Alignment can best be illustrated as a tic-tac-toe board. The top of the board is Good, and the bottom of the board is Evil. The left side of the board is Law, and the right side is Chaos. The middle between Law and Chaos, and between Good and Evil, is Neutral. A creature's general moral and personal attitudes are represented by its alignment and it is a tool for developing your character's identity. It is not a straitjacket for restricting your character. Each alignment represents a broad range of personality types or personal philosophies, so two characters of the same alignment can still be quite different from each other. In addition, few people are completely consistent.
The nine alignments
Nine distinct alignments define all the possible combinations of the lawful–chaotic axis with the good–evil axis. Each alignment description below depicts a typical character of that alignment. Remember that individuals vary from this norm, and that a given character may act more or less in accord with his or her alignment from day to day. Use these descriptions as guidelines, not as scripts.
- Lawful Good (LG)
- Neutral Good (NG)
- Chaotic Good (CG)
- Lawful Neutral (LN)
- True Neutral (TN)
- Chaotic Neutral (CN)
- Lawful Evil (LE)
- Neutral Evil (NE)
- Chaotic Evil (CE)
Good vs. Evil
- Good characters and creatures protect innocent life. Evil characters and creatures debase or destroy innocent life, whether for fun or profit.
- "Good" implies altruism, respect for life, and a concern for the dignity of sentient beings. Good characters make personal sacrifices to help others.
- "Evil" implies hurting, oppressing, and killing others. Some evil creatures simply have no compassion for others and kill without qualms if doing so is convenient. Others actively pursue evil, killing for sport or out of duty to some evil deity or master.
- Another way of looking at this might be to consider that "good" puts the needs of the many ahead of the needs of the one, whereas "evil" puts personal needs, desires, and goals ahead of the needs of the many.
People who are neutral with respect to good and evil have compunctions against killing the innocent but lack the commitment to make sacrifices to protect or help others. Neutral people are committed to others by personal relationships. Being good or evil can be a conscious choice. For most people, though, being good or evil is an attitude that one recognizes but does not choose. Being neutral on the good–evil axis usually represents a lack of commitment one way or the other, but for some it represents a positive commitment to a balanced view. While acknowledging that good and evil are objective states, not just opinions, these folk maintain that a balance between the two is the proper place for people, or at least for them. Animals and other creatures incapable of moral action are neutral rather than good or evil. Even deadly vipers and tigers that eat people are neutral because they lack the capacity for morally right or wrong behavior.
Law vs. Chaos
- Lawful characters tell the truth, keep their word, respect authority, honor tradition, and judge those who fall short of their duties.
- Chaotic characters follow their consciences, resent being told what to do, favor new ideas over tradition, and do what they promise if they feel like it.
- "Law" implies honor, trustworthiness, obedience to authority, and reliability. On the downside, lawfulness can include close-mindedness, reactionary adherence to tradition, judgmentalness, and a lack of adaptability. Those who consciously promote lawfulness say that only lawful behavior creates a society in which people can depend on each other and make the right decisions in full confidence that others will act as they should.
- "Chaos" implies freedom, adaptability, and flexibility. On the downside, chaos can include recklessness, resentment toward legitimate authority, arbitrary actions, and irresponsibility. Those who promote chaotic behavior say that only unfettered personal freedom allows people to express themselves fully and lets society benefit from the potential that its individuals have within them.
Someone who is neutral with respect to law and chaos has a normal respect for authority and feels neither a compulsion to obey nor a compulsion to rebel. She is honest but can be tempted into lying or deceiving others. Devotion to law or chaos may be a conscious choice, but more often it is a personality trait that is recognized rather than being chosen. Neutrality on the lawful–chaotic axis is usually simply a middle state, a state of not feeling compelled toward one side or the other. Some few such neutrals, however, espouse neutrality as superior to law or chaos, regarding each as an extreme with its own blind spots and drawbacks. Animals and other creatures incapable of moral action are neutral. Dogs may be obedient and cats free-spirited, but they do not have the moral capacity to be truly lawful or chaotic.
- Good and Evil are usually referred to as the "moral" dimension or axis of alignment, while Law and Chaos are referred to as the "ethical" dimension or axis. Thus neutralities may be distinguished as Moral Neutrality or Ethical Neutrality.
- True Neutral —or "Neutral Neutral"— is a rare and tough alignment to play. It is generally used to describe either those who are ignorant of the part that the forces of Law, Chaos, Good, and Evil play in their lives (i.e. animals and humanoids of very low intelligence) or they actively support the concept of balance between the four.
- Alignments which are part neutral are generally more dedicated to that aspect of the alignment which is not neutral; those which combine one extreme with another (the "corner" alignments on the tic-tac-toe board) constantly play off one value against the other. So for example, if a commander orders the character to kill someone whom the character believes may be innocent, the Lawful Neutral will almost always obey, and the Neutral Good will almost always disobey, but the Lawful Good must answer the moral dilemma: Law or Good? Similarly, if the order is to indefinitely detain and torture an enemy, the Chaotic Neutral will almost always refuse, and the Neutral Evil will almost always comply, but the Chaotic Evil faces the moral dilemma: Evil or Chaos?