Ask A Gm – 005: Alignment – A matter of perspective

Hello friends, I’m Cam Wiens. GM, Chef and lover of things geeky. Im a Gryffindor, Chaotic Good, and my favorite ninja turtle is Leonardo.

Lawful Evil? Chaotic Good? These are not redundant falluccies. What exactly does alignment mean? What are some good examples of this mechanic in popular culture? How does it affect my character? I would say this: Your alignment should affect how you interact with the world outside your party. People who play the “this is how my character would act, because this is their alignment” card while acting against the interests of the party can get a little tiresome to play with. In days of yore, back when I would play older editions. Alignment was a nearly tangible game system mechanic. Paladins for example were both Lawful, and Good, any deviation from this would mean a loss of god given powers, and the need to atone for their sins. Things were stricter. Somewhere along the way, the game creators lessened their grip. Alignment, for the most part is no longer the end all and be all that it used to be, for better or worse. There is of course still an alignment section on the character sheet, which means it’s casually notable at least, and a guideline for your character’s actions at your most diligent. I present to you my interpretation of the Alignments. Hopefully this is a helpful take on how they work.

First you have to figure out where on the two spectrums your character lands. Law vs Chaos, and Good Versus evil. Lawful aligned creatures are governed by rules. Devils, aboleths, blink dogs, and gold dragons all sway to the rule of Law. Chaotic aligned creatures on the other hand value freedom, and are compelled to act by their whims. Djinni, pegasuses (pegasi?), demons, and red dragons follow their hearts to whatever ends they are attempting to mean.

Good and Evil, what do they really mean? There are some that see it as black and white. When it really boils down to it, maybe they’re right. For me, as a player it comes down to how selfless vs selfish your moral compass is. Evil characters do good things for selfish reasons. Means to an end. Whereas good characters have been known to commit evil acts for the greater good. Ends justify the means. Put simply, good characters do what they can for a greater well being of society or others. Evil is selfish, seeking power, wealth, and possibly control over others. 

Lawful Good: “The Paragon” Lawful Good characters have to be beholden to a code, the laws of the land, and your own word. Generally they will follow the letter of the law, while protecting the innocent and helpless while following a strict system. Popular culture examples: Superman, Captain America, and Shepard Book. 

Neutral Good: “The Benefactor” Neutral good characters generally have little regard for the law, but won’t actively flout it. They do what is beneficial for people, without worries for the battle for law and chaos. Popular culture examples: Flash, Spider-man, and Kaylee Frye 

Chaotic Good: “The Rebel” The Robin Hood archetype, they will do whatever they can to help others. Actively flouting authority along the way. Popular culture examples: Green Arrow, Wolverine, and Malcom Reynolds

Lawful Neutral: “The Judge” Lawful Neutral characters are not bothered by good and evil morality. They care about the letter of the law and will always default to the legal powers that be. Most Lawyers fall into this category. Popular culture examples: Aquaman, Nick Fury, and Inara Serra

True Neutral: “The Undecided” Without prejudice, or real compulsion and compassion. These characters will disregard any stake in morality and law, generally in an attempt to maintain balance or a sense of sameness. Popular culture examples: Dr. Manhattan, Starlord, and Zoe Washburne

Chaotic Neutral: “The Free Bird” Freedom at any cost. They will generally follow their heart to a fault, shirking rules and giving morality a back seat to maintaining their freedom. Popular culture examples: Catwoman, Deadpool, and River Tams

A brief note about evil aligned characters: in order to fit into a party, team, or society as a whole, most players have to play evil with a lowercase “e”. Unless playing a villian campaign, anyone playing evil should really just be selfish, and/or seek power and riches, but not overtly at the expense of the party. Two of my favorite characters I have ever played were Neutral Evil, and Lawful Evil. The neutral evil character was adventuring as an opportunity to get rich, and did not let morality or the law get in the way. My Lawful Evil character rose to power politically. Passing laws that would directly benefit himself, didnt break a law to get there, and didn’t kill anyone that he did not legally have the ability to do so.

Lawful Evil: “The Dictator” Beholden to the law, but chasing selfish goals.Lawful evil characters usually follow the rules, but will bend them to their will to gain power or wealth. Popular culture examples:Sinestro, Dr. Doom, and the Alliance Operative

Neutral Evil: “The Selfish” A neutral evil character does what will benefit them. Laws will be followed until they are inconvenient, but never broken frivolously. They generally have no regard for others unless they can help them achieve the characters goals. Popular culture examples: Deathstroke, Mystique, and Jayne Cobb

Chaotic Evil: “the Destroyer” Chaotic evil characters generally disdain laws and kindness. They do whatever they can to achieve their goals, causing disruption to any form of society along the way. Out to prove how they are superior they are by any means necessary. Popular culture examples: Bane, Red Skull, and Saffron. (There are obviously more overt Chaotic Evil examples. I wanted to put examples that had demonstrated the ability to work with others, even if just for a short while.)

I hope this guide will be enlightening. My stance is and will always be party dynamics first, alignment second. But it’s a fun way of helping determine who your character is, and what their ultimate goals are.

Happy roleplaying!

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Until then, happy dice rolling.


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