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D&D 5E A different take on Alignment

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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
So, I think part of the problem with alignment is thinking about it in terms of 9 distinct alignments, rather than 2 spectrums with 3 broad sectors each.

So, what if instead of having a character that is Chaotic Good (the best alignment), you have a character who is Chaotic, and who is Good.

To be more specific, “Chaotic Good” has no definition, but “Chaotic” and “Good” do, completely independent of eachother.

You could also define 3 types of neutrality, if you want, for added depth. Ie, Balance-Oriented, Indifferent, and Ambiguous.
 

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Alignement like the rest of DnD work if you take a quick look and don’t ask too much question.
Why not add also range for chaotic or goodness.
A Pc may be chaotic toward society but lawful to his group, he may want to kill its family but will risk its life for an fellow citizen.
So we got a : chaotic society lawful party evil family good rest of world character.
Maybe limit the alignment definition to 120 characters!
 

pemerton

Legend
My view is that much of the dispute/incoherence in relation to alignment comes from treating the good alignment as not necessarily good. This produces paradoxical convictions, like Doing such-and-such is not good but is what ought to be done.

I think that if the word good (and its opposite, evil) is taken literally in the alignment context then much of the problems go away. Good people are those who are committed to, and/or who pursue (alignment is an amorphous mix of purpose and deed), good things. In his PHB and DMG Gygax is (deliberately, I think) very inclusive here - he includes as good upholding rights, and pursuing valuable things like truth, life and beauty, and also pursuing the greatest happiness of the greatest number.

Conversely, someone is evil if s/he is indifferent to any of these sorts of constraints and just does whatever s/he wants to serve his/her immediate desires for personal satisfaction and power.

Law and chaos are, then, means rather than ends. Lawful good people think that the best way to pursue the good is via organisation and social structure. The chaotic good think individual self-realisation does a better job here, worrying that social structures tend to produce evil outcomes by creating opportunities and temptations to abuse power and subordinate others' interests.

Lawful evils agree with the chaotic good about the means-end relationship but because they're evil they embrace it and pursue organisation. Conversely, the chaotic evil agree with the lawful good that organisation tends to block selfishness and foster widespread wellbeing - hence they oppose organisation and sociality!

On this conception, the lawful neutral are not good - obviously - but are not fully evil, because they don't just do whatever they want. Likewise the chaotic neutral. In both cases, though, a means is treated as an end in itself and "fetishised" as worth pursuing on its own account. Hence why they are not good.

So this is pretty much the opposite view from @doctorbadwolf's. But I think is consistent with Gygax's treatment of alignment. What it doesn't fit well with is the classic D&D treatment of the outer planes, especially in Planescape. Because these tend to treat the means-end question as unimportant, and to assume that both law and chaos can yield good (qv The Seven Heavens and Olympus). I think this is incoherent - if both law and chaos can yield good, then what do the LG and CG even disagree about? It would be no different from Dwarves preferring to live in the mountains and elves preferring to live in the forests.

But unfortunately that Planescape-approach now seems to predominate, in my view to the detriment of the utility of the alignment system as anything but a loose system of personality descriptors.
 
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jsaving

Adventurer
So, I think part of the problem with alignment is thinking about it in terms of 9 distinct alignments, rather than 2 spectrums with 3 broad sectors each.

So, what if instead of having a character that is Chaotic Good (the best alignment), you have a character who is Chaotic, and who is Good.
Yes, that makes a lot of sense. Treat Chaos and Goodness like other systems treat factions or allegiances. Let people order them as they see fit, so a Chaotic Good will mainly emphasize chaos with a lesser commitment to benevolence while a Good Chaotic character will be the other way around. Great idea!
 
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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
so more of a four directional compass
Kinda, I suppose. The main point is that I think maybe focusing on “Lawful Good” isn’t as interesting or informative as focusing on “Lawful” and “Good”, especially when making a character.

I also don’t think that Law and Chaos are actually as mutually exclusive as some folks think. Chaos and Law both do bring Good (and Evil).

