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Questions about Alignment in the World of D& D

I always liked one thing about dungeons and dragons and that was alignment system. I cant find another gaming world that has done a more good job with alignment than D&Dragons.

The only thing is what differentiates between the evils and the goods.

What is lawful evil and neutral evils difference?

I overheard from a friend that lawful evil is the worst because if the law says this is good, then they do exact opposite thing.

And also what would be a good example of alignments in actual people-

Charles Manson-evil?

James Bond-good?

Indiana Jones-good?

George Washington-good?

Teddy Roosevelt-Good?

That's another thing is how does neutral follow with.

I really wish there were more alignment systems like dungeons dragons.



  • BillyYankBillyYank Member Posts: 2,769
    Off the top of my head, I may come back and justify them (or even change them) later:

    Manson - CE
    Bond - LN
    Jones - CG
    Washington - LN
    Roosevelt - NG

  • SkaroseSkarose Member Posts: 247
    edited November 2015
    The main difference between Lawful Evil and Neutral Evil is that LE follows a code, conforms to the law and believes in order. LE will use whatever advantage they can to exploit the laws for their benefit, but all the same, in the end they are constrained by it (Can include personal honor, codes of conduct etc..).

    Neutral Evil, on the other hand, has no such constraints. If the laws and order benefits them, then they will utilize the law, but if at any time it doesn't they will break it, work outside it, subvert it etc...

    When Lawful Evil gives their word or pledge you can warily, believe them.

    The pledge or word from a neutral Evil is worthless and meaningless. They will always act to their own advantage.

    Post edited by Skarose on
  • DKnightDKnight Member Posts: 307
    Lol, Yeah I know they are fictional but I put them there anyway. Thanks for all the info everyone! :)

    So I guess now is the real question-who is the worst of them all?

    Chaotic evil if I am correct would be someone like mass shooters who just attack random groups for no reason? While someone like hitler would be lawful evil?

    I still have that weird thing where neutral evil and lawful evil are very similar. Its kind of cool to think about this stuff while most of the time I physically cant play evil characters in video games. I just usually play good characters or neutral. I have a tough time playing bad guys because in my mind someone able to do really bad things like in jade empire and those games while it is a game-its still too upsetting. Maybe im too weak with that stuff :)

  • PK2748PK2748 Member Posts: 381
    Lawful evil and Neutral evil are alike in that they lack remorse and are motivated by selfishness, but that's all evil. Lawful evil is more entrenched in the system and tends to follow rules and potentially even a code of conduct. Being evil is supposed to be unsettling

  • DJKajuruDJKajuru Member Posts: 3,279
    I like to consider that Good would sacrifice part of themselves to help others, while Evil will sacrifice others to help themselves.

  • SkatanSkatan Member, Moderator Posts: 5,158
    DKnight said:

    So I guess now is the real question-who is the worst of them all?

    Chaotic evil if I am correct would be someone like mass shooters who just attack random groups for no reason? While someone like hitler would be lawful evil?

    I would set Hitler to NE, personally. One example to support this theory is the way he broke his non-aggression pact with Stalin when he believed it suited him best. A LE dictator would probably have upholded the agreement or at least ended it 'politely' before attacking.

    I actually consider NE to be the "worst", rather than CE. CE characters are onesided, evil maniacs. They seek destruction and mayhem just for the fun of it, but that also makes them predictable. You can always know what course of action they will take, since they will follow the path of chaos. A NE character is much more devious, she/he is more unpredictable and will do whatever he/she want to reach her/his goals, no matter what companions, agreements, laws or other things stands in his/her way. A CE character can be failry trusted to be led by you, as long a you are the alpha and they are scared of you, whilst a NE character could backstab you at any moment. You can, and should, never trust a NE char.

    FYI: Alignments are tricky and the above is my own interpretation of it.

  • sluckerssluckers Member Posts: 280
    Personally, I'd think chaotic evil characters would be far and away the worst and most dangerous of the evils. In this respect I feel the alignment system got something right, insofar as 'choatic' refers not to the nature of thinking (disorganized, without reason) but to the character's attitude towards order, laws and boundaries, real or imagined.

