Alignment II

Sometimes, an idea just clicks. And you know, “Hey, that is something”. This one clicked about a week ago for me, and I’ve been mulling it over in my head for a while, trying to come to grips with it. I’ve been looking a older editions of the game for a while (particularly Rules Cyclopedia, though I’m starting to get the idea of not using a skill system), and looking at the alignment charts involved. Holmes is definitely the first inclusion of the 9-point system, but it grew, obviously, from the 3-fold system. The 3-fold system definitions of ‘Law’ and ‘Chaos’ obviously can’t be the same as the ones I gave, or they wouldn’t have been usable as an alignment system for almost 3 decades. Then, about a week ago, my younger siblings were re-watching the Neverending Story, and I was extremely bored and so going in and out periodically. One of the few bits that I happened to see was the final confrontation of the protagonist with Gmork, which seems to be the only actual villain.

Gmork: It’s the emptiness that’s left. It’s like a despair, destroying this world. And I have been trying to help it.

Gmork: Because people who have no hopes are easy to control. And whoever has control has Gmork!

I may have misheard that last sentence, because everywhere online that I can find the quote says that it goes ‘whoever has control has the power’, but that’s the way I heard it, and it clicked with a bunch of other things that were rattling around in my brain, like the 3-fold system, some philosophical commentary from the extended Lord of the Rings concerning the Nazgul, and why the cow that wants to be eaten in The Restaraunt at the End of the Universe is so disturbing- and I came up with a definition of Law and Chaos that fits with Good and Evil or stands on its own.

Law cares about everything.

Chaos cares about nothing, possibly not even itself.

Neutrality cares about a specific selection of everything, which usually includes itself.

This finally seems to have given me a good definition, and it holds up. My interpretation of each of the 6 (9, minus neutral) alignments would then be something like this:

Lawful Good is the benevolent crusader. LG may kill a kobold without hesitation, but would defend that same kobold against evil cultists, and would defend those same cultists from whatever mad demon they manage to conjure up. This is, of course, the extreme of this alignment as it pertains to adventurers- many of this alignment might view such activity as regrettably too risky to the greater good, and members of all alignments have good days and bad days.

Chaotic Good is a conundrum, and definitely a very rare alignment, but still existant. CG might be prone to ‘out of sight, out of mind’ thinking, and not feel much sadness when sorrow is elsewhere, or in the recent past. It might only subconsciously bear any sort of good will, and not ever stop to think why it behaves in a certain way. It might be the alignment given to someone completely unaccustomed to the idea of morality, who is in the process of becoming NG or LG. It might even be the alignment given to a philosophical transcendent, who does not rationally care about anything, or only in a detached sort of way (I have no idea. It merely pleases me to behave in a certain way to what appears to be a cat. What else do you do?).

Neutral Good fights for justice and right, and would gladly sacrifice itself for another- selectively. On one end, NG might almost be LG but for too little sense of mercy or remorse, on the other it might almost be CG, save being too attached to its own and its companions’ lives.

Lawful Evil is a rare type of evil to be found, but it is without doubt the most cruel. It posesses a highly developed sense of empathy, but not of compassion, and actively takes pleasure in the suffering of others.

Neutral Evil cares only for itself, and possibly its companions. How it chooses to express that could go either way. NE takes what it wants when it can get it, regardless of the pleadings of conscience.

Chaotic Evil is the most dangerous and unpredictable evil. CE has no true friends and takes little pleasure in anything. It does not care about causing pain to others, because it simpky doesn’t care. It might live perfectly peacefully, but could just as easily embark on a crusade of destruction, even at the cost of its own life.

This interpretation of CE especially puts a lot of things in context for me; it explains why that cow is so unsettling (if it doesn’t even care for its own life, would you bet that it wouldn’t kill you if someone asked it to?), and part of what makes Gmork such a great villain (that same pointless cruelty).


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