I do also think that Law and Chaos need to pick a lane and stay there, in terms of what they judge. For an example, I am personally and socially Chaotic, but my policy positions are strongly enough oriented on the social order and the idea that members of a society are morally obligated toward one another, that I’m Lawful in the macro scale.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Yes, that makes a lot of sense. Treat Chaos and Goodness like other systems treat factions or allegiances. Let people order them as they see fit, so a Chaotic Good character differs in predictable ways from a Good Chaotic character. Great idea!
That’s a cromulent way to put it, yeah. Like how Democratic Socialist means a different (tho related) thing from Social Democrat.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I also don’t think that Law and Chaos are actually as mutually exclusive as some folks think. Chaos and Law both do bring Good (and Evil).

I generally agree with your sentiments in the OP. Fact is, that's pretty much how I have always thought of it, since I picked up the game in 1e.

However, the idea above is muddled. Yes, Chaos and Law can both bring Good. Or Evil. But that doesn't mean Chaos and Law are not mutually exclusive.

I think it would be enlightening to mention the Principia Discordia. Written back in 1963, it is a reaction and rejection of the fairly strict societal norms of the 1950s. In the following quote, I think you'll see the similarity to D&D alignments:

THE CURSE OF GREYFACE AND THE INTRODUCTION OF NEGATIVISM
To choose order over disorder, or disorder over order, is to accept a trip composed of both the creative and the destructive. But to choose the creative over the destructive is an all-creative trip composed of both order and disorder. To accomplish this, one need only accept creative disorder along with, and equal to, creative order, and also willing to reject destructive order as an undesirable equal to destructive disorder.

The Curse of Greyface included the division of life into order/disorder as the essential positive/negative polarity, instead of building a game foundation with creative/destructive as the essential positive/negative. He has thereby caused man to endure the destructive aspects of order and has prevented man from effectively participating in the creative uses of disorder. Civilization reflects this unfortunate division.

1615435134162.png


POEE proclaims that the other division is preferable, and we work toward the proposition that creative disorder, like creative order, is possible and desirable; and that destructive order, like destructive disorder, is unnecessary and undesirable."
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I generally agree with your sentiments in the OP. Fact is, that's pretty much how I have always thought of it, since I picked up the game in 1e.

However, the idea above is muddled. Yes, Chaos and Law can both bring Good. Or Evil. But that doesn't mean Chaos and Law are not mutually exclusive.

I think it would be enlightening to mention the Principia Discordia. Written back in 1963, it is a reaction and rejection of the fairly strict societal norms of the 1950s. In the following quote, I think you'll see the similarity to D&D alignments:

THE CURSE OF GREYFACE AND THE INTRODUCTION OF NEGATIVISM
To choose order over disorder, or disorder over order, is to accept a trip composed of both the creative and the destructive. But to choose the creative over the destructive is an all-creative trip composed of both order and disorder. To accomplish this, one need only accept creative disorder along with, and equal to, creative order, and also willing to reject destructive order as an undesirable equal to destructive disorder.

The Curse of Greyface included the division of life into order/disorder as the essential positive/negative polarity, instead of building a game foundation with creative/destructive as the essential positive/negative. He has thereby caused man to endure the destructive aspects of order and has prevented man from effectively participating in the creative uses of disorder. Civilization reflects this unfortunate division.

View attachment 133985

POEE proclaims that the other division is preferable, and we work toward the proposition that creative disorder, like creative order, is possible and desirable; and that destructive order, like destructive disorder, is unnecessary and undesirable."
Very interesting.

I’ll agree that
“Chaos (which is liberty, disorder, improvisation, disobedience or lack of something to obey or disobey) and Law (which is order, structure, planning, obedience and rule) both bring Good and Evil”

does not necessarily mean that Chaos and Law are not mutually exclusive.

However, my contention is instead simply that the above is true, and it is also true that Chaos and Law aren’t mutually exclusive.

I’ll go a step further, and say that the two are required in conjunction in order for Good to be achieved, and that Evil is generally fostered when Chaos or Law reigns without tempering by its opposite.

I do believe that Chaos is more conducive to Good than Law is, but both inevitably exist in systems and individuals which are dominated by one or the other. An anarchist society will be abused by the strong, charismatic, and unscrupulous, but so will a very rigidly structured society.

But Anarcho-Socialism is a philosophy that makes the very strong argument that Chaos and Law are complimentary in terms stark and simple enough to easily grasp in the abstract. The trick is not to treat either as a maxim (no thanks, Kant), but rather treat both as useful tools on a case by case basis.
 

