- For alignments in other role-playing games, see Alignment (role-playing games).
Early editions of Dungeons & Dragons allowed players to choose between three alignments when creating a character: lawful, implying honour and respect for society's rules, chaotic, implying the opposite, and neutral, meaning neither. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons introduced a second axis of good, neutral and evil, offering a combination of nine alignments.
The nine alignments can be represented in a grid, as follows:
|Lawful Good||Neutral Good||Chaotic Good|
|Lawful Neutral||Neutral||Chaotic Neutral|
|Lawful Evil||Neutral Evil||Chaotic Evil|
Dungeons & Dragons creator Gary Gygax credits the inspiration for the alignment system to the fantasy stories of Poul Anderson and Michael Moorcock. In Anderson's novel Three Hearts and Three Lions, Law and Chaos are warring cosmic principles that command the allegiance of the knights of Charlemagne and the spirits of Faerie respectively. Moorcock extensively developed the concept of a cosmic struggle between Law and Chaos in his fantasy stories and novels of the 1960s (such as the Elric and Hawkmoon story cycles), envisioning a multiverse of worlds as the battlefield for principles embodied in godlike beings. The game's alignment system initially featured only Law, Neutrality and Chaos, with Law generally equating to Good and heroism, and Chaos implying anarchy and Evil; however, the good/evil parallels were not strongly defined. Initially, dwarves were Lawful and elves Chaotic, while humans could be of any of the three alignments.
While the game had always allowed the creation of creatures who were intrinsically good or evil, it wasn't until Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) that the concept was explicitly introduced into the alignment system. Characters and creatures could now be Lawful at the same time as being Evil (such as a tyrant), or Chaotic but Good (such as Robin Hood). Nine alignment combinations were possible in all, referred to with the Law/Chaos component first and the Good/Evil component last: for example, Lawful Good or Neutral Evil (abbreviated to LG and NE, respectively). A character or creature considered neutral on both axes is referred to as True Neutral or simply Neutral. This system is still used by the most recent edition of the D&D game.
Under the AD&D rules, a player character's alignment was strongly enforced. For example, under 2nd Edition AD&D rules, a character who performed too many actions outside of his alignment could be forced to change alignment, and alignment changes were penalized by requiring more experience to be gained to reach the next level. In third edition D&D this restriction is removed and players are technically allowed to change alignment freely.
As of the most recent version of the Dungeons & Dragons game, alignment's most significant effect is restricting what character classes a person may take - for example, a Lawful person cannot become a bard or a barbarian, a druid must be Neutral in at least one aspect, and under the standard rules only Lawful Good characters can become a paladin. Certain weapons (such as Holy weapon) or spells (such as detect evil) affect creatures differently depending on alignment.
A rule removed from recent editions of the game was alignment languages, wherein people of the same alignment could communicate through insinuations and intimations that only really make sense between those of like-minded affiliation with an aspect of a universal standard of ethic and morality. Since a person could change alignment, this rule made little sense and was eventually removed, despite rules implying that alignment change removed commonality and hence shifted mutual understanding.
Good vs. EvilEdit
The conflict of Good versus Evil is a common motif in Dungeons & Dragons and other fantasy fiction. Although player characters can adventure for personal gain rather than from altruistic motives, it's generally assumed that the player characters will generally be opposed to evil and often fight evil creatures.
The third edition D&D rules define good and evil as follows:
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 harming, oppressing, and killing others. Some evil creatures simply have no compassion for others and kill without qualms if doing so is convenient or if it can be set up. Others actively pursue evil, killing for sport or out of duty to some malevolent 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.
Paladins, altruistic heroes and creatures such as angels are considered Good aligned. Villains and violent criminals are considered evil, as are inherently evil creatures such as demons and most undead. Animals are considered neutral even when they attack innocents, since they act on natural instinct and lack the intelligence to make moral decisions.
Law vs. ChaosEdit
The Law versus Chaos axis in Dungeons & Dragons predates Good versus Evil in the game rules. In esoteric Greyhawk setting lore, too, the precepts of Law and Chaos predate Good and Evil in the world's prehistory. Players often consider Law and Chaos less relevant to their character than Good and Evil. Confusingly, a Lawful alignment does not necessarily mean that a character obeys a region's laws.
The third edition D&D rules define law and chaos as follows:
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. They are honest but can be tempted into lying or deceiving others.
It is more common for creatures to be neutral with regard Law/Chaos than Good/Evil. Certain extraplanar creatures, such as the numerous and powerful Modrons, are always Lawful. Conversely, Slaad are Chaotic, representing beings of chaos. Dwarven societies are usually lawful, while Elven societies are most often chaotic.
Any person, creature, deity or extraplanar realm in Dungeons & Dragons can have one of the nine alignments. Wizards of the Coast has only published one Dungeons & Dragons sourcebook to date citing real world fictional characters as examples of aligned individuals.