    While its tempting to associate such an alignment with mentally disturbed lone wolves, chaotic evil can also be supported by an intelligence and purpose that transcends mere personal gain and involves the more widescale destruction of social order, morality, government, basic protections and security. Chaotic evil characters can act with a sinister and implacable intelligence, since their goals may require extensive planning and preparation.

    A need for 'breathing space' to act out their own plans unhindered is a common reason for striking out at the very fabric of society and causing uncontrolled chaos, collapse and the inevitable cascade of destruction that follows. Furthermore, the destruction may itself be their form of communicating with the wider world. Or perhaps they seek the destruction of order so that the pieces can be re-manufactured into something in accordance with their own personal vision.

    Not constrained by a desire for order (LE), and with desires grander than mere personal advancement (NE), chaotic evil characters distance themselves from the human community entirely and may see themselves as above it. They will attack the most basic foundations of a peaceful and gainful order--and undermine the basic assumptions that a prosperous society relies on to function--to achieve a purpose that may be well beyond the understanding of the average person.

    Sarevok would be an excellent example, as revealed in the plot for BG1.

    In real life, Pol Pot would probably be a good example as well, despite his role as a leader of government and his organized methods. The result of his actions was purposeful chaos and the widespread destruction of Cambodian society. At the very least, he might show that people can be various amounts of lawful, neutral and chaotic evil at the same time. Chaos was an extensive part of his methods, in that fear, distrust, secrecy, betrayal and suspicion were integral tools for how he organized and disposed of underlings and/or parts of the population. His reign used attacks on the very structure of the society out of which it sprung, so that said society could be atomized, reduced to rubble and then reshaped to fit another purpose. 'To keep you is no benefit, to lose you is no harm' broadcast nightly by the government over the radio would certainly constitute an attack on the basic human psyche, replacing the assumed security we all need to conduct our lives with a pervasive uncertainty, fear and doubt about whether we may still be alive the next morning, or whether we may ever see our loved ones again. Instilling personal chaos helped him to enforce an new vision of order.

    In fiction, the Big Brother figurehead from 1984, I'd argue, could also be chaotic evil. Yes, there was certainly an established totalitarian order in Oceania, but that order was subject to change and in actuality was not so much the implementation of a consistent legal system as it was the non-negotiable whim of a ruling entity. Although I don't remember any actual proof in 1984 that Big Brother did indeed exist or was a single person, the rulers behind such a figurehead (if he was not in fact real) used the destruction of basic human relationships, reduction of 'thought-space' and widespread culling to wittle the population down to only their preferred elements. Unfocused violence and the omnipresence of the big-brother figurehead enforced power by instilling chaos and terror in individuals. While there were rules in such a society, the order of things was by no means fixed; what was real one day would be unreal the next, and what was true one day could tomorrow become a lie. That history, language and truth itself could change in a single day seems chaotic to me, in spite of the extensive organization required to use such chaos as a means of establishing almost absolute control.

    On the other hand, I'd classify Scorpio (from the Simpsons episode "You Only Move Twice") as neutral evil, despite his caring nature towards henchmen/employees, upbeat attitude of encouragement, good humour, sound family advice, 3 weeks paid vacation per year, and love of free German beer in the cafeteria on Fridays (all among many other traits classically of 'good alignment). While an evil genius, he was not out to destroy the whole world, just ransom it for a tonne of cash.

  • DJKajuruDJKajuru Member Posts: 3,279
    Evil people aren't that easy too find because evil is usually a consequence of corrupting power or some sort of mental problem. What bothers me the most are people I consider chaotic neutral, those who do whatever they want even if it harms others, such as drug abusers or spoiled childreb. Im not saying that people are born like that, though, it could also result from a person's upbringing/personality/ personal choices.

  • sluckerssluckers Member Posts: 280
    PK2748 said:

    See the thing is it depends, I think Lawful Evil is the worst. It's the hardest one to confront and address so it gets to continue doing evil the longest. Chaotic Evil is bad but easy to spot and usually warrants a simple response. But Lawful Good and especially Lawful Neutral can't just go in and kill Lawful Evil and might have to actually defend Lawful Evil from Neutral and Chaotic Good.

    Ah, yes. The Superman dilemma. He could never kill Lex Luther, only throw the man in jail repeatedly. Lex, of course, would always escape. If he were to kill the man it would surely have been a violation of his alignment, so to speak, and he'd stop being Superman. The difficulty of being lawful good, I guess.

