Worlds of Design: Chaotic Neutral is the Worst

In my articles from the early 1980s I often characterized the typical D&Der as a hoodlum (hood). You may know them by many other names: ruffian, bully boy, bully, bandit, mugger, gangster, terrorist, gunman, murderer, killer, hitman, assassin, hooligan, vandal, and more. Has anything changed?


According to D&D Beyond, as reported by Morrus, the most popular alignment after Chaotic Good is Chaotic Neutral. I doubt the preponderance has changed much since the 80s; it might even be more common today in an Age of Instant Gratification thanks to the Internet. Even 40 years ago, most players wanted their characters to act like more or less Chaotic Neutral hoods, doing whatever they wanted but not responsible for what they did, able to act like hoodlums but not suffer the consequences of being of actual evil alignment. And they wanted to be called “Good” at the same time.

Fundamentally, this is a desire to avoid all constraints. Which is fairly natural for people, in general, though rarely attainable. But a game is an agreed set of constraints on behavior within the “magic circle” of the game. And some games have constraints that ought to affect the chaotic neutral character's behavior.

The typical hood wants to be able to do whatever he wants to, to other people. Occasionally killing one, or something just as evil, that’s OK as long as it isn’t excessive. In another context, I saw someone ask why so many people disliked a certain person as a liar, because after all he told the truth more often than he lied! That would be ideal standard for a hoodlum, but most people don’t see it that way. Key to this behavior is a desire to avoid responsibility, very common in the real world too - people wanting to do things without facing the consequences (taking responsibility).

The question is, how does “the game” see it? Taking D&D as the obvious example, we have alignment as a guide to behavior. The alignment system in D&D was designed (I think) to provide constraints on character behavior, so that games wouldn’t devolve into a bunch of murderers having their way with the game-world. Certain alignments have advantages in civilized society, some don’t. In uncivilized society, other alignments might be preferred. Chaotic Neutral (the alignment hoodlums gravitate to) should be a disadvantage in civilized contexts because it doesn’t include/condone permission to kill people whenever you feel like it (as long as you don’t do it often!). Yet that’s how players want to treat it. That’s Evil, and if you behave “evilly” you’re going to be in an Evil category, which makes you fair game for a lot of adventurers.

I’m not saying killing is necessarily evil, e.g. in wartime it’s expected that you kill the enemy if they won’t surrender. It’s the “senseless killing,” killing for sheer personal gain or enjoyment, that sets apart the hood (who wants to be called Chaotic Neutral, or better, Chaotic Good), and of course the “officially” Evil characters as well.

D&D GMs who feel that constraints make the game better, will enforce alignment and make clear to Chaotic Neutral types that they can easily slide into Evil alignment. Those who aren’t interested in constraints, will let the C/N types do just about everything they want to do without consequences. In other rule sets, who knows . . .

Of course, Your Mileage May Vary. If everyone wants to be a hood rather than a hero, and the GM is OK with that, so be it. It’s when you run into players who think (as I do) that these characters are the worst -- certainly, not someone you would want in your party! -- that we encounter problems.
 
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Lewis Pulsipher

Comments

pemerton

Legend
I think tic-tac-toe alignment is rather pointless.
I think debating the "true" meaning of alignments is a bit pointless.

The only clear accounts I know of are Gygax's, in his PHB and DMG.

These make it clear that good encompasses all orientations towards valuable things: truth and beauty as well as life and wellbeing. Gygax is completely casual about the debates that characterise contemporary moral philosophy: human rights, belief in duty, promotion of wellbeing, Benthamite utilitarianism - all are classified by Gygax as good. So D&D alignment has nothing to contribute to questions about trolley problems, or global justice, or whether a beneficent king should give more money to the peasantry.

Conversely, for evil purpose is the determinant - ie there is no recognition that value imposes any sort of constraint on personal choice. This is a straightforward characterisation of evil which doesn't seem to generate much need for debate. Jabba the Hutt seems to be evil in this sense. Whereas Han Solo clearly is not - he has a sense of honour and justice, and these constrain his actions, even though he is more casual with the truth, and with other's lives, than a saint would be.

True neutral as Gygax characterises it roughly overlaps with some forms of Hellenistic philosophy (eg Stoicism - someone quoted Cicero upthread) and similar ideas found in Taoism, some forms of Zen Buddhism, etc.

