this would violate the principle of respect for life. However, a sufficiently heinous crime can, in the D&D system, constitute sufficient reason for a Good character to condone execution.) However, they will not accept clear failures of their legal system; a legal system in a Lawful Good culture will tend to favor the rights of the accused, to prevent innocents from coming to harm.
Lawful Good characters tend to have a strong set of personal moral rules, and rely on these for moral judgements; they may do things that they are not very comfortable with, if the moral rules require them. Thus, a Lawful Good soldier will be likely to obey the orders of a superior, even if he has concerns about their moral quality, because he has already committed to obedience. Lawful Neutral
Lawful Neutral characters may be Neutral for a number of reasons. Some may be inclined towards Good, but not committed to it. Others may be trying to preserve a balance. Lawful Neutral characters are more willing than Lawful Good ones to accept harsh punishments for minor crimes; the stability of the system is more important to them than the quality of life under it, or the quality of the results. They are more willing to dismiss the suffering or indignities inflicted on "criminals" or other people that they can isolate from themselves, but they will tend to resist obvious miscarriages of justice.
Lawful Neutral characters tend to have strong personal moral rules, but these rules need not reflect the ideals of Good very well. They are more likely to accept vengance, punishment, and preemptive action than Lawful Good characters are. Lawful Evil
Lawful Evil characters support a strong system of laws because it provides them with a consistent framework in which to build their own power and achieve their own ends. They may favor harsh punishments for trivial infractions, or may prefer a system which encourages "minor" crimes, because they feel they can take advantage of these. Whatever the laws are, though, Lawful Evil creatures will tend to follow them, and will certainly maintain the appearance of following such laws. They will have no compunctions about doing harm that is not illegal.
Lawful Evil characters may have a strong code of honor, but will generally view it only as a means to ensure that others are obligated to treat them similarly. Neutral Good
Neutral Good characters are quite willing to have a basic framework of law, but will feel comfortable violating laws when the results of a given law are clearly in conflict with personal ideals. They will twist or bend laws, or simply ignore them, when their ideals compell them, but will generally follow "Good" laws without complaint.
Neutral Good characters tend to have principles, rather than a specific moral code. A Neutral Good character is more likely to evaluate an action in terms of its expected result, than in terms of conformance to a specific set of rules. Neutral
Neutral characters may simply be unaligned; we do not discuss those here. Characters who are of true neutral alignment may well be simply characters who have the inclinations of Neutral Good, but not the committment to them. They may be somewhat selfish at times, but will shy from lasting harm to innocents. Neutral Evil
Neutral evil characters are unconstrained by a firm sense of honor, free from compunctions, but willing and able to take advantage of social structures when these suit their needs. They are the precise opposite of Neutral Good characters. They will use a social system to their advantage, but have no committment to a code of honor. Some will pretend to one to gain advantage, however. Chaotic Good
Chaotic Good characters believe that a formal structure of morals or law will primarily harm people, and restrict their freedom. They believe that freedom is of paramount importance. They do not have formal sets of moral rules; they pursue good ends by whatever means are at hand. (Of course, those means must not be excessive or inappropriate; this would defeat the purpose.) They will oppose social institutions or structures that limit freedom, especially if they limit happiness. Chaotic Neutral
Chaotic Neutral characters are strongly independant. They don't care much for Good or Evil, and, while they will avoid harming innocents, they will generally make no strong effort to help. They will sometimes act in a benevolent way, but it will be as much because of personal mood as because of any moral principle. They dislike law and society, but will not try to overthrow it; that would require a belief in an end, which would imply Good or Evil. Chaotic Evil
A classic psychotic villain, the Chaotic Evil character will do whatever strikes him as useful to his ends. He will kill or maim if it suits his needs. If he is sadistic, he will likely kill great numbers of people, but if he isn't, he will graciously only kill those that inconvenience or annoy him. He will make sincere-sounding promises if it suits his needs, but will keep them only when it is convenient or necessary to his goals. He views the world as a convenience to him, and will oppose any social order that might keep him from pursuing his goals.
- If your character is lawful, try to write down a few of the basic laws they follow. These laws have to be in keeping with your good/evil alignment as well.
