Alignment Part 1 Introduction

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Alignment Part 1 Introduction

Post by Strangg » Tue Aug 27, 2002 8:36 am

I'm going to post an essay written by Michael Lloyd Morris that is very well written and thought out. He wrote it long ago on the DND list and i think it clears up any questions just abot anyone has on alignment. I'm not saying that his definitions are what everyone should follow but i do believe his way of explaining alignments and how to roleplay them properly are pretty good, and most people seem to like his explinations.

Why am i posting this you ask? Good question, i'll answer: Because i see too many people ignoring their alignment in the world of Avlis. Lawful PC's robbing houses. Evil PC's thinkin that to be evil means to be a psycopathic murderer and nothing more. This is not directed at any one person, i have found myself playing out of alignment on more than one occasion. It's especially easy if you play more than one character of different alignments.

The following is the first part in its entirety as it was posted to the list. Remeber that when he talks about his own online world of Dusk. Replace every occurence with Avlis if it makes reading it easier :-). The other 3 parts will be posted under their own topic.


Every six months or so the alignment debate gets recycled on one of the
various mailing lists online. Each time we see the system misrepresented a
dozen different ways and correctly interpreted, and implemented by one or
two people. Ocassionally I get sick of it and post the following essay,
which has yet to be challenged or fail to stop the bickering over what
alignment is, and what it is not. I assume therefore that it is essentially
correct: I and several fellow DM's have used it for years with no
complaints. Anyone who does wish to debate me on the subject is welcome to
do so, but first read this in its entirety. I feel you will find it quite
enlightening and useful...

One of the more misunderstood aspects of the AD&D game system is the
presence of the alignment system. Designed to be a very simplistic method of
sketching out a character's moral and ethical beliefs, alignment can run
much deeper than that, and to be useable in the Dusk campaign setting it has
to be.

Alignment, for the purposes of the Dusk campaign if not AD&D in general,
is the character's moral and ethical outlook. The word "outlook" is the key
of the sentence, for what a character believes and how he behaves can be two
different aspects entirely. The character's innermost beliefs and urges are
his alignment; once everything else about the character has been boiled

For a beginning role-player dealing with this alone can be a challenge,
since declaring alignment is like saying, "I'm going to play a character who
will do this because he believes this." Although somewhat one dimensional,
it is important that this first step be mastered before attempting to play a
character who has multiple views - some of which will may seem to conflict
on the surface.

Alignment is also important to the DM, since at a glance it can give him
some very sketchy ideals on how to approach the character and what to expect of him. In a way alignment is more important to the DM than the player, for
with his cast of hundreds of roles the less he has to learn about any particular NPC to play him well the better.

Still, alignment is seen by master role-players as a straight-jacket to
be left behind with the other training wheels of life. But casting away
alignment is not so simple: many magic spells and items have their results
at least partially based on alignment. To cast away the alignment system
cripples or eliminates these items, and with it a large part of the AD&D

Remember however, that alignment states tendencies and beliefs that the
character may hold. Not all of what the character does may coincide with
this, but the greater average will. To illustrate this point the nine basic
alignments are discussed once again with broader interpretations than those
of the Player's Handbook.

Ethics: Law vs. Chaos

The ethical component of the character's alignment is where he stands
between law and chaos. Lawful characters view the world as essentially
ordered, or at least a place where order must be established and maintained.
Chaotic characters see no such order, and usually disdain its establishment
unless necessary. A character who is neutral in this regard has not
remarkable views either way, or they may be mixed. He may see no order in
the universe other than what is established by sentient creatures, but may see that imposed order as necessary.

Morals: Good vs. Evil

The definitions of what is "good" and "evil" change wildly between
societies, and for the purposes of alignment play these definitions must be
broad based as well. As a rule, "good" is the concern for the welfare of
other sentient creatures. "Evil" is the inverse, a lack of concern for the
welfare of others. A character who is morally neutral would not take active
participation to further the welfare of others or to hinder it. There are no
absolutes here, and within the context of an individual character his
beliefs come into play since they are likely to be less universal.

As an example, in traditional "Western philosophy" suicide is wrong.
Most Christian sects go so far as to state that it is a damnable act. A
character with these believes would, in his mind at least, be committing an
evil act by committing or assisting in a suicide. On the contrary, in
Medieval Japanese society, suicide was morally righteous to the point of
being the ultimate, final means of atonement for failure or an evil act. A
character with these beliefs could commit or assist in a suicide without
endangering his alignment standing.

It is important to stick to the more universal precepts of the first
paragraph for the general determination of what is good and what is evil,
especially between societies. They may be less exacting, but they give the
DM more flexibility in his judgments and choices.


Michael Lloyd Morris
"Advice is one of those rare things that is far easier to give than to
receive." -- Telsindria.

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