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D&D General The Birth Of Alignment: The Rise of the Nine-Point System

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
With some trepidation, I have been following a little bit of the thread about alignment. And it's gone off the rails a bit ... you can almost say that it's out of, um, alignment. Anyway, since past is prologue, I thought I'd go into a little bit of the history of the alignment system we have in D&D. From the dawn of the prehistory to the codification of the standard, "nine-point" alignment system in 1e.

As usual, if you aren't familiar with some of the acronyms, please check out this prior post:


A. The pre-history of D&D.

Not a lot here, really! If anyone wants to correct me, please feel free to. If we assume the "standard creation myth model" (that D&D was born from the amalgamation of Arneson's early Blackmoor Campaign and Gygax's Chainmail), then we can look to see where it existed in the pre-history of D&D.

Guidon Press published Chainmail, predating OD&D, with a Fantasy Supplement. On page 35, you find, under the "General Line Up" the following written:
It is impossible to draw a distinct line between "good " and "eviI" fantastic figures. Three categories are Iisted below as a general guide for the wargamer designing orders of battle involving fantastic creatures:
(list of creatures sorted by LAW, NEUTRAL, and CHAOS)
Underlined Neutral figures have a slight pre-disposition for LAW. Neutral figures can be diced for to determine on which side they will fight, with ties meaning they remain neutral.
(Chainmail, 2d Ed. p. 35)

Arguably, the earliest roots of alignment that we see are simply for picking sides in a fantasy wargame; there is one side (LAW) and another side (CHAOS) with others (the neutrals) available to fight for either side.

From that early framework, there is Arneson. Now, it is my understanding ....

Brief Interjection: Other than specific quotes from books that I am going to lookup, I am going to be writing a lot of this off of memory of stuff I have read in the past. Do not expect everything to be extensively sourced! If you have a correction, please note it in the comments. :) In addition, please note that I am simplifying a few things, and that anything involving the early history of D&D, and especially Arneson/Gygax, is subject to controversy and occasional disputes about memories, sources documents, credit, and so on.

...that in Arneson's early campaigns, "Law" were the forces of good that defended Castle Blackmoor, "Chaos" was the forces of evil led by the Egg of Coot, and "neutral" was everyone that could be hired by Law or Chaos.

So the original start was that there weren't really three alignments. There were two opposing forces! Law (good) and Chaos (evil). The players were all lawful or chaotic (as we would call them), and the "DM" (Arneson) would control the others who were neutral (who could be hired, etc., and then fight on either side). It is my understanding that as Arneson's players began to be more interested in the "dungeon" aspect and less in the wargaming aspect, alignment would also be used for other issues, such as magic swords (a sword would have an alignment and could only be wielded by a person of a matching alignment); hardly a surprise given that magic weapons were coded with alignments in Chainmail.

This was later translated into use by Gygax when he adapted and expanded Arneson's notes and campaign into OD&D; note that the basic idea that animated the earliest D&D adventures would be that the adventurers would be Lawful (good) and would venture into dungeons populated by Chaotic (evil) monsters. But from the very beginning with Gygax, and in Chainmail, there was a tension between the overlap of "Law/Good" and "Chaos/Evil."


B. OD&D and the Three-Point Alignment System

You're ready to play D&D when it first comes out. You have your Chainmail Fantasy Supplement, and you crack open Book 1: Men & Magic. On page 9, you find the following entry:

Character Alignment, Including Various Monsters and Creatures: Before the game begins it is not only necessary to select a role, but it is also necessary to determine what stance the character will take — Law, Neutrality, or Chaos. Character types are limited as follows by this alignment (list of monsters and characters).
(Men & Magic, p. 9)


Following that is a list of races and monsters under Law, Neutrality, and Chaos. Men (humans) can be any alignment; Elves and Dwarves can be any non-chaotic alignment, and halflings must be lawful. Interestingly, given our current debates, Orcs can be Chaotic OR Neutral.