  • jesterdesujesterdesu Member Posts: 373
    Not sure its possible to pick a definitively worst evil. All are equally evil, they just have different ways of expressing it and indulging themselves.

    That said some might find a particular sort of evil most abhorrent. I despise lawful evil, I feel it's cowardly and manipulative. Then I consider myself chaotic good, which would be polar opposite.

  • FinneousPJFinneousPJ Member Posts: 6,456
    @jesterdesu Do you break the law in order to help the poor or something?

  • FinneousPJFinneousPJ Member Posts: 6,456
    @DJKajuru Sure, but if you follow the laws and social regulations of society, you're probably not *really* chaotic.

  • scriverscriver Member Posts: 2,045
    Tell that to the elves, mate :P

  • dunbardunbar Member Posts: 1,563
    If we are talking about D&D (as per the OP) would it change the meaning if we replace 'Lawful' with 'Righteous'? I'm thinking about Paladins and Blackguards - they are both equally devout to their respective Gods so in their own minds they are both equally 'Good' (in their behaviour), yet to observers one is Good and the other is Evil.
    Therefore, to roleplay a Blackguard does one just have to think: "It will be 'good' to please my God".

  • PK2748PK2748 Member Posts: 381
    Yes but alignment isn't about what you say to yourself, it's how others perceive your actions. Few if any see themselves as evil. Evil is defined by the majority not the individual. Which is why I would let a Goblin cast protection from evil and protect himself from a rampaging paladin

  • SkatanSkatan Member, Moderator Posts: 5,158
    edited November 2015
    PK2748 said:

    Yes but alignment isn't about what you say to yourself, it's how others perceive your actions. Few if any see themselves as evil. Evil is defined by the majority not the individual. Which is why I would let a Goblin cast protection from evil and protect himself from a rampaging paladin

    @PK2748: Interresting. This is the complete opposite of the way I consider the alignment system working. I haven't played any PnP so I have never had a DM interpreting the rules for me, but from what I've read and heard from others, it seems to be conflicting with the overall opinion on how alignments work. AFAIK, alignment is indeed static and not dynamic, meaning no matter what others think of you, your alignment stays the same. The gods themselves are divided by alignment, and so are their subjects. It's not like Talos considers Torm to be 'evil', right? I would like to hear more about this way of interpreting the alignment system.

  • jesterdesujesterdesu Member Posts: 373
    PK2748 said:

    Yes but alignment isn't about what you say to yourself, it's how others perceive your actions. Few if any see themselves as evil. Evil is defined by the majority not the individual. Which is why I would let a Goblin cast protection from evil and protect himself from a rampaging paladin

    I see your logic but evil and good for the sake of d&d is more clearly defined. Somebody who only ever acts selfishly and doesn't care if their methods hurt others is evil.

    In your example the paladin will presumably be killing goblins because they're evil creatures causing more harm than good in the world. It wouldn't be goblin genocide for kicks.

    I consider myself more chaotic than neutral or lawful because I feel man made laws do more harm than good on the whole and I've no compulsion to act lawfully for the sake of it.

  • PK2748PK2748 Member Posts: 381
    Yeah but the pen and paper system in the monster manual reflects that every Goblin is evil but is that primarily because they compete with humans for territory and resources? Is the entire intelligent species actually "evil"? It seems simplistic. It's also stupid to think every Drow farmer is actually thinking about moral choices and is making intentional evil decisions. DnD's moral involvement is inherently reduced to eliminate the questions. Totally understandable given it was evolved from war gaming and the conservative Christian reaction to the hobby in the 80s

  • scriverscriver Member Posts: 2,045
    Yeah, Good and Evil is objective concepts in DnD. They are actual observable forces of the universe and are as elemental to the metaphysics as Fire, Water, and the rest of the classics.

    Of course, people do not necessarily know what alignment they have and it's perfectly possible for an Evil man to think that he is doing good, and it's also possible for the actions of a Good or Neutral person to be perceived as evil by others. But what people think of themselves or what is others think of them is more or less irrelevant to what alignment they have.

