D&D General an observed and slightly different alignment problem


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jgsugden

Legend
Tying an entire plane to an alignment is pretty lazy design overall. It doesn't make sense to force an entire plane to work on alignment. Instead, I have the planes serve an actual purpose and then see how the residents fit into that plan.

The result is a simplified cosmology and far less perfunctory design elements.
 


Scary toads dont make much sense. They tried to give them some weird reproduction mechanism to make them more ''chaotic'' but they still feel pretty uninspired and tacked-on.
I've been a bit softer on Slaad ever since someone pointed out the Egyptian Ogdoad, an ancient set of creator deities who were forgotten and re-discovered during the time of ancient Egypt, have frog heads. Also snake heads for some

Also I do dig their 4E version being "Hey, they're eating the law and structure of the multiverse to try and bring it back to its chaotic predecessor". Which in this day and age would be.... The First World

now if they could actually be written as chaotic and not just 'yeah they're just chaotic evil but sometimes they wander off rather than fight' it'd help things. Or if they'd give them appropriate powers for Chaotic Shennanigans rather than keeping to their old stuff

Mechanus, on the other hand, I just role as "The gears that keep the universe running, the gears are literately physical incartations of rules like gravity"
 


Tying an entire plane to an alignment is pretty lazy design overall. It doesn't make sense to force an entire plane to work on alignment. Instead, I have the planes serve an actual purpose and then see how the residents fit into that plan.

The result is a simplified cosmology and far less perfunctory design elements.
But isn’t that how it’s set up already?

Hell is all lawful and the abyss is all chaotic? Etc..

I’m not disagreeing with you. Just wondering if you feel the way the planes are set up in D&D is the result of lazy design or if you mean something different.
 

jgsugden

Legend
But isn’t that how it’s set up already?

Hell is all lawful and the abyss is all chaotic? Etc..

I’m not disagreeing with you. Just wondering if you feel the way the planes are set up in D&D is the result of lazy design or if you mean something different.
I start with the story and don't worry about the labels. When the Great Wheel was designed, they started with the labels and then wrote stories that fit the labels - but those stories were all over the place and lacke inspiration. This is one of the reasons why so much of the Great Wheel sees very little use.

Let me share an example of how I approached the Planar Design.

I don't have a Hell and an Abyss - they're part of the same plane.

Long ago there were only devils - creatures that followed the fallen Angel Asmodeus. They lacked free will and were bound to his service. Then, the Far Realms collided with the Prime Cosmology and shattered it. The point of contact was in the Hells (a singular plane where Asmodeus oversaw the souls of those not allowed into the Heavens - also a singular plane), and there is a rift there - in the center of Hell that has to be protected less it be torn open fully and the nightmare residents of the Far Realm find their way into the Prime Cosmology.

When that collision took place there were several impacts. One of those impacts was the corruption of some Devils into Demons. They were pushed away from the rift by Asmodeus' forces, and 9 regions of Hell were established to protect the rift - Nessus at the center, then 7 more realms in a circular pattern surrounding Nessus, and the circular battlefield of Avernus that encompases those 8 regions. Beyond those realms are the various realms of Demon Lords and other denizens of the Hell Plane. They stretch on and on and create hundreds and hundreds of regions that serve various Powers - but many focus on capturing the rift at the center of Nessus. As time goes by the battlefield of Avernus pushes into Demon controlled terriotory and and more 'land' is stabilized so that it can be pulled out of Avernus and be considered part of the other 7 regions of the 9 Hells.

The 9 Archfiends that control the 9 Hell Regions are all in the service of Asmodeus - although they plot and scheme. Some are clearly tyranical and fit into the idea of LE. Others are less regimented and might be described as CE, NE or LN. However - their followers - the Devils - lack free will and are thus all very lawful.