But the meaning of law and chaos are not made clear at all. Law is about order - but external or internal? Chaos is about self-realisation - but what are we to make of those, like classic D&D monks, who think that self-realisation is only possible through self-discipline and self-restraint? Are political thinkers - whether the founders of the US, or Locke before them, or Hayek since them - who emphasise the importance of the rule of law for individual liberty to be classified as lawful or chaotic? Gygax says nothing that would answer those questions, and as far as I know each table has to work this out for itself.

In this context, working out what LN or CN really means seems impossible, and the aspiration pointless. The best we might say is that the LN are rules fetishists - but whether that means petty bureaucrats, or Chow Yun Fat's character in Crouching TIger, or either/both, seems up to the table to decide. And how exactly CN - which, says Gygax, is all about the necessity of absolute freedom and the overcoming of the order of life by dying - is to be distinguished from CE is not clear either. It's not coincidental that it often seems to be CE-lite or the "trickster" alignment.

But I did once make a suggestion as to how the classic tic-tac-toe alignment set-up might be used to frame an interesting campaign (though even then I don't think I managed to show that NG and NE might be useful - they really are just variants on CG and CE, right down to the way that Gygax describes them - perhaps the paradigm of grid-filling).
 

Ratskinner

Adventurer
But the meaning of law and chaos are not made clear at all. Law is about order - but external or internal? Chaos is about self-realisation - but what are we to make of those, like classic D&D monks, who think that self-realisation is only possible through self-discipline and self-restraint? Are political thinkers - whether the founders of the US, or Locke before them, or Hayek since them - who emphasise the importance of the rule of law for individual liberty to be classified as lawful or chaotic? Gygax says nothing that would answer those questions, and as far as I know each table has to work this out for itself.

In this context, working out what LN or CN really means seems impossible, and the aspiration pointless. The best we might say is that the LN are rules fetishists - but whether that means petty bureaucrats, or Chow Yun Fat's character in Crouching TIger, or either/both, seems up to the table to decide. And how exactly CN - which, says Gygax, is all about the necessity of absolute freedom and the overcoming of the order of life by dying - is to be distinguished from CE is not clear either. It's not coincidental that it often seems to be CE-lite or the "trickster" alignment.

But I did once make a suggestion as to how the classic tic-tac-toe alignment set-up might be used to frame an interesting campaign (though even then I don't think I managed to show that NG and NE might be useful - they really are just variants on CG and CE, right down to the way that Gygax describes them - perhaps the paradigm of grid-filling).
I think neutral, has a fundamental problem. That is, "uncaring about such concerns" vs. "want to see balance in those concerns". So, on the law-chaos axis, you could have a character A, who just kinda floats through life recognizing there is authority/law, but not really giving it too much thought*; opposed to B who believes that there needs to be law/authority, but that it should be limited or conducted in a restrained manner. They will react differently on different occasions.

I find it perhaps even more confusing on the good-evil axis as Gygax would have it, especially in the light of potentially inherently Evil races/monsters. Even plenty of IRL religions (or religious people) effectively have "Life is precious...except when" rules. I mean, sure life is precious and killing is wrong, but that's an orc/witch/apostate/murderer. You can also see someone who thinks "Violence, ugliness, and falsehood are important because we can only recognize peace, beauty, and truth in contrast." Can you feel that strongly enough to want to create evil in order to balance a place that is too good? What if there is a good place and a bad place, do those balance out? Does the monster hunter need to worry about becoming the monster himself, or are a few monsters healthy overall? Is a desire for weal, beauty, and truth subject to practical concerns? Murder, ugliness, and lying could easily be seen as practical solutions to problems that a generally unconcerned person might prefer to use on occasion (insert CEOs and corporate behavior references here) even if that person generally feels they are evil and not the default way to run a society.

I just keep coming back to the conclusion that 9 point alignment really isn't a good descriptor or proscriptor for behavior and morality.

