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Author Topic: D&D Alignment discussion  (Read 15602 times)

Reelya

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Re: D&D Alignment discussion
« Reply #225 on: May 16, 2019, 05:12:07 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.
I did like this post however I disagreed with the lawful/neutral and chaotic/neutral descriptions.

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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.

I disagree with the bolded part. On the good/evil axis, a good character could be said to be willing to sacrifice themselves (to sensible degree) for others, while an evil character could be said willing to sacrifice others (to sensible degree) for themselves. Then, you can emphasize degree of goodness/evilness more fine-grained, and have an ultra-good character who's willing to die to save others and an ultra-evil character who's willing to kill to help themselves, along with less-evil characters who just aren't willing to go that far for selfishness, or generally Good people who aren't quite willing to die to save someone else.

Neutral characters on this axis just won't make a trade-off here: they'll help others if it costs them nothing or help themselves if it costs others nothing ... or they'll make that trade-off as long as it leaves a positive balance rather than no balance. If there's a cost-free way to help others, a Neutral character should take that action, rather than ignore it to keep "the balance". To take no good or bad actions because of "balance" is just playing "neutral stupid". A neutral character should take good or bad actions as they are beneficial, but they'll weigh up the costs to themselves or the group and take the action if there's a net gain. They are utilitarians. A LN character could rationalize their viewpoint as: they can best help the group (society) by first helping themselves.

 "Lawful neutral" thus shouldn't be "values Law above all else" because the axes should be independent, and this reading is adding in an additional assumption that's just not supported. Being Lawful Good and trending towards Lawful Evil (becoming more selfish) shouldn't take you through a "Law is Everything" state, because it makes very little sense for that to occur. What makes more sense is for the Lawful Good character to go through a "what's in it for me?" state in the middle where they're only willing to help out if they gain something, but not yet nasty enough to inflict actual hurt on people. Lawful Neutral (and similar argument could be made for Chaotic Neutral) should value / not-value rules exactly the same as other people in their same column, not more than them, they just made a different "me vs you" valuation along the ways from Good to Evil.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2019, 05:33:24 am by Reelya »
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MorleyDev

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Re: D&D Alignment discussion
« Reply #226 on: May 16, 2019, 09:09:27 am »

That's a fair point. Neutral is probably the hardest to fit into any system, especially if you try and make it an in-between of good and evil. Which when you are talking about good and evil in the first place doesn't even really make sense to me to even have an 'inbetween' position. Hence why I tried to reconstruct it so Neutral is more about lacking the capacity to choose, and Good/Lawful/Evil/Chaotic about priorities and values.

I'm not sure a person even could be neutral under that notion, unless they were just so broken as to be acting without any independent will. Which would make some portrayals of Darth Vader as Lawful Neutral.

Characters who transition from Good to Evil would care about others less and less and themselves more and more, until themself start to overrides other people in their evaluation. They don't need to transition 'through' neutral though in the process.

You don't have to be a saint to be called good, and you don't have to be satan to be evil. So by that concept, I'd say utilitarianism could still be argued to be Good and not neutral. Just a pragmatic type of good. What's in it for me in this scale is what I characterize as evil here, just not as big of an evil as someone cackling and setting puppies on fire for the kick of it.

I'd put it more about mindset, not actions. A good man can still commit a horrible act, and not stop being good. Kill an innocent child to save the world type stuff.

This also allows the construction of a story where the villains are also 'good' aligned. Which again is why I think the concept of alignment should be completely completely removed from the concept of narrative.

You also run into the problem that a culture can also be selfish and only care about itself, which would make it 'evil', but in the context of that culture it's members could still be 'good' since they care about each other more than themselves. But when they interact with other cultures, they become 'evil' without any change in character or behaviour. (Though you could argue that such 'good', caring only about those of your own culture, is selfishness and caring about the self: Your caring is based on their similarity to you, so they are really just a proxy for the self.)

Also under this model, The Borg Collective could be argued as 'good' aligned since they think they're helping by assimilating people. And three-law compliant AI would only be perhaps the ultimate example of Lawful Neutral since no matter how many lives they save or how selfless they act, those actions are all constrained by their programming and so the AI has no real choice in the matter.

