Discussion thread - Alignments and society

Greenfield

Adventurer
I know we've beaten Alignments to death, over and over. This one is a bit different.

There are creatures in the D&D worlds that have an "Always Chaotic Evil" type label, though the alignment referenced may change.

So let's think about what a society would look like for creatures like that.

For example I recently ran an adventure that took place on the Plane of Fire, home of the Efreet. Because I think pure combat adventures are boring as hill, I had to include the City of Brass, and the people that lived there.

Efreet are in the "Always Lawful Evil" category. I had to build a credible backdrop for the people/creatures that lived in that city, and how PC interaction would look.

1) Because the society as a whole is Lawful Evil, even the guys on the bottom of the socio-economic heap will support "the system" that keeps them among the downtrodden. Why? Their dream is to one day climb to the top of that heap, to advance in rank and power. If "the system" is broken or not even there then they can't do that.
2) Nothing is free, not even directions to the corner store. Anything you get for nothing is worth nothing.
3) No one is ever "friendly", unless you have something they want. In fact the very idea of a "friend" is almost completely alien to them. A friend is, when all is said and done, someone you might do nice things for without any arranged payment. They are also someone that you might help out or do nice things for, without receiving or even expecting payment. With that idea in mind I determined (for my game at least) that the word "Friend" doesn't really exist in the Ignan tongue (language of the Plane of Fire). After all, do you invent a word for a concept that doesn't really exist?

Now your take on this sort of thing may be very different from mine, so feel free to pitch in.

Now I titled this as a "Discussion thread", meaning that all of these ideas are open to discussion. So feel free to discuss.

If you haven't got good answers then ask some good questions. If your imagination is taking a break then feel free to try to stir up someone else's.

What have you got?
 

MechaTarrasque

Adventurer
I would say child rearing is contractual in a LE society (the parent agrees to provide X, and the child "agrees" to provide Y after reaching adulthood), it is Janissary style (which would fit the Efreet pretty well), where children are raised by the State, or (my favorite), a combination of the 2, where children are raised by the State and then can sign a contract to join a House upon reaching adulthood. The more skills (or one strong skill) the child has, the better a contract it can negotiate (and the more a House would want to sign a contract with the youth). If contracts were nearly impossible to get out of (unless say the House is broken up), then the youth is strongly motivated to see the House succeed (since he/she has no other real options).
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
House or clan affiliations... Hadn't really occurred to me. Cool.

I had an odd thought: Would a Lawful Evil society have "laws", in the written sense? Or just the rules laid down by custom and tradition, and of course the current ruler.

I'm thinking that the words "Chaotic Evil" and "Society" may not belong in the same sentence. Or paragraph. Or time zone. Almost by definition there couldn't be a society, could there?
 

Shiroiken

Adventurer
Personally, I don't consider any being not from the outer planes to be 100% "always." IIRC, even in the 1E DMG or MM it stated that even "always" might have very rare aberrations. However, assuming you have to design a LE society for the Efreet, here's my suggestion.

Efreet are powerful elemental creatures, with even the weakest among them having servants (elemental creatures) and possibly slaves, so they would be akin to nobility. Like nobility, they're certainly going to look to advance their own standing at the expense of their rivals. Like devils, they have no qualms about destroying their rivals and superiors... so long as they don't get caught. Order is absolute, with harsh penalties for those that are caught. There is the key, for society would have a lot of intrigue, and even friends must be carefully watched (lest they get a better offer).

1) Low ranking efreet would accept the order, because they're still higher up than most creatures. They'd desire to move up the social ladder, and would use treacherous methods that can't be traced back to them.

2) Value is relative. Information that is of minor value (directions) in exchange for goodwill with potential pawns/allies would be a good exchange for a LE character. That said, in such a treacherous society, everything should be carefully examined. If you've read the Wheel of Time think of the Aes Sedai, who cannot lie, but can twist the truth in knots.

3) Friends exist, but the meaning of it would be closer to "ally" than "affection." A friend can be trusted more than a regular ally, but you could never fully trust anyone, even a child or parent. If your goals ever diverge, you may become a liability to them.
 
I'm thinking that the words "Chaotic Evil" and "Society" may not belong in the same sentence. Or paragraph. Or time zone. Almost by definition there couldn't be a society, could there?
Agreed. I can't imagine an entire society of people like the Joker or Hannibal Lector or Alex and his Droogs.
 

Shiroiken

Adventurer
Agreed. I can't imagine an entire society of people like the Joker or Hannibal Lector or Alex and his Droogs.
You can, but it requires a super powerful overlord that everyone fears enough to keep in line. The drow, for example, are held in place by their fear of Lolth and her priestesses. There's a lot of backstabbing and chaos, but a thin veneer of civility is required, or else the offender gets turned into a drider.
 

R_J_K75

Explorer
Would a Lawful Evil society have "laws", in the written sense?
Id think that by the nature of LE there would definitely be written laws. LE is guided by rules and structure, etc, otherwise the society would fall into chaos most likely.
 

