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Chaotic Good Is The Most Popular Alignment!

D&D Beyond has provided yet another of it's data dumps of 12 million characters -- this time telling us character alignments are most popular in D&D. Chaotic Good wins, followed by my least favourite as a DM, Chaotic Neutral. Chaotic Evil is the least popular.

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The developer does say that this does not count the percentage of characters with no alignment selected. You can see the original video here.
 
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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

Psyzhran2357

First Post
The truly funny thing is, twenty pages or so ago, I asked for an example of a reliable CN character. Twenty pages later, I'm still waiting. If CN is so reliable and trustworthy, surely there must be hundreds of examples. After all, I can give you a shopping list of LG characters that are reliable and trustworthy. What's the hold up? Why so shy?
What's the point? You're just gonna argue that "they aren't actually reliable" or "they're actually True Neutral / Chaotic Good / some other alignment".
 

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Celebrim

Legend
And, [MENTION=4937]Celebrim[/MENTION], LG being the most good has always been the standard in D&D. I'm surprised you'd argue otherwise.

I'm not entirely sure what you mean by that. If you mean that that fallacy was at times exhibited by Gygax and has been repeated ever since, then I agree. If you mean it's surprising that I'd argue against such rank stupidity, then well, no, it's obviously stupid - of course I will argue against it.

Before going into a deep argument why it is wrong, there is a fairly easy structural proof. By definition - including Gygax's definition - Neutral Good means a pure philosophy of good unmingled by other considerations. Thus, you could equally call Neutral Good "True Good", in the same sense that Neutrality is "True Nuetral". Lawful Good, by definition, is a mixture of the philosophy of Good with that of Lawful, and so there must always be a situation where the Lawful Good must depart from a pure Good perspective in order to accommodate lawfulness.

Now, I'm not saying that a Lawful Good person couldn't argue for the reasonableness of doing so and that Goodness required Law or was fulfilled to the greatest extent by Law or that simply as a practical matter Law was required and that good was an incomplete philosophy. Of course a Lawful Good person would argue these things. But critically, they do so because they are biased by their a Lawful Good perspective.

And basically my argument is that Gygax's ideas of what constituted Goodness were biased in a complex way by his own personal upbringing. This can be seen by the fact that at the same time Gygax was capable of both advancing the idea that Lawful Good was the most good or goodness++, and also presenting ostensibly Lawful Good figures in a derogatory and even villainous manner. This is reflective in my opinion of Gygax's own personal moral struggles.

And, every archetype for LG is among the most good of characters - Superman, King Arthur, Gawain, that sort of thing.

I would note that by and large all of those characters are creations of the same moral code.

Chaotic is selfish it its heart. It's all about the self. You can't be as good as the selfless (Lawful) by definition.

There is a fundamental flaw and misunderstanding in this statement, and that is contrasting "selfish" with "selfless".

Selflessness is in fact evil, and as evil as selfishness. Chaos is NOT about selfishness at heart, and not every thought of self is evil. Consider the statement, generally recognized by most as an axiom of good - "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." If in fact the holder of this axiom is selfless, then he doesn't care what is done to himself and so can justify doing anything to anyone else as well. The axiom called the Golden Rule is in fact self-centered. It asks the person to reflect on their own worth, and the assign to others equal worth. The self has worth and must have worth for the Gold Rule to work, and while it's easy to overvalue the self at the expense of others, to undervalue self and so subject the self to self-abuse and self-degradation or for example suicide would also be an evil. If you think about the idea of "selfishness" it cannot be the definition of evil, because that would be circular. We know self-concern to be evil and therefore selfishness when self-concern is evil.

Further, we can provide a counter example. Lawful Evil is the philosophy of evil selflessness. Lawful evil encourages its followers to sacrifice all self and all individuality for the good of the collective. The adherents of this philosophy are not selfish, but are selflessly giving themselves for the cause. By your argument they must be good, but in practice we recognize this selflessness as abhorrent. And in practice, this philosophy we know to be capable of some of the most horrific evils that the world has ever known. There are in fact sins of selflessness.