In the mythology of the world there is debate as to whether Devils are truly evil because they lack free will. Asmodeus argues that everything they do to collect more souls is in service of the fight of the Blood War - and the Ends Justify the Means. He considers the entire operation of the Hells necessary as it is the only way he can accumulate enough resources to continue to fight the Blood War and drive back the Demonic Hordes. It isn't that Asmodeus claims to not be evil - he just has no time for silly labels when there is a war to fight. Of course, Nessus itself if far removed from the front lines - and my Nessus has more in common with the descriptions of Olympus in Lore than is does with the descrition sof Nessus in the books.

This story has a lot of commonalities with the Great Wheel - but the reasons for the structure are very different and tell a very particular story that has been really useful over the 30+ years I've used it. I don't have Heaven Planes and Fiendish Planes there just to fill out a particular spot on the alignment scale - they all have purposes.
 


CreamCloud0

One day, I hope to actually play DnD.
individuals are very random, only groups are predictable

of course all individuals exists as groups
If you are trying to claim with this that the chaotic alignment means randomness or being an individual/not part of a group I’m going to have to definitely disagree on those premises.
 

Voadam

Legend
I've been a bit softer on Slaad ever since someone pointed out the Egyptian Ogdoad, an ancient set of creator deities who were forgotten and re-discovered during the time of ancient Egypt, have frog heads. Also snake heads for some
I came to mention the Ogdoad but you beat me to it.👍

Eight primordial deities, four pairs with the males having frog heads and the females having snake heads. Thoth is sometimes associated with them/one of them/the leader of them. Some more information here.

Frogs are great animal symbols of change and transformation and so pretty good for Chaos. They go from eggs to pollywogs to tadpoles to frogs changing from floating spheres to swimming with a tail propulsion to limbs to tailless jumping and swimming limbed bodies and going from aquatic to air breathing.

Snakes tie into change with their shedding skins.

The pathfinder version of the Chaos exemplars are snake outsiders.

Eight also ties into Moorcock's Chaos.

Slaad work for me.
 

ThrorII

Explorer
In OD&D, B/X, and BECMI "Law" and "Chaos" had specific meanings. "Law" meant pro-civilization, progress, and natural order, while "Chaos" meant undeath, destruction, and cruelty. Neutral meant just trying to get by in the world and not get actively involved in that battle.

In one of the Strategic Review Magazine issues in 1976, Gary Gygax published his revised alignment system to 5 points, adding a Good-Evil axis ("Lawful Good, Chaotic Good, Lawful Evil, Chaotic Evil, Neutral"). This 5-point alignment was used in Holmes Basic, but dropped a few years later in B/X. Despite Gary's best attempt, it really never caught on.

The 5-point Alignment system was expanded yet again in AD&D 1e, in 1979...now to the standard 9-point system.

Personally, while I play B/X exclusively nowadays and prefer the Law-Neutral-Chaos dynamic, the 5-point is probably clearer and easier than the current 9-point.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Law and Chaos as depicted in D&D adheres pretty closely to the Moorcockian usage. Beings of chaos tend to have shifting forms; nothing is fixed.

Ont the other side, the ultimate triumph of law would be an eternal state of stasis. Rigidity is it’s hallmark.
 

Let's rebember now D&D is most famous than ever, and this also means more people searching any flaw in the game to be used in some parody, and the aligments may be one.

Chaotic aligment shoudn't mean disorganization. To build a house, castle or a temple, we need a right coordination among the workers. Even a pirate ship needs a lot of work to can sail.

The movement is possible when the pieces within the machin aren't blocked. The right order allows the movement.

And the right social order should be enough flexible. If you have played strategy games you should understand a good previous plan is advisable, but after to can change the plans to adjust to the new situations is really necessary.

In D&D you can't live in a happy hippie commune when you know you are going to be attacked by the gnolls or the bugbears the next season. "Chaotic" organitations or factions couldn't survive for a long time exernal menaces and internatl crisis. Maybe they challenge the main authority, but they have to obey their own rules.

My opinion is stagnation vs change is a false dillema. To build stability is necessary, but also flexibility.
 