*perhaps just dismissing it all as "politics"
 

David Howery

Adventurer
CN always struck me as a 'personal freedom is my thing' type of alignment. Not 'do random crazy stuff for the hell of it' or 'betray my fellow PCs just because'. You don't feel any need to either help or harm the needy. You might break laws that infringe on your freedom, but not any and or all of them 'just because' (getting thrown in jail is your worst nightmare). You're not going to kill innocent people at random; that's evil. The problems arise when players assume that CN = insane.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I think neutral, has a fundamental problem. That is, "uncaring about such concerns" vs. "want to see balance in those concerns". So, on the law-chaos axis, you could have a character A, who just kinda floats through life recognizing there is authority/law, but not really giving it too much thought*; opposed to B who believes that there needs to be law/authority, but that it should be limited or conducted in a restrained manner. They will react differently on different occasions.

I find it perhaps even more confusing on the good-evil axis as Gygax would have it, especially in the light of potentially inherently Evil races/monsters. Even plenty of IRL religions (or religious people) effectively have "Life is precious...except when" rules. I mean, sure life is precious and killing is wrong, but that's an orc/witch/apostate/murderer. You can also see someone who thinks "Violence, ugliness, and falsehood are important because we can only recognize peace, beauty, and truth in contrast." Can you feel that strongly enough to want to create evil in order to balance a place that is too good? What if there is a good place and a bad place, do those balance out? Does the monster hunter need to worry about becoming the monster himself, or are a few monsters healthy overall? Is a desire for weal, beauty, and truth subject to practical concerns? Murder, ugliness, and lying could easily be seen as practical solutions to problems that a generally unconcerned person might prefer to use on occasion (insert CEOs and corporate behavior references here) even if that person generally feels they are evil and not the default way to run a society.

I just keep coming back to the conclusion that 9 point alignment really isn't a good descriptor or proscriptor for behavior and morality.

*perhaps just dismissing it all as "politics"
First, it's a game. Yes, the alignment system is simplified much like HP or AC. It's not meant to be a simulation of reality.

However, I don't view orcs (or other monstrous races) as humans with a bad skin condition. They aren't evil because of nurture, it's fundamental to their nature.

Take cats for instance. Your little fur buddy is a murder machine. They have fun hunting and killing anything smaller than they are that can't effectively fight back. Some of that's the hunting instinct they need to survive, but most house cats don't need to kill to eat, given the opportunity they'll do it simply because they enjoy it.

I'm not saying cats are evil because they are animals and it's not fair to assign morality to an animal. Let's say for a moment that there was a cat with human intelligence that still went around killing things because killing things is fun. Make them a bit bigger and they particularly get joy out of killing other sentient creatures, the more defenseless the better.

I would consider that sentient cat evil. It is part of their nature to enjoy the suffering and pain of others. They may not go around "playing" with innocents if they think they can't get away with it, but if no one is watching? Have at it.

I can see campaigns where there is morality is based on point of view but that is not the base assumption of D&D. In D&D some creatures are just wired differently.
 

Ratskinner

Adventurer
First, it's a game. Yes, the alignment system is simplified much like HP or AC. It's not meant to be a simulation of reality.
That works for old-school dungeoneering, but not so much for folks like me, who are more interested in the heroic adventure story aspect. I'm not so much worried about a simulation of reality, but more a nod to fiction. In heroic fiction, an examination of morals is often a big deal and a significant component of why people read or watch it. Just watch a few youtubers dissecting things like "The Sith were right", a few episodes of Obsessive Pop Culture Disorder, or similar.

However, I don't view orcs (or other monstrous races) as humans with a bad skin condition. They aren't evil because of nurture, it's fundamental to their nature.
<snip>

I can see campaigns where there is morality is based on point of view but that is not the base assumption of D&D. In D&D some creatures are just wired differently.
I think that's a fine option for a campaign, but in a world where we have Drizz't (D'rizzt? whatever) and a plethora of half-orc characters, I don't think it has as much cachet anymore. I haven't seen that as a base assumption of D&D for decades. Essentially that attitude only works if you want to just divvy the world up into teams (which, AFAICT is the primary function it serves in old-school play). It still doesn't answer the moral questions (which I have seen come up in play plenty of times, even with old-schoolers) about whether or not the good-guy killing baby orcs is okay or not.
 
I think neutral, has a fundamental problem. That is, "uncaring about such concerns" vs. "want to see balance in those concerns".
Nod. I remember noting that back in the day with regard to True Neutrals like Druids being actively concerned with maintaining the balance, vs animal-intelligence neutrals acting on instinct, or neutral, say, thieves, acting on unexamined self interest.

