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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

Comments

Celebrim

Hero
Both of you are overlooking the one overriding difference between a fantasy world and our own: THE GODS ARE REAL.
Well, I will note that in order to debate that at any depth, we'd have to veer into discussions that are verboten according to the board rules, but that we ought to note that none of the assertions you make are different in kind from what many people claim to observe and experience regarding this world. So the difference between a fantasy world and are own with respect to "the gods are real" could only be a difference in degree and not kind.

In any event, the critical term in your statement that you overlook is the plurality of 'gods'. Regardless of the reality of the gods to the inhabitants of the fantasy world, the plurality of real gods means that the inhabitants cannot know with certainty what the correct way one ought to live is. Are all the gods equally right? Are some gods more right than others? If the gods offer conflicting accounts of what is real, how do you decide which ones to trust? Amongst a variety of established ethos, which one ought one to choose? And, frankly, ought we to have trust in these so called gods to begin with? What exactly makes a god worthy of trust? All of these are going to be things that mortals will need to decide for themselves irrespective of the reality of the gods.
 

Celebrim

Hero
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.
I'm actually neither denigrating nor praising him, and certainly don't mean by saying moral struggles to mean he had greater than the usual moral failings.

So far as it goes, I consider Gygax's description of the alignment system more coherent than most later writers as he seemed to have a better handle on defining good and evil than 2e and 3e writers did. Third edition was particularly incoherent for example.

Indeed, the very fact that Gygax struggled to come to grips with what he believed at various points in his life to me suggests someone who is likely to have given this more than the usual amount of thought. Nonethless, it can also mean (and this is what I was trying to point out) - especially for early Gygax - that the Gygax writing on that day doesn't fully agree with the Gygax writing a short period later because his own thinking on the subject is evolving. Yet, again, I'd still put up his description in preference to what most TSR and WotC writers put forward.
 

Jay Verkuilen

Dogsbody Waghalter
Indeed, the very fact that Gygax struggled to come to grips with what he believed at various points in his life to me suggests someone who is likely to have given this more than the usual amount of thought.
I'm not sure one could conclude from the fact that his writing in D&D evolved much about his own personal thoughts. D&D itself was a rapidly evolving thing during the course of the '70s, with many of its tropes not really being solidly established until the late '70s.

Ironically enough, my stepmother studied moral psychology when she went back to school as an adult and got a graduate degree. Her thesis advisor, who became a very close friend of the family after graduation, knew Gygax quite well, but neither he nor Gygax are alive so there's no point asking.


Nonethless, it can also mean (and this is what I was trying to point out) - especially for early Gygax - that the Gygax writing on that day doesn't fully agree with the Gygax writing a short period later because his own thinking on the subject is evolving. Yet, again, I'd still put up his description in preference to what most TSR and WotC writers put forward.
I can't really recall all the nuances of that over the years, but Gygax's writing, as florid as it often was, was pretty well thought out.
 

MoonSong

Rules-lawyering drama queen... Be nice plz n_n
This I strongly object to on several grounds. First, it belongs to the hideous bias that chaotic is a conditional that makes something less good, while lawful is something that makes something more good.
I blame Basic for this. As far as I remember the line had Lawful as code for Good and Chaotic as code for Evil. That distinction took me by surprise the first time (I mean why would a chaotic cleric be unable to cast healing spells?)
 

Jay Verkuilen

Dogsbody Waghalter
I blame Basic for this. As far as I remember the line had Lawful as code for Good and Chaotic as code for Evil. That distinction took me by surprise the first time (I mean why would a chaotic cleric be unable to cast healing spells?)
Upthread I talked about the origin of Lawful, Neutral, and Chaotic, but it was taken from a few well-documented fictional sources (Poul Anderson and Michael Moorcock) and predates the use of good and evil, which evidently first appeared in 1977 and was maintained in AD&D and then was brought back in BECMI---not sure why exactly, but it would be interesting to know. See alignment for some discussion.
 

Celebrim

Hero
I blame Basic for this. As far as I remember the line had Lawful as code for Good and Chaotic as code for Evil. That distinction took me by surprise the first time (I mean why would a chaotic cleric be unable to cast healing spells?)
The fact that the Law and Chaos axis predates the Good and Evil axis is part of it, but if you think about it, that only moves back the question one step.

Why did Gygax tend to treat Law as Good and Chaotic as evil, or as stand-ins for those things in the first place? For example, the B2 "Caves of Chaos" might as well be "Caves of Evil" for the temple of Chaos is adorned in various demonic trappings, and chaos is used more or less interchangeably with evil. This also predates Basic.

In the source material, say Morcock, this doesn't occur. Both Law and Chaos are inimical to life, and extremes of Law or Chaos make life impossible. Life can only flourish - what Gygax identifies as 'Weal' - if Law and Chaos are in balance, and it is the forces of Neutrality, the representatives of life that must make their way between these life destroying extremes, that are identified with what Gygax identifies as the essential motive of Good.

So while you are in part right, this still begs the question why is Law seen as Good and Chaos as Evil by Gygax when that isn't really what is in the source material.

