Some Words on Character Alignment

Alignment in this campaign will work as it does in LotFP, and not as it does in mainstream D&D. That is, there’s a simple set of three Alignmnts—Lawful, Neutral, and Chaotic—but they don’t mean what they have conventionally meant in most D&D worlds.

Lawful characters see the world as a place of order and systematic structure. They’re likely to believe that “things happen for a reason” and take comfort in the security of a monarchic line, even if they are disgusted with the current monarch. They’re capable of imagining a force—like a deity, though not necessarily that—which organizes the universe, decides how history ought to unfold, and is attentive to what is going on on the planet. They take comfort in “scientific” models of reality, and while they may believe in magic, they see it as another system of order and logic underlying the apparent chaos of the world, one that can be known, understood, and used to bring the world back into balance. Likewise, those Lawful characters who are religious believe deeply in the sacred order of the universe as laid out in the cosmology of their faith. Clerics (those few who exist in the world) are usually Lawful.

Perceptions:

  • Neutral characters tend to see Lawful ones as a bit uptight and arrogant, a little too convinced that they know the way of things.
  • Chaotic characters tend to see Lawful ones as hopelessly naïve, or willfully ignorant of the wild, disordered nature of everything. They tend to believe that Lawful characters are simply too intellectually limited or morally weak to admit the truth: that the order they describe in the world is merely a product of wishful thinking.

Neutral characters tend to have a flexible worldview: they see ideas like “purpose” and “meaning” as provisional, and are noncommittal as to whether the universe is fundamentally ordered and meaningful, or chaotic and meaningless. They are able to see and acknowledge the arguments for both, but tend to resist (and in fact are temperamentally uncomfortable with) siding with one or the other viewpoint, even in the face of strong evidence for one or the other position. Order and Chaos, for them are inextricably intertwined, and one cannot hav one without the other.

Perceptions:

  • Lawful characters tend to see Neutral ones as noncommittal. Many tend to think of them as shift or untrustworthy, though others interpret their approach as born from an unwillingness to commit to systems, to rules and order and meaning in the universe.
  • Chaotic characters tend to see Neutral ones as lacking in intellectual or moral rigor—or, perhaps, just as weak. They tend to describe Neutral characters’ unwillingness to completely dismiss the notion of law and order as a fundamental principle of the universe as a kind of weakness, like someone who cannot follow through on the patently obvious fact that chaos and disorder rule the world.

Chaotic characters believe that the fundamental property of the universe is disorder: what systems do seem to exist outside of human imaginations are ultimately provisional, and subject to being suspended or eroded by the very nature of the universe itself… and most order humans see in the universe is actually projected onto the universe by those seeing it. The struggles of humanity mean a lot to the people involved in them directly, of course, but they mean nothing to the universe. In this, the Chaotic viewpoint is oddly proto-Copernican: it reflects an expulsion of human beings and all they value from the moral and cosmological center of the universe.  The wild and dangerous nature of magic, the glimpses of uncaring forces at work, the weird and frightening monsters hidden in the shadows of the world… all of these are, for the Chaotic character, excellent evidence of the Chaotic nature of the universe.

Perceptions:

  • Lawful characters tend to see Chaotic ones as confused extremists: they see a little disorder and mistake it for the fundamental principle of the universe, in other words. Many Lawful characters tend to see Chaotic ones as insane or confused, overblowing the little corruption they see in an ordered system. They also see them as cynical or even selfish, for their refusal to join the great struggle to rebuild and maintain order in a world beset by inevitable corruptions—corruptions that they believe Chaotic characters instead set upon a pedestal and admire.
  • Neutral characters tend to see Chaotic ones as damaged: yes, they have a point that the universe isn’t that perfectly ordered, obviously, and a great deal of what is ordered is provisional, vulnerable and temporary… but they also refused to believe that the chaos that exists is anything but provisional, vulnerable, and temporary. Chaotic characters’ viewpoint makes sense, say Neutral characters, for people who’ve (sometimes literally) been to hell and back, or see terrifying horrors that stretch the limits of human sanity. But that’s only part of the picture, they insist—any important part that Lawful characters often gloss over, but ultimatly still just one aspect of the universe.

As for classes: for the moment, I’m going to allow any character to be any alignment, though I’ll note that most Clerics are Lawful (which is not to say “good”) and most Magic-Users are Chaotic (which is not to say “bad”).

Summary:

All of this said, I’m not really a huge fan of alignment being used in game terms to award or punish characters or players. I think of it more as a tool for thinking about your character’s fundamental outlook and personality. Alignment changes interest me less than the struggle your character faces in holding true to her or his principles, and the difficulties faced in adapting worldview to match experience.

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