I think on the comic level lawful neutral is misnamed as it would simply be pure stasis.
I would suggest true neutral be divided into 3 one for animals or people who are more or less without morality as it is to busy with survival, one for things whose morality is built on a completely different axis like an aberration or people who are just flat out apathetic.

also, I thought that the difference between the good is that they also enjoy slightly different social setups thus they do not always want to live near each other but they likely hang out at the tea place along with NG.
 

dave2008

Legend
So, I think part of the problem with alignment is thinking about it in terms of 9 distinct alignments, rather than 2 spectrums with 3 broad sectors each.

So, what if instead of having a character that is Chaotic Good (the best alignment), you have a character who is Chaotic, and who is Good.

To be more specific, “Chaotic Good” has no definition, but “Chaotic” and “Good” do, completely independent of eachother.

You could also define 3 types of neutrality, if you want, for added depth. Ie, Balance-Oriented, Indifferent, and Ambiguous.
i agree, and I think that was the original intent in D&D. The old image below (can't remember which version of D&D it is from) describes what you suggest pretty well. It shows the broad strokes (good, neutral, evil, law, chaos) and clearly indicates they are a spectrum by placing monsters a different locations among these spectrums.

1615461441022.png
 

My point of view about "caothic aligment" is different.

My house rule is adding allegiance to aligment, even when these are totally opposite, for example a zealot or a revolutionary can be evil with supreme good allegiance, or a sheriff who breaks the rules can be caothic with law alllegiance. Then Sun Wukong, the famous monkey king from Chinese folklore can be caothic and with allegiances: honor and discipline.

Other rule would be spells and other powers with aligment key can enemies with same alligment but different allegiance (usually religion), for example a drow cleric vs a orc shaman. Then being neutral doesn't help to avoid higher damage.

I imagine "caothic aligment" with being attuned with primal forces or Nature.

Groups need a common allegiance to cooperate and survive, or they couldn't face menaces as a zombie apocalypse or following warlords. Even children within a multiplayer online videogame need cooperation and enough discipline against a serious enemy.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
So, I think part of the problem with alignment is thinking about it in terms of 9 distinct alignments, rather than 2 spectrums with 3 broad sectors each.

So, what if instead of having a character that is Chaotic Good (the best alignment), you have a character who is Chaotic, and who is Good.

To be more specific, “Chaotic Good” has no definition, but “Chaotic” and “Good” do, completely independent of eachother.

You could also define 3 types of neutrality, if you want, for added depth. Ie, Balance-Oriented, Indifferent, and Ambiguous.
I don't really see the difference. "Chaotic Good" just means "Chaotic and Good", AFAICT. If you're Chaotic and Good, it's referred to as "Chaotic Good" but that's just nomenclature.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
I find trying to describe someone's morality with just two sliding scale descriptors to be exceedingly unhelpful. That's why alignment has never done anything for me.

I don't care if someone is "good"... I want to know WHY they are "good". What do they do that someone on the outside would describe them as a "good person"? Give me something to PLAY. What are my intensions towards things? What do I want to give to other characters or get from other characters? I don't need two scales for every single character in the game to slide on... I need like five. Ten. Twenty. I need personality. Because it's personal to the characters I'm playing or engaging with.

Which is why the Traits, Ideals, Bonds and Flaws are to my mind much more helpful of a concept than alignment... because at least they have specificity and hopefully intension behind them. Now granted, the examples given in the PHB aren't usually that great so I can certainly see why those in particular wouldn't necessarily do much for some people... but at least the idea behind them is sound. Being "lawful" is such a wide-open idea that it doesn't lend itself to how a character truly is. And even adding a good/evil slide on that scale doesn't do much to distinguish someone. And heck... usually good/evil doesn't even matter to the players, we're better off using the terms "allies" and "antagonists".

Whether a band of orcs are good or evil doesn't even matter to the party in the long run... all they care about is whether they will help the party or hinder the party in whatever they are trying to do. So why bother attaching the orcs with the epithet "evil" if the party's reasoning for engagement and the orc's choice of response has nothing to do with the orc's internal morality? All it's doing is pre-programming DMs to not think about who the orcs actually are and what they are trying to do or get (their intensions) from the PCs that are encountering them.
 

Marc_C

Solitary Role Playing
In short, no. Behavioral descriptors based on what the individual’s or group’s role is in the adventure are preferable. If you are playing true sandbox it is better to use the Reaction table (hostile to helpful) than use artificial alignments for initial behavior towards the PCs. That way PCs can never predict reactions with meta knowledge like alignments.
 
