5e alignment guide

5e alignment guide DEFAULT

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All right… alignment.

I don’t want to do this.

The problem is, alignment is, like, the most contentious f$&%ing thing in the entire history of D&D. I mean, every stupid edition has its stupid fights and I’ve lived through most of them. When can you sneak attack? How do lightning bolts reflect? Do dwarf women have beards? Bring back THAC0! Level limits ruin the game! We have enough f$&%ing elves! Quadratic wizards vs. linears fighters! Vanican magic can suck it! Why do female dragonborn have boobs! All classes are wizards! What the hell even is a ranger anyway? Bring back Greyhawk/Dragonlance/Ravenloft/Spelljammer! And on and on and on.

Most of these fights rise and fall. Many are particular to specific editions of D&D. Some come up when a new edition is about to be released and then die out again. But alignment is forever. It’s a super contentious issue. Some people &#; particularly GMs &#; love alignment. Some people &#; particularly players but also other GMs &#; hate alignment. But the wacky thing is thing: almost no one uses alignment at all. But EVERYONE has an opinion.

Aligning in 5th Edition

Now, over a year ago, I wrote about alignment. Specifically, I wrote an article that amounted to this.

Dear WotC:

I like alignment. But, here’s the thing. You’ve clearly stopped doing anything with alignment. You don’t know what to do with alignment. You don’t care about alignment. And, the way you’re going, alignment is barely going to be in D&D Next. So, why don’t you just take it the f$&% out. It’s cool. Just remove alignment.

Hugs and Kisses,

And, goddamnit, I was right. Well, I was sort of right. Alignment isn’t actually IN D&D 5E anymore. So, good. Great. Good riddance. Except that, it still sort of IS in D&D. Right? I mean, it’s in the Players’ Handbook. You’re told to pick an alignment for your character. And all of the alignments are defined and explained.

And alignment pops up in a few other places too. For example, every race is described as tending toward a certain alignment. Elves tend to be chaotic. Dwarves tend to be lawful and good. Humans tend to be any damned thing because the gods know the only flavor we have for humans is diversity which only actually works if you then enforce racial stereotypes on EVERY OTHER F$&%ING RACE or else it doesn’t mean anything. Halflings tend to be lawful good. In point of fact, all of the playable races tend toward good to a greater or lesser extent. And one might argue that that’s WHY they are the playable, civilized races. But whatever.

In addition, if you look at the Spreadsheets O’ the Gods at the back of the PHB which is all the description of the deities you’re ever going to get, note that every deity has an alignment. And for that matter, when the PHB inexplicably starts rambling about the planes of existence, it notes that all of the planes have alignments too. Except for all of the planes that don’t.

Also, there’s a little nod toward alignment in the Ideals section of the whole Inspiration System. Every Ideal in the book has a parenthetical alignment trait after it. E.g. “Fairness. We all do the work, we all share in the reward (Lawful)” (PHB ). In theory, your alignment drives you specific Ideals encouraged by your Background. That isn’t actually spelled out, though. And there are no tendencies, either. Every Background has options for most alignments. I can play a lawful-good criminal or charlatan or a chaotic soldier. And there are some major issues with those if you put the description of the background next to the description of the alignment and compare notes.

So, how can I say that alignment isn’t actually in 5E given all of that? Well, because, none of that means anything. None of it actually does anything. Actually, all it really does is start fights. Let me explain.

Firstly, there’s nothing that says that your alignment has to match ANY of the choices you make. You can choose to be a cleric of a lawful-good god and be chaotic-neutral. You can choose a chaotic ideal while you, yourself are lawful-good. You can play a chaotic-evil halfling or a lawful-good elf. You can play any combination of race and class and background and have any features you want without regard to the alignment you choose to play. And some will argue this is perfectly okay. In fact, I’m going to come back to that point. But for now, if you’re already incensed that I seem to be suggesting that we go back the alignment restrictions of bygone days, calm your f$&%ing tits. I’m not. Except maybe I also sort of am. But it’s complicated. Like everything. We’ll get there. Right now, we’re just establishing context. So stay calm and read on.

What’s weird is there are all these nods to alignment. Take a look at the various paladin oaths. Each paladin is given a code of rules to follow as part of assuming their particular paladinly oath. Which, to be fair, makes a lot of sense. Paladins swear an oath to an external divine force and that powers their magic. So it makes sense they’d have an honor code. And each oath is described as having a “tendency” toward a particular alignment. Which also makes sense. Because if you look at the actual codes, the actual honor codes kind of leave no room for interpretation anyway. Paladins of Devotion must remain honest, courageous, compassionate, honorable, and dutiful. That’s pretty much a textbook definition of lawful-good.

