And that in essence is what most sword and sorcery heroes are adventuring for, because there's something they prefer and they want it.
Sure. Which is to say, by 9-point alignment standards they're either evil (per Gygax, "purpose is the determinant"; per d20SRD, they "have no compassion for others and kill without qualms if doing so is convenient") or perhaps neutral, if they don't kill willy-nilly, but are prepared sacrifice the well-being of others to the pursuit of their own goals.
What S&S characters don't
do is try to transform the cosmos such that their self-aggrandizement is acknowledge by others as morally desirable! The general tone of S&S is cynical, even nihilistic - it's not about moral wish-fulfillment, about convincing the cosmos that you were acting morally all along!
Wait so LN and CN didn't exist in AD&D? If they did then how could chaos and law only be defined in terms of means towards good or evil?
Of course they exist. But they are (obviously) not good! LN characters make the moral error of favouring a means - organisation - over valuable ends - human wellbeing. But they are not actively malevolent as devils are. Mutatis mutandis for chaotic neutral.
lawful neutral, chaotic neutral, and neutral characters can take part in a good-aligned adventure (which is the default sort) with relatively little trouble
That's because their moral flaws are modest rather than serious (were they serious, the characters would be evil!).
They're likely to disagree over all sorts of things. Is is better to work within a corrupt system to change it for the better or to rebel against it?
That look's to me like a disagreement about the efficacy of means, though, not a disagreement about vaue. Or, if the CG person thinks that the LG person who works with the system is participating in corruption, then the CG person is judging the LG person to not actually be good! Which in the real world makes perfect sense - anarchists and revoutionaries make those sorts of judgements about Fabians and "sell-outs" all the time - but seems to be precluded within the 9-point alignment system, which tells us that the LG person is good, not evil.
Because they don't all agree on what it means to be "evil" or "good." They don't share a belief. ("An ordered society is essential for true evil!" / "No! One must be free to choose evil for oneself!")
But the "good" people don't share a belief either: you, [MENTION=71756]Nivenus[/MENTION], and some others have just been arguing as much for mutiple pages.
The point is, there are more fiends - who think that there is nothing wrong with a life devoted to carnage and the destruction of others - than nice people - who think that lookin out for others is part of a worthwhile life - yet that majority opinion hasn't
acquired the label of "good". I don't really understand why not.
Evil only has this definition because that is what people think it is. Change the way people think, and slaughter your way to sainthood!
My whole point is that the fiends, who are a majority, already think this. So why has the definition of "good" and "evil" not changed already?
Why do I have to get non-fiends to agree with me? Do the beliefs of the fiends somehow not count?
Depends upon what paladins and monks think of themselves, and what the general mass of the multiverse thinks about them, I suppose.
My point was that a paladin, as an archetype, has no place in a gameworld in which what counts as good is a function of mortal belief. Such a world has no place for notions of providence - no place for the notion that true good might be rekindled no matter how dark the situation - yet the idea of providence is utterly crucial to the paladin archeypte. (In LotR, for instance, which is proably the best-known fantasy story to express the relevant notion of providence, the numbers of orcs, Southrons etc who think that Sauron is on the right side is irrelevant to the moral value of Sauron's endeavours.)
The Greeks believed that if you treated a guest poorly, the gods would punish you. That it was a horrible act. If that world functioned by the "belief makes reality" mantra and had alignments, this would mean that this was literally true, and is literally true only because people believed it to be the case.
The Greeks - well one of them, Plato - also presented the well-known argument in the Euthyphro, that the value is prior to belief, because otherwise belief and conviction would be arbitrary. If nothing has value but for being the object of belief and desire, then there is no reason to belief and desire one thing over another.
This is [MENTION=22779]Hussar[/MENTION]'s point (at least as I read it). As I've said upthread, there are philosophical responses available to the argument of the Euthyphro, of which Nietzsche's is only one. But those responses have implications that are hard to deal with in a fantasy RPG context. And I'm certainly not seeing anyone on this thread actually deal with the Euthyphro issue - that is, I'm not seeing anyone expain why, within the "belief makes value" framework, choosing one thing rather than another, aligning with one faction rather than another, is not completely arbitrary.
Alignment is designed as a tool for morally unambiguous cosmological conflict, and PS takes that framework and twists it so that it is morally ambiguous and about your personal philosophy. Believing alignments are objective is a hallmark of the Clueless, just another thing that "standard fantasy characters" don't realize the "truth" of (the truth that PS uses as part of its own unique take on what D&D is).
My take-away from this is that Planescape is for someone who wants to run some sort of non-cartoon-morality campaign, but for whatever reason won't just jettison the system of mechanical alignment.
In PS with alignments, you can see that moral Goodness is (currently) exemplified by these planes, and thus draw some parallels with your behavior, knowing that if you adhere to their (arbitrary) codes in life, you'll get paradise forever in death
Alignment seems to be adding nothing to this. There is a place where people follow an (arbitrary) code, and if you comply with that code you will go there when you die. What does it add to say that, for now, that place is labelled "good"? What does this have to do with the word "good" as used in ordinary English, or even the word "good" as defined in AD&D and 3E materials (ie by reference to human rights/weal/dignity)?
I'm not seeing that the Planescape take on alignment is actually adding anything to the game. For instance, it's not introducing any "moral ambiguity" that can't already be achieved just by letting players make the choices for their PCs without the GM (or adventure author) telling them which choice is good and which evil.
I suppose we're quibbling over semantics on this point, but the idea of a moral grey area to me is a place where the morality is not clear-cut, where good and evil are not able to be told apart at a glance. That certainly includes a world where good and evil are capable of changing their definitions. If the only choice is between two clearly good things (honor or justice?), it's just a matter of martyrdom -- enduring suffering for a good result.
I don't understand your comment about martyrdom.
In the Quiet American, Fowler must choose between loyalty to his friend (Pyle), and stopping the carnage his friend will infict. There is also the mixed motive of jealousy in relation to Phuong. There is no ambiguity here that loyalty and stopping carnage are both good things, and jealousy a failing. But the right choice is not clear cut. And the notion of martyrdom has no work to do at all.
Likewise in the example of play that I posted, where the choice was between honour (keeping a promise made in one's name) and justice (ensuring that a villain receives the punishment she deserves). Both honour and justice are good things, but the right choice between them is not clear cut. And the notion of martyrdom has no work to do at all - in the exampe of play that I linked to, who do you think is being martyred?
What does the Elemental Chaos represent if not chaos?
I mean, without alignment, those planes can't rightly be called good planes any more, can they?
Really? Do you actually need alignment labels to decide that a paradise of peace and happiness is good (small g, not the alignment descriptor) and a plane of unending torment and pain is evil?
I'm with Hussar here!
The Elemental Chaos being a place of chaos has nothing to do with the D&D alignment system. The word "chaos" is bearing its ordinary English meaning. The Elemental Chaos is a place of roiling matter and energy, the raw material of creation. The notion combines tropes drawn from the D&D Elemental Planes and Limbo as described by Jeff Grubb, with tropes drawn from various mythological/religious sources.
It's not as if the words law, chaos, good and evil had no use in every day life, morals, theology etc before D&D appropriated them for its particular purposes!
I suppose you could just eject alignment entirely, but, then, once you do that, the Great Wheel stops making a lot of sense.
Right. The Great Wheel is a geographic expression of the alignment graph. It makes no sense without it! (For instance, without alignment there is no reason to favour the Great Wheel over the Astral Sea as a model of the heavens.)