Yet at the same time, we also know of heroic figures that have sacrificed themselves selflessly for others and we call this good. So it can't be the case that either selflessness or self-centeredness alone defines evil, as in either case there is an extra factor that when added to either makes for good or evil.

Again, your claim that selflessness equals to good and self-centeredness equals to evil is an inherently Lawful Good bias. However, you can catch that bias by noting that people with a Lawful bias have a hard time arguing why Chaotic Good is good, or why Lawful Evil is evil. They tend to resort to arguing that it is almost evil or else throwing up there hands in disgust and saying it doesn't make sense and a single axis alignment system would make more sense.

My position is that Neutral Good, or True Good, considers the argument over which has more worth the collective or the individual to be entirely missing the point. A collective has no worth if the individuals that make it up don't have worth, and in fact individuals do have inherent worth as individuals irrespective of their relationship to anyone. But at the same time, the collective has great worth by being made up of individuals, and additional worth arising for the systems of relationships between the individuals that couldn't occur between isolated individuals. Thus, whenever you veer too far to either side of sacrificing the individual for the good of the collective, or sacrificing the collective for the good of the individual you've departed the path of good. And I would note that this theme is common in morality plays, and that many moral philosophies attempt to join assertions that respect the value of the self and self-judgment (dictates of ones consciousness) with sets of lawful codes that also externally review those same axioms in an attempt to provide a balance between the two.
 
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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Or its a case of a character shifting alignment. would not be the first time in Wheedonverse shows. We won't ever know because the show got cancelled.



Umm, yes it does? Caring about people is the definition of good? If you actually care about people, that makes you good. Now, caring about this group of people once probably doesn't make you good, but, it makes you a bit leaning in that direction. Repeatedly caring about other people does show a pretty strong leaning towards good.

But, yeah, not caring about other people? That's pretty much the heart of what it means to be evil.

-----

And, @Celebrim, LG being the most good has always been the standard in D&D. I'm surprised you'd argue otherwise. There's a reason paladins were restricted to LG, once upon a time. And, every archetype for LG is among the most good of characters - Superman, King Arthur, Gawain, that sort of thing. Chaotic is selfish it its heart. It's all about the self. You can't be as good as the selfless (Lawful) by definition.


I disagree. Chaotic just means valuing individual choice over rules established by others. People of all alignments can still care about other individuals, it's just not generalized. Some individuals may care about no one else because they're sociopaths, but not all sociopaths are evil. But there are many stories of evil people in fiction and real life that were deeply committed to another, although they may love another individual the way I love my car.

In any case, I think alignment is just one piece of the picture and as much a simplification of human nature as HP.
 

zaruk6

First Post
In any case, I think alignment is just one piece of the picture and as much a simplification of human nature as HP.

I think this is the number one thing that players, new and experienced alike, tend to act like. It's a sort of Essence before Existence type thing, more prescriptive than descriptive. Alignment really should be based on the character's personality as opposed to vice versa.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
The truly funny thing is, twenty pages or so ago, I asked for an example of a reliable CN character. Twenty pages later, I'm still waiting. If CN is so reliable and trustworthy, surely there must be hundreds of examples. After all, I can give you a shopping list of LG characters that are reliable and trustworthy. What's the hold up? Why so shy?


You've been given examples, you just ignore them or disagree. I think even Jayne from Firefly was reliable ... to those that he valued and considered friends such as Mal.

As far as other examples, I can't point out any (i.e. Han Solo) because you'll just say he wasn't CN. Unlike my own personal characters, some of whom were CN and reliable to those he knew, we don't know the alignment of fictional characters.
 

Celebrim

Legend
I think this is the number one thing that players, new and experienced alike, tend to act like. It's a sort of Essence before Existence type thing, more prescriptive than descriptive. Alignment really should be based on the character's personality as opposed to vice versa.

I agree with most of this but I think new and even experienced players mistake alignment for something it is not, namely, a description of personality.

The most common example is the idea that lawful characters are organized while chaotic characters are messy and disorganized. This is simply not true unless we are talking about a spiritual incarnation of Orderliness.

The result of thinking that alignment is a personality description is basically the idea that there are only 9 personalities and that they are all stereotypes.

