AD&D 2nd Edition
After all other steps toward creating a character have been completed, the player must choose an alignment for the character. In some cases (especially the paladin), the choice of alignment may be limited.
The character’s alignment is a guide to his basic moral and ethical attitudes toward others, society, good, evil, and the forces of the universe in general. use the chosen alignment as a guide to provide a clearer idea of how the character will handle moral dilemmas. Always consider alignment as a tool, not a straitjacket that restricts the character. Although alignment defines general attitudes, it certainly doesn’t prevent a character from changing his beliefs, acting irrationally, or behaving out of character.
Alignment is divided into two sets of attitudes: order and chaos, and good and evil. By combining the different variations within the two sets, nine distinct alignments are created. These nine alignments serve well to define the attitudes of most of the people in the world.
Law, Neutrality, and Chaos
Attitudes toward order and chaos are divided into three opposing beliefs. Picture these beliefs as the points of a triangle, all pulling away from each other. The three beliefs are law, chaos, and neutrality. One of these represents each character’s ethos — his understanding of society and relationships.
Characters who believe in law maintain that order, organization, and society are important, indeed vital, forces of the universe. The relationships between people and governments exist naturally. Lawful philosophers maintain that this order is not created by man but is a natural law of the universe. Although man does not create orderly structures, it is his obligation to function within them, lest the fabric of everything crumble. For less philosophical types, lawfulness manifests itself in the belief that laws should be made and followed, if only to have understandable rules for society. People should not pursue personal vendettas, for example, but should present their claims to the proper authorities. Strength comes through unity of action, as can be seen in guilds, empires, and powerful churches.
Those espousing neutrality tend to take a more balanced view of things. They hold that for every force in the universe, there is an opposite force somewhere. Where there is lawfulness, there is also chaos; where there is neutrality, there is also partisanship. The same is true of good and evil, life and death. What is important is that all these forces remain in balance with each other. If one factor becomes ascendant over its opposite, the universe become unbalanced. If enough of these polarities go out of balance, the fabric of reality could pull itself apart. For example, if death became ascendant over life, the universe would become a barren wasteland.
Philosophers of neutrality not only presuppose the existence of opposites, but they also theorize that the universe would vanish should one opposite completely destroy the other (since nothing can exist without its opposite). Fortunately for these philosophers (and all sentient life), the universe seems to be efficient at regulating itself. Only when a powerful, unbalancing force appears (which almost never happens) need the defenders of neutrality becomes seriously concerned.
The believers in chaos hold that there is no preordained order or careful balance of forces in the universe. Instead they see the universe as a collection of things and events, some related to each other and others completely independent. They tend to hold that individual actions account for the differences in things and that events in one area do not alter the fabric of the universe halfway across the galaxy. Chaotic philosophers believe in the power of the individual over his own destiny and are fond of anarchistic nations. Being more pragmatic, non-philosophers recognize the function of society in protecting their individual rights. Chaotics can be hard to govern as a group, since they place their own needs and desires above those of society.
Good, Neutrality, and Evil
Like law and order, the second set of attitudes is also divided into three parts. These parts describe, more or less, a character’s moral outlook; they are his internal guideposts to what is right or wrong.
Good characters are just that. They try to be honest, charitable, and forthright. People are not perfect, however, so few are good all the time. There are always occasional failings and weaknesses. A good person, however, worries about his errors and normally tries to correct any damage done.
Remember, however, that goodness has no absolute values. Although many things are commonly accepted as good (helping those in need, protecting the weak), different cultures impose their own interpretations on what is good and what is evil.
Those with a neutral moral stance often refrain from passing judgment on anything. They do not classify people, things, or events as good or evil; what is, is. In some cases, this is because the creature lacks the capacity to make a moral judgment (animals fall into this category). Few normal creatures do anything for good or evil reasons. They kill because they are hungry or threatened. They sleep where they find shelter. They do not worry about the moral consequences of their actions — their actions are instinctive.
Evil is the antithesis of good and appears in many ways, some overt and others quite subtle. Only a few people of evil nature actively seek to cause harm or destruction. Most simply do not recognize that what they do is destructive or disruptive. People and things that obstruct the evil character’s plans are mere hindrances that must be overcome. If someone is harmed in the process…well, that’s too bad. Remember that evil, like good, is interpreted differently in different societies.
Nine different alignments result from combining these two sets. Each alignment varies from all others, sometimes in broad, obvious ways, and sometimes in subtle ways. Each alignment is described in the following paragraphs.
Lawful Good: Characters of this alignment believe that an orderly, strong society with a well-organized government can work to make life better for the majority of the people. To ensure the quality of life, laws must be created and obeyed. When people respect the laws and try to help one another, society as a whole prospers. Therefore, lawful good characters strive for those things that will bring the greatest benefit to the most people and cause the least harm. An honest and hard-working serf, a kindly and wise king, or a stern but forthright minister or justice are all examples of lawful good people.
Lawful Neutral: Order and organization are of paramount importance to characters of this alignment. They believe in a strong, well-ordered government, whether that government is a tyranny or benevolent democracy. The benefits of organization and regimentation outweigh any moral questions raised by their actions. An inquisitor determined to ferret out traitors at any cost or a soldier who never questions his orders are good examples of lawful neutral behavior.