Lawful Good is known as the "Saintly" or "Crusader" alignment. A lawful good character typically acts with compassion, and always with honor and a sense of duty. A lawful good nation would consist of a well-organized government that works for the benefit of its citizens. Lawful good characters include righteous knights, all paladins and most dwarves. Lawful good creatures include the noble golden dragons. Lawful Good outsiders are known as Archons.
Lawful Good characters, especially paladins, may sometimes find themselves faced with the dilemma of whether to obey Law or Good when the two conflict - for example, upholding a sworn oath when it would lead innocents to come to harm - or conflicts between two orders, such as between their religious law and the law of the local ruler.
In the Complete Scoundrel sourcebook, Batman, Dick Tracy and Indiana Jones are cited as examples of Lawful Good characters. In the real world, the Scout Oath of the Boy Scouts of America also expresses a Lawful Good ideal.
Neutral Good is known as the "Benefactor" alignment. A neutral good character is guided by his conscience and typically acts altruistically, without regard for or against Lawful precepts such as rules or tradition. A neutral good character may cooperate with lawful officials but does not feel beholden to them. A doctor that treats soldiers from both sides in a war would be considered Neutral Good.
Chaotic Good is known as the "Beatific" or "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. Most elves are chaotic good, as are some fey.
Lawful Neutral is called the "Judge" or "Disciplined" alignment. A lawful neutral character typically believes strongly in Lawful concepts such as honor, order, rules and tradition, and often follows a personal code. A Lawful Neutral society would typically enforce strict laws to maintain social order, and place a high value on traditions and historical precedent. Examples of Lawful Neutral characters include a soldier who always follows orders, a judge or enforcer that adheres mercilessly to the word of the law, a disciplined monk, and the Dungeon Master of a D&D game. Lawful Neutral creatures also include the Modrons and Inevitables, a strict hierarchy of incredible extraplanar constructs who embody the very concept of order.
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.
Neutral alignment, also referred to as True 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. Most animals, such as monkeys, lacking the capacity for moral judgement, are 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. Mordenkainen is one such character who takes this concept to the extreme, dedicating himself to a detached philosophy of neutrality to ensure that no one alignment or power takes control of the Flanaess.
Druids frequently follow this True Neutral dedication to balance, and under Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules were required to be this alignment. In an example given in a D&D rulebook, a typical druid might fight against a band of marauding gnolls, only to switch sides to save the gnoll's clan from being exterminated.
Chaotic Neutral is called the "Anarchist" or "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 enjoy seeing others suffer. Many adventurers are of this alignment.
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. Characters of this type include the Xaositects from the Planescape setting, and Hennet from the third edition Player's Handbook. In Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Chaotic Neutral was frequently assumed to refer to this subset.
Lawful Evil is referred to as the "Dominator" or "Diabolic" alignment. Characters of this alignment show a combination of desirable and undesirable traits: while they typically obey their superiors and keep their word, they care nothing for the rights and freedoms of other individuals. Examples of this alignment include tyrants, devils, organized criminals, those with samurai-like aspects, and soldiers who follow the chain of command but enjoy killing for its own sake.
The game rules devote the most detail to this alignment, since it frequently creates interesting mastermind villains:
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.
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.
Chaotic Evil is referred to as the "Destroyer" or "Demonic" 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.
In addition, there are also blended or "tendency" alignments (and relative Outer Realms) that exist between the basic nine, bringing the total of alignment combinations up to seventeen. These include Neutral Good with either Lawful or Chaotic tendencies, Lawful Neutral with either Good or Evil tendencies, Chaotic Neutral with either Good or Evil tendencies, and Neutral Evil with either Lawful or Chaotic tendencies.
In some campaigns there are even Neutral with tendencies towards one of the four cores of Good, Evil, Law, and Chaos (totaling the maximum possibilities to twenty-one), although there are rarely respective Outer Planes tied to these.
- ↑ DeVarque, Aardy R.. "Literary Sources of D&D". Archived from the original on 2005-02-19. http://web.archive.org/20050219020638/www.geocities.com/rgfdfaq/sources.html. Retrieved 2007-02-23.
- ↑ Pulsipher, Lewis (Oct/Nov 1981). "An Introduction to Dungeons & Dragons, Part V" (analysis/overview). White Dwarf (Games Workshop) (Issue 27): 14.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 McArtor, Mike; Scheider, F Westley (2007). Complete Scoundrel. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast. p. 8-9. ISBN 978-0-7869-4152-0.
- ↑ The Scout Oath states: ''On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight. The Boy Scout Handbook (11th ed.). Irving, TX: Boy Scouts of America. 1998. pp. 7,9. ISBN 0-8395-3105-2.
- Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition Player's Handbook. TSR, Inc..
- The Complete Druid's Handbook. TSR, Inc..
- d20 System Reference Document (used under the Open Gaming License).