Which means the word good does kinda stop meaning 'correct and just'.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2019, 01:55:28 pm by MorleyDev »
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Reelya

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Re: D&D Alignment discussion
« Reply #227 on: May 16, 2019, 02:18:50 pm »

I don't think the idea of being in between good and evil is that hard, conceptually, unless you have a hard-coded notion that "good" actions are only done by "good" people and "evil" actions are only done by "evil" people.

For example if you fell in a ditch and couldn't get out, and Hitler was walking past and you asked to be helped out of the ditch, at no cost to Hitler, he'd probably help (Lawful Evil). Not because he's "good" but because it costs him nothing. e.g. an evil person may assist others, but he's not going too far out of his way. Especially a Lawful Evil person. because they value Order, and leaving fellow citizens to die in the ditch is disorderly.

"goodness" in my formulation here, isn't about whether you helped or hurt someone, it's about how much you're willing to give in return. Then, the extremes become someone (good) who'll jump in front of a bus to save you at the expense of their own life, vs someone (evil) who'll through you under the bus to save their own life. In the middle are people (neutral) who aren't willing to do either. They'll help if it costs them less than you gain, or hurt, if it gains them more than you lose. So, good would be the tendency to value others over the self, and evil is the tendency to value the self over others. Neutral are just people who value their self and others about the same.

Things like "cruelty" wouldn't be automatic to all evil people under this system, because cruelty is a personality trait not an alignment feature. An evil person may be cruel, but it wouldn't be automatic. People are cruel not for the sake of "evil" but because they enjoy it - they derive value from it. And they value their enjoyment more than they devalue your suffering.

. Consider a thief who breaks into a house and steals the stuff for their own gain, but wouldn't stoop to murdering you for your shoes. They're not good, but not evil either.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2019, 02:42:07 pm by Reelya »
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MorleyDev

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Re: D&D Alignment discussion
« Reply #228 on: May 16, 2019, 02:33:28 pm »

I'm not sure if I'm being clear, but I'm trying to frame it in my model less about external actions and more about the internal mindset that directs the actions.

To be on the evil side you need to lean towards favouring yourself in your mind, and to be good you need to lean towards favouring others. That doesn't need to mean your actions are 'correct' or need to be matched a checklist of commandments, like I said I can see an argument for calling The Borg 'good' under this model even though they're most definitely antagonists. The actions are irrelevant, in my model goodness/evilness is defined entirely by the motivations.

So to be neutral you'd need to favour neither yourself nor overs, which I can't really conceive of anything but nihilistic apathy. But I'm viewing that if you chose to value the collective over any individual, then that counts as favouring others over the self.

Of course no model for this is exactly going to be correct :)

So with the model I'm putting forward, to address theft, if they're stealing for material gain without an immediate need for survival, I'd say they are evil under my model but perhaps not 'as' evil as someone who murders. Again, there's degrees of evilness and goodness. Not every thief would kill, not every murderer would rape, and not every rapist would commit genocide. The question is one of how far down they are willing to put others in the quest to elevate the self. Conversely, the degree of goodness is how much one is willing to put down the self to elevate others.

I can see that to help someone at no cost to yourself is a neutral action, no morality can be assigned to it since they neither needed to put themself down to elevate another or put another down to elevate themself. But conversely, I can also see an argument that failure to act due to a risk to the self is arguably an evil act, since it means they care more about themself than the person who needs help.

If they steal because they are without and those they steal from are with, bread to feed the family type situation, then that theft would not make them evil. If they steal because they are without, and they steal from those who would starve to death in their place as a result of their theft, then they are firmly favouring themself and thus evil.

As an aside, you've also opened an old question about morality: Can an action that costs you nothing even be called truly good? Or does it have to come at some personal cost? Can you be called good if goodness is free, or is goodness defined by resisting the call to evil? Or is a man who refuses to commit a sin to help themselves actually 'more' good than a man who gives to charity because they live with excess?
« Last Edit: May 16, 2019, 02:50:56 pm by MorleyDev »
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Reelya

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Re: D&D Alignment discussion
« Reply #229 on: May 16, 2019, 02:49:41 pm »

I think under the system I was outlining, a neutral person would only appropriate up to a point. Just as they're not evil enough to murder you, they're not evil enough to steal all your possessions for no reason. They'd take your stuff if the benefit to themselves outweighs the cost to you, but equally, they'd give their stuff to you if you needed it more.

I think the problem I have with the line good/evil in this respect is that there's an assumption that good people are "givers" and evil people are "takers" and you can have less-good or less-evil people, but there's some line they can't cross. There must then be a least-evil evil person (steals/hurts the least) and a least-good good person then (helps/heals the least), but the assumption is that there's no "neutral person in the middle of that....?