And what do these alignments mean? Well, it doesn't say! Arguably, it is less informative than Chainmail was. Later on, in Book 2 we find that magic swords can be coded by alignment. Up to this point, the concept that, in general, lawful is a fancy name for good, and chaotic is a fancy name for evil.

But we get the first inkling of a change in Greyhawk. After adding in alignment restrictions for various classes, such as Paladins and Druid, there is the following note ....

Chaotic Alignment by a player generally betokens chaotic action on the player’s part without any rule to stress this aspect, i.e. a chaotic player is usually more prone to stab even his lawless buddy in the back for some desired gain. However, chaos is just that — chaotic. Evil monsters are as likely to turn on their supposed confederates in order to have all the loot as they are to attack a lawful party in the first place. While there is no rule to apply to groups of chaotic players operating in concert, referees are urged to formulate some rules against continuing cooperation as fits their particular situation, but consideration for concerted actions against chaotic players by lawful ones should be given.
(Greyhawk pp. 6-7).

This is, as far as I can tell, the first time we truly see this confusion. Chaotic no longer just a stand-in for "evil," but is now serving double duty as a by-word for "chaotic" or "changeable" or even "irrational." Uh oh. Up until Greyhawk, alignment mattered. It told you what "side" you were on. It had effects on hiring henchmen, and encounters, and magic items you could use, and RPing (helms that could change your alignment, and so on), but it was also fairly vague.

But Greyhawk begins the change. You have the start of both "alignment confusion" (does chaotic mean evil, or chaotic, or both) as well as becoming a more serious matter for the character:

Charisma scores of 17 or greater by fighters indicate the possibility of paladin status IF THEY ARE LAWFUL from the commencement of play for that character. If such fighters elect to they can then become paladins, always doing lawful deeds, for any chaotic act will immediately revoke the status of paladin, and it can never be regained.
(Greyhawk p. 8).

Woah! This isn't just about picking sides, and maybe magic items, and general roleplaying; now it has serious consequences. And yet ... there still isn't a great definition of what it means, because (if anything) the system just had become even more muddled.

All this said, the concept that there were, basically, two "sides" (good and evil, law and chaos) and you would either choose a side, or remain "neutral" persisted. In Blackmoor, you can see this made explicit - if you attack or kill a sage, you become Chaotic (evil). On the other hand, because assassins assumedly could kill for either side, the OD&D rules have them as a required .... neutral alignment. HA!



C. Views of Mt. Fuji; an interlude as to why there is Chaotic and Lawful alignments

This is going to be a little contentious and should be considered (informed) opinion only. If you believe Gygax, alignment, like all of D&D, sprung forth fully-formed from his head, the Athena from the brow of Zeus, a concept he took from books he had read and incorporated into D&D. This, however, does not seem to square with the alternate view that there were two side (Lawful and Chaotic, with "neutrals" not taking sides) that appeared to exist in Arneson's Blackmoor, pre-dating Gygax. In addition, the term neutral (as in, remaining "neutral" like Switzerland) seems to play much more into the Arneson's concept than it does the muscular and aggressive "keeping the balance" version of neutrality that we later see in Gygax.

One way to square this wheel is to think of it in terms of both evolution, and as a product of its time. Gygax has credited Moorcock and Anderson with some of the concepts behind alignment, but it is somewhat difficult to overstate how prevalent the themes of law and chaos were in science fiction and fantasy at that time. Not just Moorcock and Anderson, but also Zelazny's great Amber series focused on the conflict between law and chaos. To an extent that is incredibly difficult to conceptualize today, the genre fiction of the 50s - 70s was filled with battles between the forces of Law (good, light, order) and Chaos (evil, corruption, darkness). This stark and Manichean view popped up over and over again, whether explicitly named as such (Moorcock, Zelazny, Anderson) or implicit in the work.

Given the general gestalt of the time, it is unsurprising that we would see games reflexively incorporate references to Law and Chaos as opposing forces; that Arneson would use this, and that Gygax would expand upon this, is almost unremarkable. But (and this is the big but) the genesis of "law" and "chaos" is not rooted necessarily in the mundanities of human personalities, but rather in cosmic conflicts. And that translation (is it good v. evil, or orderly v. random) continued to be a problem, until ....