I'll fully agree that real world ethical systems often resist the simplistic characterization of the two axis alignment system. But the majority of complaints I hear against the lack of realism of the system are mostly directed against the idea that people's personality is more complex than can be described by it, when I fact I don't really think it describes personality much at all.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Or its a case of a character shifting alignment. would not be the first time in Wheedonverse shows. We won't ever know because the show got cancelled.
No, it’s just nuance in characters.



Umm, yes it does? Caring about people is the definition of good? If you actually care about people, that makes you good. Now, caring about this group of people once probably doesn't make you good, but, it makes you a bit leaning in that direction. Repeatedly caring about other people does show a pretty strong leaning towards good.
Nope.

Even evil characters and people can care about others.

Perhaps you misread my statement, but “care about people” isn’t the same thing as “being an altruistic and empathetic person”.

All alignments can form genuine attachments and care deeply about the well being of one or more people, a people group, etc.

also, your idea that Chaotic is selfish is nonsensical, and without any particular obvious merit. Perhaps you can defend it, but as a flat statement by itself it’s completely preposterous.

There is no contradiction in a selfless person who believes that liberty and equality better serve the common good than does a strict social order and strong governing body.
 

Hussar

Legend
Celebrim said:
Selflessness is in fact evil

I actually thought that was a typo until I read the rest of the post.

Needless to say, I disagree with this. As does pretty much every single moral code in human history.
 

Hussar

Legend
You've been given examples, you just ignore them or disagree. I think even Jayne from Firefly was reliable ... to those that he valued and considered friends such as Mal.

As far as other examples, I can't point out any (i.e. Han Solo) because you'll just say he wasn't CN. Unlike my own personal characters, some of whom were CN and reliable to those he knew, we don't know the alignment of fictional characters.

The only one I even questioned was Han Solo and I'd point out that I wasn't the only one. And, really, why would you consider CN Han to be reliable? He leaves his wife after all. Sure he comes back agains the Death Star, but, most people point to that as an example where he shifts to CG.

Jayne was reliable? The guy who, if he hadn't been caught, would have betrayed the entire crew and gotten half of them killed, all for a big payout. You have a really different definition of reliable than I do. It's not like he stepped back from betraying them. The only reason he didn't betray the crew is because he got caught.

The other example brought up was Conan. And, again, I'll ask the same question. Would you loan him 20 bucks? WOuld you give him the keys to your car? Would you entrust your daughter to him?

Q was brought up. Ummmm, that's what you consider reliable?

Sure, folks, keep bringing up examples. But, I'm still looking for one that you can convincingly say is reliable and trustworthy. I mean, those aren't exactly the first adjectives I'd use to describe Jayne or Q or Conan. Not that these are bad characters. That's not what I'm saying. Just that I'm not really sure I'd trust them all that far.

But, hey, what do I know. Apparently selflessness is evil, chaotics can act 100% reliable all the time and this makes sense to some people. :erm:

Just thought I'd pop in to see if anyone had actually come up with an example of a reliable CN character. See you in another twenty pages or so.

-----------

Oh, and just in case folks think I'm totally making stuff up here, well, here is the definitions of law and chaos from 3e D&D

3.5 SRD said:
Law Vs. Chaos

Lawful characters tell the truth, keep their word, respect authority, honor tradition, and judge those who fall short of their duties.

Chaotic characters follow their consciences, resent being told what to do, favor new ideas over tradition, and do what they promise if they feel like it.

"Law" implies honor, trustworthiness, obedience to authority, and reliability. On the downside, lawfulness can include close-mindedness, reactionary adherence to tradition, judgmentalness, and a lack of adaptability. Those who consciously promote lawfulness say that only lawful behavior creates a society in which people can depend on each other and make the right decisions in full confidence that others will act as they should.

"Chaos" implies freedom, adaptability, and flexibility. On the downside, chaos can include recklessness, resentment toward legitimate authority, arbitrary actions, and irresponsibility. Those who promote chaotic behavior say that only unfettered personal freedom allows people to express themselves fully and lets society benefit from the potential that its individuals have within them.

