The good, the bad and the ugly...

Author: Andrew /

Alignment. This is a point of contention with some 3rd edition players and 4th edition players. Alignment is essentially a measured assessment of where your character lies on the cosmic scale of morality and general good-to-badness.

This will be our key: L=lawful, C=Chaotic, N=neutral, G=good, E=evil

In 3rd edition, the alignment scale was this (TN is true neutral):

In 4th edition, it's different; more linear:

Now, we'll look at what these mean and how they can be used in play.

3rd edition alignments (referenced from the 3.5 Player's Handbook):
Lawful Good (Crusader)
Neutral Good (Benefactor)
Chaotic Good (Rebel) - this is like Robin Hood
Lawful Neutral (Judge)
True Neutral (Undecided)
Chaotic Neutral (Free Spirit)
Lawful Evil (Dominator)
Neutral Evil (Malefactor) - a killer who murders to get what they want is neutral evil. They don't go out of their way to create conflict but don't believe following law would make them any more noble. they're simply out for themselves.
Chaotic Evil (Destroyer)

4th Edition alignments (referenced from the 4.0 Player's Handbook)
LG - Embodies civilization and order. "An ordered society protects us from evil"
G - Embodies freedom and kindness. "Protecting the weak from those who would dominate or kill them is just the right thing to do."
Unaligned - Embodies having no alignment; not taking a stand. "Just let me go about my business."
E - Embodies tyranny and hatred. "It's my right to claim what others possess."
CE - Embodies entropy and destruction. "I don't care what I have to do to get what I want."

WHEW! Now, after all that, you're probably getting some ideas. You can put most people you know into those categories. For instance, DC Comic's Superman may seem like an obvious Lawful Good but their Batman, on the other hand, may seem like Chaotic Good. (This tends to be an ongoing debate as to what Batman's real alignment is but most people agree he's at least good lol)

Alignments can pose lots of interesting things in a game. It can give you a moral compass for decision making. If you have a lawful good character, you can ask "Well, if my character truly believes that law will set us free and that good is way better than evil, then what would they do in this situation?" And it makes role playing a good deal easier, as long as you remember that.

One thing I've run into though, is that some players will choose Neutral so that they don't have to role play or so that they don't have to really role play. They'll just say that a character's neutral and that they just do whatever because that tends to be easier. Now, that's usually actually incorrect. They'll pick neutral so they don't have to explain themselves but really, their character's actions with show their true alignment.

Actual neutral characters can be very interesting though. One of my beliefs is that one of the keys to very good role playing and having and interesting character is having them change over the adventure. I enjoy having neutral characters at the beginning and allowing their circumstances, companions and experiences subtly move them in one direction or another. If there's a lot of evil around, perhaps they start getting used to it and become more bad because it doesn't seem as bad. Or, if surrounded by good, perhaps they take on those convictions and really start believing in the cause of good and move towards the light. It can really make a character very dynamic.

DM's out there I would advise being pretty strict on alignment or at least hold your players to what they choose. This tends to make their RPing better and will make their characters more interesting. I would also advise that if a player wishes to make a neutral character, ask them why. Find out what their motivations are and if it's just laziness, perhaps help them find something they could be more enthusiastic about! Lastly, I genreally don't allow evil alignments in my games. An evil character, when played correctly, tends to be more on the selfish end of the spectrum and can really tear apart a good party. So, if a player wants to play an evil character, ask them why, and determine whether it fits your needs as a Dungeon Master. Don't be afraid to say no.

Well, that's all for alignment on this one. That was a big one. Perhaps, if you guys would like, you could shoot some character ideas and we could do a post about possible alignments / personality ideas for those characters! Alright, until next time (which will most likely be good 'n' soon lol) thanks for reading and as always, keep the comments coming!



mechamonogatari said...

I'm glad that 4E handled alignment like they did, as a subsystem that can be used if needed, and easily ignored if it is not. While I am aware that many others have used alignments to great effect, in my experience, they are at best unnecessary. I can easily come up with personalities and motivations for characters from the vilest of villains to the most saintly heroes without having to stuff them into an alignment pidgeonhole.

Still, I'm no expert. What advice would you give to bridge the gulf between those who love alignment and those who don't?

Andrew said...

Well, I believe that alignment can be unnecessary but other times, I think it can be quite necessary. To me, it acts as a guide for my character and gives me some compass direction as to what their attitude should be and the way they want to go. As for bridging the gap, I'd say it's easier to probably try to look at it as a fluid dynamic entity instead of little cubby-hole boxes that need to be fit into.

Look at it this way. Think about people you know in life. There are no people who are without alignment. Everyone has ideas. Everyone has thoughts on how the world is, what they would do if given the chance to change things, how they treat people in general. People have principles and internal moral compasses that guide them through life. Some people's are stronger than others but all the same, they are there. You see people who have extreme convictions and others who are "live-and-let-live." What I say is embrace alignment but don't feel restricted to it. When I give a player an alignment, I don't view it as a concrete thing. I give my character an alignment with the deliberate intention that it is something that's going to change.

Look for the good in it, alignment is your friend! Thanks a ton for the comment and asking for advice on top of it. I hope I was able to help. Thanks for being a regular reader and I hope to hear a lot more from ya!

Andrew said...

Edit: "When I give a CHARACTER an alignment, I don't view it..."

mechamonogatari said...

Well, probably my problems with alignment stem from the 3.0/3.5 era, where alignment had a very strong mechanical effect—if you changed alignment, your character might be rendered all but unplayable (most evident with a paladin). By itself, this wouldn't be much of a problem (a paladin player could just stay on the straight and narrow, for example), but unless a player and their DM were on the same page as far as exactly what alignment meant and what it took to change alignments, then there would be problems.

I agree with alignment as a guide, as a starting point for characterization, as being very fluid. A character can be lawful good, their actions dominated by those morals, and still commit the occasional evil or chaotic deed without suddenly being forced into another alignment which does not fit their overall vision of their character.

Like this, I can see its utility. If this style of thinking about alignment was more prevalent, I most likely wouldn't just leave the alignment line on the sheet blank.

P.S. I like the new look for the blog—it's got that "old-time illuminated manuscript" feel.

Andrew said...

You make some great points and I agree that 3rd ed's feel with alignment having a heavy mechanical effect wasn't the best idea. Having your paladin be all but destroyed if he went the other way wasn't the best way to go. I like that 4th ed has an option of being an evil paladin. Granted it changes the old school feel of a paladin being only a good guy but at the same time, I think good paladins are still going to be the vast majority so the theme and general idea of it is still intact in my own thinking. =] I think so long as you consider it a fluid thing, you should be able to use it as one more tool in your toolbox =]

Thanks for the compliment on the new look, too. Took me like an hour - hour and a half to find something I thought fit but this did just the trick. Made the header text myself =]. Thanks for comin' back. The feedback has been great. Keep it up!

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