D. Gygax .... no, Holmes, no, really, Gygax. The Brief Bridge to 1e.

Before Dragon Magazine, there was a little TSR publication call The Strategic Review (get it ... wait for it, you'll get it). Anyway, what was obvious to anyone reading OD&D was obvious to the people writing it .... alignment was confusing. Do Evil critters (Chaotic critters) attack each other randomly? Does evil mean irrational? What if you're super orderly but also super evil? Ugh! Words, man, do they have meanings?

So in February 1976, Gary Gygax sought to overexplain these concepts in the way that only he could, in an article called The Meaning of Law and Chaos in Dungeons & Dragons and their Relationship to Good and Evil. Now, the best thing about the article is beginning, where Gygax overexplains how confusing it all is, and blames the early material, yet somehow absolves himself (the person who wrote that material) from any complicity in the problem! Most importantly, he introduces the nine-point system we are all now familiar with, with Law/Chaos opposed, and Good/Evil opposed, and states that these are continuums.

This is also the introduction of the concept that player characters (and the alignments we see on the prime material) are merely pale reflections of the Platonic ideal alignments.

Alignment does not preclude actions which typify a different alignment, but such actions will necessarily affect the position of the character performing them, and the class or the alignment of the character in question can change due to such actions, unless counter-deeds are performed to balance things. The player-character who continually follows any alignment (save neutrality) to the absolute letter of its definition must eventually move off the chart (Illustration I) and into another plane of existence as indicated.
(TSR Feb. 1976 p. 5) (italics added).

The whole, three-page article is a fascinating insight into how alignment was meant to be used. Notably, for purposes of the interminable debates that we have here, is the following passage:
As a final note, most of humanity falls into the lawful category, and most of lawful humanity lies near the line between good and evil. With proper leadership the majority will be prone towards lawful/good. Few humans are chaotic, and very few are chaotic and evil.
(TSR Feb. 1976 p. 5).

Anyway, this nine-point system was officially introduced in Basic..... wait, what? Holmes Basic, not, um, Basic Basic D&D (you did read the linked-to article, right?). Holmes, codifying OD&D and paving the way for AD&D, used the expanded alignment system.

Notably, however, it was more of a five-point system. Here, let's read it together:
Characters may be lawful (good or evil), neutral or chaotic (good or evil). ...
Lawful good, lawful evil, chaotic good, chaotic evil, and neutrality also have common languages spoken by each respectively.
(Holmes pp 8-9).

Wait, what? Okay, so in that earlier article in The Strategic Review, Gygax calls out that you are either going to tend to evil, or good (unless you're "true neutral") and that almost no one who is, for example, chaotic would not also have a predisposition toward either good or evil (with the possible exception of Crom!). So ... in expanding OD&D, Holmes also simplified the alignment system that Gygax originally proposed.


E. AD&D Puts the Smack Down on Alignment

In 1978, the skies parted, and the light shined down, and upon us was delivered the Player's Handbook. And we viewed the contents, and we said, "Grease is the word." Eh, right year, wrong thing.

The PHB explicitly referenced that alignment was how you roleplayed your character, and that it was you philosophical and moral ethics. (PHB 7). It referred to alignment (as we know it) as one of the FOUR main attributes to define a character (abilities, race, class, alignment). (PHB 8). It had restrictions on everything from class to poison use based on alignment. It had "alignment languages." It codified the nine alignments that we know of today. Here's a sample of two descriptions to give you the feel:

Lawful Neutral: Those of this alignment view regulation as all-important, taking a middle road betwixt evil and good. This is because the ultimate harmony of the world - and the whole of the universe - is considered by lawful neutral creatures to have its sole hope rest upon law and order. Evil or good are immaterial beside the determined purpose of bringing all to predictability and regulation.

Neutral Good: Unlike those directly opposite them (neutral evil) in alignment, creatures of neutral good believe that there must be some regulation in combination with freedoms if the best is to be brought to the world - the most beneficial conditions for living things in general and intelligent creatures in particular.