What’s interesting, though, when it comes to the paladin, is the sidebar on PHB 86 that specifically addresses a paladin failing to uphold their oaths and how a GM should deal with those that. But the game is pretty clearly saying “this shouldn’t be ignored, really.”

What’s really odd though is that nothing like this exists for clerics who are also empowered to act by divine agents and have to follow some sort of ethos. Nor does it exist for druids. Nor does it exist for warlocks who are more similar to clerics at this point than wizards.

It’s weird for TWO important respects. First, why paladins but not clerics and druids and warlocks? And second, why spell out the oaths when the alignment system already pretty much handles that?

But, let’s look further. If you look into the DMG for alignment, you’ll discover it doesn’t even have an entry in the index. And the alignments are barely mentioned at all in the DMG. Even in the chapter on planar cosmology, there’s just a brief mention that the Outer Planes have alignments. And that’s it. There’s a few other throwaway mentions, like when they talk about NPC Ideals, but it’s a quick mention that ends with “but you can totally ignore this alignment s$&%.”

Also, look at the spells and magic items. Check out, for example, Protection from Evil and Good. That’s a single spell now, by the way. And it protects you from: aberrations, celestials, elementals, fey, fiends, and undead. It doesn’t protect from specifically aligned creatures or actually have anything to do with alignment at all. Hell, most elementals are neutral with respect to good and evil. The spell is really a ward against supernatural creatures. Or non-material planar creatures. Whatever.

In point of fact, there is only one place left in which there is any sort of a specific mention of the consequence of having an alignment. And that is under sentient magic items. It is noted that if your alignment is in conflict with that of a sentient magic item you own, you might have an argument. A magical sword with a mind of its own literally cares more about its wielders alignments than the gods themselves who are aligned and live in planes made of pure alignment and gain souls based on alignment.

As a side note, cool magical items like the Helm of Opposite Alignment (that changes your alignment like a curse) and the Mirror of Opposition (that generates a duplicate of you of the opposite alignment)? Those are gone.

It’s all kind of wacky, isn’t it?

It’s almost like they didn’t want alignment to be a part of the game but there were afraid to actually remove it. And, frankly, I’ve said that a lot about a lot of the things in the game. Hell, that’s probably why we got a spreadsheet of deities for every goddamned world when the 3rd and 4th Edition PHBs had no problem saying “for you divine types, here’s a default list of gods with some traits you can work into your character.” And yeah, I actually DO have a problem with that. Because paladins get all of this flavor about their divine oaths and s$&%, and clerics get mechanics that mostly boil down to “pick a list of features, then give it a name.”

And, TO BE CLEAR, I am fine with either of those approaches. I am fine with the Dungeon World esque approach to divine classes that basically says “pick a slate of powers and then give your god a name and come up with the rest yourself.” I’m also fine with the Paladin approach of “if you want this class, you’re also picking this flavor, so here it is, go ahead and choose and if you can’t live like this, you can’t be part of this class because that’s what THIS CLASS MEANS!” I actually prefer the second. But that’s a personal preference.

What I have a problem with is BOTH in the same f$&%ing game. Both approaches DON’T WORK TOGETHER.

Throwing Out Alignment

Honestly, if you hate alignment, and I know a lot of people who do. And personally I feel a lot of the alignment hatred comes from poor explanation, poor implementation, and dumba$& GMs who don’t understand it. And I AM going to defend it shortly. But if you hate alignment, get rid of it.

Seriously. Let’s economize here. And let’s put on our big boy pants and big girl panties and do what the creators of D&D were too scared to do: take it out. Alignment isn’t doing anything anymore. And if you find it restrictive and absolutist and too much of a pain in the a$&, seriously don’t bother with it. Don’t ask players to pick one. Don’t write it on character sheets. Don’t acknowledge it. It does nothing.

And I don’t just mean MECHANICALLY either. I’m not just saying “well, there’s no game effect on alignment, so why have it,” I’m saying alignment literally adds nothing to the game. The Inspiration system, particularly through Flaws and Ideals, is more than plenty for your game. A character chooses one personal moral or ethical value that guides them and one moral or ethical failing that gets in their way. And everything else is just handled on a case by case basis. Done and done.

So, that’s my first piece of advice. Don’t even waste time. Don’t waste player time. Don’t waste GMing time. Alignment doesn’t exist in 5E. It just pretends to. It’s just an impotent wraith buzzing around the edges of the rulebooks. It is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, but signifying nothing.

