D&D General Rethinking alignment yet again

So, I was watching an interview with Alexander Macris, a game developer promoting his Kickstarter (link) on dwarven civilizations. During the interview, a bit of a discussion on alignment came up, and he made an interesting point: the alignment system (and particularly the chaotic and evil axes) really only make sense from the perspective of Lawful Good. Creatures and races that are commonly described as evil (and all the problematic discussions such an idea devolves into) only make sense to think of that way if the person making the assessment is lawful good. They don't make sense from an internal perspective (for example, the Drow wouldn't think of themselves as evil).

In fact, we know this in a broader sense. The villain is the hero of his own story. Nobody thinks of themselves as the bad guys. Being evil is bad, and people just don't think of themselves that way. Aristotelian ethics is brought up as a way of understanding this: That "the good" is that which best represents that which allows the creature in question to flourish, to be 'itself' to as great an extent as possible. A wolf will have a different concept of The Good than a human would, which would be different than an elf (Drow or otherwise), a dwarf, an orc, etc.

This understanding of The Good is not an abstract utilitarian concept. It is embedded in the identity of the being. How can one be the best human? The best Drow? The best dragon?

So where does this lead? Alex's example was that Drow wouldn't view law as good and chaos as bad, or choose the same sorts of good and evil as humans. This is part of the problem of trying to understand different races using the law/chaos/good/evil grid. Instead, he suggests that Drow would likely have a grid of something like Honorable vs Dishonorable, and Strong vs Weak. The society is structured around families, obeying those higher than you in the hierarchy, and nasty repercussions for betrayal. Honor holds society together, while Strength is the primary virtue.

A similar approach could be made with orc warband societies. While strength is still a thing, it's different than with the Drow. I'd say that the primary virtue is Bravery (vs Cowardice), and that what holds society together is Loyalty. To them, humans might seem to be cowards who are easily swayed by a bit of gold, and thus 'evil'.

Overall, then, the Law-Chaos axis is about what keeps society stable, while the Good-Evil axis is about what the primary virtue of the individual should be to achieve the Aristotelian 'Good', and be held in high regard, vs the failure to hold that virtue, and be correspondingly looked down upon. Put in more generic terms, we'd have the Social Axis crossed with the Virtue Axis.

In a typical human kingdom, Law is paramount, and those who break or flout the law undermine the stability of the society (even if excused as being "for the greater good"). Thus, Chaos is bad. For the Virtue Axis, the game kind of cheaps out by just saying 'good' vs 'evil', but we can kind of understand what the intent of those words are.

Personally, I'm really liking this approach. I'm wondering what other people's thoughts are on this model, and maybe what sort of axes you think other racial (or other) societies might adopt.

Note: This divorces alignment almost entirely from the cosmic/celestial approach to alignment from the earliest editions of D&D. I have different ideas of how things work from the cosmic perspective.
 

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Oofta

Legend
Meh. I think people overthink alignment. Alignment is just one descriptor. Is that descriptor from the perspective of general consensus of our society? Sure. It's a game. A game that oversimplified just about everything.

Do what you makes sense to you, I just don't see that it adds anything that's just a handy descriptor, one of a few.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
. They don't make sense from an internal perspective (for example, the Drow wouldn't think of themselves as evil).

What the drow think of themselves is irrelevant. Traditional alignment is where your actions and their results sit with respect to an objective standard of the universe/multiverse. It is a metaphysical truth about yourself. Denial doesn't change it.

The Dread Necromancer Bob: "Really, what I do is for the greater good!"
Anyone, casting Detect Evil: "Bzzzt! Wrong answer, Bob!"
 

Yaarel

He Mage
For me, the alignment system is objective enough.

• Chaotic = individual
• Lawful = group

• Evil = helping ONLY oneself or ones own group
• Good = making a strong sustainable effort to help other individuals or other groups



Useful enough too.

I consider the alignment a personality trait relating to ideal and flaw.

On the character sheet that I use, there is space to add both the alignment, plus one or two sentences to specify one way that the character typically expresses this alignment.
 



Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
This assumes that alignment is a construct within the world, when it's not. The drow don't assign themselves an alignment any more than a LG civilization does. Instead it's a meta-descriptor used to describe the base or common actions of the described beings. The point of view it has to describe is necessarily detached, since it is people around the table.
 


So, I was watching an interview with Alexander Macris, a game developer promoting his Kickstarter (link) on dwarven civilizations. During the interview, a bit of a discussion on alignment came up, and he made an interesting point

I think this makes sense. Let’s think of a real world example: Alexander Macris played a central role in promoting gamergate and was the CEO of Milo Yiannopoulos company (after the latter was fired by Breitbart), and who in that latter capacity promoted and published anti-gay, anti-feminist, and islamophobic views. Despite all that, he probably thinks of himself as a great person.
 

Yaarel

He Mage
This is why I prefer to frame it as altruism vs egoism rather than selflessness vs selfishness. Likewise, I prefer to frame law vs chaos as authoritarian vs libertarian.
Perfect.


In this context, it is good to have an "ego", an identity, but one needs to help empower the egos of others as well.
 

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