Someone who is neutral with respect to law and chaos has a normal respect for authority and feels neither a compulsion to obey nor a compulsion to rebel. She is honest but can be tempted into lying or deceiving others.

Devotion to law or chaos may be a conscious choice, but more often it is a personality trait that is recognized rather than being chosen. Neutrality on the lawful-chaotic axis is usually simply a middle state, a state of not feeling compelled toward one side or the other. Some few such neutrals, however, espouse neutrality as superior to law or chaos, regarding each as an extreme with its own blind spots and drawbacks.

Animals and other creatures incapable of moral action are neutral. Dogs may be obedient and cats free-spirited, but they do not have the moral capacity to be truly lawful or chaotic.

Huh, looks like I'm still stuck in a 3e mindset about alignments. They are personality traits (usually) and everything I said is 100% backed up by the rules. Funny that.
 
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billd91

Hobbit on Quest
The only one I even questioned was Han Solo and I'd point out that I wasn't the only one. And, really, why would you consider CN Han to be reliable? He leaves his wife after all. Sure he comes back agains the Death Star, but, most people point to that as an example where he shifts to CG.

Jayne was reliable? The guy who, if he hadn't been caught, would have betrayed the entire crew and gotten half of them killed, all for a big payout. You have a really different definition of reliable than I do. It's not like he stepped back from betraying them. The only reason he didn't betray the crew is because he got caught.

The other example brought up was Conan. And, again, I'll ask the same question. Would you loan him 20 bucks? WOuld you give him the keys to your car? Would you entrust your daughter to him?

Q was brought up. Ummmm, that's what you consider reliable?

Sure, folks, keep bringing up examples. But, I'm still looking for one that you can convincingly say is reliable and trustworthy. I mean, those aren't exactly the first adjectives I'd use to describe Jayne or Q or Conan. Not that these are bad characters. That's not what I'm saying. Just that I'm not really sure I'd trust them all that far.

But, hey, what do I know. Apparently selflessness is evil, chaotics can act 100% reliable all the time and this makes sense to some people. :erm:

Just thought I'd pop in to see if anyone had actually come up with an example of a reliable CN character. See you in another twenty pages or so.

See, here's where the goalposts are shifting all over the place. We started with the possibility of CN characters working well in groups without stirring things up, being responsible while being on guard duty, stuff like that. Things that actually play out in a game (rather than 30 years of downtime/backstory). All of that is well within the bounds of CN alignment.... hell, it's well within the bounds of any alignment as long as the interests of the individuals don't differ too much.

But on the whole life of a person? What alignment is Luke Skywalker? He's not CN - he's probably not even CG because he's got a little too much influence of regimens, obligations, and traditions mixed in with his individualism. He's probably NG and he too disappears for years. Nobody is likely to be 100% with reliable choices over their lives no matter what their alignment is - particularly not when dogged by as much war, tragedy, and destiny as a main character in a movie franchise... or a PC when you consider all the BS their players put them through without a sign of PTSD. You're setting up an impossible standard for CN - which is, no doubt, very convenient for your argument in this thread.

And yeah, I may not loan Conan $20 - knowing him, I'd just give it to him and predict that the next time he's in town after a successful adventure, our friendship would net me a pretty fantastic night on the town with ale and whores on his tab.


Oh, and just in case folks think I'm totally making stuff up here, well, here is the definitions of law and chaos from 3e D&D



Huh, looks like I'm still stuck in a 3e mindset about alignments. They are personality traits (usually) and everything I said is 100% backed up by the rules. Funny that.

Notice, that's can include, not must include. Must lawful characters be as close-minded, judgmental, and unable to adapt as chaotic be unreliable?
 

Celebrim

Legend
I actually thought that was a typo until I read the rest of the post.

