A Word on Alignment

I believe alignment matters to D&D. I don’t believe it is something worth fighting about, rather it’s simply something you stake your position on and play. There will always be debates on the value of alignment, how it ought to be used, or how it should be forgotten. Honestly, all players to need to do is agree amongst their gaming cohort what do to do and do it. Things will be fine.

It seems as though many PCs (player characters) and DMs (dungeon masters) now approach alignment as an afterthought or leave it out altogether from their campaign. It’s a valid approach. Those with a more fixed sense of alignment enjoy the nine tropes and use it as a tool to fashion their PCs understanding of the world. Again, valid.

My word on alignment is this–alignment works best as an entry point and a means to gauge and track PCs evolving morality and personality.

I don’t believe alignment to be something fixed or static. I use it to ground a character, to offer a starting point and even within the particular alignment there is shading favoring one aspect or another.

I take alignment to be a spectrum. As a player acts out a character, that character’s alignment is determined. For example, you may start out Lawful Evil but end up drifting into Chaotic Good based on play. Players decide where they begin, but their actions in the eyes of others determines where they are. This is the key, actions of players and their results determine alignment. It doesn’t matter if a player intends to do a good thing or plans to do an evil thing. A good act can have evil results and vice versa. To be good, an act must be intended as such and result in it. An evil result from good intentions falls in line with chaotic alignments. I would argue, results determine the first quality (Chaotic or Lawful) to the degree they match up with intent, being the second quality (Good or Evil). 

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I don’t think it is valuable or useful to insist on rigid alignment thinking. Doing so leads to erroneous conclusions such as being Neutral means striving for balance when it could just as easily or more likely mean apathy in the individual. I don’t buy the assertion that Chaotic Evil only means murder madness or “The only time that Chaotic Evil can be interesting is when characters put committing evil above their own well-being, especially if they can’t help themselves.” Nor is Lawful Good simply boring and dictatorial; it can be but it’s not merely that. 

And that’s the key, alignment isn’t merely one thing, it is a myriad of shades. Pick a point to begin, play, and then see where you’ve moved. Your character may keeping moving in a certain direction, it may regress or change course, it may even start to create multiple levels and degrees, or just stay fixed. How you play will determine this and players can either pay attention to it or not. 

Here’s a quiz to take to see where you might be on the alignment spectrum. It’s not perfect but it’s a start.

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