Lawful Evil: These characters believe in using society and its laws to benefit themselves. Structure and organization elevate those who deserve to rule as well as provide a clearly defined hierarchy between master and servant. To this end, lawful evil characters support laws and societies that protect their own concerns. If someone is hurt or suffers because of a law that benefits lawful evil characters, too bad. Lawful evil characters obey laws out of fear of punishment. Because they may be forced to honor an unfavorable contract or oath they have made, lawful evil characters are usually very careful about giving their word. Once given, they break their word only if they can find a way to do it legally, within the laws of the society. An iron-fisted tyrant and a devious, greedy merchant are examples of lawful evil beings.
Neutral Good: These characters believe that a balance of forces is important, but that the concerns of law and chaos do not moderate the need for good. Since the universe is vast and contains many creatures striving for different goals, a determined pursuit of good will not upset the balance; it may even maintain it. If fostering good means supporting organized society, then that is what must be done. If good can only come about through the overthrow of existing social order, so be it. Social structure itself has no innate value to them. A baron who violates the orders of his kind to destroy something he sees as evil is an example of a neutral good character.
True Neutral: True neutral characters believe in the ultimate balance of forces, and they refuse to see actions as either good or evil. Since the majority of people in the world make judgments, true neutral characters are extremely rare. True neutrals do their best to avoid siding with the forces of either good or evil, law or chaos. It is their duty to see that all of these forces remain in balanced contention.
True neutral characters sometimes find themselves forced into rather peculiar alliances. To a great extent, they are compelled to side with the underdog in any given situation, sometimes even changing sides as the previous loser becomes the winner. A true neutral druid might join the local barony to put down a tribe of evil gnolls, only to drop out or switch sides when the gnolls were brought to the brink of destruction. He would seek to prevent either side from becoming too powerful. Clearly there are very few true neutral characters in the world.
Neutral Evil: Neutral Evil characters are primarily concerned with themselves and their own advancement. They have no particular objection to working with others or, for that matter, going it on their own. Their only interest is in getting ahead. If there is a quick and easy way to gain a profit, whether it be legal, questionable, or obviously illegal, they take advantage of it. Although neutral evil characters do not have the every-man-for-himself attitude of chaotic characters, they have no qualms about betraying their friends and companions for personal gain. They typically base their allegiance on power and money, which makes them quite receptive to bribes. An unscrupulous mercenary, a common thief, and a double-crossing informer who betrays people to the authorities to protect and advance himself are typical examples of neutral evil characters.
Chaotic Good: Chaotic good characters are strong individualists marked by a streak of kindness and benevolence. They believe in all the virtues of goodness and right, but they have little use for laws and regulations. They have no use for people who “try to push folk around and tell them what to do.” Their actions are guided by their own moral compass which, although good, may not always be in perfect agreement with the rest of society. A brave frontiersman forever moving on as settlers follow in his wake is an example of a chaotic good character.
Chaotic Neutral: Chaotic neutral characters believe that there is no order to anything, including their own actions. With this as a guiding principle, they tend to follow whatever whim strikes them at the moment. Good and evil are irrelevant when making a decision. Chaotic neutral characters are extremely difficult to deal with. Such characters have been known to cheerfully and for no apparent purpose gamble away everything they have on the roll of a single die. They are almost totally unreliable. In fact, the only reliable thing about them is that they cannot be relied upon! This alignment is perhaps the most difficult to play. Lunatics and madmen tend toward chaotic neutral behavior.
Chaotic Evil: These characters are the bane of all that is good and organized. Chaotic evil characters are motivated by the desire for personal gain and pleasure. They see absolutely nothing wrong with taking whatever they want by whatever means possible. Laws and government are the tools of weaklings unable to fend for themselves. The strong have the right to take what they want, and the weak are there to be exploited. When chaotic evil characters band together, they are not motivated by a desire to cooperate, but rather to oppose powerful enemies. Such a group can be held together only by a strong leader capable of bullying his underlings into obedience. Since leadership is based on raw power, a leader is likely to be replaced at the first sign of weakness by anyone who can take his position away from him by any method. Bloodthirsty buccaneers and monsters of low Intelligence are find examples of chaotic evil personalities.
In addition to the alignments above, some things–particularly unintelligent monsters (killer plants, etc.) and animals–never bother with moral and ethical concerns. For these creatures, alignment is simply not applicable. A dog, even a well-trained one, is neither good nor evil, lawful nor chaotic. It is simply a dog. For these creatures, alignment is always detected as neutral.
Playing the Character’s Alignment
Aside from a few minimal restrictions required for some character classes, a player is free to choose whatever alignment he wants for his character. However, before rushing off and selecting an alignment, there are a few things to consider.
First, alignment is an aid to role-playing and should be used that way. Don’t choose an alignment that will be hard to role play or that won’t be fun. A player who chooses an unappealing alignment probably will wind up playing a different alignment anyway. In that case, he might as well have chosen the second alignment to begin with. A player who thinks that lawful good characters are boring goody-two-shoes who don’t get to have any fun should play a chaotic good character instead. On the other hand, a player who thinks that properly roleplaying a heroic, lawful good fighter would be an interesting challenge is encouraged to try it. No one should be afraid to stretch his imagination. Remember, selecting an alignment is a way of saying, “My character is going to act like a person who believes this.”
Second, the game revolves around cooperation among everyone in the group. The character who tries to go it alone or gets everyone angry at him is likely to have a short career. Always consider the alignments of other characters in the group. Certain combinations, particularly lawful good and any sort of evil, are explosive. Sooner or later the group will find itself spending more time arguing than adventuring. Some of this is unavoidable (and occasionally amusing), but too much is ultimately destructive. As the players argue, they get angry. As they get angry, their characters begin fighting among themselves. As the characters fight, the players continue to get more angry. Once anger and hostility take over a game, no one has fun. And what’s the point of playing a game if the players don’t have fun?