Notably, there are additional (and different!) descriptions of the the alignments in the DMG published later. Importantly, while people at the time often fixated on the "fall" of the proverbial Lawful Stupid Paladin, any character who changed alignment lost a level. (DMG 25). BOOM! That's right. Between this and the training bonuses/penalties for roleplaying your alignment (DMG 86), alignment had massive mechanical functions throughout the game, in addition to the uses and restrictions for spells and magic items.

In effect, Gygax did what Gygax often did; created rules and a superstructure around another part of the game; alignment (and the associated mechanics, from penalties and training to restrictions and magic items) was a codification around roleplaying; in much the same way that "combat" had rules associated with it to provide it structure, alignment was a mechanism that was used to provide some roleplaying structure.

Interestingly, alignment (and more specifically, the nine-point system) was also the basis of the D&D cosmology. The early, Strategic Review article with the concept of Platonic ideals is echoed in the PHB, which has the oft-forgotten Appendix III (Character Alignment Graph) followed immediately by Appendix IV- the Known Planes of Existence.

For more on that-


F. Moldvay did what?

So after OD&D with the three-point system evolved in "Basic OD&D" with the five-point system evolved into AD&D with the nine-point system we know and love, we can keep on chugging (with a brief 4e detour), right?

Not exactly. See, there's this whole 'nother branch of D&D that persisted for a little while. The B/X or BECMI or R/C line, or, as we often just call it, BASIC (as in, "YER BASIC, MOLDVAY!"). Anyway, Moldvay went back ... to the future ... and re-introduced the three-point system of Law / Chaos / Neutrality.

I don't want to go to deep down that rabbit hole, other than noting that Moldvay's page on alignment (B11) is excellent, with a great and memorable illustration.

alignment.jpg


And that he provides great advice, as usual, at the end:
Note that playing an alignment does not mean a character must do stupid things. A character should always act as intelligently as the Intelligence score shows, unless there is a reason to act otherwise (such as a magical curse).
(Moldvay B11).

But the point of this is just a reminder that while the nine-point system is the longest-lived system in D&D (from either 1976 or 1978 until the present), the three-point system has also been around for a very long time, and also tends to pop up in retroclones.


G. All we do crumbles to the ground though we refuse to see

What do I take out of all of this? What does it all mean, Basil? What does the history of alignment have to do with current issues regarding alignment, let alone the price of oolong at Whole Foods? I tend to be a big fan of the idea that you can't know where you are going unless you know where you've been. There are many parts of D&D that are quintessentially D&D, but also might not exist but for the fact that they are D&D.

Everyone has their own issues; for example, the six abilities (SIWDCCCh, or SDCIWC) are the way they are, because they are that way. Same with the majority of core races. Heck, the entire "class" system is a legacy. And hit points. And so on. D&D is what it is; and quite a bit of D&D, including vast swathes of what many people consider "D&D cosmology" are tied into the nine-point alignment system.

Like many things within the game, the origin of the system, and the accretion of details, means that parts of it will always remain an artifact of its time; a legacy. The idea of great battles between the forces of "law" and "chaos" does not seem as intuitive today as it did in the 70s and 80s, as the fluency with writers like Anderson, Moorcock, and Zelazny has decreased. For that matter, a comment that would seem as unobjectionable at the time as Gygax's in 1976 that humans tend toward law will probably generate a great deal of heat (if little light) today.

I would postulate that these origins are what give alignment a continuing strength today. Not just for the memes (although there are some awesome ones), but for the ways in which it provides a clean line from the past to the future. Perhaps alignment has outlived its usefulness completely, and maybe the cosmology of D&D was never meant to last forever; I, for one, will be pouring out a cold one the night that alignment slips away, never to be argued over again.

Anyway, opening this up to the constructive conversation I am sure will ensue!