And that’s my advice. Come back next week and we’ll do adventure structure some more. Bye.


Are they gone?

All the alignment haters? Are they gone? Did that get rid of them? Good. Let’s you and me talk.

A Case for Alignment

At heart, I am a world building GM. I love creating worlds. Currently, all of my D&D campaigns take place in different corners (or slightly different versions) of a world that I have come to call the Angryverse. Although I have been running homebrew games for over 25 years now, the Angryverse is a relatively new construct. It began in

What happened was, in January of , WotC released a pair of preview books about the design and development of D&D 4th Edition. They weren’t really about the mechanical framework beneath the then-unreleased D&D 4E. They were more about the development of the world of D&D. The lore, the mythology, the roles that different races and classes would play in the world, the planes, bits of fluff, all sorts of really richly cool stuff. Oh sure, they talked about how the design and development worked together, too, which is something I am a fan of. And it excited me to see this grand vision for the WORLD OF D&D. See, none of the previous editions had really spent much time designing the world. The game itself was generic, right? Port the rules into campaign setting you chose. But even 3E spent some time on the deities of that default world and gave little odds and ends here there. Especially when it came to the races and the classes.

Both 3E and 4E had this sort of hidden consistency underlying it that suggested a default world for D&D, but 4E turned that up to Sure, there was the Nentir Vale as a setting for adventure. But there were new gods, a newly simplified cosmology based on those gods and their relationships, and it had an actual history hidden in the pages. The Dawn War. The Birth of the Dragonborn. Asmodeus’ rise to power. The Raven Queen slaying the god of death and erasing her true name from history. The elven schism. Yeenoghu’s gnolls destroying the great empires. Wizardly orders like the Emerald Orb and the Golden Wyvern. Nations like Arkhosia, Cendrienne, Bael Turath, and Nerath. The nature of life and death, the Shadowfell, and the three-fold relationship of body, spirit, and soul. Nothing was spelled out in excruciating detail. It was all sort of implied. And some of it was just hidden away. Gems you stumbled on. Hell, the wizardly orders came from the names of several powers, a few references in the preview books, and the names of several miniatures.

The thing was, it was all just enough detail to suggest there was a world in there without forcing a setting on you. Yeah, the story of tieflings and dragonborn define those races, but that’s also just ancient history. And it doesn’t have to be that way. And there were some missing details &#; very important missing details &#; like why humans don’t have a patron deity. And there were clues to suggest answers without spelling them out. One of the funniest details was that one of the gods &#; Tharizdun &#; the Elder Elemental Eye &#; was only named in the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Several references to the Elemental Eye were floating in other places, but it was purposely kept a secret from players that Tharizdun was the Elemental Eye and he had created the Abyss in an attempt to destroy the Primordials of the Elemental Chaos.

The thing is, I LOVE a nice, solid, consistent world. And I ate that s$&% up. Hell, I memorized it. I pored over every book for the hidden details that would let me glimpse the secret World Bible of the Points of Light campaign. And a lot of people never even noticed it was there. Or that it was truly consistent. And I’m honestly glad they never published it. Because I know &#; I KNOW &#; they had a secret design document with all this crap in it. They could have. But they didn’t.

Because it was the PERFECT level of world lore for a game like D&D that thrives both on people making it their own AND on people obsessing over published materials. And that is why, once I started running games in the 4E POL campaign, I adopted it as my own. My home campaigns take place in a universe that a 4E fan would recognize. It works mostly the same way.

But the other amazing thing about the 4E universe is that it was economical. There was never more lore than was needed by the game itself. The Dawn War existed to explain the difference between the Divine and Primal power sources. The history of Bael Turath and Arkhosia existed to explain where tieflings came from. Wizardly orders coincided with the the Arcane implements: staff, orb, and wand. And that informed the types of magic they used. That’s what made it so powerful. At least initially.

So, what does any of this have to do with alignment? Well, it has to do with the part that alignment plays in the D&D universe.

The Objective Moral Reality of D&D

We know for a fact that, in the D&D universe, there are gods. And there are divine realms. And there are also souls. And there are also supernatural beings born of particular alignments. And because of the way these things interact, we know that alignment is a property of the D&D universe.

Now, obviously, everything I’m going to say here varies a bit between editions. Alignment was very strong in 2nd and 3rd Edition. There were all sorts of restrictions, spells, and magical effects keyed directly to alignment. Especially once you added in all of the planar stuff in Planescape, the Manual of the Planes, and so on.