Third, some people choose to play evil alignments. Although there is no specific prohibition against this, there are several reasons why it is not a good idea. First, the AD&D game is a game of heroic fantasy. What is heroic about being a villain? If an evilly aligned group plays its alignment correctly, it is as much a battle for the characters to work together as it is to take on the outside world. Neutral evil individuals would be paranoid (with some justification) that the others would betray them for profit or self-aggrandizement. Chaotic evil characters would try to get someone else to take all the risks so that they could become (or remain) strong and take over. Although lawful evil characters might have some code of conduct that governed their party, each member would look for ways to twist the rules to his own favor. A group of players who play a harmonious party of evil characters simply are not playing their alignments correctly. By its nature, evil alignments call for disharmony and squabbling, which destroys the fun.
Imagine how groups of different alignments might seek to divide a treasure trove. Suppose the adventuring party contains one character of each alignment (a virtually impossible situation, but useful for illustration). Each is then allowed to present his argument:
The lawful good character says, “Before we went on this adventure, we agreed to split the treasure equally, and that’s what we’re going to do. First, we’ll deduct the costs of the adventure and pay for the resurrection of those who have fallen, since we’re sharing all this equally. If someone can’t be raised, then his share goes to his family.”
“Since we agreed to split equally, that’s fine,” replies the lawful evil character thoughtfully. “But there was nothing in this deal about paying for anyone else’s expenses. It’s not my fault if you spent a lot on equipment! Furthermore, this deal applies only to the surviving partners; I don’t remember anything about dead partners. I’m not setting aside any money to raise that klutz. He’s someone else’s problem.”
Flourishing a sheet of paper, the lawful neutral character breaks in. “It’s a good thing for you two that I’ve got things together, nice and organized. I had the foresight to write down the exact terms of our agreement, and we’re all going to follow them.”
The neutral good character balances the issues and decides, “I’m in favor of equal shares–that keeps everyone happy. I feel that expenses are each adventurer’s own business: If someone spent too much, then he should be more careful next time. But raising fallen comrades seems like a good idea, so I say we set aside money to do that.”
After listening to the above arguments, the true neutral character decides not to say anything yet. He’s not particularly concerned with any choice. If the issue can be solved without his becoming involved, great. But if it looks like one person is going to get everything, that’s when he’ll step in and cast his vote for a more balanced distribution.
The neutral evil character died during the adventure, so he doesn’t have anything to say. However, if he could make his opinion known, he would gladly argue that the group ought to pay for raising him and set aside a share for him. The neutral evil character would also hope that the group doesn’t discover the big gem he secretly pocketed during one of the encounters.
The chaotic good character objects to the whole business. “Look, it’s obvious that the original agreement is messed up. I say we scrap it and reward people for what they did. I saw some of you hiding in the background when the rest of us were doing all the real fighting. I don’t see why anyone should be rewarded for being a coward! As far as raising dead partners, I say that’s a matter of personal choice. I don’t mind chipping in for some of them, but I don’t think I want everyone back in the group.”
Outraged at the totally true but tactless accusation of cowardice, the chaotic evil character snaps back, “Look, I was doing an important job, guarding the rear! Can I help it if nothing tried to sneak up behind us? Now, it seems to me that all of you are pretty beat up–and I’m not. So, I don’t think there’s going to be too much objection if I take all the jewelry and that wand. And I’ll take anything interesting those two dead guys have. Now, you can either work with me and do what I say or get lost–permanently!”
The chaotic neutral character is also dead (after he tried to charge a gorgon), so he doesn’t contribute to the argument. However, if he were alive, he would join forces with whichever side appealed to him the most at the moment. If he couldn’t decide, he’d flip a coin.
Clearly, widely diverse alignments in a group can make even the simplest task impossible. It is almost certain that the group in the example would come to blows before they could reach a decision. But dividing cash is not the only instance in which this group would have problems. Consider the battle in which they gained the treasure in the first place.
Upon penetrating the heart of the ruined castle, the party met its foe, a powerful gorgon commanded by a mad warrior. There, chained behind the two, was a helpless peasant kidnapped from a nearby village.
The lawful good character unhesitatingly (but not foolishly) entered the battle; it was the right thing to do. He considered it his duty to protect the villagers. Besides, he could not abandon an innocent hostage to such fiends. He was willing to fight until he won or was dragged off by his friends. He had no intention of fighting to his own death, but he would not give up until he had tried his utmost to defeat the evil creatures.
The lawful evil character also entered the battle willingly. Although he cared nothing for the peasant, he could not allow the two fiends to mock him. Still, there was no reason for him to risk all for one peasant. If forced to retreat, he could return with a stronger force, capture the criminals, and execute them publicly. If the peasant died in the meantime, their punishment would be that much more horrible.
The lawful neutral character was willing to fight, because the villains threatened public order. However, he was not willing to risk his own life. He would have preferred to come back later with reinforcements. If the peasant could be saved, that is good, because he is part of the community. If not, it would be unfortunate but unavoidable.
The neutral good character did not fight the gorgon or the warrior, but he tried to rescue the peasant. Saving the peasant was worthwhile, but there was no need to risk injury and death along the way. Thus, while the enemy was distracted in combat, he tried to slip past and free the peasant.