Coroc

Explorer
Personally, I don't consider any being not from the outer planes to be 100% "always." IIRC, even in the 1E DMG or MM it stated that even "always" might have very rare aberrations.
...
Still the planes native inhabitants are most true to their alignments, much more than some prime humanoid society could ever be. Efreeti being situated in the city of brass in Avernus, correct me if I am wrong, should be archetypes of lawful evil.

They would eagerly make contracts with mortals, like devils I think.
 

Coroc

Explorer
the City of Brass is in Elemental Plane of Fire if I remember right.
You are right of course, still the rest of what I said applies, although the plane of fire is basically neutral or unaligned which seems to be a contradiction to my initial statement, the efreet being kind of djinnis and with their laws and society, are different than just wild elementals.

Just to clarify, also my initial post, while e.g. normal humans do exist in every alignment nuance thinkable,
Elemental or divine or demonic entities have far less choice in that matter.
Every deviation from the norm would be very rare and mostly has a story with consequences behind their case, e.g. a fallen angel
 
Last edited:

R_J_K75

Explorer
You are right of course, still the rest of what I said applies, although the plane of fire is basically neutral, the efreet being kind of djinnis and with their society, are different than just wild elementals.
Yep, the elemental plane of fire is neutral and Efreet are LE, but regardless Id suspect that the majority of the residents would be N or LN except for the genies. Theyd just go about their day to day activities not knowing any other life. Of course there would be creatures of all alignments present but probably not enough to cause a problem.
 

MechaTarrasque

Adventurer
As for a CE "society", I tend to think of them like a bunch of crocodiles waiting in a river for the wildebeests herd to come and try to cross.

Basically, you need to be born with self sufficiency, and just need enough "culture" that you find abusing the Other to be slightly more entertaining than abusing your own kind (as long as the Other is weaker than you of course).* So giants (includes trolls and ogres), dragons, and any poor suckers that had demons mess with their DNA, but not something that happens naturally (at least for long) among humanoids.

* About the only virtue of a CE society is that there is no need to "make an example" of members of your society. If a member of your society is hurting you, it is for entertainment purposes, to take something you have, or to drive you away.
 

aco175

Adventurer
I always thought that LE could work and form a society with the other alignments. They could also be better PCs than LN, N, or even CG. I guess it depends on if you favor the Lawful or the Evil.

If the PCs go visit this place, I would have the society be loyal to each other over outsiders. They may cheat their neighbor, but defiantly a stranger.
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
I thought that the Plane of Fire was Lawfully aligned, at least in the 3.* Manual of the Planes.

Could be wrong, of course, and happy to be corrected, if appropriate.

Shiroiken said:
2) Value is relative. Information that is of minor value (directions) in exchange for goodwill with potential pawns/allies would be a good exchange for a LE character. That said, in such a treacherous society, everything should be carefully examined. If you've read the Wheel of Time think of the Aes Sedai, who cannot lie, but can twist the truth in knots.
Reading that, I couldn't help but think, "Goodwill. That and a dollar, will buy you a cup of coffee". The way I see it, debts are formally agreed to, or they don't exist in a Lawful Evil society. someone might decide to repay a favor, but wouldn't do it unless they saw some advantage to it. Like, the need for a favor in return.

That's just my take, of course, and maybe I'm seeing LEs as more dedicated predators than you are. LE individuals in a "normal" society would "do as the Romans do" for the most part, until they're strong enough to stop caring what the Romans do, and just do what they want.

In a LE based society I'd see predation on one's neighbors as a routine thing, and skill as a predator the key to social and economic advancement. The top predators are the ones willing to take a chance, and good enough to get away with it.

Kind of like Wall Street.
 

pemerton

Legend
Gygax's DMG (p 23):

Lawful evil creotures consider order as the means by which each group is properly placed in the cosmos, from lowest to highest, strongest first, weakest last. Good is seen as an excuse to promote the mediocrity of the whole​

And PHB (p 33):

Creatures of this alignment are great respecters of laws and strict order, but life, beauty, truth, freedom and the like are held as valueless, or at least scorned. By adhering to stringent discipline, those of lawful evil alignment hope to impose their yoke upon the world.​

The bolded things are good. LE beings, including Efreeti, scorn them because they are excuses for promoting mediocrity and suppressing the deserving strong. The main difference from CE seems to be the emphasis on hierarchy as opposed to individual self-aggrandisement.

I think such a soceity could rear children - think eg of a certain sort of stereotyped conception of Sparta, or of a British boarding school. I don't think it has a lot of room for affection, however, and so probably not much friendship. But not everything need be transactional - weaker beings might obey out of their own sense of their place in the social structure.

As the bullying student told Bertrand Russell, the middles bully the smalls because the bigs bully the middles. I think the City of Brass would resemble this.
 

Advertisement

Top