In math (and physics) chaos means random.
Formally, it does not. A chaotic system, usually equations describing behavior, is one that has extreme sensitivity to small changes in input data, such that it becomes very difficult to predict how small changes impact subsequent results (as Umbran said above). You can even have systems which alternate between regions of stability and chaos, such as bifurcation diagrams, which are purely mathematical in nature. E.g. the first Feigenbaum constant describes the ratio between the lengths of tines on one-parameter maps, and sets precisely when intervals of chaos take over, after one has reached, in effect, "infinite" tines. After the first section, where one tine bifurcates to two, then four, then eight etc., it explodes into chaos, where there is always a clearly-defined number of tines but it's extremely difficult to predict how many; but then, after an interval of chaos, it stabilizes again into three tines, which bifurcate into 6, 12, etc. before re-entering chaos.

Mathematically, a chaotic system is perfectly deterministic. You can always determine exactly what it should become, if you're given enough specific information about its starting values. The problem is, that's a BIG "if." SHould your starting values be just the tiniest bit off, your calculations rapidly become useless. It isn't random, but it is just about the closest thing you can get to true randomness without exploiting quantum mechanics. This is, more or less, how our modern cryptographic security things (such as our connections to this forum) operate.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Ooh that’s a concept, imagine the planes of law as an endless horizon of civilisation, towns, roads, farms and structures of all kinds:wizard academies, holy temples, waterways, mansions. then the chaos planes as an endless unkempt wilderness, wild free magic and dangerous monsters.

That feels something akin to Paul Anderson's "Three Hearts and Three Lions".

Thank you for putting an interesting picture in my head.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
"Random" versus "unpredictable".

It is appropriate to be technically precise in the context of mathematics.

But I hope it doesnt distract from the main point.



D&D traditions often represent "Chaotic" behavior by randomly by rolling dice to determine "unpredictable" behavior. Such an approach is the "Chaotic Stupid" alignment. It is as if the individual oneself doesnt even know what one wants or will do next.

Because the Chaotic Stupid behavior more often than not disregards and harms human life, the alignment is actually Evil.

The main point is. An alignment system that confuses the ethical alignment system with mathematical unpredictability encourages disruptive game players and fails as roleplaying tool.



Rather.

As part of an ethical compass: the Chaotic alignment describes prioritizing the needs of each individual above the group expectations.

The individual can be well organized, and well understood, however the needs may or may not be useful to a group way of doing things.

A group can roleplay to negotiate the needs of an individual. There is no roleplay to negotiate with dice that disregard human life.
 

As others have said, Chaos-made-useful is creativity, and the ability to grow and change. Flexibility, adaptability. Chaos-unfettered is wanton destruction, dissolution, consumption. Conflict, unreliability.

Law-made-useful is discipline, and the ability to sustain and persist. Perseverance, and reliability. Law-unfettered is entrapment, stasis, cessation. Inaction, passivity.

So it seems to me that, if one wishes to make a "plane of law" and a "plane of chaos," there should be a place of hyper-intense alignment, where that alignment has unequivocal sway and is irresistible and unstoppable, and toward the edges it becomes strong but moderated.

Perhaps The Great Work is the plane of Law, and the Heart of the Machine in its deepest core is a place none--not even other spirits of law--dare to tread, for fear they will be pacified and incorporated into the Heart. This is not because the Heart is evil, but rather because its fundamental nature, so intensely, purely Lawful, makes it incapable of recognizing such distinctions as individuality or agency. Indeed, it is incapable of cruelty or anything so personal. In the middle ranges of The Great Work, you have places that resemble "concrete jungle": places with beautiful grid structures, workers like drones in a beehive, spirits of law that follow programmed paths. These places process the paperwork of existence and serve a valuable function keeping track of the things that need to be kept track of. And then, near the outskirts of The Great Work, you have the rather nice places to live, quiet neighborhoods with neat, tree-lined lanes, and white-gravel driveways. The kinds of places parents would love to raise their kids, and painters would love for village paintings and the like: things just work right, people "fit in," life progresses day after day, disruptions are rare and when they happen the appropriate response people arrive promptly and do their jobs swiftly and professionally.