The true neutral character weighed the situation carefully. Although it looked like the forces working for order would have the upper hand in the battle, he knew there had been a general trend toward chaos and destruction in the region that must be combatted. He tried to help, but if the group failed, he could work to restore the balance of law and chaos elsewhere in the kingdom.
The neutral evil character cared nothing about law, order, or the poor peasant. He figured that there had to be some treasure around somewhere. After all, the villain’s lair had once been a powerful temple. He could poke around for cash while the others did the real work. If the group got into real trouble and it looked like the villains would attack him, then he would fight. Unfortunately, a stray magical arrow killed him just after he found a large gem.
The chaotic good character joined the fight for several reasons. Several people in the group were his friends, and he wanted to fight at their sides. Furthermore, the poor, kidnapped peasant deserved to be rescued. Thus, the chaotic good character fought to aid his companions and save the peasant. He didn’t care if the villains were killed, captured, or just driven away. Their attacks against the village didn’t concern him.
The chaotic neutral character decided to charge, screaming bloodthirsty cries, straight for the gorgon. Who knows? He might have broken its nerve and thrown it off guard. He discovered that his plan was a bad one when the gorgon’s breath killed him.
The chaotic evil character saw no point in risking his hide for the villagers, the peasant, or the rest of the party. In fact, he thought of several good reasons not to. If the party was weakened, he might be able to take over. If the villains won, he could probably make a deal with them and join their side. If everyone was killed, he could take everything he wanted and leave. All these sounded a lot better than getting hurt for little or no gain. So he stayed near the back of the battle, watching. If anyone asked, he could say he was watching the rear, making sure no one came to aid the enemy.
The two preceding examples of alignment are extreme situations. It’s not very likely that a player will ever play in a group of alignments as varied as those given here. If such a group ever does form, players should seriously reconsider the alignments of the different members of the party. More often, the adventuring party will consist of characters with relatively compatible alignments. Even then, players who role-play their characters’ alignments will discover small issues of disagreement.
Alignment is a tool, not a straitjacket. It is possible for a player to change his character’s alignment after the character is created, either by action or choice. However, changing alignment is not without its penalties.
Most often the character’s alignment will change because his actions are more in line with a different alignment. This can happen if the player is not paying attention to the character and his actions. The character gradually assumes a different alignment. For example, a lawful good fighter ignores the village council’s plea for help because he wants to go fight evil elsewhere. This action is much closer to chaotic good, since the character is placing his desire over the need of the community. The fighter would find himself beginning to drift toward chaotic good alignment.
All people have minor failings, however, so the character does not instantly become chaotic good. Several occasions of lax behavior are required before the character’s alignment changes officially. During that time, extremely lawful good activities can swing the balance back, Although the player may have a good idea of where the character’s alignment lies, only the DM knows for sure.
Likewise, the character cannot wake up one morning and say, “I think I’ll become lawful good today.” (Well, he can say it, but it won’t have any effect.) A player can choose to change his character’s alignment, but this change is accomplished by deeds, not words. Tell the DM of the intention and then try to play according to the new choice.
Finally, there are many magical effects that can change a character’s alignment. Rare and cursed magical items can instantly alter a character’s alignment. Powerful artifacts may slowly erode a character’s determination and willpower, causing subtle shifts in behavior. Spells can compel a character to perform actions against his will. Although all of these have an effect, none are as permanent or damaging as those choices the character makes of his own free will.
Changing the way a character behaves and thinks will cost him experience points and slow his advancement. Part of a character’s experience comes from learning how his own behavior affects him and the world around him. In real life, for example, a person learns that he doesn’t like horror movies only by going to see a few of them. Based on that experience, he learns to avoid certain types of movies. Changing behavior means discarding things the character learned previously. Relearning things takes time. This costs the character experience.
There are other, more immediate effects of changing alignment. Certain character classes require specific alignments. A paladin who is no longer lawful good is no longer a paladin. A character may have magical items usable only by specific alignments (intelligent swords, etc.). Such item don’t function (and may even prove dangerous) in the hands of a differently aligned character.
News of a character’s change in behavior will certainly get around to friends and acquaintances. Although some people he never considered friendly may now warm to him, others may take exception to his new attitudes. A few may even try to help him “see the error of his ways.” The local clergy, on whom he relies for healing, may look askance on his recent behavior, denying him their special services (while at the same time sermonizing on his plight). The character who changes alignment often finds himself unpopular, depending on the attitudes of the surrounding people. People do not understand him. If the character drifts into chaotic neutral behavior in a highly lawful city, the townspeople might decide that the character is afflicted and needs close supervision, even confinement, for his own good!
Ultimately, the player is advised to pick an alignment he can play comfortably, one that fits in with those of the rest of the group, and he should stay with that alignment for the course of the character’s career. There will be times when the DM, especially if he is clever, creates situations to test the character’s resolve and ethics. But finding the right course of action within the character’s alignment is part of the fun and challenge of role-playing.
D&D 3rd Edition
In the temple of Pelor is an ancient tome. When the temple recruits adventurers for its most sensitive and important quests, each one who wants to participate must kiss the book. Those who are evil in their hearts are blasted by holy power, and even those who are neither good nor evil are stunned. Only those who are good can kiss the tome without harm and are trusted with the temple’s most important work. Good and evil are not philosophical concepts in the D&D game. They are the forces that define the cosmos.