4e's Unaligned, would have stood well as an alternative to the classic balance-oriented True Neutral. But it never did.

I think debating the "true" meaning of alignments is a bit pointless.
The only clear accounts I know of are Gygax's, in his PHB and DMG.
You're not wrong.
But the meaning of law and chaos are not made clear at all. In this context, working out what LN or CN really means seems impossible, and the aspiration pointless. The best we might say is that the LN are rules fetishists.
This thread has me thinking about different approaches to alignment, again.

Alignment As Personality: Seems to me like the bulk of the discussion in this thread has been this approach. If you're Chaotic or Evil, you have a personality disorder, if you're good, you're saintly, if you're lawful you're OCD, would be a flippant way of putting it.

Alignment As Palpable Supernatural Force: D&D with it's alignment-sorted outer planes, alignment restrictions, alignment detection and things doing damage to you based on our alignment, sure seems to lean in that direction. Perhaps, peaking in 3e, with the whole Team Alignment thing, where every alignment domain go a suite of similar screw-other-alignments spells. In choosing an alignment, you are literally /aligning/ yourself with a cosmological force and it's divine (and other) personifications, in a way about as ambiguous as a particle having a positive or negative charge. Let your moral or ethical wheel get out of alignment and ZAP!

Alignment As Philosophy: This one I'd like to go into, because, well, I feel like it's hasn't been belabored too much yet this time around. The old 'alignment language' concept and the fact you can choose or change alignments seems somewhat consistent with this approach, but I guess it's probably the least-solidly-D&D of the three (though, maybe there's a 4th & 5th to be enumerated?)
In this approach, I want to look at alignment as ideas people consciously subscribe to and try to live by. Furthermore, I'm going to go ahead and assume these ideas are primarily about /how you deal with others/ (other intelligent beings, mainly), not who you are or how you feel.

Good: Should be the easiest, and the thorniest, at the same time. When dealing with others you should try to aid, support, or at least respect their happiness and well-being. Of course, that's hard. You may dislike someone, they may have been cruel to you, there may be resentments, broader social forces, and pragmatic obstacles in your way, and you may have to go very much against your own impulses or even your own best interest. And, there are so many situations in which accomplishing good from one perspective might mean disregarding it for another. Good as a philosophical alignment would, I suspect, not go for that. Sometimes there'll be catch-22's where there's no clear Good choice of action, including inaction. Good doesn't say that the universe is Good, just that you should try to be. Again, it's hard.

Lawful: You base your dealings with others on your membership in a group or groups and your position within those groups relative to the memberships & positions of others. Depending on your group memberships, that may mean adhering to strict, codified, literal laws - or not, it might mean a very simple, general or intuitive set of expectations, like 'my Clan, right or wrong' or 'the only good orc is a dead orc." Obviously, that's hard. You must constantly put aside your personal feelings to do what's expected of you. You may hate someone for very good reasons, but, if they're later initiated into your Order, they become a brother, and you're obligated to side with them, work with them, and respect them. Period.

Chaotic: You deal with others solely as individuals. Each new individual you meet has a clean slate. It doesn't matter if you're an elf and he's an orc and orcs killed your family - obviously, it matters, but you still have to judge each orc as an individual. When they're actively trying to kill you, that's easy, of course, they're treating you as they wish you to treat them. The rest of the time, it's hard. You have to guard against preconceptions, against unthinking self-interest, against, really, the basic human (or humanoid, perhaps) need for belonging, because belonging to a group usually demands judging others from the perspective of that group membership.

Evil: This is the tough one. The polar opposite of Good, Evil cannot merely disregard what's best for others, it must prioritize the suffering of others over other, more practical or pragmatic considerations. What possible rationalization does this philosophy have? Is life a crucible and suffering is what forges us into our best selves? Does pain give life meaning, and it's our obligation to enable as much meaning as possible? (Might make a little more sense once combined with Law or Chaos...) One additional difficult point: the adherent of this philosophy puts the suffering of others /ahead/ of his own self-interest, it's not pragmatic, uncaring, amoral, indifferent or even depraved indifference, it's not even malice, it's a philosophical belief that suffering is of primary importance to the moral existence of all beings.

