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Tuesday, September 17, 2013


We live in a Lawful society. Essentially, every place went from a state like Somalia or Afghanistan, and had their warlords defeated and exterminated by the forces which brought in State power. This even applies to Incas, who consolidated their territory about 150 years before Columbus discovered America. In historic terms, any Chaotic guy, does not believe that there is a central authority that can control him, and hence will do as he or she sees fit in accordance with their power. Think warlords who administer their turf and hold out against the nation building efforts of the superpowers and the US. In that situation “Lawful” types will have faith in the UN Peacekeepers and the NGOs.

The line of demarcation between “Good” and “Evil”, as Gary Gygax wrote the alignments, is Altruism. In real world, Evil is selfish, can not see past itself and will always lose to “Good” because Evil does not survive self-interest. Good sees beyond itself. A Good man will fight and die to defend his wife and child or his cause, while evil will always surrender if faced with certain destruction. Suicide squads like Japanese kamikazes and self-bombers are really Lawful, because they accept the love and promises of the belief system and the community that sacrifices them and reveres them as heroes. A Lawful Good person can also become a kamikaze, if say, his family burned to death in the firebombing of Tokyo. Also, all alignments have their opposite side. “Good” characters can do evil and “Evil” Characters can do occasional good deeds. Let’s say a band of Good Rangers are destroying foul den of evil and cannibalistic orcs, and the orcs are fightiong to the death to defend their young and their women.

A good book to watch the alignments in action is Ken Follet’s World Without End. If you ever read it, watch the way old Earl behaves towards Ralph against the wishes of his Lady. Old Earl is essentially acting as a Lawful Evil Character, Sir Ralph turns into a Chaotic Evil character.


Kindly vassal. Uses the system to serve the society to promote good. In outlook typical law abiding citizen of the Western Nations. Weakness in this alignment is their faith in the system. They may let the innocent be unjustly convicted and may overlook the corruption before them.


These people will serve their community to the best of their ability and will disregard the hierarchy. Can not be relied upon to carry out orders. Example comes from Crimean war – Infantry column was ambushed. Commander sends the leader of the Cossacks and his two aides to alert the main force. Thirty minutes later, commander is horrified to see them in a fight. The Cossack thought that he should be with his men first, and would carry out orders later. He clearly was loyal to his men, but the concepts of greater strategies and necessities was beyond him. Had he been drilled into Lawful alignment by being in a regular unit, he would have carried out the order from his superiors, as we expect it to be done in modern times. Again, we are a Lawful paradise.


These are fanatics for the cause. They are Neutral in the sense that they do not care anything for the means, but the greater good. Historically, the Lawful character believes in the good of the system and trusts the system to do good by its citizens, this leads to a certain passivity of the Lawful Good characters, Chaotic Good is obsessed with personal freedoms, realistically, they are modern people (Like Afghanistan’s General Dostum, like the Cossacks, Like the German Uhlans or the late roman barbarians) in that they know the ways of their modern world, but yet they fancy themselves as self-romanticized Noble Savages. Obssession with personal freedom expressed as “my own horse, my repeating carbine, and the plains I can roam” (borders to patrol) in the mid 19th century. The Neutral Good character is beyond all that. Listen to the Pretenders song “Born with the sense of Purpose”. Think early Christians, think Martin Luther King, think Mother Teresa. We shall overcome and By any means necessary. In D&D terms think about a leader of a small group of barbarians survivinbg between two great empires at war. He will do anything to save his band and doesn’t care about breaking the alliances or making them, so long as his people survive. Think a young witch in a small village, who so disgusted with the sadistic ways of an evil overlord starving the peasants, that she takes up arms to break the yoke of oppression. She no longer cares about her own life or freedom nor is she waiting for any Good to come from the outside. In a way this is an ideal alignment for a player in a good versus evil type of campaign.At first Gygax thought the Lawful Good to be the best alignment, then he decided that Neutral Good would be the strongest. And yes, a Neutral Good character can give her word to a captured man at arms serving evil, that his life will be spared if he surrenders, and then slit his throat if keeping him alive is impracticable. Happens all the time. Especially if she had seen her friends tortured and executed. You can’t expect anything else.


