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D&D General Alignment: the problem is Chaos

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
No problem at all, fluff is fine. There is enough remaining cruft that makes it seem like just a little bit more (mechanically) than fluff, almost a system. Being in between is what isn’t good. The fluff and system should be neatly separated, so players can use what they wish, without having to RTFM multiple times until it clicks which is which.
Then I don't understand what the issue is. There's nothing mechanical to it in 5E other than a couple of subclasses.
 

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ph0rk

Friendship is Magic, and Magic is Heresy.
Then I don't understand what the issue is. There's nothing mechanical to it in 5E other than a couple of subclasses.
Anything mechanical at all places it between system and fluff, and it should be clearly one or the other.

Again, we pay WotC for this clarity.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Anything mechanical at all places it between system and fluff, and it should be clearly one or the other.

Again, we pay WotC for this clarity.
It's incredibly minimal, what, 2-3 sentences in the entire book? The only thing I know of is one paladin subclass, and that's just "must be evil" for Oathbreaker.

In any case, sounds like you're making a mountain out of a very small molehill.
 


It's incredibly minimal, what, 2-3 sentences in the entire book? The only thing I know of is one paladin subclass, and that's just "must be evil" for Oathbreaker.

And Death domain Clerics which is 'an option for Evil clerics...'

The full(ish) list of mechanical effects relating to alignment in 5E:

 

Aldarc

Legend
I think it's awesome that there's a difference why we don't just have "fiends". They feel different and have a purpose. Different strokes for different folks.
In my twenty years playing the game, I'm not entirely sure that they do for most people. This distinction seems to matter more for people who invested years in the game lore, and the difference in feel may be the result of those people bringing additional cognitive information to play rather than something that's actually present in play.

For what little my observation is worth and in full sincerity: One of the common lore hurdles I have seen with people coming into the game is (1) learning the difference between fiends (e.g., devils, demons, yugoloths); (2) even remotely caring about that difference; and then (3) seeing that difference actually play out in the game in a meaningful and clear way. While I think that it's easy to blame the GM in such scenarios, I have played with a fair number of GMs and new players over my years.

As to why this might be the case: I think that the game's heroic emphasis means that the Law vs. Chaos aspect generally gets ignored in favor of Good vs. Evil. This means that a lot of players - again IME - tend to broadly depict, see, and regard fiends under the more general catch-all umbrella of "evil" rather than fixate on differences like Chaotic Evil vs. Lawful Evil.

Edit: this is to say that I think for a lot of casual players Demons and Devils are not so much, respectively, Chaotic Evil and Lawful Evil, but, rather, they are seen as EVIL (chaotic) and EVIL (lawful).

I also don't think that most lay people coming into this hobby, for example, would really be able to understand why demons and devils are separate entities, especially since these terms are fairly interchangeable in the wider cultural lexicon.

Obviously your experience may (and likely does) vary, but I thought that I would offer my 2 cents.
 
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pnewman

Explorer
I think that Lawful is what a philosopher would call "deontological" and Chaotic is what a philosopher would call "teleological".

"In deontological ethics an action is considered morally good because of some characteristic of the action itself, not because the product of the action is good. Deontological ethics holds that at least some acts are morally obligatory regardless of their consequences for human welfare. Descriptive of such ethics are such expressions as “Duty for duty’s sake,” “Virtue is its own reward,” and “Let justice be done though the heavens fall.”

By contrast, teleological ethics (also called consequentialist ethics or consequentialism) holds that the basic standard of morality is precisely the value of what an action brings into being. Deontological theories have been termed formalistic, because their central principle lies in the conformity of an action to some rule or law." deontological ethics | Definition, Meaning, Examples, & Facts
 

I think that Lawful is what a philosopher would call "deontological" and Chaotic is what a philosopher would call "teleological".

"In deontological ethics an action is considered morally good because of some characteristic of the action itself, not because the product of the action is good. Deontological ethics holds that at least some acts are morally obligatory regardless of their consequences for human welfare. Descriptive of such ethics are such expressions as “Duty for duty’s sake,” “Virtue is its own reward,” and “Let justice be done though the heavens fall.”

By contrast, teleological ethics (also called consequentialist ethics or consequentialism) holds that the basic standard of morality is precisely the value of what an action brings into being. Deontological theories have been termed formalistic, because their central principle lies in the conformity of an action to some rule or law." deontological ethics | Definition, Meaning, Examples, & Facts
a much as that would be a good system, I have to disagree alignment is like astrology meaningless babble that does nothing.
 


When I write a character for a campaign (as a DM), my first question is: Am I writing a (possible) ally, a neutral character, or a villain? Or perhaps a little bit of all three? Good or evil doesn't enter into it. What really matters is, is this character on the side of the players, or is this character the opposition?

If they are an ally, I ask myself if they start off as an ally, or could become one later. Are they already inclined to help the players, or do they want something first? Does their help need to be earned first?