True Neutrality: Both individual merit and membership matter, both well-being and suffering matter. True Neutrals balance the needs of the individual with those of society. Law and justice must be tempered with respect for individual rights, free individuals must not disrupt the smooth functioning of society. True Neutrals may want what's best for most people, both as a society or affinity group and as individuals, but believe that the best results require harsh measures, that the good in life cannot be appreciated without overcoming challenges and suffering.
The life of a True Neutral is made up entirely of tough choices, with no right answers.

Unaligned: Not subscribing to the extremes of moral/ethical alignments. Possessing motivations that are more complex. Perhaps following a more nuanced or more specific philosophy, more like a RL belief system. The unaligned character may not examine or question its own motivations - but they're still there, and the player will have to figure them out and keep them consistent. Unaligned characters should be more like slice-of-life, 'real person' characters rather than two-dimensional adherents of some absolute philosophy.

Lawful Good: You believe in doing what's best for others, and deal with and judge others by their membership & status within groups. Those ideals can easily come into conflict. If your country goes to war, you must kill the enemy, but as they are still fellow human beings, you must also be merciful to them. Good luck with that.

Chaotic Good: You want what's best for the individual you're dealing with, right now, regardless of the history you may have with others like them. Even an enemy. You might have to defeat or even kill him (swiftly & mercifully), but if he surrenders, if he shows credible signs of potentially becoming a better person - well then, killing him isn't what's best, is it? Good luck with that.

Lawful Evil: Here's were you can make some sense of the evil philosophy. You belong to a group, you have a place in it. That place dictates that you endure cruelty from those above you in order to rise, and inflict cruelty on those beneath you. Similarly, you are required to be even more vicious to all outsiders. Thus your group is made strong, and it's enemies (it has no friends) cowed or destroyed. You should not feel, and can never express, positive feelings for others. Your life will suck, and if you ever show weakness, it'll suck harder. Enjoy.

Chaotic Evil: It's easy to picture a just horrible person who simply wants to be cruel to everyone. But this is supposed to be a /philosophy/. How 'bout this: Life is a competition, and not a friendly one. The strong prosper, the weak perish? Nope, too pragmatic. OK, maybe add that suffering is the only valid test of strength? Quickly killing an enemy is weak - to prove yourself, you must make him suffer, even knowing that in drawing it out like that, you're giving him chances to turn the tables on you. For that matter, 'enemy' isn't really an issue, everyone deserves a heaping helping of anguish, yourself included, people you care about, especially. So take risks to make others suffer and show how strong you are by enduring suffering when you're bested. (And, no, masochism would be cheating.)


Finally: One thing I tried to keep a common thread, above, is that following an alignment means putting constraints on your behavior, actively doing things you may not want to, facing moral/ethical dilemmas, and putting following your alignment ahead of your best interests, including your personal safety. So the "just gonna do what I wanna do" alignment would be no alignment at all.


Edit: second pass at TN & Unaligned.
 
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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
That works for old-school dungeoneering, but not so much for folks like me, who are more interested in the heroic adventure story aspect. I'm not so much worried about a simulation of reality, but more a nod to fiction. In heroic fiction, an examination of morals is often a big deal and a significant component of why people read or watch it. Just watch a few youtubers dissecting things like "The Sith were right", a few episodes of Obsessive Pop Culture Disorder, or similar.



I think that's a fine option for a campaign, but in a world where we have Drizz't (D'rizzt? whatever) and a plethora of half-orc characters, I don't think it has as much cachet anymore. I haven't seen that as a base assumption of D&D for decades. Essentially that attitude only works if you want to just divvy the world up into teams (which, AFAICT is the primary function it serves in old-school play). It still doesn't answer the moral questions (which I have seen come up in play plenty of times, even with old-schoolers) about whether or not the good-guy killing baby orcs is okay or not.
Well, half-orcs are half-human as well. I'm also just relating the rules as I understand them. There are exceptions to all rules (including this one) but some monsters are just born evil is a core assumption.

As far as killing baby orcs, yeah I generally avoid that for the simple reason that there is no good answer. Is it wrong to kill baby killer bees? I mean after all, they're innocent larvae, right? Then again if you don't kill them you're leaving them to starve to death. Try to adopt them out and (depending on the world of course) they're still evil orcs and will sooner or later act on those instincts.