EDITING NOTES:

1. Section A edited to to reflect comment of @Hriston re: Chainmail.
 
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Aldarc

Legend
I'm sure it would be a constructive conversation, if I was not about ready to toss in a grenade: So the 4e alignment system - that associates law with good and chaos with evil - is not as radical departure from the D&D alignment of old or the fantasy that inspired it as one would be led to believe?

3vkUVo.gif


Reminder: once you toss a grenade, never look back.
 

Hriston

Dungeon Master of Middle-earth
Correction: Chainmail, 3rd Edition, p 39, under General Line-Up, there are three columns of fantastic figures headed Law, Neutral, and Chaos. Of course, this doesn't mean it wasn't derived from Blackmoor.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
The three point system and law v chaos structure of the world is a much better system since it allows the Civilisation v Wilds set up and also means that the Lawful side while tending to be good could have members who did evil stuff and that the chaotic side while tending to be undisciplined and destructive could sometimes be good. In otherwords it facilitates more roleplaying vs the overly legalistic definitions that AD&D introduced.

The Law v Chaos set up kinda reminds me of Masters of the Universe and She-Ra and the Princesses of Power type morality
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
The three point system and law v chaos structure of the world is a much better system since it allows the Civilisation v Wilds set up and also means that the Lawful side while tending to be good could have members who did evil stuff and that the chaotic side while tending to be undisciplined and destructive could sometimes be good. In otherwords it facilitates more roleplaying vs the overly legalistic definitions that AD&D introduced.
But from there you can easily see where a desire for a secondary axis might arise, yes? Civilization (Law) vs. The Wilds (Chaos) is a clean, appealing narrative, and leaves room for evil people within civilization and good people within the wilds. But in leaving that space, it creates a desire to explore said space. What about a campaign where Lawful heroes must overthrow a Lawful tyrant?

I think what we see in the old lawful/chaotic/neutral system is an artifact of D&D’s wargaming roots. A way to sort out which units are allowed to be in which armies. This explanation also sheds light on the rigidity of alignments. Goblins are always Chaotic, not as a statement about the essential moral character of goblins as a people, but because goblin units aren’t allowed in the same armies as the Lawful humans, elves, and hobbits.

Furthermore, I think this way of looking at alignment helps explain why alignment feels so vestigial to many players today. It’s been a long time since D&D was a game of armies vs. armies. These days it’s a game of individual heroes and the adventures they face. There’s no longer a need to classify which “team” a given character is on, as they’re all ultimately on the team of their fellow adventures in their party. And in that context, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to say that a goblin can’t fight for that team because goblins are on the Chaotic team. In that context, the idea of immutable teams feels super weird, and does seem to imply unsavory things about the moral character of peoples who are universally of any one alignment.
 
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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Correction: Chainmail, 3rd Edition, p 39, under General Line-Up, there are three columns of fantastic figures headed Law, Neutral, and Chaos. Of course, this doesn't mean it wasn't derived from Blackmoor.

This is what happens when I don't doublecheck everything! I saw this last night, and had to wait to verify and edit, since Third Edition post-dates what I was looking for, and I needed to make sure that the Guidon-games published version of Chainmail has the same table (spoiler- it does).

I am editing the relevant portion of the post now. Thank you.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I remember that illustration, but had no idea it had to do with alignment! It seems completely obvious now:p

I always loved that illustration for so many reasons.

First, as always, law looks dopey, and chaotic looks cool. I mean, wearing black, cool cloak, better hair. You want to be Gramps McKillparty lecturing people about morality, or you want to live a little? What's a little blood among friends? It's practically a recruiting poster for chaotics.

Not that I'm condoning the murder of hostages, but to make an XP omelet, sometimes you have to break a few humanoid eggs. Or something.

But the best thing about the picture is the neutral guy in the background. Oh, that expression.

"Whatever. Kill him. Don't kill him. Just do something. I should be on my boat, already. Ugh. Are you done yet?"
 
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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
But from there you can easily see where a desire for a secondary axis might arise, yes? Civilization (Law) vs. The Wilds (Chaos) is a clean, appealing narrative, and leaves room for evil people within civilization and good people within the wilds. But in leaving that space, it creates a desire to explore said space. What about a campaign where Lawful heroes must overthrow a Lawful tyrant?