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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
People view the world using frameworks. I know what a chair is whether it's a lay-z-boy or a Queen Anne chair. I can tell a cat from a dog at a glance because we have this catalog, built-in imagery in our brains. So whether I go "awe cute" because I see a kitten or my heart starts to race because I just saw a lion walk around the corner, it's an instant reaction that I don't even think about.

I view alignment the same way. People's alignments aren't dictated by what they do or even to a degree in what they believe. What people do and believe because of their interpretation of the world based on their inherent frameworks, their alignment in D&D terms.

Someone lawful sees the universe as a clockwork mechanism with order and logic. Someone that's chaotic sees just randomness and chaos, the only order is that which we artificially put on top. Good is the capacity for empathy and caring for others. Evil is lacking in empathy, viewing others as little more than objects.

So chaotic can appreciate laws that bring order without thinking the laws are natural or required, a lawful person can accept that they just don't understand the underlying ordered structure in what appears to be random.

In addition, people are complicated. Even someone that is lawful can still believe in the inherent randomness of quantum physics even if they don't like it and so on. A chaotic person accepts that order often rises out of chaos.

In any case, it's not that people's actions are dictated by their alignment. They don't think "I'm lawful good so therefore I will do X", they see a natural pattern and think the world works more smoothly following certain dictates. They want to ease suffering or help others because of their emotional connection.

It's logos (logic, reason, rationality) and pathos (emotion, imagination, sympathy) as two different aspects that combined define ethos (credibility, authority, reliability) for that person.
 

payn

Legend
I find trying to describe someone's morality with just two sliding scale descriptors to be exceedingly unhelpful. That's why alignment has never done anything for me.

I don't care if someone is "good"... I want to know WHY they are "good". What do they do that someone on the outside would describe them as a "good person"? Give me something to PLAY. What are my intensions towards things? What do I want to give to other characters or get from other characters? I don't need two scales for every single character in the game to slide on... I need like five. Ten. Twenty. I need personality. Because it's personal to the characters I'm playing or engaging with.

Which is why the Traits, Ideals, Bonds and Flaws are to my mind much more helpful of a concept than alignment... because at least they have specificity and hopefully intension behind them. Now granted, the examples given in the PHB aren't usually that great so I can certainly see why those in particular wouldn't necessarily do much for some people... but at least the idea behind them is sound. Being "lawful" is such a wide-open idea that it doesn't lend itself to how a character truly is. And even adding a good/evil slide on that scale doesn't do much to distinguish someone. And heck... usually good/evil doesn't even matter to the players, we're better off using the terms "allies" and "antagonists".

Whether a band of orcs are good or evil doesn't even matter to the party in the long run... all they care about is whether they will help the party or hinder the party in whatever they are trying to do. So why bother attaching the orcs with the epithet "evil" if the party's reasoning for engagement and the orc's choice of response has nothing to do with the orc's internal morality? All it's doing is pre-programming DMs to not think about who the orcs actually are and what they are trying to do or get (their intensions) from the PCs that are encountering them.
Alignment informs me what methods a character will employ and how far they will go to reach their goals and ideals. Also, it helps see exactly what types of situations could be an arc that would change the character entirely. All that with just two words is very helpful.
 


DND_Reborn

I don't debate opinions.
This is from 1E PHB:
1615473087690.png

So, the OP's idea of being "chaotic" and "good" without being "chaotic good" is reasonable enough I suppose. IME, alignment is more about general action/thought instead of a rigid morality for us mere mortals. "chaotic good" would be the area of overlap--where the creature usually would be, but they might do something more "lawful good" or "chaotic neutral" on rare occasion. shrug
 

Alignment is a system that fit well with the epic fantasy produce in the 60 and 70.
Absolute characters, great scheme and worldly plot, it fit well to stereotype characters and sometime flirt with the caricatural ones.

My latest debunk on alignment happens when I watch Sons of Anarchy lately.
A band of outlaw with their own code, law, pride. At which time you call them chaotic or lawful? Jax Teller switch from a ruthless killer to a caring father and husband.
And I dont buy the neutral for those characters. SoA is definitively not Neutral.

Yes, alignment is a simple tool, to give quick reminder or help to play a character, but for more complex ones we should get rid of alignement.
 

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