Kind of like the story of the scorpion and the frog. A scorpion asks a frog to carry it across a river. The frog hesitates, afraid of being stung by the scorpion, but the scorpion argues that if it did that, they would both drown. The frog considers this argument sensible and agrees to transport the scorpion. The scorpion climbs onto the frog's back and the frog begins to swim, but midway across the river, the scorpion stings the frog, dooming them both. The dying frog asks the scorpion why it stung, to which the scorpion replies "I couldn't help it. It's in my nature."

It would be like having a test that guaranteed that a baby would 100% guaranteed be a sociopathic serial killer when they grow up. But is it really 100% or just 99.9%? If it's 99.9%, what about that .1% that may have been a functional sociopath? After all they make the best CEOs. But where do you draw the line? Are demons just misunderstood? Are there spectres that just want to give you a hug?

But even the FR novels struggle with this. In one of Salvatore's more recent books* where the companions are all brought back there's a scene where Cattie-Brie tells Drizzt (no apostrophe, that's in the last name only) that orcs are just plain evil because her god told her so. Apparently in FR, drow break the mold or something. Since elves are more "malleable" than other races I guess that makes sense.

I think this is a campaign preference. I don't allow monstrous races in my campaigns because, to be honest, I don't want to deal with philosophy 101 in my game. It's not what I play the game for.

*I've only read some of them, I enjoyed the original trilogy and pick up a book here and there.
 
…to look at the character, how the character acts and what the character has done, and THEN apply an alignment than the other way around. Makes for far less arguments.
I agree. Personality is what a character does; not what a player writes.

If a character is doing evil things with no remorse, they are evil. The player might have written "CN" on the piece of paper but that doesn't matter.

If a player writes "Trait: Generous" but then always plays their characters as greedy and mercenary, then I'm going to ask them to change their character sheet.

I'm not sure, however, that it causes less arguments...

I mean, this is alignment. It's been causing arguments for 40 years. :)
 

pemerton

Legend
I think neutral, has a fundamental problem.

<snip>

I just keep coming back to the conclusion that 9 point alignment really isn't a good descriptor or proscriptor for behavior and morality.
I've snipped not because the details of your post are uninteresting, but because I can make the point I want to simply by reference to your bookends.

There are two ways of theorising (if we can call it that) 9-point alignment. One is by taking Law, Chaos, Good and Evil as fundamental principles and then trying to integrate them. The other is by looking at the detailed descriptions of particular alignments (of which I think the clearest versions are in Gygax's AD&D books).

The first "top down" approach in my view is incoherent, because those concepts are poorly defined and are not really part of any meaningful developed moral philosophy. The second "bottom up" approach expains what TN means - as Gyagx says it is a "naturalistic" philosophy that believes that human action is a threat to the balance of thiings. This is easily enough identifiable as a broadly Stoic or Taoist or Zen Buddhist outlook.

LN is rules/order fetishism. CN is a sort-of nihilist outlook, which (as per my previous post) I think comes out as a trickster-rather-than-cruel "CE lite". NG and NE don't make much sense, because the contrast with CG and CE is not very sharp.

And having read on some posts to see the discussion of "evil" races, I'll pick up on this bit that I snipped!

plenty of IRL religions (or religious people) effectively have "Life is precious...except when" rules. I mean, sure life is precious and killing is wrong, but that's an orc/witch/apostate/murderer. You can also see someone who thinks "Violence, ugliness, and falsehood are important because we can only recognize peace, beauty, and truth in contrast." Can you feel that strongly enough to want to create evil in order to balance a place that is too good? What if there is a good place and a bad place, do those balance out? Does the monster hunter need to worry about becoming the monster himself, or are a few monsters healthy overall? Is a desire for weal, beauty, and truth subject to practical concerns? Murder, ugliness, and lying could easily be seen as practical solutions to problems that a generally unconcerned person might prefer to use on occasion (insert CEOs and corporate behavior references here) even if that person generally feels they are evil and not the default way to run a society.
D&D alignment has no way to engage with these questions. As I posted upthread, and as I elaborated in the old thread of mine that I linked to, D&D alignment (i) takes it for granted that the good is known, and (ii) presents that good in a way that is indifferent to all the actual debates in contemporary moral philosophy. How much killing in self defence is too much? How much expedience by an individual in the pursuit of desirable social goals is too much? Those are interesting questions, and I've made a career out of addressing some of them (as an academic philosopher and lawyer) but Gygax and D&D have nothing to say about them.

