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Alignments: D&D 3.5th Edition

23 Aug

Player’s Handbook, page 103

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.

Typical Alignments

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.

Dungeon Master’s Guide, page 134

Changing Alignment

A character can have a change of heart that leads to the adoption of a different alignment. Alignments aren’t commitments, except in specific cases (such as for paladins and clerics). Player characters have free will, and their actions often dictate a change of alignment. Here are two examples of how a change of alignment can be handled.

  • A player creates a new character, a rogue named Garrett. The player decides he wants Garrett to be neutral good and writes that on Garrett’s character sheet. By the second playing session of Garrett’s career, however, it’s clear that the player isn’t playing Garrett as a good-aligned character at all. Garrett likes to steal minor valuables from others (although not his friends) and does not care about helping people or stopping evil. Garrett is a neutral character, and the player made a mistake when declaring Garrett’s alignment because he hadn’t yet really decided how he wanted to play him. The DM tells the player to erase “good” on Garrett’s character sheet, making his alignment simply “neutral.” No big deal.
  • An NPC traveling with the PCs is chaotic evil and is pretending to be otherwise because he was sent to spy on them and foil their plans. He has been evil all his life, and he has lived among others who acted as he did. As he fights alongside the good-aligned PC adventurers, however, he sees how they work together and help each other. He begins to envy them their camaraderie. Finally, he watches as the paladin PC gives his life to save not only his friends, but an entire town that was poised on the brink of destruction at the hands of an evil sorcerer. Everyone is deeply moved, including the evil NPC, and the town celebrates and honors the paladin’s self-sacrifice. The townfolk hail the adventurers as heroes. The NPC is so moved that he repents, casting aside his own evil ways (and his mission). He becomes chaotic neutral, but he is well on his way to becoming chaotic good, particularly if he remains in the company of the PCs. If the PCs had not acted so gallantly, he might not have changed his ways. If they turn on the NPC when they learn of his past, he may turn back to evil.
  • Most characters incur no game penalty for changing alignment, but you should keep a few points in mind.

    You’re in Control: You control alignment changes, not the players. If a player says, “My neutral good character becomes chaotic good,” the appropriate response from you is “Prove it.” Actions dictate alignment, not statements of intent by players.

    Alignment Changes Is Gradual: Changes in alignment should not be drastic. usually, a character changes alignment only one step at a time–from lawful evil to lawful neutral, for example, and not directly to neutral good. A character on her way to adopting another alignment might have other alignments during the transition to the final alignment.

    Time Requirements: Changing alignment usually takes time. Changes of heart are rarely sudden (although they can be). What you want to avoid is a player changing her character’s alignment to evil to use an evil artifact properly and then changing it right back when she’s done. Alignments aren’t garments you can take off and put on casually. Require an interval of at least a week of game time between alignment changes.

    Indecisiveness Indicates Neutrality: Wishy-washy characters should just be neutral. If a character changes alignment over and over again during a campaign, what’s really happened is that the character hasn’t made a choice, and thus she is neutral.

    Exceptions: There are exceptions to all of the above. For instance, it’s possible (although unlikely) that the most horrible neutral evil villain has a sudden and dramatic change of heart and immediately becomes neutral good.

    Dungeon Master’s Guide, page 138

    Alignment of Power Centers

    The alignment of the ruler or rulers of a community need not conform to the alignment of all or even the majority of the residents, although this is usually the case. In any case, the alignment of the power center strongly shapes the residents’ daily lives. Due to their generally organized and organizing nature, most power centers are lawful.

    To randomly determine the alignment of a power center, roll d% and refer to the table below. How a power center of a given alignment acts, or how it is perceived by the community, is discussed following the table.

    Power Center Alignment

    d% Alignment

    01-35 Lawful Good

    36-39 Neutral Good

    40-41 Chaotic Good

    42-61 Lawful Neutral

    62-63 True Neutral

    64 Chaotic Neutral

    65-90 Lawful Evil

    91-98 Neutral Evil

    99-100 Chaotic Evil

    Lawful Good: A community with a lawful good power center usually has a codified set of laws, and most people willingly obey those laws.

    Neutral Good: A neutral good power center rarely influences the residents of the community other than to help them when they are in need.

    Chaotic Good: This sort of power center influences the community by helping the needy and opposing restrictions on freedom.

    Lawful Neutral: A community with a lawful neutral power center has a codified set of laws that are followed to the letter. Those in power usually insist that visitors (as well as residents) obey all local rules and regulations.

    True Neutral: This sort of power center rarely influences the community. Those in power prefer to pursue their private goals.

    Chaotic Neutral: This sort of power center is unpredictable, influencing the community in different way at different times.

    Lawful Evil: A community with a lawful evil power center usually has a codified set of laws, which most people obey out of fear of harsh punishment.

    Neutral Evil: The residents of a community with a neutral evil power center are usually oppressed and subjugated, facing a dire future.

    Chaotic Evil: The residents of a community with a chaotic evil power center live in abject fear because of the unpredictable and horrific situations continually placed upon them.

    Conflicting Power Centers

    If a community has more than one power center, and two or more of the power centers have opposing alignments (either good vs. evil or law vs. chaos), they conflict in some way. Such conflict is not always open, and sometimes the conflicting power centers grudgingly get along.

    For example, a small city contains a powerful chaotic good wizards’ guild but is ruled by a lawful good aristocrat. The wizards are sometimes exasperated by the strict laws imposed by the aristocrat ruler and occasionally break or circumvent them when it serves their (well-intentioned) purposes. Most of the time, though, a representative from the guild takes their concerns and disagreements to the aristocrat, who attempts to equitably resolve any problems.

    Another example: A large city contains a powerful lawful evil fighter, a lawful good temple, and a chaotic evil aristocrat. The selfish aristocrat is concerned only with his own gain and his debauched desires. The fighter gathers a small legion of warriors, hoping to oust the aristocrat and take control of the city herself. Meanwhile, the clerics of the powerful temple help the citizenry as well as they can, never directly confronting the aristocrat but aiding and abetting those who suffer at his hands.

    Dungeon Master’s Guide, page 269

    Intelligent Item Alignment

    Any item with intelligence has an alignment. Note that intelligent weapons already have alignments, either stated or by implication. (A weapon made to kill chaotic outsiders would hardly be chaotic itself; it would be lawful.) If you’re generating a random intelligent weapon, that weapon’s alignment must fit with any alignment-oriented special abilities it has (such as the holy special ability).

    Any character whose alignment does not correspond to that of the item (except as noted by the asterisks on the table) gains one negative level is he or she so much as picks up the item. Although this negative level never results in actual level loss, it remains as long as the item is in hand and cannot be overcome in any way (including restoration spells). This negative level is cumulative with any other penalties the item might already place on inappropriate wielders. Items with Ego scores (see below) of 20 to 29 bestow two negative levels. Items with Ego scores of 30 or higher bestow three negative levels.

    Intelligent Item Alignment

    d% Alignment of Item

    01-05 Chaotic Good

    06-15 Chaotic Neutral*

    16-20 Chaotic Evil

    21-25 Neutral Evil*

    26-30 Lawful Evil

    31-55 Lawful Good

    56-60 Lawful Neutral*

    61-80 Neutral Good*

    81-100 Neutral

    *The item can also be used by any character whose alignment corresponds to the nonneutral portion of the item’s alignment (in other words, chaotic, evil, good, or lawful). Thus, any chaotic character (CG, CN, CE) can use an item with chaotic neutral alignment.

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