We Are All Neutral Survivalists: Alignment in a Complex World

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amerigoV

Guest
My own take on alignment:

Good characters help others, at personal cost or risk.
Evil characters hurt others, for their own personal gain or pleasure.
Neutral characters (on the Good/Evil axis) do neither.

Lawful characters seek to uphold the social order.
Chaotic characters seek to subvert or overthrow the social order.
Neutral characters (on the Lawful/Chaotic axis) do neither.

That's it. I like definitions which can be summed up in one sentence; my experience is that the longer your definition is, the less useful it's apt to be in play and the more arguments it engenders.

I wholeheartedly agree with these definitions. Lawful and Chaotic are leftovers from Basic and only server to confuse. If you replace with Societal and Individual, it solves a lot of problems. It finally puts the paladin where he belongs - a crusader for Good ("Buttkicking for Goodness!!!")


Also, tell my players that anything but Nuetral is an extreme. Neutral encompass 80% of all people. Playing LG/CE/etc means your life is driven by actions of that alignment. It likes getting an A in class - you have to get As on EVERYTHING, not just As most of the time*

* Well, back in my day, that is the way it was. I not sure about schools these days :p
 

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Vegepygmy

First Post
My own take on alignment:

Good characters help others, at personal cost or risk.
Evil characters hurt others, for their own personal gain or pleasure.
Neutral characters (on the Good/Evil axis) do neither.

Lawful characters seek to uphold the social order.
Chaotic characters seek to subvert or overthrow the social order.
Neutral characters (on the Lawful/Chaotic axis) do neither.
I must quibble with you:

Good characters like to help everyone else.
Neutral characters (on the Good/Evil axis) like to help people they care about, such as friends and family.
Evil characters like to hurt others.

Lawful characters are "conservatives."
Chaotic characters are "progressives."
Neutral characters (on the Lawful/Chaotic axis) are "centrists."
 

Dausuul

Legend
Lawful characters are "conservatives."
Chaotic characters are "progressives."
Neutral characters (on the Lawful/Chaotic axis) are "centrists."

That's not a bad set of definitions, but I suggest "traditionalist" and "rebel/revolutionary" instead. "Conservative" and "progressive" are too closely tied to modern political movements, whose definitions are ever-shifting and bound up with a lot of specific policies.
 

tuxgeo

Adventurer
I must quibble with you:

< snip >

Lawful characters are "conservatives."
Chaotic characters are "progressives."
Neutral characters (on the Lawful/Chaotic axis) are "centrists."
And I, likewise, must quibble with you. (I'm going to try to make this as plain as I can, leaving out the "conservative" and "progressive" words on the ground of their being too much a part of real-world politics, which is verboten in this forum.)

Lawful characters are characterized by a reliance on Law: communicated dictates from a ruling authority that constrain the actions of those ruled by the ruling authority.
Chaotic characters are characterized by a reliance on Chaos: individual freedom to act as they see fit without having their actions constrained by the dictates of a ruling authority. (This may involve codes of behavior, so long as these are the individuals' own, personal codes of behavior.)
Neutral characters (on the Law/Chaos axis) rely on both Law and Chaos in different degrees in different respects.

Lawful characters tend to see laws and their enforcement as being solutions to problems.
Chaotic characters tend to see laws and their enforcement as being causes of problems.
 
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Azgulor

Adventurer
Kudos for the effort & time put into your analysis.

Unfortunately, I don't agree with your catergorization of the alignments nor some of the alignments assigned to sample characters.

Yeah, I know, disagreement in an alignment thread. Who'd a thunk it?
 

Azgulor

Adventurer
The benefit of this formulation is that good and evil are entirely internal. The classification is based purely on what the character believes will be the result of his actions. [/QUOTE said:
The problem with this formulation is that in the gaming universe where alignment is in play, they are NOT entirely internal. As one example, outsiders personfiy in tangible form good, evil, law, & chaos. External influence can be imposed on others due to the fact that everything is not morally relative.

Also, morality is not defined by the result of the action. More often than not, moral or immoral decisions are made with full knowledge that the actions will have direct consequences that may not align with what the person would like to have happen. History & popular culture is replete with people that appeared to be moral and ethical and were later revealed to have performed actions and based decisions solely on the basis that it would be selfishly beneficial to them. The actions may have been moral, the motives were not.
 

Azgulor

Adventurer
I must quibble with you:

Good characters like to help everyone else.
Neutral characters (on the Good/Evil axis) like to help people they care about, such as friends and family.
Evil characters like to hurt others.

Lawful characters are "conservatives."
Chaotic characters are "progressives."
Neutral characters (on the Lawful/Chaotic axis) are "centrists."