If they are a villain, I ask myself many of the same questions. Do they start off as a villain, or can they turn against the players later? What is the reason they oppose the players?

Lastly, I try to think of a personality and looks for the character. What are their goals? What motivates them? What do they believe in? Do they have people in their life that they care about? Do they have any special mannerisms, accents, flair?

A character may have great respect for law and order, but does that define them? Does that make them lawful? What is far more important, in my opinion, is to come to an understanding of how a character would respond to various events.

For example, if they care greatly about their family, and that family is threatened, that may be motivation to do great or horrible things. If the players become involved with the safety of that family, it could change that character's stance towards the players; for better or worse.

An actual example:

In my campaign I have a villain called Aramseen the Unseen, master of illusions. He is motivated by a desire for vengeance against those that wronged him, and he has a strong loyalty to the leader of a dangerous cult. One problem: the leader recently died during a battle with the players, and now another member of the cult has stepped forward to lead. Aramseen despises this other member, and thus his loyalty to the cult is now on shaky ground. Could he become an ally at some point?
 
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Has anyone brought up Jakandor? That was a mini-setting that prioritised Law vs Chaos over Good vs Evil, with two very different and opposing cultures that viewed the other's way of life as bizarre and inferior.

The Charonti live in ancient cities that followed a strict meritocracy, which included the stipulation that the state had the right to raise the dead as specialized undead laborers (creating these specific Charonath undead was not an Evil act). The Charonti desire Law because they want to hasten the restoration of their civilization after a plague that only effected magic-users laid waste to their civilization and caused much of their magical knowledge and technology to be forgotten. The Charonti view the Knorr as backwards barbarians with an inefficient and unproductive way of life. The Knorr also interfere with Charonti attempts to recover knowledge from their civilization's ruins, making the Knorr enemies of the Charonti.

The Knorr are a tribal folk with a great emphasis on personal honor and, to borrow an early 5E developer catchphrase, "rulings, not rules" developed by clan meetings to address situations as they arise and examine them individually rather than use standardized legal codes. The Knorr hate Law because they believe that a society that needs strict legal codes is a society full of dishonorable, untrustworthy people that doesn't examine cases on their own merits. There is a greater emphasis on ritual magic as opposed to spellcasting, with a specific set of honor rituals that Knorr characters can use to voluntarily commit themselves to honorable deeds (one example is basically a ritual in which you designate another, trusted person and allow them to place a geas on you). People who reveal themselves dishonorable and untrustworthy are shunned by the community and may be ruled as worthy of banishment by a council meeting. The Knorr oppose the Charonti, believing their civilization embodies everything the Knorr find abhorrent, and take actions to sabotage efforts by Charonti expeditionaries looking to find lost magic and technology from the ruins of Charonti civilization to stifle its reconstruction. The Charonath undead laborers systematically created and used by the Charonti government are especially seen as nightmarish violations of an individual's autonomy.

With all the emphasis on honor and personal codes, it's easy to see that the author of the three-part Jakandor series (Jeff Grub, I believe) did not believe that having a personal code was itself a sign of being Lawful. The core differentiator between Law and Chaos in this setting was "do you believe society should have standardized laws to enforce standards of behavior under threat of punishment and to handle disputes?" The Charonti believe that a society must enforce standardized rules on its citizens, including a requirement that the deceased become the property of the state for use as undead laborers, while the Knorr believe this is a violation of individual liberty and instead want to encourage a society of trustworthy people who can resolve disputes between each other honorably, with the only major authority being a council that makes rulings infrequently and on a case by case basis.

To try and sum it up more succinctly, Jakandor describes Lawful characters as valuing a greater authority that applies its laws equally to everyone with no exceptions, while Chaotic characters are more flexible and look to resolve situations on a case by case basis, turning to a higher authority (one that makes rulings for every specific situation rather than rely on an established standard) only as a last resort (and believing that having to bring in that authority is shameful to the community).
 
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With all that said, I find myself increasingly agreeing with the earlier comment that the terms "Law" and "Chaos" sound like they were created by a Lawful individual. The Knorr are identified in Jakandor as Chaotic, but that sounds like an extreme term to use for people whose point of view boils down to "oppose authority and believe people should handle disagreements between themselves".

...although, the Knorr do also have as a goal the sabotage of another society's attempt to rebuild itself following a plague (because they believe said culture will eventually try to impose its authority on them), so they are actively fighting against the growth of a Lawful society. So I guess actively opposing Lawful society because you think it is inherently bad is Chaotic.

I guess the Knorr are kind of like if one of the various "barbarian" civilizations of Europe saw a nation trying to rebuild itself in the image of the fallen Roman Empire and decided that the Empire sounded awful and anyone who idealizes it as the standard for civilization must be opposed before they start imposing their civilization on others.