The problem is that real people don't give all the time, or take all the time. They each give and take. So, a neutral person is just someone in which the giving and taking tendencies are roughly balanced. The idea seems to be that they aren't logically possible because the assumption is that neutral must be some who never gives or takes, so everyone must be a giver or taker (good or evil) but that logic is flawed.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2019, 02:59:05 pm by Reelya »
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MorleyDev

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Re: D&D Alignment discussion
« Reply #230 on: May 16, 2019, 03:05:39 pm »

I can see your point. Though I'd say in my model neutral isn't about never giving or taking, but lacking the mental capability to make a choice as to whether to give or take. Hence my statement about a bear being neutral: They can't choose. They just are.

I guess it's difficult for me to imagine a character who posesses that capability and that doesn't at least tend towards one or the other. Nobody is selfless all the time, and very few are selfish all the time, but I can't help but think that at that point it comes down to the worldviews of the character.

Someone may act selfishly, but if their worldview is such that they will also experience guilt when confronted with the consequences of their actions then I would say that in that the character would still be leaning towards 'good'. In that respect maybe my idea of 'good' here is just including parts of your idea for neutral, in a sense?

It's hard for me to imagine a character with will that I'd call neutral with this model that isn't just nihilistically apathetic and non-acting as a part of their worldview. That they have will, but they are not asserting it. And...well... STATEMENT: Aaaaapathy iiisss deeeeaaaaath. Such characters are walking corpses, and the intrigue is in seeing them reclaim their will and return to the living (Again, an interpretation of Darth Vader).

As I think more then I think you almost would need two separate measures of 'good' and 'evil' if you wanted to encode a character at all times, where one is ever shifting and the attitude in the moment. The other is the wider personal philosophy and attitudes of the character. A character can become 'evil' in a moment and act selfishly without regard for others, but regret it later when they 'return to their baseline character' and thus the wider personal philosophy would remain 'good'. A character sifts when their baseline personal philosophy and attitudes are changed. It's almost like morality is way more complex than a 3x3 table or something :P

I should also make clear that I'm trying (and probably failing) to consistently put 'good' and 'evil' in quotes because I want to differentiate the labels of 'good' and 'evil' my model would assign to people from some higher grander notion of absolute Good and Evil.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2019, 04:40:34 pm by MorleyDev »
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Jimmy

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Re: D&D Alignment discussion
« Reply #231 on: May 16, 2019, 06:03:59 pm »

If you're framing Neutral in the moral light of the D&D system, you should consider the in-game examples of what typifies that type of behavior.

The most famous of all Neutral archetypes is the Druid. They're about balance in all things, allowing the good and bad in equal measure. "An' if it harm none, do as thou will," type morality. Live and let live.

Barbarians are another non-Lawful example. Anti-civilization, anti-corporation, pro-individual, survival of the fittest.

Monks are the opposite, pro-Lawful example. Strict hierarchy, rigid caste systems, strong respect for elders, deferral to the ancient wisdom of those who are superior in their organization.
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Cruxador

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Re: D&D Alignment discussion
« Reply #232 on: May 16, 2019, 08:26:31 pm »

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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.
Yeah, it's not fully consistent with our modern understanding of history as seen (to the best of the ability of a historian) objectively. But setting aside the aztecs (and incas) which involved more direct invasion, colonialism was most often a case of European powers with complex societies imposing their order upon disordered peoples and areas. The cefong system can be considered parallel in this regard. The cause of that chaos is not necessarily relevant since the PCs will normally only constitute one generation of adventurer. Consider also the imposition of specific philosophies (usually Christianity in European colonialism, and Confucianism in cefong) contributes to the imposition of order; although you're not wrong in the implication that this is simply a new order replacing an old one, this is also what the culture of the PCs defines as order, as opposed to some alien rules. In real life, human societies require order to flourish, but flourishing orderly societies aren't always the setting for a game you want, and the difference there is a good thing to use when designing your narrative.

tl;dr: You're objectively right, but being objective isn't always the best foundation for roleplaying.
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Thus, even Robin Hood isn't a proponent of "chaos" [...] 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.
Robin Hood can be considered chaotic since Prince John was the lawful representative of the King, and since he aligned himself with the wilderness. But I agree that this isn't necessarily an ideal fit, and Prince John deviating from the King's policies can be considered the influence of chaos as well, despite the fact that he possessed the mandate of the system.