In my "narativist 9-point alignment thread" I argued that if you want alignment to do interesting work the questions have to be about means, not ends - is law (ie some form of order/social organisation) or chaos (a focus on individual self-realisation) the true path to wellbeing, truth and beauty? And given that we're taling about D&D, such a campaign would have to tackle those questions through the medium of either S&S or heroic fantasy. It would have nothing to say about the inner moral lives of orcs, Set cultists or 21st century CEOs.
 

Coroc

Explorer
...............
Chaotic Evil: It's easy to picture a just horrible person who simply wants to be cruel to everyone. But this is supposed to be a /philosophy/. How 'bout this: Life is a competition, and not a friendly one. The strong prosper, the weak perish? Nope, too pragmatic. OK, maybe add that suffering is the only valid test of strength? Quickly killing an enemy is weak - to prove yourself, you must make him suffer, even knowing that in drawing it out like that, you're giving him chances to turn the tables on you. For that matter, 'enemy' isn't really an issue, everyone deserves a heaping helping of anguish, yourself included, people you care about, especially. So take risks to make others suffer and show how strong you are by enduring suffering when you're bested. (And, no, masochism would be cheating.)
.................
.
Well except that is neutral evil imho, sociopathic evil but not craziness but well planning, which is selfishness using everything available be it law(exploited) or (calculated)chaos(unnecessary cruelty)


Chaotic evil is simply psychopathic evil. It has no real goals but to be evil in the most disgusting way and makes e.g. the unnecessary cruelty not a measure to achieve something but a goal to be achieved.
 

Savage Wombat

Adventurer
I suddenly remember, from a long time ago, coming up with a CE religious tenet.

The idea was that anything you could take, or anyone you could defeat, added to your power in the afterlife. And anything you destroyed couldn't be taken away from you by someone else. So you burn, pillage, and murder your way through life because, in the eternal afterlife, you'd be all the stronger for it.

This was based on a view of the Planes that boiled down to "the afterlife works by the rules that you believed the living world worked or should work." The Abyss is an infinite pile of the strong crushing the weak.
 

Jay Verkuilen

Dogsbody Waghalter
The idea was that anything you could take, or anyone you could defeat, added to your power in the afterlife. And anything you destroyed couldn't be taken away from you by someone else. So you burn, pillage, and murder your way through life because, in the eternal afterlife, you'd be all the stronger for it.
Those are really good ideas, and a nice differentiation from Lawful Evil, which focuses on conquest, hierarchy, and submission, whereas CE focuses on destruction.
 

Jay Verkuilen

Dogsbody Waghalter
Well, half-orcs are half-human as well. I'm also just relating the rules as I understand them. There are exceptions to all rules (including this one) but some monsters are just born evil is a core assumption. <...>

But even the FR novels struggle with this. In one of Salvatore's more recent books* where the companions are all brought back there's a scene where Cattie-Brie tells Drizzt (no apostrophe, that's in the last name only) that orcs are just plain evil because her god told her so. Apparently in FR, drow break the mold or something. Since elves are more "malleable" than other races I guess that makes sense.

I think this is a campaign preference. I don't allow monstrous races in my campaigns because, to be honest, I don't want to deal with philosophy 101 in my game. It's not what I play the game for.
In my home campaign, I thought this through a good bit.

I decided that goblins (including hobgoblins and bugbears) were not inherently evil, but that that was primarily a cultural thing. I had, however, decided they were a fae race, which meant they did have certain inherent tendencies, in their case towards war, because in that world that's how fae worked. (Elves tended towards nobility, gnomes towards crafting, dwarves towards mining and stone, etc.) Orcs, by contrast, were some unknown race from outside the world that had been strongly tainted by Far Realm energies and, as such, were inherently evil. Half orcs were frequently oppressed and viewed as being tainted, but were not inherently evil the way orcs were, due to their human blood. Of course, many were evil due to all the crap that came their way or the societies they lived in.
 

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