This is the professional. A mercenary commander or a general, who cares for nothing but the welfare of his men. This is the standard AD&D definition. But there is more. There is a truism that an honest man in a corrupt system will compensate with personal honesty, professionalism, and valor. So, if you have a decent policeman in a place like Gestapo or KGB, he will compensate by being honest, conscientious and doing as good as he can by ithe people. Until he either becomes corrupt and one of the boys, drinks himself to death, or himself become a political prisoner. In that sense, a Lawful Good Character disillusioned with the corrupted system will either remain good by selectively carrying out orders from the above, a Chaotic Good OR he will remain Lawful, and try to function as before, but as a Lawful Neutral professional.


This is interesting. This is a Shaman. In our world these are people who hear voices and drug addicts trying to survive day by day. They live in a world outside our reality and must survive where it doesn’t affect us. In our world it’s schizophrenia and mental illness. Shamanism. Inuit and Eskimo tribesmen who physically can not hunt and are doomed to starvation. Their religion posits that they allow themselves to be possessed by spirtits, who can communicate through them, and that knowledge is needed by the tribe, which feeds the shaman and keeps him alive. These are the people who send their aged down the river to die when there is not enough food to eat. Shamans believe that there is an endless hierarchy of good spirits serving evil serving good serving good serving evil, ad nauseum, an endless hierarchy, in which the shaman is a physical puppet at the lowest level doing the bidding. This is almost Lovecraftian in its horror to them. They have many rituals to keep possession of their own bodies lest the spirits take over permanently. Chaotic Neutral behavior might be seen as psychotic by a non Chaotic Neutral character, but in the fantasy world of D&D where good and evil spirits are for real, the preoccupatons of Chaotic Neutral Characters take on a real necessity and real effect.


This is a selfish egotist. Think Chaotic Neutral, but in the world of men. Prostitutes and thieves at the bottom rung of the underworld, ex-cops thrown in the general population in prison, Outlaws in “World Witout End”. Survival is the Neutra Evil’ character’s watch word, but neutral evil characters will use survival to justify any sort of conduct. In very real terms, Neutral Evil characters life and well being is at the pleasure f those above them, hence they will do anything to survive. They are broken people, the polar opposite of the Neutral Good. Whereas the Lawful Evil character is about US versus Them and Strength in Numbers, and a Chaotic Evil character is “Because I can” and Might Makes Right, Neutral Evil character is “Everyone is against me” “I am powerless” “We all do what we needed to survive”


A corporate Lawyer who will hide behind the system to pursue his own ends, someone who will use his superior knowledge of the law to cheat a widow out of her house. A bunch of Goblins who believe that there is strength in numbers. Often, Lawful Evil Characters will view the world in terms of Us and Ours versus them, and they will think themselves as being superior to everyone else, and hence entitled to ruling over other by force and taking what they like by force. There are two types of Lawful Evil characters – A cynical opportunist, and a rank and file thug, fascist etc.


The biggest bully, whether with a Ogre club or spells, who thinks that they can hold their own and do as they pleased. A lot of tribal Chiefs were like that, ruled their people with an iron fist and in accordance with every whim of their ego, and were oblivious to the approaching power of the new settlers, the British Empire, the Colonial power or the Cold War Superpowers. That’s why the Neutral Good Barbarian Chieftan is in the D&D fantasy, because the historic Chieftans and Warlords were incredibly selfish and near sighted, incapable of working together.


The worst explained of all the alignments. Old D&D had only three alignments, from point of view of a war. US, the Good guys, THEM, the Evil guys, and in the second book they introduced the non-combatants, the Neutrals. Druids were neutrals, guys who worshipped trees or did the martial arts, and were outside the order of battle between Good and Evil. In Basic D&D, there was the pro-social Lawful, anti-social Chaotic and a Neutral, who viewed all things in balance, or in the AD&D interpretation, who didn’t care about the conflict one way or the other, basically the great uninvolved majority. This is incorrect; Alignment is about a dominant world view. In the real world, “Alignment” would consist of core values about the acceptable role of women in society, how one should spend or save money, how to use discipline in child rearing, limits of private property rights, church and the role of the State. In D&D terms we have the Good versus Evil and Law versus Chaos. If someone is undefined, or didn’t get a chance to differentiate their position, it doesn’t make them neutral, but undeveloped. If you look at Neutrality the way it is set up in the AD&D Alignment system, Neutrality means a withdrawal from one set of issues in favor of concentrating one’s efforts on the remaining issue. If essence of good alignments is altruism, evil alignments – selfishness, law – sense of social order and chaos – anarchy, then Neutrality is about self-abnegation.

