Dungeons and Dragons: alignments

Representing personality types is difficult, in real life and in fiction. How do you convey how a person will act, overcome an obstacle or falter with just a few words? How can you say how a character feels or thinks without describing their entire life story?

It’s difficult. It’s difficult in psychology and it’s difficult in writing. Even playing a character doesn’t necessarily make it easier, since without a solid understanding of the person you play it’s tempting to play things out as you yourself would. Dungeons and Dragons attempts to meet this challenge with a simple 2-axis model called an Alignment Chart: one axis (Lawful/Chaotic) describes an individual’s perception of law and order. The other (Good/Evil) describes… what, exactly? Selfishness?

Dungeons and Dragons’ alignment chart

However, it’s not always obvious what each of these cells represents and players often get it wrong. Both ends of the spectrum are easy targets for people who see personality simplistically: often called “Lawful Stupid,” the Lawful end has claim to many players who are convinced they have to do the Right Thing always and unremittingly, never faltering. Never allowing for any bending of the rules. And on the other side, “Chaotic Stupid” tends to seek out misery for the plain purpose of causing it: they’ll cross the street to kick a puppy. There are people like that, certainly, but that’s not what the chart is intending to convey. And there’s a great deal of depth that’s missing.

I’m going to try to showcase the struggles an adventurer might find himself in, and the eventual–difficult–decisions they’ll make that will show what box they fit into… and when and where they don’t.

Lawful Good
Brent, a Paladin, struggles with the impending release of a criminal.
Neutral Good
under construction
Chaotic Good
Gorm, a Barbarian, details the importance of controlling anger.
Lawful Neutral
under construction
True Neutral
Sylas, a Rogue, makes no judgments–unless he himself is threatened.
Chaotic Neutral
under construction
Lawful Evil
under construction
Neutral Evil
under construction
Chaotic Evil
under construction

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