Animals don't have the capability to *ask* the question in the first place, and that's why a bear is true neutral.
Although this is consistent with WotC's version, I'd like to remind you that in older uses of the system, a bear is affiliated with the wilderness which is opposite to society, and therefore the bear is opposite to law/order, and so is associated with chaos.

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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.
In my view, this is a very clear case of law vs chaos. Setting aside that a king can be an arbitrary despot, his actions are backed and empowered by the order of society, while a rebel's actions are empowered only by the freedom he seizes to disrupt that order.
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?
Whether Daenerys is a good character is a whole other discussion. But it's only natural that a well-written character can't be said to be entirely one way or another. This by no measure unique to alignment.

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<description of TSR's alignment omitted because this is already a very long post>

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
Yeah, I'm maintaining that the original form is far more useful for staging adventures than the modern system. That's not to say that it's always useful, but I've never known WotC's version to be useful.

The writers of D&D don't even know what D&D alignment means, and they never have. It's all calvinball.
That's true of WotC. TSR knew it meant "that thing we thought was cool in Moorcock books".

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.
I certainly agree with the notion that in any reasonably pragmatic setting, alignment will not be the only determiner of allegiance. But your notion (that good vs evil is more important) seems to me to be predicated on very unrealistic assumptions in the first place: That good and evil exist. With regards to good, let me reiterate my earlier point that people disagree on what good is. Previously I brought this up to highlight that making an objective good within the context of the game invites conflict at the table, but if there can be conflict over this notion at a table, imagine how much disagreement there can be across nations and cultures. As for evil, what is an evil society? Even with the famously unambiguous example of the nazis, it was a case of revenge against perceived transgressions and of working hard to benefit one's kin. It can be considered a problem of chaotic and fundamentally damaged individuals at the reins of a powerful (and orderly) system. And, one can notice, in this case the side of order, the fascists, did align themselves on this principle against the more freedom (and, therefore, chaos) oriented democracies, and both sides considered themselves to be in the right.

To clarify, I'm not saying that the nazis are non-evil, nor do I think this is a productive tangent to go down, only that even a case labeled "axis of evil" is really not that straightforward.
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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.
Yeah, the paradigm of chaos and law as the only alignment necessarily implies the irrelevance of the good vs evil alignment. I would have thought that was self-evident. Whether you say everyone is evil, everyone is good, or everyone is neutral just depends on how grim your setting is, or how optimistic you are within that setting. Minor variations between altruism and pragmatism don't erase the fact, after all, that consistent malice is always counterproductive and not compatible with an ordered society, meaning it's synonymous (rather than independent of, as implied by the WotC alignment axes) with chaos.


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.
I don't believe anyone was saying that it would be a sole dividing line among mortal folk, though. Cthulhu's reference was to Moorcockian celestial contest, not to terrestrial politics.
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MorleyDev

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Re: D&D Alignment discussion
« Reply #233 on: May 17, 2019, 02:45:57 am »

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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.

In my view, this is a very clear case of law vs chaos. Setting aside that a king can be an arbitrary despot, his actions are backed and empowered by the order of society, while a rebel's actions are empowered only by the freedom he seizes to disrupt that order

Except what if the rebel seeks to impose their own laws, and it's just the lack of power that prevents them? The rebel could also have lawful backing and be the legally rightful ruler. And often if they win, the rebel becomes the king in the next conflict. King here isn't literally a king.

Less Law vs Chaos and more Stasis vs Change.

In Robin Hood, whilst Prince John is the King to Robin Hoods rebel he's also the rebel to King Richard.

If in Warhammer, you sought to kill a 'god of Chaos' in it's own realm, you'd be the Rebel and the god of Chaos the King. And if you sought to usurp that power, and succeeded, you'd become the king and if they survived the god of chaos would have become the rebel.

Then in The Shivering Isles, you have a god of order seeking to conquer the god of madness. Madness is the king, and Order the rebel. And the king wins that one.

Aligning such characters to law/chaos doesn't seem to match their king/rebel roles in the narrative there. You can argue that their narrative roles are law and chaos, 'Stasis' and 'Change', but the characters themselves aren't also aligned in that way. Sheogorath is all about chaos and change, god of madness and all.