Devils in human guise stalk the land, tempting people toward evil. Holy clerics use the power of good to protect worshipers. Devotees of evil gods bring ruin on innocents to win the favor of their deities, while trusting that rewards await them in the afterlife. Crusading paladins fearlessly confront evildoers, knowing that this short life is nothing worth clinging to. Warlords turn to whichever supernatural power will help them conquer, and proxies for good and evil gods promise rewards in return for the warlords’ oaths of obedience.
A creature’s general moral and personal attitudes are represented by its alignment: lawful good, neutral good, chaotic good, lawful neutral, neutral, chaotic neutral, lawful evil, neutral evil, and chaotic evil.
Choose an alignment for your character, using his or her race and class as a guide. Most player characters are good or neutral rather than evil. In general, evil alignments are for villains and monsters.
Alignment is a tool for developing your character’s identity. It is not a straitjacket for restricting your character. Each alignment represents a broad range of personality types or personal philosophies, so two lawful good characters can still be quite different from each other. In addition, few people are completely consistent. A lawful good character may have a greedy streak that occasionally tempts him to take something or hoard something he has even if that’s not lawful or good behavior. People are also not consistent from day to day. A good character can lose his temper, a neutral character can be inspired to perform a noble act, and so on.
Choosing an alignment for your character means stating your intent to play that character a certain way. If your character acts in a way more appropriate to another alignment, the DM may decide that your character’s alignment has changed to match her actions.
Creatures and members of classes shown in italic type on Table 6–1 are always of the indicated alignment. Except for paladins, they are born into that alignment. It is inherent, part of their nature. Usually, a creature with an inherent alignment has some connection (through ancestry, history, or magic) to the Outer Planes or is a magical beast.
For other creatures, races, and classes, the indicated alignment on Table 6–1 is the typical or most common one. Normal sentient creatures can be of any alignment. They may have inherent tendencies toward a particular alignment, but individuals can vary from this norm. Depending on the type of creature, these tendencies may be stronger or weaker. For example, kobolds and beholders are usually lawful evil, but kobolds display more variation in alignment than beholders because their inborn alignment tendency isn’t as strong. Also, sentient creatures have cultural tendencies that usually reinforce alignment tendencies. For example, orcs tend to be chaotic evil, and their culture tends to produce chaotic evil members. A human raised among orcs is more likely than normal to be chaotic evil, while an orc raised among humans is less likely to be so.
Table 6–1: Creature, Race, and Class Alignments
Lawful Good: Archons, Gold Dragons, Lammasus, Dwarves, Paladins.
Neutral Good: Guardinals, Gnomes, Centaurs, Giant Eagles, Pseudodragons.
Chaotic Good: Eladrins, Copper Dragons, Unicorns, Elves, Rangers.
Lawful Neutral: Monks, Wizards, Formians, Azers.
Neutral: Animals, Halflings, Humans, Lizardfolk, Druids.
Chaotic Neutral: Half-Elves, Half-Orcs, Barbarians, Bards, Rogues.
Lawful Evil: Devils, Blue Dragons, Beholders, Ogre Mages, Hobgoblins, Kobolds.
Neutral Evil: Drow, Goblins, Allips, Ettercaps, Devourers.
Chaotic Evil: Demons, Red Dragons, Vampires, Troglodytes, Gnolls, Ogres, Orcs.
Good vs. Evil
Good characters and creatures protect innocent life. Evil characters and creatures debase or destroy innocent life, whether for fun or profit.
“Good” implies altruism, respect for life, and a concern for the dignity of sentient beings. Good characters make personal sacrifices to help others.
“Evil” implies hurting, oppressing, and killing others. Some evil creatures simply have no compassion for others and kill without qualms if doing so is convenient. Others actively pursue evil, killing for sport or out of duty to some evil deity or master.
People who are neutral with respect to good and evil have compunctions against killing the innocent but lack the commitment to make sacrifices to protect or help others. Neutral people are committed to others by personal relationships. A neutral person may sacrifice himself to protect his family or even his homeland, but he would not do so for strangers who are not related to him.
Being good or evil can be a conscious choice, as with the paladin who attempts to live up to her ideals or the evil cleric who causes pain and terror to emulate his god. For most people, though, being good or evil is an attitude that one recognizes but does not choose. Being neutral on the good-evil axis usually represents a lack of commitment one way or the other, but for some it represents a positive commitment to a balanced view. While acknowledging that good and evil are objective states, not just opinions, these folk maintain that a balance between the two is the proper place for people, or at least for them.
Animals and other creatures incapable of moral action are neutral rather than good or evil. Even deadly vipers and tigers that eat people are neutral because they lack the capacity for morally right or wrong behavior.
Law vs. Chaos
Lawful characters tell the truth, keep their word, respect authority, honor tradition, and judge those who fall short of their duties. Chaotic characters follow their consciences, resent being told what to do, favor new ideas over tradition, and do what they promise if they feel like it.
“Law” implies honor, trustworthiness, obedience to authority, and reliability. On the downside, lawfulness can include close-mindedness, reactionary adherence to tradition, judgmentalness, and a lack of adaptability. Those who consciously promote lawfulness say that only lawful behavior creates a society in which people can depend on each other and make the right decisions in full confidence that others will act as they should.
“Chaos” implies freedom, adaptability, and flexibility. On the downside, chaos can include recklessness, resentment toward legitimate authority, arbitrary actions, and irresponsibility. Those who promote chaotic behavior say that only unfettered personal freedom allows people to express themselves fully and lets society benefit from the potential that its individuals have within them.