I'll give you this much. When I try to explain this sort of thing, I run short of English vocabulary. "Selflessness" has several different definitions, one of which contains only emphasis on a lack of self concern, and one of which contrasts the lack of self concern with a deep concern for others. Selflessness as characterized by deep concern for the well-being of others I don't disagree is good, and in fact if you closely read my post you'll find I say so (in apparent contradiction) at one point. However, be clear that by "selflessness" I mean exactly what I said in the post - utter disregard for the value of self. The selflessness that I'm holding up as bad is not the one that for example causes a police officer to trade his life for something of equal or greater value - the lives of the people he's sworn to protect, for example. Recognizing the value of others equals ones self value is fully laudable even to a Chaotic Good philosophy, and indeed is central to it. The selflessness that I'm talking about is when someone sells their life for something of little or no value or is made to believe by themselves or others that they lack value, an impulse seen for example in self-destructive lifestyles.

Needless to say, I disagree with this. As does pretty much every single moral code in human history.

Well, feel free to disagree with me all you want, but your assertion that every single moral code in human history disagrees with me is both erroneous and short-sighted.

Erroneous, because I'm pretty sure what I've stated is congruent with mainstream Judeo-Christian ethics, which is one of the more (most?) influential moral codes in human history. For example, the fact that the self has value and should be valued is why self-destructive acts can be considered to be wrong in its framework, and as I pointed out why the Golden Rule works. This is something not all moral philosophies agree with. Some more "lawful" minded moral philosophies reject the Golden Rule precisely on the grounds of its self-centeredness, proof if any more were needed that it leans Chaotic. I could get into a very detailed discussion here and start quoting scripture, but when I start doing things like that it makes people uncomfortable. Suffice to say, under one of the more dominate moral codes in human history seeing great value in even the least valued others is good", but seeing no value in the self and so selling the self cheaply is bad.

Short-sighted, in that other even more "chaotic" philosophies go the other way and assert the complete sovereignty of the self, and so reject both selflessness and additionally that self-destructiveness (so called "victimless crimes") can be condemned by anyone else. For example, selflessness is the great evil of Objectivism, which while it's not a moral philosophy I subscribe to, is nonetheless definitely a code of normative ethics and one that a great deal of people claim to subscribe to. In the description I've outlined, Objectivism is unsurprisingly Chaotic Neutral (pure self-interest, but not at the expense of others freedom), and unsurprisingly sees calls for "the greater good" and collectivism as being the basis of all wrong in the world.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
You've been given examples, you just ignore them or disagree. I think even Jayne from Firefly was reliable ... to those that he valued and considered friends such as Mal.

As far as other examples, I can't point out any (i.e. Han Solo) because you'll just say he wasn't CN. Unlike my own personal characters, some of whom were CN and reliable to those he knew, we don't know the alignment of fictional characters.

River was also CN. Jayne was unreliable, even to Mal, which is why Mal was so upset with him all the time.
 


Jay Verkuilen

Grand Master of Artificial Flowers
Or its a case of a character shifting alignment. would not be the first time in Wheedonverse shows. We won't ever know because the show got cancelled.

Character growth arcs often involve shifting priorities. Insofar as D&D has a personality stat, this could well be indicated by an alignment shift.



Umm, yes it does? Caring about people is the definition of good? If you actually care about people, that makes you good. Now, caring about this group of people once probably doesn't make you good, but, it makes you a bit leaning in that direction. Repeatedly caring about other people does show a pretty strong leaning towards good.

Sure, and one interpretation someone else suggested was essentially a notion of how large the circle of caring was.


And, @Celebrim, LG being the most good has always been the standard in D&D. I'm surprised you'd argue otherwise. There's a reason paladins were restricted to LG, once upon a time. And, every archetype for LG is among the most good of characters - Superman, King Arthur, Gawain, that sort of thing. Chaotic is selfish it its heart. It's all about the self. You can't be as good as the selfless (Lawful) by definition.

I agree that's how things were implied, but D&D has been inconsistent about this. Of course, it's a game, not a treatise on moral philosophy and D&D has always been a pastiche of many different influences.

Part of it is because alignment didn't originally even have Good and Evil, just Lawful, Neutral, and Chaotic, with an implication that these also were Good, Neutral, and Evil, respectively, though it's not explicitly spelled out. These were lifted from Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson as well as Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion (who got them from Anderson) and indeed the paladin class really is a direct lift from the protagonist ofTHaTL's abilities. From what I understand (I am not a Medieval historian) the notions of Order vs. Chaos are pretty strongly represented in Medieval thought.