A good narrative will have multiple simultaneous King/Rebel conflicts. Also, whilst the King/Rebel are in conflict they aren't always the ones who decide the victor. There's often an observer whose presence forces the conflict to end. Luke/Vader/Palpatine is a good example of this because they all fulfill different roles in different conflicts. Luke observes the end of Empire vs Rebels. Vader decides the victor in Palpatine vs Luke, Palpatine observes the Luke/Vader conflict, and Luke is the driving force that ends the Vader/Palpatine conflict.

My point isn't that this king/rebel is a useful alignment system, and more that alignment systems are perhaps better considered as character measures and not to involve the actual narrative of the story. That a characters actions should only be measured in so far as what they reveal about that characters internal worldview, and alignment is a label assigned to that internal worldview.

But I also dislike 'lawful' and 'good' tending to be regarded in narratives as the thing to strive towards. That 'lawful good' is Good, and more 'good' is inherently better. The prequel era Jedi Order is probably among the most 'lawful good', but they sought to completely remove human nature and the self from the equation with regard to their own actions. 'The jedi are selfless, they only care about others', and that was one of their greatest flaws as an order.
« Last Edit: May 17, 2019, 05:57:33 am by MorleyDev »
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Cthulhu

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Re: D&D Alignment discussion
« Reply #234 on: May 17, 2019, 05:58:28 pm »

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?
Whether Daenerys is a good character is a whole other discussion. But it's only natural that a well-written character can't be said to be entirely one way or another. This by no measure unique to alignment.

Presumably we're all here to make a good character, so whence alignment in the first place?  placement in unthinkable cosmic schemes, fodder for DM

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.

Since when?  People want food, a roof, and security, and they form alliances and declare enemies to secure those things.  Good and evil is just the rubber stamp they put on afterward.
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Cruxador

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Re: D&D Alignment discussion
« Reply #235 on: May 17, 2019, 06:53:06 pm »

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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.

In my view, this is a very clear case of law vs chaos. Setting aside that a king can be an arbitrary despot, his actions are backed and empowered by the order of society, while a rebel's actions are empowered only by the freedom he seizes to disrupt that order

Except what if the rebel seeks to impose their own laws, and it's just the lack of power that prevents them? The rebel could also have lawful backing and be the legally rightful ruler. And often if they win, the rebel becomes the king in the next conflict. King here isn't literally a king.
Switching from chaos to law is no more bizarre than switching from rebel to king, first of all. But I see your point, if the lawful side is simply weaker, that doesn't make them not lawful. Perhaps your king vs rebel is fundamentally a question of weak vs strong, with some of the flavor of law vs chaos added; I initially interpreted it as the other way around.

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Less Law vs Chaos and more Stasis vs Change.
I would see stasis and change as subsidiary components of law and chaos, respectively, and inalienable from those more overarching principles.

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<examples omitted for length>
I see, I would characterize this as not so much an alignment system as a confucian-like relationship of individuals. It certainly seems like a useful tool for telling stories of conflict, though.

My point isn't that this king/rebel is a useful alignment system, and more that alignment systems are perhaps better considered as character measures and not to involve the actual narrative of the story. That a characters actions should only be measured in so far as what they reveal about that characters internal worldview, and alignment is a label assigned to that internal worldview.

But I also dislike 'lawful' and 'good' tending to be regarded in narratives as the thing to strive towards. That 'lawful good' is Good, and more 'good' is inherently better. The prequel era Jedi Order is probably among the most 'lawful good', but they sought to completely remove human nature and the self from the equation with regard to their own actions. 'The jedi are selfless, they only care about others', and that was one of their greatest flaws as an order.
[/quote]

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My point isn't that this king/rebel is a useful alignment system, and more that alignment systems are perhaps better considered as character measures and not to involve the actual narrative of the story. That a characters actions should only be measured in so far as what they reveal about that characters internal worldview, and alignment is a label assigned to that internal worldview.
I'm not sure I understand this point though, especially on the heels of its predecessor; after all you've just described how very important alignment type relationships were in several cases to the narrative. Do you mean that alignments need not be directly referenced within the narrative? I don't disagree, but neither do I think that it's bad to reference them.

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?
Whether Daenerys is a good character is a whole other discussion. But it's only natural that a well-written character can't be said to be entirely one way or another. This by no measure unique to alignment.