Someone who is neutral with respect to law and chaos has a normal respect for authority and feels neither a compulsion to obey nor a compulsion to rebel. She is honest but can be tempted into lying or deceiving others.
Devotion to law or chaos may be a conscious choice, but more often it is a personality trait that is recognized rather than being chosen. Neutrality on the lawful-chaotic axis is usually simply a middle state, a state of not feeling compelled toward one side or the other. Some few such neutrals, however, espouse neutrality as superior to law or chaos, regarding each as an extreme with its own blind spots and drawbacks.
Animals and other creatures incapable of moral action are neutral. Dogs may be obedient and cats free-spirited, but they do not have the moral capacity to be truly lawful or chaotic.
The Nine Alignments
Nine distinct alignments define all the possible combinations of the lawful–chaotic axis with the good–evil axis. Each alignment description below depicts a typical character of that alignment. Remember that individuals vary from this norm, and that a given character may act more or less in accord with his or her alignment from day to day. Use these descriptions as guidelines, not as scripts.
The first six alignments, lawful good through chaotic neutral, are the standard alignments for player characters. The three evil alignments are for monsters and villains.
Lawful Good, “Crusader”: A lawful good character acts as a good person is expected or required to act. She combines a commitment to oppose evil with the discipline to fight relentlessly. She tells the truth, keeps her word, helps those in need, and speaks out against injustice. A lawful good character hates to see the guilty go unpunished. Alhandra, a paladin who fights evil without mercy and protects the innocent without hesitation, is lawful good.
Lawful good is the best alignment you can be because it combines honor and compassion.
Neutral Good, “Benefactor”: A neutral good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates but does not feel beholden to them. Jozan, a cleric who helps others according to their needs, is neutral good.
Neutral good is the best alignment you can be because it means doing what is good without bias for or against order.
Chaotic Good, “Rebel”: A chaotic good character acts as his conscience directs him with little regard for what others expect of him. He makes his own way, but he’s kind and benevolent. He believes in goodness and right but has little use for laws and regulations. He hates it when people try to intimidate others and tell them what to do. He follows his own moral compass, which, although good, may not agree with that of society. Soverliss, a ranger who waylays the evil baron’s tax collectors, is chaotic good.
Chaotic good is the best alignment you can be because it combines a good heart with a free spirit.
Lawful Neutral, “Judge”: A lawful neutral characters acts as law, tradition, or a personal code directs her. Order and organization are paramount to her. She may believe in personal order and live by a code or standard, or she may believe in order for all and favor a strong, organized government. Ember, a monk who follows her discipline without being swayed either by the demands of those in need or by the temptations of evil, is lawful neutral.
Lawful neutral is the best alignment you can be because it means you are reliable and honorable without being a zealot.
Neutral, “Undecided”: A neutral character does what seems to be a good idea. She doesn’t feel strongly one way or the other when it comes to good vs. evil or law vs. chaos. Most neutral characters exhibit a lack of conviction or bias rather than a commitment to neutrality. Such a character thinks of good as better than evil — after all, she would rather have good neighbors and rulers than evil ones. Still, she’s not personally committed to upholding good in any abstract or universal way. Mialee, a wizard who devotes herself to her art and is bored by the semantics of moral debate, is neutral.
Some neutral characters, on the other hand, commit themselves philosophically to neutrality. They see good, evil, law, and chaos as prejudices and dangerous extremes. They advocate the middle way of neutrality as the best, most balanced road in the long run.
Neutral is the best alignment you can be because it means you act naturally, without prejudice or compulsion.
Chaotic Neutral, “Fee Spirit”: A chaotic neutral character follows his whims. He is an individualist first and last. He values his own liberty but doesn’t strive to protect others’ freedom. He avoids authority, resents restrictions, and challenges traditions. A chaotic neutral character does not intentionally disrupt organizations as part of a campaign of anarchy. To do so, he would have to be motivated either by good (and a desire to liberate others) or evil (and a desire to make those different from himself suffer). A chaotic neutral character may be unpredictable, but his behavior is not totally random. He is not as likely to jump off a bridge as to cross it. Gimble, a bard who wanders the land living by his wits, is chaotic neutral.
Chaotic neutral is the best alignment you can be because it represents true freedom from both society’s restrictions and a do-gooder’s zeal.
Lawful Evil, “Dominator”: A lawful evil villain methodically takes what he wants within the limits of his code of conduct without regard for whom it hurts. He cares about tradition, loyalty, and order but not about freedom, dignity, or life. He plays by the rules but without mercy or compassion. He is comfortable in a hierarchy and would like to rule, but is willing to serve. He condemns others not according to their actions but according to race, religion, homeland, or social rank. He is loath to break laws or promises. This reluctance comes partly from his nature and partly because he depends on order to protect himself from those who oppose him on moral grounds.
Some lawful evil villains have particular taboos, such as not killing in cold blood (but having underlings do it) or not letting children come to harm (if it can be helped). They imagine that these compunctions put them above unprincipled villains. The scheming baron who expands his power and exploits his people is lawful evil.
Some lawful evil people and creatures commit themselves to evil with a zeal like that of a crusader committed to good. Beyond being willing to hurt others for their own ends, they take pleasure in spreading evil as an end unto itself. They may also see doing evil as part of a duty to an evil deity or master.
Lawful evil is sometimes called “diabolical,” because devils are the epitome of lawful evil.
