DM’s Note: My hatred of the 4th. Edition’s Alignment System knows no bounds. This is an immensely complicated thing that has been the subject of endless debate in the D&D community over the years. I find that this one is a bit more extensive, but is by no means complete.
Remember that alignment is not your character – if your character kills a puppy, this is not because “she’s chaotic evil, remember?” A person is more than a classification along two axises, and the best characters (the ones you enjoy the most), will be the complex ones where you understand their motivations and why they do things.
This system relies on two shifting axises, and appears as follows:
|Lawful Good||Neutral Good||Chaotic Good|
|Lawful Neutral||True Neutral||Chaotic Neutral|
|Lawful Evil||Neutral Evil||Chaotic Evil|
Remember that the following descriptions are guidelines only.
Lawful good may be considered the ‘saintly’ or ‘crusader’ alignment. This character acts with compassion, and holds honour and a sense of duty close to their hearts.
A lawful good character may sometimes be faced with a dilemma of whether to obey law or good when the two conflict – for instance, upholding a sworn oath when it would lead innocents to harm, or the conflicts between two things such as their religious law and the law of the land.
Neutral good may be considered the ‘benefactor’ alignment. These are characters guided by their own conscience (as skewed as these may be), and act altruistically. While they tend to follow the laws of the nation, they will break these if they feel that the need is great – they may co-operate with lawful officials, but not feel beholden to them.
Example: a doctor who treats soldiers from both sides of a war
Chaotic good may be known as the ‘rebel’ alignment. A chaotic good character favors change for the greater good, disdains bureaucratic organizations that get in the way of social improvement, and places a high value on personal freedom. These are people who value ‘goodness’, and allow nothing to stop them from carrying out what they think is right.
Lawful neutral is the ‘Disciplined’ alignment. A lawful neutral character believes strongly in Lawful concepts such as honor, order, rules and tradition, and often follows a personal code.
Characters of this alignment are neutral with regard to good and evil. This does not mean that lawful neutral characters are amoral or immoral, or do not have a moral compass; but simply that their moral considerations come a distant second to what their code, tradition or law dictates. They typically have a strong ethical code, but it is primarily guided by their system of belief, not by a commitment to good or evil.
Example: a soldier who always follows orders, a judge that adheres mercilessly to the word of the law
Neutral alignment, also referred to as True Neutral or Neutral Neutral, is called the “Undecided” or “Nature’s” alignment. This alignment represents neutral on both axes, and tends not to feel strongly towards any alignment. A farmer whose only concern is to feed his family is of this alignment.
Some neutral characters, rather than feeling undecided, are committed to a balance between the alignments. They may see good, evil, law and chaos as simply prejudices and dangerous extremes.
Chaotic neutral is called the “Free Spirit” alignment. A character of this alignment is an individualist who follows his or her own heart, shirks rules and traditions. They typically act out of self-interest, but do not specifically enjoy seeing others suffer.
An unusual subset of chaotic neutral is “strongly chaotic neutral”, describing a character who behaves chaotically to the point of appearing insane. Characters of this type may regularly change their appearance and attitudes for the sake of change, and intentionally disrupt organizations for the sole reason of disrupting a lawful construct.
Lawful evil is referred to as the “Dominator” alignment. Characters of this alignment show a combination of desirable and undesirable traits – while they typically keep their word, they care nothing for the rights and freedoms of other individuals.
Typically Lawful Evil individuals have a strong code of honour that they created for themselves. Sometimes this code may result in them performing selfless acts, or protecting the innocent. They often charge for performing good acts, and take swift revenge on those who do not pay up. They can come across as very reasonable and even pleasant sometimes.
Example: an indiscriminatory mercenary who nonetheless adhere to their own personal code of honour, a soldier who follows the chain of command but enjoys killing for its own sake
Neutral evil is called the “Malefactor” alignment. Characters of this alignment are typically selfish and have no qualms about turning on their allies-of-the-moment. They have no compunctions about harming others to get what they want, but neither will they go out of their way to cause carnage or mayhem when they see no direct benefit to it.
A villain of this alignment can be more dangerous than either lawful or chaotic evil characters, since he is neither bound by any sort of honor or tradition nor disorganized and pointlessly violent.
Example: an assassin pays little heed to formal laws, but does not needlessly kill
Chaotic evil is referred to as the “Destroyer” alignment. Characters of this alignment tend to have little respect for rules, other peoples’ lives, or anything but their own selfish desires. They typically only behave themselves out of fear of punishment.
This campaign is being planned on the basis that we will be dealing with a party that contains a mix of good/neutral alignments. I understand that there is a great degree of attraction in being able to play an evilly aligned character, but I would ask that you seriously consider against it.
This is my first time DMing. I am already very nervous about it going well – and I want this to be fun for everyone involved. Unfortunately, most evil campaigns tend to fall apart quickly, and end with one character killing the others. Imagine that you’ve put hours of work into a great character, come up with a great back-story… only to be backstabbed by the rogue character who wanted the goblin’s rusty dagger. I don’t want anyone to deal with that.
So, I am sorry – but there is plenty of room for character growth and difference with the Good/Neutral alignments. Stay with me and let’s try out my idea – if one of these days we all decide on a evil campaign, we can try it.
Depending on if you have an idea for a character, but don’t know what alignment (s)he would be, either talk to me – or, if you have a good grasp of their character already, you can take this old-style Alignment Test on the WoTC Website. It is not great, but it’s a starting point.