EDIT: I'm also thinking that alignments other than Neutral should be outliers, with descriptors like Good, Evil, Lawful, and Chaotic being assigned to exceptional people. D&D has unfortunately been too loose with assigning alignments that should be exceptional. A Neutral Good person is someone who spends a lot of time and money on helping others and thinks about how to best help others in their free time, not just someone who is generally pleasant. A Chaotic person is someone invested in opposing authority in general through direct action and will go wherever they perceive tyranny to fight it, not just someone who dislikes the current ruler and would be satisfied by a different one (so even a "freedom fighter" wouldn't be Chaotic unless upon achieving victory against one tyrant they sought others elsewhere to rally against; without an unending desire to oppose tyrants wherever they are a person is Neutral with Chaotic tendencies at most).

Basically, people with alignments other than Neutral are obsessives who devote most of their waking moments to thinking about or acting towards their causes. Even Neutrality could be taken to an extreme if someone sees strengths and weaknesses in every other alignment and instead seeks to maintain a balance (which is why I'd preferably reserve True Neutral for proponents of the balance and designate most people as Unaligned).
 
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With all that said, I find myself increasingly agreeing with the earlier comment that the terms "Law" and "Chaos" sound like they were created by a Lawful individual. The Knorr are identified in Jakandor as Chaotic, but that sounds like an extreme term to use for people whose point of view boils down to "oppose authority and believe people should handle disagreements between themselves".

...although, the Knorr do also have as a goal the sabotage of another society's attempt to rebuild itself following a plague (because they believe said culture will eventually try to impose its authority on them), so they are actively fighting against the growth of a Lawful society. So I guess actively opposing Lawful society because you think it is inherently bad is Chaotic.

I guess the Knorr are kind of like if one of the various "barbarian" civilizations of Europe saw a nation trying to rebuild itself in the image of the fallen Roman Empire and decided that the Empire sounded awful and anyone who idealizes it as the standard for civilization must be opposed before they start imposing their civilization on others.
would the conflict not be better-named stasis vs chaos both being things that we would not truly wish but are not by nature evil.
 

Aldarc

Legend
With all that said, I find myself increasingly agreeing with the earlier comment that the terms "Law" and "Chaos" sound like they were created by a Lawful individual.
I can't say that I agree. Moorcock may have not invented the terms Law and Chaos, but he definitely popularized them. Philosophically, he is a self-proclaimed Anarchist with a fair share of criticisms of conservative and fascist elements in fantasy and even going as far as calling Tolkien a "crypto-fascist."
 

I can't say that I agree. Moorcock may have not invented the terms Law and Chaos, but he definitely popularized them. Philosophically, he is a self-proclaimed Anarchist with a fair share of criticisms of conservative and fascist elements in fantasy and even going as far as calling Tolkien a "crypto-fascist."
Interesting to learn, and a bit surprising given that the Lords of Chaos in his own work seemed pretty evil.
 


Aldarc

Legend
Interesting to learn, and a bit surprising given that the Lords of Chaos in his own work seemed pretty evil.
In Moorcock's own words:
My books frequently deal with aristocratic heroes, gods and so forth. All of them end on a note which often states quite baldly that one should serve neither gods nor masters but become one’s own master. This is a constant theme throughout all my fiction. Philosophically I, together with my protagonists (where I identify with them) seek to find a balance between Law and Chaos. Frequently my characters achieve that balance by refusing to serve anything but their own consciences.
 

Horwath

Hero
I do not think that chaos is the problem,

Most people are chaotic or leaning towards it.

Also most people are good or leaning towards it.

So Chaotic Good is kinda default alignment of humans. Or atleast from my perspective.

Most will help strangers if that help does not require big sacrifice from helpers side. And more you know the person, more risk/cost for yourself are willing to put up to help them.

Also most people break any laws that do not have any significant penalty or do not harm other people by doing so simply by believing that they are in the right and "The Man" is in the wrong.

traffic laws are prime example. Everyone breaks any traffic law that they can get away with.
OK, not literally everyone, but 90% do :D

No one would pay any taxes if they could get away with it. Yet all expect government serves.
 

I do not think that chaos is the problem,

Most people are chaotic or leaning towards it.

Also most people are good or leaning towards it.

So Chaotic Good is kinda default alignment of humans. Or atleast from my perspective.

Most will help strangers if that help does not require big sacrifice from helpers side. And more you know the person, more risk/cost for yourself are willing to put up to help them.

Also most people break any laws that do not have any significant penalty or do not harm other people by doing so simply by believing that they are in the right and "The Man" is in the wrong.

traffic laws are prime example. Everyone breaks any traffic law that they can get away with.
OK, not literally everyone, but 90% do :D

No one would pay any taxes if they could get away with it. Yet all expect government serves.
I think you know different people to me, I, for instance, am between true neutral natural evil.
 


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