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Author Topic: D&D Alignment discussion  (Read 15680 times)

Loud Whispers

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Re: D&D Alignment discussion
« Reply #210 on: May 06, 2016, 08:31:34 pm »

So would it be then that:
"good" is being compelled to be self-sacrificingly virtuous/helpful, so actively going out of your way to help others
"evil" is being compelled to be selfish and/or sadistic, actively seeking to exploit others for some personal gain (caveat, evil servants who seek to exploit others for the gain of a master?)
"neutral" is only really doing what you're compelled to do by necessity

Rolan7

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Re: D&D Alignment discussion
« Reply #211 on: May 06, 2016, 08:43:00 pm »

If you were asking me, I don't think the evil act has to be for any gain.  In fact that cheapens it.  Someone who robs to feed their family, or just themselves, isn't what I'd call evil (even in DND).  Someone who robs because it feels good to take, is different.

Garret in Thief is a badass protagonist who repeatedly saves the day, but I'd call him evil.  He steals for the rush, not out of need.  He has every opportunity to rejoin the Keepers and protect the city, but screw that, he burgles (ruining the lives of countless guards, even if he spares their lives).  On the highest difficulties his obsession forces him to steal from the poor, too, and he steals enough every mission to retire comfortably.

Since he also goes out of his way to vex forces of authority, I'd say he's a clear Chaotic Evil.  And yet he strongly believes in nonviolence when possible, saves the City, and is able to make temporary alliances of convenience.  And he's awesome.
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Bumber

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Re: D&D Alignment discussion
« Reply #212 on: May 06, 2016, 09:11:40 pm »

Good, Neutral or Evil?
Depends. Was the rogue also the warlord?
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Loud Whispers

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Re: D&D Alignment discussion
« Reply #213 on: May 06, 2016, 10:04:37 pm »

If you were asking me, I don't think the evil act has to be for any gain.  In fact that cheapens it.  Someone who robs to feed their family, or just themselves, isn't what I'd call evil (even in DND).  Someone who robs because it feels good to take, is different.
The person robbing to feed their family or themselves would be compelled to by necessity and so under my suggested idea would be neutral. The counterpoint under the same framework would be someone just stealing to get richer being evil, with lawful evil probably preferring to do it through legal means, chaotic evil through Nigerian prince tactics and neutral evil through burglary schemes. Someone who just steals for fun, yeah that's pretty evil but there's also not much depth to someone who's just doing it for the Evulz. Such characters are delicious malevolent cake, good every now and then but cannot make up a diet. Those just doing it because they can and it makes them richer with no compulsion by necessity? That gets on the evil without being 2 dimensional "I kick the orphan" sort of evil. Basically it allows for more motive than sadism from Evulz or compulsion from neutrality to committing villainous and wicked acts. Could be sadism, could be compulsion, could be other things like greed, avarice, master plan, science, wizard science, petty vengeance and so on

Good, Neutral or Evil?
Depends. Was the rogue also the warlord?
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Rolan7

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Re: D&D Alignment discussion
« Reply #214 on: May 06, 2016, 10:23:53 pm »

Yeah!  Maybe I was wrong to suggest evil is always sadistic.  Maybe it's enough to just not value other people.  So I like Garret as a character because he's dedicated to being the best thief evar- And he doesn't care who he hurts along the way, except he likes to show off by leaving them technically alive.  He's not setting out to make them suffer, he just doesn't care.

I also like this character:

I don't really see this person torturing anybody, or even hunting down defenseless peasants necessarily.  Just fighting, probably to the death, as often as possible.  Because it's exhilarating.
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i2amroy

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Re: D&D Alignment discussion
« Reply #215 on: May 07, 2016, 12:29:39 am »

Since he also goes out of his way to vex forces of authority, I'd say he's a clear Chaotic Evil.  And yet he strongly believes in nonviolence when possible, saves the City, and is able to make temporary alliances of convenience.  And he's awesome.
I haven't played the games, but to me that sounds almost more of a Neutral or a Lawful even rather than Chaotic. The way I've always seen it is that Lawful characters are ones that hold to a forethought code (be it their own or the law of the area) while Chaotic are those acting on whims, doing whatever they feel like on the spur of the moment, and neutral being those that walk a little bit of both.