By comparison, the Wyldlands are the plane of Chaos, and the Maelstrom lies at their far edge. Again, few go there, but more because it just obliterates anyone or anything that approaches--again, not out of any cruelty or malice, but because the force there is so inimical to anything even remotely like structure or definiteness that it naturally erodes anything like that. An ever-roiling, never-stable storm. At the edges of that storm, however, reality yields to the desires of those who live there. It's extremely dangerous, but extremely useful for those who can survive it. Further still, reality holds enough solidity that it isn't malleable anymore, but it's definitely weird. This isn't "the wild" like a forest, this is things like trees made of solid fire and mountains that walk and transient oceans of liquid light. It's consistent enough for folks to live there casually, but you'd better be prepared for everything to be weird every morning for as long as you live there. It sure as hell isn't safe, but those who can manage that lack of safety can do, or find, some amazing things.

Would that be a more interesting Law-vs-Chaos dichotomy?
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
As others have said, Chaos-made-useful is creativity, and the ability to grow and change. Flexibility, adaptability. Chaos-unfettered is wanton destruction, dissolution, consumption. Conflict, unreliability.

Law-made-useful is discipline, and the ability to sustain and persist. Perseverance, and reliability. Law-unfettered is entrapment, stasis, cessation. Inaction, passivity.

The cited text forms an alignment system with only three main alignments:

• Lawful Evil
• Neutral Good
• Chaotic Evil
 

The cited text forms an alignment system with only three main alignments:

• Lawful Evil
• Neutral Good
• Chaotic Evil
I mean...the examples I illustrated with the above stuff were meant to indicate a world where a moderated polarity is good, productive, even necessary, while an absolute and uncompromising polarity is dangerous. It's not evil, it's just harmful to anything other than itself, because it is so focused.

You might as well say that the sun has only three alignments: evil light, neutral good, evil dark. Evil light destroys with its radiation and solar wind and plasma storms. Evil dark destroys with frigid death and cosmic rays and impact events. Only the Goldilocks Zone can claim to be good.

Or, to put it differently: I wasn't trying to define anything at all regarding good vs evil. I was exclusively looking at law vs chaos and how you can have immoderate, moderate, and neutral stances. Moderation is generally more favorable to existence than immoderation; being absolute, that is, having no moderation whatsoever, is generally inimical to life as we understand it.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
I mean...the examples I illustrated with the above stuff were meant to indicate a world where a moderated polarity is good, productive, even necessary, while an absolute and uncompromising polarity is dangerous. It's not evil, it's just harmful to anything other than itself, because it is so focused.

You might as well say that the sun has only three alignments: evil light, neutral good, evil dark. Evil light destroys with its radiation and solar wind and plasma storms. Evil dark destroys with frigid death and cosmic rays and impact events. Only the Goldilocks Zone can claim to be good.

Or, to put it differently: I wasn't trying to define anything at all regarding good vs evil. I was exclusively looking at law vs chaos and how you can have immoderate, moderate, and neutral stances. Moderation is generally more favorable to existence than immoderation; being absolute, that is, having no moderation whatsoever, is generally inimical to life as we understand it.
Even then, I would characterize such a Law-versus-Chaos system as:

• Lawful Evil
• Lawful Evil (tendencies toward Neutral)

• Neutral Good (tendencies toward Lawful)
• Neutral Good
• Neutral Good (tendencies toward Chaotic)

• Chaotic Evil (tendencies toward Neutral)
• Chaotic Evil

There are still only three main alignments.

It somewhat reminds of me of Daoism, where too much Yang (order) or Yin (divisiveness) is destructive, and the Dao optimizing between them is the ideal.
 

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