I think what we see in the old lawful/chaotic/neutral system is an artifact of D&D’s wargaming roots. A way to sort out which units are allowed to be in which armies. This explanation also sheds light on the rigidity of alignments. Goblins are always Chaotic, not as a statement about the essential mortal character of goblins as a people, but because goblin units aren’t allowed in the same armies as the Lawful humans, elves, and hobbits.

Furthermore, I think this way of looking at alignment helps explain why alignment feels so vestigial to many players today. It’s been a long time since D&D was a game of armies vs. armies. These days it’s a game of individual heroes and the adventures they face. There’s no longer a need to classify which “team” a given character is on, as they’re all ultimately on the team of their fellow adventures in their party. And in that context, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to say that a goblin can’t fight for that team because goblins are on the Chaotic team. In that context, the idea of immutable teams feels super weird, and does seem to imply unsavory things about the moral character of peoples who are universally of any one alignment.

My thoughts as well. In Star Wars, the Empire is quite lawful but also evil. One of the strengths of D&D is being able to tell different stories.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
One more data point on how Gygax viewed the constellation of alignments within the nine-point system:

Other decisions pertaining to the nature of characters must be made as part of this section of rules. How will the game account for people and creatures of differing moral and ethical outlooks? Are beings either good or evil, or are there other divisions and categories between those extremes that deserve distinction? The AD&D game uses a spectrum of nine different alignments, ranging from lawful good (the goodest of the good guys) to chaotic evil (the baddest of the bad).

Role-playing Mastery p. 145.

Again, even within the nine-point system he preferred, there is the overlap of law/good and evil/chaos, such that lawful good is the goodest of the good, and chaotic evil is just bad to the bone.
 


Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
The BECMI rules also had "Alignment languages." Nobody used them and I still hate them to this day. But they were there.

Alignment languages were always ... a tough sell. If you squint and looked at them just right, you could kind of, sort of, see them as a bridge between the platonic alignment ideals and the real world.

But then that crashed on the shoals of, "Wait, so everyone with a similar outlook on life has learned a secret language that they can use to speak to each other? This makes sense .... how exactly?"
 

Laurefindel

Legend
hum, pushed "off the chart" into another plane of existence by consistently repeating the same alignment. That explains the Great Wheel cosmology indeed.
 

MarkB

Legend
The three point system and law v chaos structure of the world is a much better system since it allows the Civilisation v Wilds set up and also means that the Lawful side while tending to be good could have members who did evil stuff and that the chaotic side while tending to be undisciplined and destructive could sometimes be good. In otherwords it facilitates more roleplaying vs the overly legalistic definitions that AD&D introduced.

The Law v Chaos set up kinda reminds me of Masters of the Universe and She-Ra and the Princesses of Power type morality
It's also very reminiscent of the set-up of World of Warcraft, with the more 'civlised' forces of The Alliance versus the 'wilder' forces of The Horde, with other factions either caught in between or serving both sides - notably, in terms of playable races, the Goblins and Pandaren.

In this setting, there are very much both good and evil factions and individuals on both sides, and neither side can be considered to have the moral high ground overall.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
hum, pushed "off the chart" into another plane of existence by consistently repeating the same alignment. That explains the Great Wheel cosmology indeed.

That was always one of the most interesting things to me; not to mention an early version of what was later published in Deities & Demigods re: ascending to divinity, but instead of acting at the behest of a particular deity, you were acting out an ideal moral/ethical position.

There was some weird stuff in the early years that tends to get glossed over in all the, "But all people did was go into dungeons and hobomurder" revisionism. ;)
 

Marandahir

Crown-Forester
It's also very reminiscent of the set-up of World of Warcraft, with the more 'civlised' forces of The Alliance versus the 'wilder' forces of The Horde, with other factions either caught in between or serving both sides - notably, in terms of playable races, the Goblins and Pandaren.

In this setting, there are very much both good and evil factions and individuals on both sides, and neither side can be considered to have the moral high ground overall.