- If you don't know what alignment you want to play, pick neutral to start and after a few sessions try to figure out how you have been playing your character.
- How strictly a character must follow his or her alignment relies heavily on the Dungeon Master's discretion. Some Dungeon Masters go out of their way to make things clear cut, and some will haggle all day about whether opening a chest in a seemingly abandoned warehouse counts as a lawful act for the party Paladin, but others treat alignment as a guideline rather than a rule. Still others will place their campaigns in worlds where everything is some form of neutral. In other words, check with your DM and other players about how strictly they enforce alignment.
- If you are joining a campaign you should speak with the other players before you pick an alignment.
- Mixing lawful and chaotic characters is usually okay, but you usually cannot mix good and evil characters in an adventuring party.
The Alignment characteristic is a basic indication of your character's behavioural tendencies. It is a tool to aid role-playing, not a strait-jacket in which your character will be forever confined. If you create a character with a starting Alignment that does not match the way you end up playing that character, you will be free to change it. Obviously this should be discussed with the DM, as he will definitely want to know.
Keeping your character's behaviour within the bounds of the Alignment you have given them will obviously gain you experience points for good role-playing. Serious deviation will equally result in EXP penalties.
The following Alignment definitions are used as a common standard within the context of the game. This is necessary to ensure that everyone has the same idea of what constitutes 'chaotic' behaviour, for example, thus avoiding any confusion.
These interpretations sre intended for game purposes only, not for use in real life.
Before we can get into specific alignments, it is necessary to examine the five underlying concepts behind them.
Good & Evil
In real life 'Good' and 'Evil' are concepts that have no meaning outside of the society that defined them. 'Good' acts are simply those of which society approves, while 'Evil' acts are those of which it strongly disapproves. A Viking bringing home a vast amount of loot from raiding, for example, would most likely be considered 'Good' by his fellows and 'Evil' by his victims. Over time, any given society will change its ideas of what constitute 'Good' and 'Evil' according to its current needs. Often, what is considered 'Good' by one generation will be considered 'Evil' by a later generation, and vice versa.
For the purposes of the game it is necessary to establish a set of absolute standards. Anything else results in total confusion and negates the entire point of having an Alignment system in the first place.
Good: is defined as unselfish and moral: doing things for others with no thought of personal gain, or simply because it is the right thing to do. Placing the welfare of others above your own.
Do as you would be done by
Note: 'Moral' is defined as obeying the general rules of personal behaviour layed down by the Judeo-Christian tradition. This is simply for the sake of convenience as everybody knows what these precepts are and they are well defined. Trying to use any other definition of 'Moral' is predicated once more upon social convention, hence unworkable.
Evil: is defined as selfish and immoral: doing things for yourself that inflict harm on others, or that you know to be wrong. The pursuit of self-gratification without worrying or caring about the pain you cause. Placing your own welfare above that of others.
Do it to them before they do it to you
Law & Chaos
Are in essence the forces of stability/pattern and change/randomness. Where 'Good' and 'Evil' are social constructs, Law (or 'Order') and Chaos are fundamental underpinning parts of the universe. Their natures are eternal and unchanging (which is certainly a paradox in the latter case). As such, definitions are not predicated upon any kind of social bias.
Law: is the force of stability and pattern (and has nothing to do with criminal law in any way shape or form). Lawful people enjoy working as part of a team, and will often be involved in organising, planning and general preparation. Lawful people generally think before they act..
Without stability there is no true progression
Chaos: is the force of randomness and change. Chaotic people are impulsive, and prefer to work alone rather than as part of a team. They dislike planning, finding it boring, and are always interested in new things. Many are highly creative. Chaotic people usually act before they think.
Without change there is only stagnation
Is not exactly a force, so much as the reconciling of opposites.
One who is Neutral in the 'Good'-'Evil' sense may not be particularly selfish or unselfish, or they may simply be amoral (in other words, they are unable to grasp moral concepts, or come from a society that has none). Others may view 'Good' and 'Evil' as forces that are both necessary, or simply consider them irrelevant (a Druid, for example, is far more concerned with animals than with people).