Presumably we're all here to make a good character, so whence alignment in the first place?  placement in unthinkable cosmic schemes, fodder for DM
I don't entirely agree. Yes, the ideal is to make a good character, but especially for dungeon delving and high lethality campaigns, it's not that rare for writing a good character to be not worth the effort. Alignment, in that context, can serve as a bit of a placeholder for better writing. Personally, I don't think it's the best one; I'd rather go with a system of personality traits, allegiance, goals and problems, and things like that. Even if it's select a couple from a list, there's more going on there. But law vs chaos suggests enough of a meaningful paradigm that I think it has strong potential use, particularly if you take into account not only the version printed in WotC material but also the TSR/Moorcock versions, and the Egyptian version which can be thought of as a synthesis between west Asian good vs evil and African wilderness vs society, and therefore incorporating these broad themes as well.
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Arcvasti

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Re: D&D Alignment discussion
« Reply #236 on: May 18, 2019, 04:12:56 pm »

Please let this thread die gracefully.
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MorleyDev

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Re: D&D Alignment discussion
« Reply #237 on: May 19, 2019, 12:41:43 pm »

Ah, but this is fun :P Also I think we aren't even really talking about DnD alignment itself anymore so much as the things one has to consider when constructing an alignment system. Which is a more interesting discussion anyway.

@Cruxador, What I'm trying to explain, and probably not doing an amazing job at, is that the King/Rebel position, or Stasis/Change, or the way you are explaining Law/Chaos, are dealing with the roles the character fulfils. Like the 'hero' in The Hero's Journey, the 'hero' is the role the character falls into and not necessarily meaning they are the good guy. A villain can be the focus of a Hero's Journey, so long as they fulfil the role of the 'hero' in the checklist of The Hero's Journey.

Hero's Journey, King/Rebel, Stasis/Change and Law/Order here are all examples of monomyths: Attempts to simplify multiple or all narratives to a single abstract cyclical narrative that any story can be seen as an elaboration on.

Alignment, in my view, seems more useful as a way to categorise the most fundamental internal beliefs and motivations of a character. The reasons that they enact the actions they do, irrespective of the actions themselves.

So Alignment is internal to the character and could be applied without directly referring to the actions of that character and instead only referring to their thoughts/feelings/beliefs, whilst Role is external and defined by the character's position within the narrative irrelevant of what they think/feel/belief.

Does that make sense?
« Last Edit: May 19, 2019, 01:18:24 pm by MorleyDev »
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Cruxador

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Re: D&D Alignment discussion
« Reply #238 on: May 19, 2019, 05:35:00 pm »

Ah, but this is fun :P Also I think we aren't even really talking about DnD alignment itself anymore so much as the things one has to consider when constructing an alignment system. Which is a more interesting discussion anyway.
I agree, very much so.

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@Cruxador, What I'm trying to explain, and probably not doing an amazing job at, is that the King/Rebel position, or Stasis/Change, or the way you are explaining Law/Chaos, are dealing with the roles the character fulfils. Like the 'hero' in The Hero's Journey, the 'hero' is the role the character falls into and not necessarily meaning they are the good guy. A villain can be the focus of a Hero's Journey, so long as they fulfil the role of the 'hero' in the checklist of The Hero's Journey.

Hero's Journey, King/Rebel, Stasis/Change and Law/Order here are all examples of monomyths: Attempts to simplify multiple or all narratives to a single abstract cyclical narrative that any story can be seen as an elaboration on.
Yeah, this makes sense. I would say that the three dichotomies listed are different in scale or scope, though. Your king/rebel is very oriented towards the individual, whereas stasis/change exists on an abstract level, and civilization/wilderness is relevant to a societal level, while law/chaos can be looked at as a synthesis of different levels and an attempt to incorporate all of them. Aside from the scale, I think these dichotomies all have pretty substantial thematic overlap, to the extent that it's not hard to identify which one of any pair corresponds (at least in general) to which member of another pair. In that regard, I consider law and chaos to each include one side of pairs like this, which is why I think it has the ability to exist on a higher level as an alignment system for an entire setting.

