A Roleplayer's Guide to Alignments

A Roleplayer's Guide to Alignments By Zed When creating your character in both pen and paper Dungeons & Dragons (PnP) or Dungeons & Dragons Online (DDO) it is easy to gloss over a very...

A Roleplayer's Guide to Alignments

By Zed

When creating your character in both pen and paper Dungeons & Dragons (PnP) or Dungeons & Dragons Online (DDO) it is easy to gloss over a very important aspect of your character's being; their alignment.  We often only think of alignment if a character class has an alignment restriction associated with it--bards being non-lawful or paladins being Lawful Good, for instance. Yet alignment can tell others a great deal about your character. 

An alignment represents moral and personal attitudes, it's important to realize though that alignment isn't meant to be a restriction on your character, a straight jacket if you like, but rather a tool for you to individualize and define how your character reacts to the world around him.  Its not expected that a character be totally consistent or be rigidly within the bounds of their alignment and this is reflected even more within the world of Eberron, where a group of characters could actually find themselves working for a lawful evil lich, trying to overthrow a chaotic evil demon prince, while the group themselves could be neutral or even lawful good.

Alignments fall into nine categories within two basic tenets: Good vs. Evil and Law vs. Chaos. Right at the offset it's worth stating that evil alignments are not available to players in DDO; these are reserved for ‘villains and monsters', and even the Players Handbook (PHB) states that in most cases evil alignments are reserved for the bad guys.

Good vs. Evil

Good implies altruism, respect for life and a concern for the wellbeing and dignity of other sentient beings.  Good characters will make sacrifices for others even if it causes them hurt.

Evil on the other hand is about pain--hurting, oppressing and killing others; whether for sport or simply a lack of compassion.

Neutral characters, on the other hand, have some doubts about killing the innocent but often lack the convictions needed to make sacrifices to protect those around them, unless that someone is a person the individual has a close relationship with--friend, family member, love.

Law vs. Chaos

A character who is lawful by nature tells the truth, keeping his word, honoring tradition and respecting authority.  Lawful characters also judge those who fall short of their duties.  Lawfulness includes such things as being honorable, trustworthy, obedient toward authority, and reliable.  But it can also include close-mindedness, reactionary adherence to traditions, a judgmental attitude and rigidity or a lack of adaptability.

Chaos on the other hand is about following one's conscience, resenting authority, entertaining new ideas over traditions. Chaotic characters do what they promise, only on their time-table. Chaos implies freedom, adaptability and flexibility as well as a reckless streak, irresponsibility and a disdain for authority.

Neutral to law or chaos reflects a respect for authority but no real compulsion to obey or rebel against authority.  The neutral character is an honest person, but can be tempted into lying or deceiving those around them. Neutrality to law or chaos really is a middle ground.

The Nine Alignments

We will examine the nine alignments – including those not available to DDO players to get a feel for what they imply from a role-playing perspective.

Lawful Good – The “Crusader”

Lawful good combines compassion and honor and represents the most virtuous alignment one can select.  It is the mandatory alignment for those wishing to follow the way of the Paladin.  It represents a commitment to oppose evil, and the discipline to fight relentlessly. A lawful good character keeps her word and helps all those in need.

Neutral Good – The “Benefactor”

A neutral good person is all about helping others, doing the best that a good person can do.  It represents doing good deeds for others with no bias for good or evil, nor any expectations of reward.

Chaotic Good – The “Rebel”

A chaotic good person acts as his conscience directs him, regardless of what others might expect. The chaotic good follows his own convictions and moral standings even if they do not agree with those of the society around him.  This alignment combines a good heart with a free spirit.

Lawful Neutral – The “Judge”

The lawful neutral character acts as law and tradition dictate, and lives by those codes, be they actual laws or a personal code she believes in. She follows strong standards and codes and believes in order for all, or backing a strong and organized governmental structure.  Lawful neutral combines reliability and honor without implying being a zealot.

 Neutral – “Undecided”

If it seems like a good idea, then to a neutral person, it probably is.  He has no real feelings either one way or another, and he often shows a lack of convictions.  He often views good as better than evil, though he is not committed in any way to upholding good.  Neutral characters act naturally with no compulsions or prejudice.

Chaotic Neutral – the “Free Spirit”

A chaotic neutral person follows her whims.  She values personal liberties and freedoms, but doesn't take pains to protect those rights for others. Avoiding authority or restrictions, and challenging traditions is her hallmark.  While unpredictable, her behavior isn't totally random--she's still more likely to cross a bridge than jump off it.  Being chaotic neutral represents true freedom from society's restrictions without a do-gooder's zeal.

The Unplayable Alignments

DDO doesn't permit players to select the following alignments however they are included for completeness.

Lawful Evil – the “Dominator”

A lawful evil person is methodical in their actions, bound by her own code of conduct, without thought or compulsion for the wellbeing of anyone around her.  She cares not about the hurt she may cause, nor about the freedoms or dignities of those about her.  She does care about, and is bound by, traditions, loyalty and order.  Lawful evil alignment represents methodical, intentional and successful acts of evil toward others.

Neutral Evil – the “Malefactor”

A neutral evil villain does what ever he can to get away with his treachery.  Out for himself, he sheds no tears and loses no sleep over actions that may result in the death of others, as long as he profits by the deed. He shows no love for order. He represents evil without honor and without variation

Chaotic Evil – the “Destroyer”

A chaotic evil person does what ever her greed, hatred or lust for destruction drives her to do. Violent, hot-tempered, vicious and very unpredictable, she is simply out for herself and what ever she can get, and she has no compulsions about doing so in a brutal and ruthless manner.  This alignment represents the destruction of life, beauty and order.

When you create your DDO character, pause for a moment and think about the kind of character you want to play and choose an alignment to match.  Played well, alignments can create some very memorable experiences throughout a PnP campaign, and there is no reason this can't be mirrored in DDO. 

About the Author

Karen is H.D.i.C. (Head Druid in Charge) at EQHammer. She likes chocolate chip pancakes, warm hugs, gaming so late that it's early, and rooting things and covering them with bees. Don't read her Ten Ton Hammer column every Tuesday. Or the EQHammer one every Thursday, either.
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