One who is Neutral in the Law-Chaos sense may not have a marked preference for either planning or spontaneous action, or they may simply allow others to dictate the course of events by just 'going with the flow'. Others may see the importance of both forces, and actively work to balance their lives accordingly. Many will be self-centred but not really selfish.
Without light there is no shadow
Specific Alignment Definitions
Lawful Good (LG): The LG character works towards bringing the greatest benefit to the largest number of people. S/he believes that a stable and well ordered society is the best hope of happiness for the majority of people. LG characters tend to become adventurers because they think they can do the most good over the long term by doing so.
Chaotic Good (CG): The CG character wants to help people now. S/he believes that it is up to every individual to do what they can to help others when they can. Individual freedom is the best way of guaranteeing happiness for all. CG people usually become adventurers when they are recruited on the spur of the moment to help destroy a local menace,
Neutral Good (NG): The NG character is not really bothered about the amount of social freedom granted by his government, only whether the people are happy or not. S/he will happily work with other people or alone as the need dictates. NG characters will usually become adventurers in order to protect others.
Lawful Neutral (LN): The LN character wants a nice quiet world in which everybody has the security of knowing their place and nothing ever changes. S/he enjoys routine and dislikes surprises. Those few LN characters who become adventurers usually do so because they feel that they cannot get the quiet life they want as long as outside menaces exist. They tend to be pretty annoyed about it too.
Chaotic Neutral (CN): The CN character craves adventure and excitement - now! Always fascinated by new things, and utterly bored without change, the CN character is the ultimate butterfly. S/he is highly inquisitive and often very quick witted. Most are wanderers who wish to see the world, or exist in a mad social whirl. Those who become adventurers do so for the excitement.
True Neutral (TN): The TN character either believes that Good, Evil, Law and Chaos are all intrinsically necessary to the world and its people - part of a vital balance of forces that should not ever be allowed to tip too far in any direction - or has completely abandoned all interest in human affairs. The majority of TN people are Druids or hermits, who fall into the latter category. TN characters who go adventuring will usually do so in order to preserve the balance or to counteract a threat to nature.
Lawful Evil: The LE character will work to gain the greatest long term benefit to him/herself. If other people get hurt in the process, well, so what. You can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs, right? LE characters dream of a nice ordered society with them on top - or at least pulling the strings behind the scenes. LE characters who go adventuring usually do so in order to gain resources that will allow them to become more powerful or otherwise support their long-term aims.
Neutral Evil: The NE character will certainly accept any reasonable opportunity to gain personal benefits or self gratification, but will tend to weigh the risks before doing so. S/he doesn't care if other people get hurt, but certainly cares about whether s/he will have to face any consequences as a result. NE characters who go adventuring usually do so because they think that the possible gains outweigh the risks.
Chaotic Evil: The CE person wants self gratification now. If s/he sees something s/he wants and is strong enough to take it, s/he will do so (Note that 'strong' is not used here to refer only - or even primarily - to physical strength. Use of superior wit or charm or anything else is also included). There is no point worrying about possible consequences, as they may or may not happen. The strong prey on the weak, and that's just the way of the world. CE characters who go adventuring will usually do so on impulse and with the promise of easy loot.
End Note: The vast majority of people of all races have no means of identifying alignment, and only work on whether they like someone or not. A Merchant Prince may well be LE, but he may still be a good employer who deals fairly with his customers - both things that will undoubtably benefit him enormously in the long term. He may have a better general reputation than a LG Merchant Prince who is socially inept but secretly sets up a number of charitable foundations. Evil, like good, comes in many degrees, and is not always interested in ruling the world, or even a tiny part of it.
There is however one peculiar aberration common to people of all races: whatever they may do in pursuit of their goals, no sane person ever thinks of themselves as evil. Everyone, without exception, justifies what they do by reference to religion, social injustice or personal circumstance. They often maintain that everyone else would do the same things if they had the courage, the will, or the intelligence to do so. Sometimes they could not help themselves, had no choice or were simply obeying orders. Matters were taken out of their hands. It was a cry for help.