I don't know the exact history of the Hollywood Squares grid alignment but it was there in AD&D but Lawful, Neutral, Chaotic was around in BECMI until the end of the line. Lots of things got assigned alignments pretty much on the "oh, crap, we need to put something in to make the deadline... let's just get it done!" line.

I do like the different paladin takes that appeared in 3.5's Unearthed Arcana, where they had paladins for the other three extreme alignments (paladin of freedom for CG, paladin of tyranny for LE, paladin of slaughter for CE), representing divinely inspired warriors of different types. I played a Paladin of Freedom for a bit in a late 3.5 game. This character was constantly bucking the dictums of the temple, feeling it was more focused on the organization than on actually helping people. 5E kept this to some degree with the different Oaths, which are loosely related to particular alignments, though not exactly so.
 

Celebrim

Legend
But, hey, what do I know. Apparently selflessness is evil, chaotics can act 100% reliable all the time and this makes sense to some people.

For the record, while I don't really care about the topic, I do agree with you that CN characters are not reliable.

Although, I think the actual argument you are in is over what is meant by "reliable". I concur with some of the other posters in the discussion that Chaotic characters can form friendships and have commitments and emotional bonds to other people, and that these feelings will make them somewhat trustworthy with respect to those people. I'm just not sure that this makes them "'reliable" in the usual sense of the word. It more means that you can be assured that some CN values you enough, that they would not sell you out cheaply. For example, Malcolm can rely on Jayne to the extent that as their relationship progresses, he knows Jayne will value it more and more highly because Jayne recognizes the benefit of the relationship and the value of Malcolm as a person. I don't think Malcolm ever believes that there is some point at which Jayne would never sell him out.
 

SDN

First Post
Both of you are overlooking the one overriding difference between a fantasy world and our own: THE GODS ARE REAL.

And make their realness known in several ways, from the granting or withholding of spells to various forms of direct communication up to and including direct communication through actual appearances. In short, an external definition of what meets a given ethos has been established, and will be enforced.

Most GMs and fantasy novelists overlook this factor, but it's going to influence how people in that world will react.

Edit: One example of a novelist who doesn't overlook this is David Weber in his Bazell Banahkson series. I highly recommend it.
 
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Jay Verkuilen

Grand Master of Artificial Flowers
And basically my argument is that Gygax's ideas of what constituted Goodness were biased in a complex way by his own personal upbringing. This can be seen by the fact that at the same time Gygax was capable of both advancing the idea that Lawful Good was the most good or goodness++, and also presenting ostensibly Lawful Good figures in a derogatory and even villainous manner. This is reflective in my opinion of Gygax's own personal moral struggles.

Or, you know, him not actually thinking that the various things he wrote for the PHB and DMG were, you know, equivalent in intellectual depth to, say, A Theory of Justice... which is to say, E. Gary Gygax != John Rawls. :erm: Whatever his own personal flaws, Gygax wasn't pretending to present anything besides useful fictional source material.
 

RobertBrus

Explorer
It's a game, not moral philosophy

I'm all for philosophy, I have a degree in it. But this is a game. The alignment mechanics is a simplified system to provide some parameters or restrictions to a character. You can't one day risk your life with no reward to save the village, and the next torture someone cause it "might be fun." That's it. There's no great moral code nor philosophy behind it. In many ways it is silly. Only in comic books - and the older ones at that - do you find this type of one-dimensional categorization. Even the terms are poorly chosen. The common definition for the term "chaotic" doesn't mean what it is meant to mean in RPG's. Perhaps using this simplistic system designed for a game is asking far more than it was ever intended to provide. It's a game. Fun, but not the basis for a master's thesis on morality. Maybe the better, as in more productive, discussion would be on whether or not we should continue to use this system. Or at the least, redefine and rebuild it.
 

Jay Verkuilen

Grand Master of Artificial Flowers
Both of you are overlooking the one overriding difference between a fantasy world and our own: THE GODS ARE REAL.