So for example a thief who had to toy with every guard that he ran into would be a Lawful character in my opinion, regardless of the fact that he's messing with the law of the land, because he has his own set rules (in this case "mess with every guard I meet") and he follows them. For a lawful thief with the goal of messing with every guard in his head, just the act of prying him away from pulling one more trick on another guard is something that really takes work. On the other hand a Chaotic thief wouldn't know if he was going to mess with a guard or not until the spur of the moment. He might enjoy mischief and thus be slightly more likely to mess with the guard than to walk away (after all being chaotic doesn't mean you can't have overall tendencies), but each decision is one of whimsy rather than one of forethought. Such a thief might be slightly more likely to have some fun at their expense, but he would have no problem walking away from an easy to trick guard, or going after one that might be very difficult to take expense of. A neutral thief, on the other hand, would walk the opportunistic middle, having fun at guards expense, but he wouldn't necessarily feel obligated to have to poke fun at the guard outside of the bank vault he is still in the process of breaking into just because he feels he needs to.

In short, rather than Lawful/Chaotic being on terms of respect for authority, it comes down to more whether your character is driven by codes or by whims (and that at least seems to be the way 5e is pushing it). The person who budgets their money, sets goals, and then lives according to them would be lawful, while the person driven by "ooh shiny" and "I just got my paycheck!" would be chaotic, and neutral picks up the mixed, slight rule-bending, opportunistic group in the middle.
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Cruxador

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Re: D&D Alignment discussion
« Reply #216 on: May 14, 2019, 02:51:36 pm »

Continued from http://www.bay12forums.com/smf/index.php?topic=151000.msg7969591#msg7969591

Why, exactly, would the dividing line be Law/Chaos, when most of Dnd has a more evil/good divide?
"A lot of other people did it this way" does not inherently mean "you must do it that way". As for why law/Chaos would be preferable, it's a lot more morally definable. With good and evil, people have their own moral ideas of what's good and what's evil, and disagreeing there becomes a fundamental and moral argument which may attack a person's core beliefs. That's often not the intended experience for a play session. Law and chaos are also subject to disagreement, but not on the same level. Besides that, it's subjectively more narrative interesting, since rather than simply "the other guys are bad so I hate them" it can have two sides which consider themselves right and have legitimate arguments as to why they are.
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Why exactly would a nice person work with a nasty rapist just because the rapist is Lawfully-aligned?
Well ideally, they wouldn't. Alignment doesn't define the entirety of a person's moral principles, and not everyone agrees with each other even if they have a broadly parallel worldview. Even within religions, which are far more tightly defined and specific than alignment, there are loads of examples of people disagreeing on what's acceptable. For real life examples of this happening, consider Hollywood.
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Alignment is not meant to be a restriction anyway, at least in 5e, merely a shorthand how they act.
Yeah, this is more pertinent to games where alignment is a bit more relevant; WotC's D&D has never really done a great job with the concept. For something like 5e or, for that matter, 4e, I would recommend doing away with specific grid-oriented alignments in general, and putting a creed of some sort in that space on the sheet instead. Since the nine provided alignments aren't really related to a setting or anything, might as well make them maximally relevant to the character.
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pikachu17

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Re: D&D Alignment discussion
« Reply #217 on: May 14, 2019, 05:38:17 pm »

Besides that, it's subjectively more narrative interesting, since rather than simply "the other guys are bad so I hate them" it can have two sides which consider themselves right and have legitimate arguments as to why they are.
Then why are they law/chaos in the first place? Why can't they all be neutral then?

Cruxador

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Re: D&D Alignment discussion
« Reply #218 on: May 14, 2019, 07:40:20 pm »

Besides that, it's subjectively more narrative interesting, since rather than simply "the other guys are bad so I hate them" it can have two sides which consider themselves right and have legitimate arguments as to why they are.
Then why are they law/chaos in the first place? Why can't they all be neutral then?
So that it can have two sides which consider themselves right and have legitimate arguments as to why they are, instead of just one side existing in harmony without any alignment at all. Not that that isn't also valid; games don't have to feature alignment in any significant way, and it sounds like that's how you prefer to play, or at least what your background is. But order and chaos are great driving forces of conflict that apply to many stories. Aside from Moorcock and WHFB, consider that geopolitical situations such as colonialism and barbarian invasion are characterizable simply as order-aligned groups moving into chaos aligned lands and vice versa, respectively. Furthermore, the contrast between chaotic and negative magic like that of Robert E. Howard's tales and law oriented magics performed by churches and governments - or, in more than a few settings, the contrast between inherently chaotic magic and inherently orderly technology or infrastructure. If you want everyone in your setting to get along well, that's fine, games like Golden Sky Stories have their place, and if you want your plots to revolve around nebulous politics, things like Coriolis are also fun. And something that looks like good vs evil can be dynamic and interesting if there's more going on, like Magical Burst. But I have never in my own experience known the moral determinism of outright "good vs evil" played to the hilt to contribute positively to a game experience. At most I've heard of it leading to a Sword of Shannara situation where you gotta exterminate all the enemy because you're good and they're evil, because it says so in the monster manual, but that particular "genocide is good because" case is pretty well known in the gaming community these days, and it seems like few people want to just say that the in-character definition of good is defined by their in-character culture, and just enjoying fanatic dogma. More often, it just leads to philosophical arguments that derail the game, if it's not ignored completely.
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Reelya