    And yes, that means that depending on what edition you are using, some creatures can be considered "always Chaotic Evil", from the day they was born, regardless of their own actions and life stories. That is the reason later editions have opened up the phrasing more and more (3.5, for example, just says "often Chaotic Evil"), as there not being exceptions to this alignment generalization was just too preposterous to keep for the vast majority of races.

  • GemHoundGemHound Member Posts: 799
    edited November 2015
    @PK2748 About the "Drow Farmer" you used as an example, the only reason he doesn't do the bad thing is due to fear. Drow and Goblinoids are evil due to their culture. There are always the oddballs that stick out like Drizzt though. Lets say your comrade beside you fell in the heat of battle.

    Goblins and Drow would leave their comrade behind in most cases, as saving that other soldier would only doom themselves. A neutral character would do what he wanted to see in return. A good character though would do their best to ensure their companion escaped.

  • FinneousPJFinneousPJ Member Posts: 6,456
    Kilivitz said:


    Thank you, I learned a new thing.

  • SkatanSkatan Member, Moderator Posts: 5,158
    Nicely put @kilivitz! You get an insightful, but I would like to hand out an agree and a like as well. Very well-written.

  • AerakarAerakar Member Posts: 707
    I second @Skatan, that was explained well and with insight @Kilivitz.

  • semiticgodsemiticgod Member Posts: 14,407
    Mao Zedong: Chaotic Neutral. No other world leader (or even any ordinary person, as far as I know) has been so enthusiastic about rebelling against absolutely everything. Even after he took over mainland China, he still encouraged his followers to rise up in revolution (violent revolution, no less) against his own government, because it was becoming too lawful and bureaucratic. One of his more famous beliefs is simply that "to rebel is justified." He was all about continuous revolutionary change.

    Confucius: Lawful Neutral. He advocated a peaceful, harmonious society, with no social mobility (your dad's a farmer, therefore you're a farmer), where the balance of both society and nature as well was maintained by precise ritual and a strict code of conduct. His influence is responsible for the very high value that Chinese and other East Asian peoples even today place on law, order, stability, merit-based leadership, education, respect for authority, and respect for the old, the venerable, and the traditional.

    One could say Mao was more Chaotic Good or Chaotic Evil, or Confucius was more Lawful Good, but that really doesn't capture the emphasis they placed on law and chaos.

    Confucius said to respect teachers; Mao said to decry them. Confucius said to preserve the past; Mao said to erase it. Confucius said to practice the old arts; Mao said to destroy them. Confucius said to maintain the order; Mao said to disrupt it. Confucius said to live in harmony with the natural world; Mao said to control it. Confucius said rulers/fathers/older brothers must provide for their subjects/sons/younger brothers, and the latter must obey the former; Mao said rulers exploited their subjects and must be slain.

  • meaglothmeagloth Member Posts: 3,806
    Here we go again.

    Alaignment always leads to interesting discussions, and if you haven't seen any other ones yet, @DKnight i would encourage you to search around.
    Everyone has different views, though there seem largely to be to camps when it comes to law/chaos(which causes most of the problems.) you either think lawful means you follow a internal moral code, and chaotic is just wild, random behavior, or you think lawful means you follow external rules imposed by your order, government, etc. and chaotic means you don't really care about external laws of society/nation. I am of the latter camp, though most people seem to think otherwise. It's always an engaging discussion.

    After a few years of this sort of think now(yikes. years) I've resolved that the alignment system is inherently flawed. Sometimes it's a nice shorthand, and in my brief(and yes, somewhat tragic) experience with tabletop, it seemed to make new players think about who their character was a little more than they would have otherwise. However it often causes arguments and confusion, and locking characters in boxes rarely works. As an abstract concept, it's interesting, but It's supposed to function as a rule, and people need to be able to agree on rules. And no one can agree on alignment.
    Case in point:

    What is Batman's alignment?


  • scriverscriver Member Posts: 2,045
    Kilivitz said:

    By the way, this whole "Good and Evil as absolutes" approach is the reason why (I believe) applying the alignment system anywhere outside of the D&D mythos almost never works. Alignment charts using Game of Thrones characters usually miss the mark to the point of being cringeworthy.

    I agree, Littlefinger is clearly the most Chaotic Evil person on the show
    *Scriver misses the point completely*

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