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Alignment, in my view, seems more useful as a way to categorise the most fundamental internal beliefs and motivations of a character. The reasons that they enact the actions they do, irrespective of the actions themselves.
Although it is most typically used in this sense, I see alignment as far too imprecise to be ideal for this purpose. "Lawful good" only paints with very broad strokes. On the other hand, if I were to describe a character and affably hedonistic and secretly patriotic, each of those gives you an important motivation and a way to express or roleplay it; "lawful" and "good" tell you a comparatively tiny amount. But while you can fit the traditional alignments into the former paradigm (rigidly altruistic, cheerfully altruistic, independently altruistic, rigidly balanced, measuredly balanced, independently balanced, rigidly malicious, utterly malicious, arbitrarily malicious easily done off the top of my head) they lack the specificity to be much of a guideline unless overapplied - as in "I kill that guard because I'm chaotic".

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So Alignment is internal to the character and could be applied without directly referring to the actions of that character and instead only referring to their thoughts/feelings/beliefs, whilst Role is external and defined by the character's position within the narrative irrelevant of what they think/feel/belief.
I don't find that to be very meaningful, though. The nine alignments don't capture much of personality even if you divorce it from behavior. Thoughts and feelings are themselves reactive to the situation you're in, and beliefs are better handled by specific creeds whether religions, philosophies, or what have you. As a roleplaying aid, I don't find these to be useful in this case, as a categorization of mental qualities, it's not great either, but that's something you don't really need. As for my own opinion, I only really see alignment as strongly relevant on a grander scale, for the narrative theme and perhaps for cosmology.

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Does that make sense?
Oh yeah, absolutely.
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MorleyDev

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Re: D&D Alignment discussion
« Reply #239 on: May 19, 2019, 06:18:55 pm »

I'm not sure I'm even using the right word with thoughts/feelings/beliefs. It seems more fundamental than belief or creed. Like, the core of a character when all creeds and dichotomy is stripped away. Like, if you took away all actual laws then a 'lawful' character in thought would still have to be something you can call 'lawful'. And no matter how much you bound them to lawfulness, a 'chaotic' character will still be 'chaotic' in mind.

A lawful characters will probably follow a creed, but they aren't necessarily lawful because they follow it. Instead, it could be said that they follow it because they are lawful. That seems an important distinction to me. They can still be tempted to stray though. What's a character without some internal conflict, after all?

It's one of the problems I think video games have that try and apply an alignment system of any kind. By being driven by player agency and having to make decisions based on player inputs, your actions dictate your 'alignment' when it should really be alignment...drives? justifies? influences? suggests? actions. Again, I'm not finding the words for what I'm trying to convey and that annoys me.

Mass Effect 1 probably had the best attempt to get around that limitation, with Renegade and Paragon being more about the measuring the approaches your character was favouring, but even that had problems and they kinda gave up on it and their not being a 'morally superior' alignment depressingly quickly (and by ME3 let's face it: Paragon was just Light Side, and Renegade was just Dark Side. ME2/3 even had the whole dark-side-face-messed-up thing for Revans sake!).

Either way, I would agree that the more options you add to a description the better a description it'd be, albeit more complex one to use as well. Ultimately the exact architecture of the alignment system is best left defined by the setting crafted after all.

In traditional Dungeons and Dragons it uses the Lawful/Neutral/Chaotic and Good/Neutral/Evil to categorise the gods, and so the alignments match to represent which type of god a personality would be most appealing to. But really, by itself any system of categorisation is never going to tell you more useful information than the vaguest of outlines of personality. You need more of a description to fill in the detail, at the end of the day.

To go for a different setting: whilst World of Darkness doesn't really have 'governing gods' as such in the same sense, to take Vampire as an example the default morality system of the Path of Humanity is crafted more based around a scale of Control vs Carnality. 'A beast I am lest a beast I become' and all that. But there is likewise going to be nuance between the characters even amongst the same Humanity level. And that raises the same type of idea of what I have at the start of my post: Are they more bestial because of their low humanity, or is their humanity low because they are more bestial?

I'd argue the former vs latter there is my idea of the difference between SAN and Alignment. Which means I do think Humanity as it's done in Vampire is a SAN system, not Alignment. Arguably which Path you follow is more the alignment system there.

(For the record, the idea of King and Rebel isn't really mine. I kinda stole it as a basic from the Elder Scrolls lore community, but their version of it is more complex and I like my simplified form of it as a general albeit very abstract basis for a monomyth :P Also in this monomyth the king needn't be the agent of stasis. They can be an agent of change from within their position of power, which the rebel enters to prevent their change. If the king is victorious, their change becomes the new stasis.)
« Last Edit: May 19, 2019, 07:30:51 pm by MorleyDev »
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