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Re: D&D Alignment discussion
« Reply #219 on: May 15, 2019, 04:39:05 am »

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consider that geopolitical situations such as colonialism and barbarian invasion are characterizable simply as order-aligned groups moving into chaos aligned lands and vice versa, respectively.

TBH, this feels like a very poor fit. Consider the conquistadors invading and destroying the Aztecs for example. It would be hard pressed to claim the conquistadors represented Order and the Aztec Empire represented Chaos. The problem is that order and chaos exist as points in a flux of events and can't be assigned as "traits" to large groups in any way of that nature.

Usually, colonialism involves breaking down of actually quite ordered previous existing social relations. That breakdown creates volatility (which can be profitably exploited). That doesn't imply the groups fighting represent chaos and order. Both groups want to impose their own order, just as both groups consider themselves the "good guys". That's why any such critique of the good/evil axis can't just be replaced with the chaos/order axis. Chaos is a state generated from conflict. It's the instability of being in between two ordered states, but ordered states which contradict each other. It's not a trait of the groups to start with.

Thus, even Robin Hood isn't a proponent of "chaos" - he fought to impose a new order, not "no order". Consider the situation in the story. The king is overseas, this created a power vacuum, which Prince John exploits for person profit, while Robin Hood has been unfairly stripped of his noble titles. Thus, Prince John is exploiting an unstable situation for personal gain, and it is Robin Hood who seeks the restoration of the "proper social order" that existed before. Robin Hood steals from the rich to give to the poor not to overthrow order, but because the natural order was upset: the taxes are higher than they are supposed to be, which throws out the balance. When the king returns he'll restore the normal tax rates, Robin Hood will regain his family titles and he'll stop robbing people. Order restored. Robin Hood uses "any means necessary" to achieve his goals, right. But so does Prince John. The only real difference in power is that Prince John has the predominant amount of thugs on his side so he gets to refer to himself as the government. If Robin Hood had more guys, he'd be the government and set the rules, and Prince John would be the "rebel".

Prince John and Robin Hood can't be said to embody "law" and "chaos" in any meaningful sense. Not when merely adding enough troops to Robin Hood's group turns him into the effective government, without any need to change his policy approach. "robbing from the rich to give to the poor" would just be called taxes if you were the biggest armed force around.
« Last Edit: May 15, 2019, 05:12:29 am by Reelya »
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MorleyDev

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Re: D&D Alignment discussion
« Reply #220 on: May 15, 2019, 06:07:30 am »

When it comes to DnD alignment, I can't help but think it's always going to be a fairly ugly fit when you try and cram personal positions on morality into a 2d axis. Especially when you have multiple writers and multiple universes ran by multiple 'supreme overlords' (also called Game Masters) who are all going to disagree.

Personally, in a universe I'd run where I'm being force to twist everything to be presentable in such an axis I'd say:
Lawful/Order vs Chaotic/Chaos is philosophy: Should man default to following a set of rules, or should man default to following their heart?
And Good vs Evil is empathy: Should man look out for others first, or himself?
And Neutrality is just when you are in a position of ignoring the question in the first place.

So:
Lawful Evil will value rules, but will look out for themselves first and foremost within those rules.
Lawful Good will value rules, but will be looking out for the well-being of others.
Lawful Neutral will value rules, at the expense of both their own benefit and the benefit of others.

Chaotic Good will help others, and will laugh at the notion that they should do so in any way but what their heart tells them is correct.
Chaotic Evil will help and please themselves, and will laugh at the notion that they should do so in any way but what their heart tells them is the best way to do so.
Chaotic Neutral will go out of their way to ignore rules, but without any notion that they do it for the benefit of themselves or others.

Animals don't have the capability to *ask* the question in the first place, and that's why a bear is true neutral.

Put together, you get what could be called a characters morality: the sum total of their personal philosophy and empathy.

Of course there's always other options besides those two options that aren't just "in between" or "neither" so don't quite fit what one would call neutral. So it still doesn't quite work.