And make their realness known in several ways, from the granting or withholding of spells to various forms of direct communication up to and including direct communication through actual appearances. In short, an external definition of what meets a given ethos has been established, and will be enforced.

Yeah I mentioned somewhere upthread the fact that RL morality and ethics descriptions and so on have pretty limited degree of applicability. The goal of fantasy ethics and morality is to make for interesting and thought-provoking fiction and allow us to explore things that don't exist IRL. One could, for instance, view Tolkien's elves as an exploration of comparative theology---evidently he did to no small degree.


Most GMs and fantasy novelists overlook this factor, but it's going to influence how people in that world will react.

Edit: One example of a novelist who doesn't overlook this is David Weber in his Bazell Banahkson series. I highly recommend it.

There are examples of fantasy fiction that doesn't, but ones that are much more focused on personal scale things won't tend to. There are examples, though, all throughout fantasy fiction of characters who have some kind of stronger relationship with a divine being having to deal with that relationship in some fashion or another. A good example is Janet Morris' Tempus from Thieves' World. Tempus has a personal relationship with a war god, Vashanka, that causes him a great deal of grief. Tempus is, of course, essentially an avatar. Another is Yardiff Bey from Brian Daley's Coramonde duology. He sold his soul to a devil for arcane power and needs to deal with the consequences. However, one thing I do think that this kind of relationship might be a tough one for a protagonist character, and indeed, Yardiff Bey, while a POV character at times, is the story's main antagonist. Daley actually explores this issue a good bit when one of the other characters describes the difference between wizardry and sorcery (terms defined in the novel, not connected to D&D usage) and how it relates to the ethical choices a practitioner of the arcane arts makes. Harry Turtledove put quite a bit of this into the Videssos series, with the protagonist of the first four novels (The Misplaced Legion, etc.), Marcus, being extremely skeptical but coming to understand the role the divine played in life over time and eventually accepting the faith of Phos. I don't really know more modern fantasy because I've largely stopped reading it, so pardon that my examples are rather old.
 
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Jay Verkuilen

Grand Master of Artificial Flowers
I'm all for philosophy, I have a degree in it. But this is a game. The alignment mechanics is a simplified system to provide some parameters or restrictions to a character. <...> That's it. There's no great moral code nor philosophy behind it. In many ways it is silly.

Totally agree that it's really no more than a sometimes useful two-word phrase descriptor of a PC and that we shouldn't treat it with the same seriousness as genuine RL moral inquiry.

You can't one day risk your life with no reward to save the village, and the next torture someone cause it "might be fun."

I think you could, but that kind of character might be a good candidate for Chaotic Neutral.

Only in comic books - and the older ones at that - do you find this type of one-dimensional categorization. Even the terms are poorly chosen. The common definition for the term "chaotic" doesn't mean what it is meant to mean in RPG's. Perhaps using this simplistic system designed for a game is asking far more than it was ever intended to provide. It's a game. Fun, but not the basis for a master's thesis on morality. Maybe the better, as in more productive, discussion would be on whether or not we should continue to use this system. Or at the least, redefine and rebuild it.

Given that it has two descriptors, I would call it two dimensional, right? (You may have meant by one dimensional that it wasn't very deep. I agree with that.) From what I understand, many authors and screenwriters find assigning alignments useful as a starting point for their characters, so the D&D alignment system has seen some use outside of D&D. However, I think it's important to recall it's a starting point, not a finishing point.

I've played with various rebuilds of it. A friend of mine used a three score system: Integrity, Mercy, and Courage. Characters had values assigned to them and (on an optional basis for the player) one could check against that score. I often found that helpful to make decisions when I felt genuinely torn about what action I'd take, essentially using the dice as a way to help guide improvisation. For example, a character with high Integrity and Courage but low Mercy would likely be OK with treating prisoners harshly as long as it wasn't against a personal code but would be highly unlikely to run in the face of opposition. Of course, if a Courage check was failed, this might be a good opportunity for some uncharacteristic behavior to emerge. White Wolf's Exalted had four numbers: Compassion, Conviction, Temperance, and Valor and one often needed to make checks against these stats.
 
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