A neutral evil character is a sissy boy surviving among bullies, a cop serving time in prison with the criminals that s/he helped put away. Neutral Evil characters abnegate their dignity, self-respect and honor in order to survive. They beg and betray and will sell themselves. They cam make a stand and die, instead they choose to live on their knees.

Chaotic Neutral character is a madman or a shaman keeping Lovecraftian demons at bay. S/he sacrifices their sanity in order to survive. Sanity expressed in social acceptance, normal friends and normal life. They are not broken by the world of men, like the Neutral Evils, but by a world of supernatural predators that no one can see, hence they are deemed insane and they pay no attention to our world, which is non-threatening by comparison.

Next is the world of the Lawful Neutral. S/he is the professional. Lawful Neutrals make the trains run on time, whether they bring food to the famine stricken regions and feed the starving, or they are transporting slaves to death camps in pursuit of genocide. Making the trains run on schedule is what’s important to the Lawful Neutrals. They abnegate their free will in order not to accept the moral responsibility for the actions, which their system takes I the world for good or evil.

Neutral Good character is like Inayat Khan, a British SOE radio operator in the occupied France during WW2. She was parachuted into France just as Gestapo was destroying the British resistance network. As everyone was hiding and trying to flee back into UK. She stayed in place and operated her radio and maintained contact with London and was critical in saving what was saved of the network. She stayed as everyone was fleeing and was captured, then refused to cooperate as every other radio operator broke and stated providing information to Gestapo, and was tortured to death. She willingly sacrificed her life for the others and that’s the willing self-sacrifice of the Neutral Good alignment.

Having said all that, what does that make of the TRUE NEUTRAL? It’s total self-abnegation and withdrawal from the conflict in which the D&D Characters are participating, adventuring. The only people who completely are monks and mystics. AD&D states that the animals are also True Neutrals. That makes sense, if you consider that “Self” or self-awareness, is a higher mental function overlaying instinct. Four legged animals have a non-existent or extremely diminished sense of self, when compared to humans (and humanoids).

There have been historic cases, where humans have tried to get rid of their self-awareness, and it hadn’t been with the Druids. “Nature” to the True Neutral is not balance and flowers and trees and the breeze, it’s spontaneity and lack of forethought or afterthought. That humans tried to get rid of self-awareness is nothing new. Shamans and Mystics believe that if you get rid of “self” by sleep deprivation, drugs and drumming. Mystics believe that “self” holds you back from a complete union with the greater god, and to be joined with the God in such a way is the greatest joy in the world (forget yourself, forget your pain). Shamans believe that when you get rid of “self”, your body will be possessed by demons, and those demons will provide insight and do feats, that give Shamans their powers. Practitioners of Zen Buddhism believed that by getting rid of se;f-awareness, they got rid of stress and obsessive thinking and doubts, and that made for faster combat reflexes and better warriors, hence Zen became the teaching of the Samurai.

Drawing on this, a True Neutral character is basically a Monk dedicated to his monastic life and work. Monk can be a Martial artist, a D&D Monk, a type of a jester, in the Zen Koan tradition, or a warrior or a thief dedicated to their craft so they will be the top of their profession. True Neutral can be a Priest dedicated to a deity that is not concerned with either humanity or the fight that the D&D adventure is taking place, also True Neutral is a Magic User studying Cosmos, dimensions and string theory without concern for power or anything in this world. Illusionist lost in his illusions, sage lost in his books, True Neutral can be a person living such an involved and difficult life, that s/he does not have time for a self or for reflection. An athlete training for the Olympics, a D&D Monk pushing himself to the limit, or a Druid whose time is tied surviving in the forest, living as a vegan and trying to survive the winter without chopping down trees for the firewood. Day to day survival of the Druid in the Grove will give barely enough time to contemplate the balance of Nature and not much else.

Well, here is my small contribution to the AD&D Alignment theory, let me know what you think!

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