It gets even worse when you try to apply these ideas to a whole narrative, like a whole story of Rules vs Ruleless, or Selfless vs Selfish, because then you leave the realm of individual philosophy and enter the realm of what I'd call narrative metaphysics.

For such narrative metaphysics I prefer to break it down to less order/chaos or good/evil, and more King vs Rebel. There's a person in their position of power, and a person seeking to remove them from that position of power. King Palpatine and Rebel Skywalker (either one works). You get away the from notion of morality/philosophy and entirely into their relative positions in the narrative structure then. Sometimes the King is the hero, othertimes it's the rebel. And often they swap places during the story.
« Last Edit: May 15, 2019, 08:12:55 am by MorleyDev »
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Cthulhu

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Re: D&D Alignment discussion
« Reply #221 on: May 15, 2019, 07:57:29 am »

Like I said, very few good characters slot into an alignment.  What alignment is daenerys?  On one hand she's lawful cause her entire justification for existing is divine right of kings.  On the other, she casts down social orders and frees slaves. What about Jaime Lannister?

In the modern 2-axis system I usually situate it like this:

Law:  believes in an objective value system. There is one right way to behave and anything else is Wrong.
Chaos: does not believe in objective values.  A chaotic character can have a firm moral code they adhere to, but they dont think it's universal.

Good: people should protect and help those weaker than them
Evil: people should abuse and exploit those weaker than them

This doesn't really jive with the normative dnd cosmology where the alignments are all universal constructs with entire worlds dedicated to them, but I kind of hate normative dnd cosmology (and i fucking !!hate!! Forgotten Realms)

In old school, law/chaos is the classical heroic boundary.  Law is civilization, walls, structure, chaos is nature, breaking boundaries, dissolution.   Grendel breaking into Heorot and being fought by Beowulf is an archetypal Law vs Chaos scenario as old school DnD sees it
« Last Edit: May 15, 2019, 10:03:54 am by Cthulhu »
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Iduno

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Re: D&D Alignment discussion
« Reply #222 on: May 15, 2019, 08:59:00 am »

The writers of D&D don't even know what D&D alignment means, and they never have. It's all calvinball.

Grey elves are lawful good, because they employ lesser elves without paying them, have a highly regimented caste system, and think they are better than you.

Drow are chaotic evil, because they have slavery, lack of economic mobility in their society, and are narcissists.
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pikachu17

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Re: D&D Alignment discussion
« Reply #223 on: May 15, 2019, 12:54:48 pm »

Besides that, it's subjectively more narrative interesting, since rather than simply "the other guys are bad so I hate them" it can have two sides which consider themselves right and have legitimate arguments as to why they are.
Then why are they law/chaos in the first place? Why can't they all be neutral then?
So that it can have two sides which consider themselves right and have legitimate arguments as to why they are, instead of just one side existing in harmony without any alignment at all.
I was saying so they could have more realistic sides (Even true neutral is not one big happy family existing in harmony.),  instead of three groups arbitrarily grouping themselves based on law and order. It seems to me that either alliances aren't directed by just one aspect of the alignment wheel, if any, or otherwise the sides are Evil, Neutral, or Good in a more Black, Grey and White world. It makes no sense for sides to choose their alliances entirely on their Law/Chaos alignment. Anyway, what I am really talking about is this following quote.
Alignment should be law/neutral/chaos and reflect only the color of your piece in the grand multiversal chess game the gods of law and chaos are playing
Again, this makes no sense. Alliances should at least be somewhat guided by Good and Evil, if not neutral. Admittedly, he could have meant that all the gods are Neutral in the Evil/Good axis, now that I think about it, which would make sense, and is certainly more realistic.
Law and Chaos make no sense to be the ONLY marker for which alliance you are taking, unless, again, it bears repeating, everyone is neutral in the Good/Evil axis.

The main reason I am saying this is because he said that this is how it HAS to be, and my posts he was saying that after had little to do with Law/Chaos anyway.

The writers of D&D don't even know what D&D alignment means, and they never have. It's all calvinball.
Again, I am not saying that alignment is necessary, I am just saying that if you do have alignment, it doesn't make sense for Law/Chaos to be the sole dividing line.
In real life, I would say the French & Indian war is a good example of this, they fought alongside each other against other colonists and other native americans, without being based on Alignment.
« Last Edit: May 15, 2019, 01:07:00 pm by pikachu17 »
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Imic

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Re: D&D Alignment discussion
« Reply #224 on: May 15, 2019, 01:50:35 pm »

When I DM I donít use alignment, as I find it restraining. I find itís never as simple as a fight between Good vs. Evil. Well, sometimes it is, but it doesnít make for as interesting a story.
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