Are you sure?
Care to place a wager…”
A while back, I got into a discussion over on Andy Collins’ message boards regarding alignment. It was called Redefining Lawfulness, and was created because the Law/Chaos axis of the D&D alignment system is not nearly as well-defined as the Good/Evil side.
Despite the focus on Law/Chaos, I felt the Good/Evil definitions were also very vague, and far too wordy. So pretty early on in the discussion, I proposed a new set of simple, yet complete, definitions for all four axes. I’ll be using these as my own guidelines when alignment questions come up in my new game that’s starting soon, and I’m going to share them with you now.
So, I may as well just quote from my original post, first. The conversation quickly included a Spock quote (“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”) to try to help define Law. I took that general structure for my definition, though the terms changed a fair amount.
But perhaps we need to change the classic Spock quote around a bit, in order for it to match the alignments.
Good — The needs of others outweigh the needs of yourself.
Evil — The needs of yourself outweigh the needs of others.
Law — The needs of society outweigh the needs of the individual.
Chaos — The needs of the individual outweigh the needs of society.
… I think this covers it quite well, actually. Let’s break it down into the corner alignments, as well.
Lawful Good — Upholding society or organization to fulfill the needs of others, even if it means sacrificing your own needs.
Chaotic Good — The needs of other individuals take top priority (even if that means all of the people in a kingdom, it’s still their individual needs), even if it means sacrificing your own needs.
Lawful Evil — Creating an efficient society/organization so as to best fulfill your personal needs.
Chaotic Evil — Personal, individual needs take priority over all others.
Keep in mind that in order to uphold a society or organization (or to keep an efficient society running for your own benefit), there needs to be certain codes in place. This, therefore, covers honour and all that as well. This was from my early post, and no longer applies. Codes, laws, and honour are not solely the area of Lawful in this new definition, though Lawful people are still more likely to follow codes of honour.
Remember as well that there are different strengths to these beliefs. A Good person, for instance, may be passively Good (attempts to not let others come to harm through his actions) or actively Good (actively seeks to help others). An Evil person, similarly, may actively harm others in order to accomplish his goals, but they also may just ignore the consequences to others as a result of their actions.
The neutral alignments in this definition structure are rather vague, still. A neutral on the Good/Evil axis may tolerate the suffering of others, may help others as long as it doesn’t inconvenience them greatly or it benefits them as well, may hurt others so long as the benefits from it outweigh the damage caused. The reluctant hero and the thief with a conscience all fall under Neutral.
On the Law/Chaos side, there are similar levels of Lawfulness or Chaosness… Chaoticness… Chaositude. Law, for instance, may range from “respects the hierarchy and works within it happily” to “believes that only a well-structured, well-ordered society can possibly provide for the needs of its citizens”, even if that means that some of its citizens get executed, remain poor and hungry, etc. Chaos, on the other hand, can be anywhere between “free-spirited hippy who doesn’t like to see individual rights stepped on” to “No laws will ever respect individual rights! Abolish government, and let the people resolve conflicts personally on their own terms! Anarchy! Anarchy! Anarchy!!!!!”
The neutral aspect of Law/Chaos is somewhere in between, of course. They may not like the hierarchy, though they contentedly live within it. They may not like laws that diminish individual rights, though they see the use of them. (Neutral Evil would only have a problem with laws that diminish their own personal rights, of course, but the point still stands.) Democracy, for instance, is a Law/Chaos Neutral (likely Neutral Good) construct, where the individual desires and societal needs come together in order to govern. (LG and CG do, of course, use democracy to further L or C, but it is still an inherently N concept.)
We went through many discussions, and many examples. If you feel like it, you can read them all here. (I go by ShadoStahker in the conversation.)
I think this would make a nice, clear, concise alignment chapter, don’t you?