Which is an artefact of 1994's Warcraft: Orcs vs Humans, where the chaotic evil Orc Horde (incl. Undead, Ogres, and Goblins) fought the lawful good Human Alliance (inc. Elves, Dwarves, & Gnomes). Very much a Law/Chaos divide that was made more grey and nebulous in sequel entries as we learned that the Humans could be jerkasses and the Orcs not so bad. And then in Warcraft III they go all out and add the Tauren to the Horde and the create the alternate factions the Night Elf Sentinels and Undead Scourge (later merged into the Alliance and Horde respectively when they went MMO), creating all sorts of different alliances and rivalries and alignments going on (WC III expansion Frozen Throne also added additional factions for each campaign - a Night Elf Warden's campaign to recapture a Night Elf Sorcerer/Demon Hunter/Actual Demon that sets her at odds with the Druids and Sentinels, the campaigns of the Blood Elves to survive the ruin of the High Elf homeland by the Undead Scourge, and their the risen undead elven cousins rising up against the Scourge as the Forsaken faction (nominally the Undead faction that joins the Horde in WoW). Shows how Warcraft's alignments and factions have run parallel to D&D as they've evolved in the last 3 editions.

One more data point on how Gygax viewed the constellation of alignments within the nine-point system:

Other decisions pertaining to the nature of characters must be made as part of this section of rules. How will the game account for people and creatures of differing moral and ethical outlooks? Are beings either good or evil, or are there other divisions and categories between those extremes that deserve distinction? The AD&D game uses a spectrum of nine different alignments, ranging from lawful good (the goodest of the good guys) to chaotic evil (the baddest of the bad).

Role-playing Mastery p. 145.

Again, even within the nine-point system he preferred, there is the overlap of law/good and evil/chaos, such that lawful good is the goodest of the good, and chaotic evil is just bad to the bone.

Which is very, very, very similar to the 4e single-line version of alignment, where True Neutral, Chaotic Neutral and Lawful Neutral are essentially indistinguishable, and Chaotic Evil is more evil than Evil and Lawful Good is more good than Good.

Honestly, along with nuking alignment restrictions, I thought it was the best way of reconciling the alignment system of yesteryear with modern sensibilities. Gygaxian "preserving the balance" can just as easily be understood as Lawful Neutral as it can as True Neutral. What's more lawful than maintaining a strict rule about keeping things balanced? It also created a neat dichotomy where Evil entities like Devils are necessary evil allies of the Good Gods and Angels in a greater war against the demons of the Abyss.
 

Having Law vs Chaos as a separate axis from Good vs Evil, allowed for more modern ideas to enter the game. With the idea that Law can now be Evil and Chaos can now be Good, one could now add the concept of Tyranny vs Freedom. Sure there's a bunch of issues and flaws with the 9 alignments, but I feel the having an extra axis for alignment allowed for more nuance in D&D's idea of morality.

Also I clearly like the the idea of how various memes showed how important 9 alignments were to the identity of D&D, and were likely one of many things that killed the edition which removed the 9 alignments with a more simplistic one.
 

Yeah, those were mystifying to us back in the day as well. I think that they work just fine with the simple three-axis alignment system. If I recall correctly, Moorcock references runes of Chaos and Law plenty of times, so that's not without precedent. But on the AD&D level of granularity, it just is baffling.

The BECMI rules also had "Alignment languages." Nobody used them and I still hate them to this day. But they were there.
 

Among the Planescape fandom many theorized that "Alignment languages" were essentially the languages of the Alignment paragon races like the Slaad, Archons, Rilmani, Demons (Tanar'ri) and so on.
 

Marandahir

Crown-Forester
Also I clearly like the the idea of how various memes showed how important 9 alignments were to the identity of D&D, and were likely one of many things that killed the edition which removed the 9 alignments with a more simplistic one.

Not surprised if the memes played a role in keeping meme-meisters away from 4e, though it should be mentioned that those memes were almost always invariably followed by someone posting a meme of "Batman is EVERY Alignment."
 

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