Lawful evil is the most dangerous alignment because it represents methodical, intentional, and frequently successful evil.
Neutral Evil, “Malefactor”: A neutral evil villain does whatever she can get away with. She is out for herself, pure and simple. She sheds no tears for those she kills, whether for profit, sport, or convenience. She has no love of order and holds no illusion that following laws, traditions, or codes would make her any better or more noble. On the other hand, she doesn’t have the restless nature or love of conflict that a chaotic evil villain has. The criminal who robs and murders to get what she wants is neutral evil.
Some neutral evil villains hold up evil as an ideal, committing evil for its own sake. Most often, such villains are devoted to evil deities or secret societies.
Neutral evil is the most dangerous alignment because it represents pure evil without honor and without variation.
Chaotic Evil, “Destroyer”: A chaotic evil character does whatever his greed, hatred, and lust for destruction drive him to do. He is hot-tempered, vicious, arbitrarily violent, and unpredictable. If he is simply out for whatever he can get, he is ruthless and brutal. If he is committed to the spread of evil and chaos, he is even worse. Thankfully, his plans are haphazard, and any groups he joins or forms are poorly organized. Typically, chaotic evil people can be made to work together only by force, and their leader lasts only as long as he can thwart attempts to topple or assassinate him. The demented sorcerer pursuing mad schemes of vengeance and havoc is chaotic evil.
Chaotic evil is sometimes called “demonic” because demons are the epitome of chaotic evil.
Chaotic evil is the most dangerous alignment because it represents the destruction not only of beauty and life but also of the order on which beauty and life depend.
D&D 4th Edition
If you choose an alignment, you’re indicating your character’s dedication to a set of moral principles: good, lawful good, evil, or chaotic evil. In a cosmic sense, it’s the team you believe in and fight for most strongly.
A character’s alignment (or lack thereof) describes his or her moral stance:
Good: Freedom and kindness.
Lawful Good: Civilization and order.
Evil: Tyranny and hatred.
Chaotic Evil: Entropy and destruction.
Unaligned: Having no alignment; not taking a stand.
For the purpose of determining whether an effect functions on a character, someone of lawful good alignment is considered good and someone of chaotic evil alignment is considered evil. For instance, a lawful good character can use a magic item that is usable only by good-aligned characters.
Alignments are tied to universal forces bigger than deities or any other allegiance you might have. If you’re a high-level cleric with a lawful good alignment, you’re on the same team as Bahamut, regardless of whether you worship that deity. Bahamut is not in any sense the captain of your team, just a particularly important player (who has a large number of supporters). Most people in the world, and plenty of player characters, haven’t signed up to play on any team — they’re unaligned. Picking and adhering to an alignment represents a distinct choice.
If you choose an alignment for your character, you should pick either good or lawful good. Unless your DM is running a campaign in which all the characters are evil or chaotic evil, playing an evil or chaotic evil character disrupts an adventuring party and, frankly, makes all the other players angry at you.
Here’s what the four alignments (and being unaligned) mean.
The Good Alignment
Protecting the weak from those who would dominate or kill them is just the right thing to do.
If you’re a good character, you believe it is right to aid and protect those in need. You’re not required to sacrifice yourself to help others or to completely ignore your own needs, but you might be asked to place others’ needs above your own…in some cases, even if that means putting yourself in harm’s way. In many way, that’s the essence of being a heroic adventurer: The people of the town can’t defend themselves from the marauding goblins, so you descend into the dungeon — at significant personal risk — to put an end to the goblin raids.
You can follow rules and respect authority, but you’re keenly aware that power tends to corrupt those who wield it, too often leading them to exploit their power for selfish or evil ends. When that happens, you feel no obligation to follow the law blindly. It’s better for authority to rest in the members of a community rather than the hands of any individual or social class. When law becomes exploitation, it crosses into evil territory, and good characters feel compelled to fight it.
Good and evil represent fundamentally different viewpoints, cosmically opposed and unable to coexist in peace. Good and lawful good characters, though, get along fine — even if a good character thinks a lawful good companion might be a little too focused on following the law, rather than simply doing the right thing.
The Lawful Good Alignment
An ordered society protects us from evil.
If you’re lawful good, you respect the authority of personal codes of conduct, laws, and leaders, and you believe that those codes are the best way of achieving your ideals. Just authority promotes the well-being of its subjects and prevents them from harming one another. Lawful good characters believe just as strongly as good ones do in the value of life, and they put even more emphasis on the need for the powerful to protect the weak and lift up the downtrodden. The exemplars of the lawful good alignment are shining champions of what’s right, honorable, and true, risking or even sacrificing their lives to stop the spread of evil in the world.
When leaders exploit their authority for personal gain, when laws grant privileged status to some citizens and reduce others to slavery or untouchable status, law has given in to evil and just authority becomes tyranny. You are not only capable of challenging such injustice, but morally bound to do so. However, you would prefer to work within the system to right such problems rather than resorting to more rebellious and lawless methods.
The Evil Alignment
It is my right to claim what others possess.
Evil characters don’t necessarily go out of their way to hurt people, but they’re perfectly willing to take advantage of the weakness of others to acquire what they want.
Evil characters use rules and order to maximize personal gain. They don’t care whether laws hurt other people. They support institutional structures that give them power, even if that power comes at the expense of others’ freedom. Slavery and rigid caste structures are not only acceptable but desirable to evil characters, as long as they are in a position to benefit from them.
The Chaotic Evil Alignment
I don’t care what I have to do to get what I want.