And I think that the answer is that Gygax is even more than most from his upbringing likely to equate Law with Good, and so engage in the same bias we see in the definition of "selflessness" and have the same "common sense" about selflessness that Hussar is up the thread evidencing when he suggests that selflessness is obviously good and he is stunned anyone would argue otherwise.

It's telling that "Selflessness" means both the abnegation of self or "motivated by no concern for oneself" and also at the same time "concern more with the needs and wishes of others than with one's own." Nothing about the abnegation of self or lack of concern for oneself necessarily implies compassion toward others or any sort of charity or any sort of proper valuation of or concern for others, and yet there it is built right into the language. There is a certain level I get it at, since it runs contrary to human nature to not be selfish, the most common and obvious sorts of vices are sins of selfishness, but I consider selflessness a very bad antonym for selfish or a bad synonym for humble. I also consider it likely that sins of selfishness stand out to us more, precisely because we feel wounded by them - that is even what we choose to view as evil is motivated in the main by selfishness.

So, I think it is just natural to assume if you come from a certain cultural mind set that anything to do with the self is bad, and that all virtue consists entirely of self-denial of some sort and that naturally if self-denial to reduce ones inflated self-importance is good, then even more self-denial must be better. And for that matter, we could certainly point out some Eastern philosophies that greatly praise selflessness in the literal sense of self-abnegation, but tellingly not all of them assume that self-abnegation naturally leads to attachment to and compassion for others. Indeed, some of them would find that outcome inimical to the intention.

Gygax I think properly associates Good and Evil with Weal and Woe, and although that definition is somewhat circular and leaves us needing to define Weal and Woe, it avoids the contradiction of having both the evil and chaos having to do with individuality and distinctiveness and law and good both having to do with commonality and conventionality.

Yet at the same time he never quite seems to give up the idea that LG is most good and CE is most evil.

But it's also telling that when he first creates a concrete conception of the divine for his fantasy world, both of the deities he creates are humorous but still quite pointed parodies of Lawful Good thinking. I don't think that's remotely an accident.
 

Jay Verkuilen

Dogsbody Waghalter
The fact that the Law and Chaos axis predates the Good and Evil axis is part of it, but if you think about it, that only moves back the question one step.

Why did Gygax tend to treat Law as Good and Chaotic as evil, or as stand-ins for those things in the first place? For example, the B2 "Caves of Chaos" might as well be "Caves of Evil" for the temple of Chaos is adorned in various demonic trappings, and chaos is used more or less interchangeably with evil. This also predates Basic.

In the source material, say Morcock, this doesn't occur. Both Law and Chaos are inimical to life, and extremes of Law or Chaos make life impossible. Life can only flourish - what Gygax identifies as 'Weal' - if Law and Chaos are in balance, and it is the forces of Neutrality, the representatives of life that must make their way between these life destroying extremes, that are identified with what Gygax identifies as the essential motive of Good.
The Cosmic Balance is a Moorcock idea. However, it's not Anderson, where there's no such philosophizing. Anderson is, IMO, unquestionably the much more influential source on Gygax---something Gygax himself said but is also quite clear from reading Anderson.


And I think that the answer is that Gygax is even more than most from his upbringing likely to equate Law with Good, and so engage in the same bias we see in the definition of "selflessness" and have the same "common sense" about selflessness that Hussar is up the thread evidencing when he suggests that selflessness is obviously good and he is stunned anyone would argue otherwise.
Likely. As I recall he was a somewhat devout Christian of some flavor---can't recall where I remember seeing that, so take with an even bigger than normal grain of salt. He was active in Republican politics but, again, what one can conclude from that is not entirely clear.


Gygax I think properly associates Good and Evil with Weal and Woe, and although that definition is somewhat circular and leaves us needing to define Weal and Woe, it avoids the contradiction of having both the evil and chaos having to do with individuality and distinctiveness and law and good both having to do with commonality and conventionality.


I am not a Medieval historian, but my understanding is that Order vs. Chaos is very much in line with the way the Medievals thought of things, rather than good and evil, per se, in line with the "forces of civilization vs. barbarism" type thinking. It's also pretty strongly inherent in the kind of frontier thinking common in, say, Westerns. This is very much inherent in adventures like B2: Keep on the Borderlands.


Yet at the same time he never quite seems to give up the idea that LG is most good and CE is most evil.

But it's also telling that when he first creates a concrete conception of the divine for his fantasy world, both of the deities he creates are humorous but still quite pointed parodies of Lawful Good thinking. I don't think that's remotely an accident.


I think that's true regarding the kind of implied "LG is the goodest of good" though I'm uncomfortable with the psychologizing that's going on about what Gygax personally thought about moral questions based on what he put in a game. A lot of what he put in D&D were tropes that were likely familiar to his likely readers, though of course many were not and needed explaining (e.g., Vancian casting). For example, most of the early cleric spells like Sticks to Snakes or Flame Strike are obvious ripoffs of things that appear in the kind of late '50s Bible epics that starred Charlton Heston.
 

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