Monday, February 6, 2012

Aligning expectations

I saw the image below (check out the original post on GAS), and I was struck by a bug to do a series of posts on alignment. Specifically, digging into what behaviors I expect out of each of the classic nine D&D alignments. I have to say that of all the breakdown examples of alignment I've seen, this one is really good.

 This isn't my first foray into this topic. I wrote quite a bit here. So, if you want an overview of what alignment is and how it should be used, head over there.

I want to specifically drill down into each of these nine alignments. I want to add some quotes, some inspirational examples, and some specific behaviors I would expect.

To set the stage, I want to talk a bit about the two axes. Good vs. Evil is fairly intuitive to most of us. It's mostly a matter of whether you put the needs of yourself (or your group) over the needs of others. Some might argue that Evil revels in causing pain and destruction. Generally, that's not "evil" so much as it is psychopathic. But, it generally falls under the umbrella of evil because wanton cruelty is fun, and these people consider their own desire for fun to be more relevant than the injury or devastation they cause.

The Law vs. Chaos axis is a bit trickier for many people. This is not helped by the fact that the people writing a lot of the AD&D 2e material clearly had no clue what it meant. It is not about rigidity vs. randomness. Even Deadpool and The Joker aren't truly random in their behavior.

This axis is instead defined by two sub-axes, if you will. First, do you put the needs of the many above the needs of the few? Superman fights for the good of the human race, Rorschach fights for the good (and freedom) of individual people. This is extended to whether you operate better as part of an organization (as Lex Luthor does with his corporations) or alone (as The Joker does).

The second sub-axis is whether you believe rules are important. This can be the law of the land, the rules of good business, or the strictures of etiquette and "good form". Note that this does not mean that a lawful person always obeys the rules. Luthor frequently twists the law to his own ends. However, they believe that the rules are a necessary part of civilized, rational, decent behavior. (They also think that civilized, rational, decent behavior is a good thing.) Chaotic individuals, on the other hand, tend to believe that rules are stifling. They praise creativity, nonconformity, directness, and, above all, freedom.

When you cross these axes, you get a veritable rainbow of possibilities. The fact that few people fall on the extreme ends of both axes creates the neutral alignments.

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