Chaotic evil characters have a complete disregard for others. Each believes he or she is the only being that matters and kills, steals, and betrays others to gain power. Their word is meaningless and their actions destructive. Their worldviews can be so warped that they destroy anything and anyone that doesn’t directly contribute to their interests.
By the standards of good and lawful good people, chaotic evil is as abhorrent as evil, perhaps even more so. Chaotic evil monsters such as demons and orcs are at least much of a threat to civilization and general well-being as evil monsters are. An evil creature and a chaotic evil creature are both opposed to good, but they don’t have much respect for each other either and rarely cooperate toward common goals.
Just let me go about my business.
If you’re unaligned, you don’t actively seek to harm others or wish them ill. But you also don’t go out of your way to put yourself at risk without some hope for reward. You support law and order when doing so benefits you. You value your own freedom, without worrying too much about protecting the freedom of others.
A few unaligned people, and most unaligned deities, aren’t undecided about alignment. Rather, they’ve chosen not to choose, either because they see the benefits of both good and evil or because they see themselves as above the concerns of morality. The Raven Queen and her devotees fall into the latter camp, believing that moral choices are irrelevant to their mission since death comes to all creatures regardless of alignment.
Alignment vs. Personality
Isn’t alignment just another part of your personality? Yes and no.
Certain personality traits have moral weight, particularly those that influence how you interact with others. Cruelty and generosity can be considered personality traits, but they’re also manifestations of your beliefs about the importance and worth of other people. A character who aspires to good might have a cruel streak, but if that streak manifests too frequently or in extreme ways, it’s hard to say he’s really upholding his moral ideals.
Other personality traits have no moral weight at all. A fastidious and well-organized person can just as easily be evil as good. An impulsive prankster can also be good or evil. These quirks of personality are mostly unrelated to alignment, but your alignment might affect the way your personality translates into action. An evil prankster might favor cruel practical jokes that cause personal harm and damage property, while a good one would steer away from such injurious acts.
D&D 5th Edition
A typical creature in the worlds of Dungeons & Dragons has an alignment, which broadly describes its moral and personal attitudes. Alignment is a combination of two factors: one identifies morality (good, evil, or neutral), and the other describes attitudes toward society and order (lawful, chaotic, or neutral). Thus, nine distinct alignments define the possible combinations.
These brief summaries of the nine alignments describe the typical behavior of a creature with that alignment. Individuals might vary significantly from that typical behavior, and few people are perfectly and consistently faithful to the precepts of their alignment.
Lawful good (LG) creatures can be counted on to do the right thing as expected by society. Gold dragons, paladins, and most dwarves are lawful good.
Neutral good (NG) folk do the best they can to help others according to their needs. Many celestials, some cloud giants, and most gnomes are neutral good.
Chaotic good (CG) creatures act as their conscience directs, with little regard for what others expect. Copper dragons, many elves, and unicorns are chaotic good.
Lawful neutral (LN) individuals act in accordance with law, tradition, or personal codes. Many monks and some wizards are lawful neutral.
Neutral (N) is the alignment of those who prefer to steer clear of moral questions and don’t take sides, doing what seems best at the time. Lizardfolk, most druids, and many humans are neutral.
Chaotic neutral (CN) creatures follow their whims, holding their personal freedom above all else. Many barbarians and rogues, and some bards, are chaotic neutral.
Lawful evil (LE) creatures methodically take what they want, within the limits of a code of tradition, loyalty, or order. Devils, blue dragons, and hobgoblins are lawful evil.
Neutral evil (NE) is the alignment of those who do whatever they can get away with, without compassion or qualms. Many drow, some cloud giants, and yugoloths are neutral evil.
Chaotic evil (CE) creatures act with arbitrary violence, spurred by their greed, hatred, or bloodlust. Demons, red dragons, and orcs are chaotic evil.
Alignment in the Multiverse
For many thinking creatures, alignment is a moral choice. Humans, dwarves, elves, and other humanoid races can choose whether to follow the paths of good or evil, law or chaos. According to myth, the good-aligned gods who created these races gave them free will to choose their moral paths, knowing that good without free will is slavery.
The evil deities who created other races, though, made those races to serve them. Those races have strong inborn tendencies that match the nature of their gods. Most orcs share the violent, savage nature of the orc god, Gruumsh, and are thus inclined toward evil. Even if an orc chooses a good alignment, it struggles against its innate tendencies for its entire life. (Even half-orcs feel the lingering pull of the orc god’s influence.)
Alignment is an essential part of the nature of celestials and fiends. A devil does not choose to be lawful evil, and it doesn’t tend toward lawful evil, but rather it is lawful evil in its essence. If it somehow ceased to be lawful evil, it would cease to be a devil.
Most creatures that lack the capacity for rational thought do not have alignments—they are unaligned. Such a creature is incapable of making a moral or ethical choice and acts according to its bestial nature. Sharks are savage predators, for example, but they are not evil; they have no alignment.
Tika and Artemis: Alignment
Tika Waylan is neutral good, fundamentally good-hearted and striving to help others where she can. Artemis is lawful evil, unconcerned with the value of sentient life but at least professional in his approach to murder.
As an evil character, Artemis is not an ideal adventurer. He began his career as a villain, and only cooperates with heroes when he must—and when it’s in his own best interests. In most games, evil adventurers cause problems in groups alongside others who don’t share their interests and objectives. Generally, evil alignments are for villains and monsters.