I respectfully disagree.

Evil characters could be selfish and indifferent to whether or not they harm others through their actions. All evil characters do not have to be sadists.

As for the Lawful, Neutral, & Chaotic classifications - I consider your assessment overly simplistic in the extreme.

If a character seeks to convert a nation to evil by working within the system, they're lawful. If they're trying to restore the evil order because they value the traditions & laws of the past they might be conservative. If they view a cultural shift to evil is necessary for the betterment/strength of the nation, I'd be willing to bet they'd argue that they are trying to advance progress (i.e. they view themselves as progressive).

Assigning conservative, centrist, and progressive labels to the alignment axis makes about as much sense as assigning political philosophies to the alignment axis. I'm as unwilling to say all Communists are evil as I would be wrong to say all Capitalists are good. Arguing the reverse would also be incorrect.

Alignment is simultaneously simple in identification and complex in nuance. It's about Good, Evil, Law, Chaos, & Neutrality as it applies to morality.
 

Leontodon

First Post
I'd ammend that slightly.

Good characters help others, regardless of personal cost or gain.
Evil characters hurt others, regardless of personal cost or gain.
Neutral characters see no difference between helping or hurting others, and make their choices based on other considerations.

The problem I have with your formulationi is it seems to be equivalent to:

Good characters are selfless.
Evil characters are selfish.
Nuetral characters are neither selfless nor selfish.

I reject that formulation. I believe that there can be selfless evil (a kamikazi pilot, a suicide bomber, a SS fanatic, a Southern soldier fighting to defend slavery...) as well as self-centered good. That is not to say that everyone sacrificing themselves in an evil cause is evil, but that its at least concievable that some or many of them are.

I have to strongly disagree here even though it goes a bit off-topic.

A kamikaze pilot may be selfless but how is he evil? Kamikaze pilots mostly did what they did having the pictures of firebombed Tôkyô or other Japanese cities in mind. They did what they did to protect their loved ones and family using the only means the Japanese thought were still available to them in the face of the total material superiority of the US. IMO firebombing Tôkyô is much more of an evil deed than killing yourself in a desperate attempt to sink a warship.

A suicide bomber is not selfless in that he does what he does for religious gain. Most of the more high profile terrorists come from a well-off background and never had to suffer the grievances that they allegedly address by their terrorist acts. The instant reward is paradise.

A SS-fanatic is also not selfless. Either (in the last days of the war) he is an indoctrinated child (see German Nobel Prize winner Günther Grass as an example) and therefore legally hardly responsible for his deeds (which mostly amounted to a quick and gruesome death by a soviet tank-rush) or in the case of the genocidal maniacs that formed the middle and higher tiers, they profited heavily from what they did both materially and in social prestige (as military officers). Many of the initial fanatical members had the background of a long-term jobless person.

A Southern Soldier again may or may not be selfless yet it is hard to define him as evil. The overwhelming majority thought (as in every war) to protect their families and livelihoods. Few of the average soldiers fought for the Southern States slavery, since most of them probably did not even have slaves. Slavery is an upper class phenomenom.

Most of these cases involve the mechanics of nationalism. If you want to know why people are willing to die for a country in a "selfless" fashion I recommend the classic "Imagined Communities" by Benedict Anderson which is stille the ground-breaking work in nationalism studies.

The point I am trying to make is that
a) selflessness can be seen as an indicator for being good.
b) Real-world examples are of little use when arguing about heroic fantasy roleplay-games
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
That's not a bad set of definitions, but I suggest "traditionalist" and "rebel/revolutionary" instead. "Conservative" and "progressive" are too closely tied to modern political movements, whose definitions are ever-shifting and bound up with a lot of specific policies.

I agree that "progressive" and "conservative" are a bit loaded. But "rebel/revlutionary" doesn't fit, either.

There's plenty of historical precedents for rebels and revolutionaries who are trying to replace one rule of law with another (often even more stringent) rule of law. And a chaotic person who lives in a place where there is already a great deal of personal freedom probably isn't a rebel - he may well support the current regime that protects his freedoms.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
I may need to moderate my position somewhat: the term "survivalist" may be too concrete. What I intended was probably closer to the (tautological) concept of utility maximization.

Even if you do - your basic thesis seems to be "everyone is the same". I don't believe that is accurate.

It may be that *most* people are some specific type. That's okay - the basic tenet of more recent rules are that most people in the world are neutral. Not "True Neutral", just neutral, meaning that they aren't strongly enough motivated by ideals to register.

But, if the basic these is that all people really, deep down, believe and are motivated by the same thing... I'm just not with you on that one.
 

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