In 4E, alignment was weak and kind of weird. Because even though deities had alignments and souls had alignments, the nature of life and death got a little strange. When you died, your soul transferred to the Shadowfell, where it eventually journeyed the Raven Queen’s palace and was ushered off to… whatever happens to the dead. However, certain souls were placed in the care of particular deities based on their devotion. But alignment wasn’t really a big THING in 4E, so it wasn’t really based on alignment. And alignment was greatly simplified in 4E. But it still sort of existed.

The point is, though, that however strong the system makes it, alignment is a thing that exists in the world of D&D. It’s a force, sort of like gravity or buoyancy or the law of “haters gonna hate.” Creatures born of the outer planes like devils and gods and stuff? They ARE their alignment. They lack free will. They cannot behave in a way counter to their alignment because it’s literally what they are made of.

What that also means is that there is an objective, external definition for what is good, what is lawful, what is chaotic, and what is evil. It isn’t relative. It isn’t a matter of perception. There are universal laws of morality that exist in the D&D universe.

And honestly, that’s the only way alignment makes sense. If alignment weren’t based on some sort of external rule, the concept of evil would make no sense. No being would ever classify itself as evil. Evil beings are evil for one of two PERSONAL, SUBJECTIVE reasons. Either they believe their actions actually serve the greater good in some (possibly misguided capacity) and therefore they consider themselves good. OR they reject the concept of morality altogether. They refuse to accept that good and evil have any meaning and therefore, don’t base their decisions on good and evil.

The only way a standard works is it’s accepted and agreed upon. Temperature wouldn’t be useful if we only discussed relatives. What is hot to me may not be hot to you. And alignment comes down to a lot of “hot” or “cold.” But heat is a real, universal property. When we measure the temperature of something, we’re measuring how much energy the molecules in that thing has. We agree upon various standards so we can talk absolutely about the temperature of things, but we can also speak relatively about this thing being hot or that day being cold or whatever.

And the temperature analogy works well for other reasons. See, the thing is, once you try to point to the fact that the D&D universe includes a sort of “moral and ethical temperature” as a metaphysical law of the universe, people like to start picking that idea apart. And the “flaws” they point to almost always come down to a couple of key misunderstandings.

First of all, good and evil AND law and chaos are spectrums. They aren’t binaries. For example, assume that stealing is an evil act. That doesn’t mean the moment you steal something, you “turn evil.” Stealing bread from a wealthy baker to feed your starving family is much different than stealing bread from a starving family because you don’t feel like cooking. The first might barely register as “evil,” especially when balanced against the good of not letting starving people die. The second is pretty s$&%. And the fact that good and evil and law and chaos come in degrees is why we have the concept of “making the punishment fit the crime.” So, if someone says something mean on the Internet, our response should be proportional. It should not be to destroy the person’s life. But I digress. Heh.

That’s part of why the temperature analogy works so well. Good and evil are like hot and cold. I can say “wow, this room is hot” or “it’s not a very hot day out,” and you understand that I’m speaking in a subjective and relative way about a broad, continuous spectrum. We don’t have rules for how hot it has to be before I say something is “hot.” And context is also important. So, when I say the “oven isn’t hot yet,” I probably mean it’s not yet the degrees I need to cook my french fries. But, if I say “the shower is hot,” I probably mean the water temperature is above the normal to degrees most people shower at.

The other issue that f$&%s people up is disagreements about the interpretation of alignment. If there is an absolute objective alignment system, how can people possibly disagree about what is good and evil and lawful and chaotic.

The answer is simple: we’ve had concepts of hot and cold for far longer than we’ve had thermometers and understand molecular kinetic energy. Just because there ARE rules in the universe doesn’t mean that WE know what they are or that WE can measure them, yet. You and I might disagree on whether stealing bread to feed my starving family is evil or not, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a correct answer that the Universal Moral Objective Authority actually knows. Hell, for all WE know, we might live in a universe &#; the real universe &#; where there really is an objective moral reality and we haven’t worked it out or found any evidence for it yet. Who the hell knows?

The point is, in the D&D universe, there is an objective moral reality. That’s the only way alignment makes any sense as it has been presented in D&D. And everything is beholden to that final authority. Mortals, gods, planes, devils, angels, everything. But the funny thing is that that’s not actually that surprising. We kind of already know that. At the end of the day, it is the Game Master who decides the moral laws of the universe. Bahamut, the lawful good platinum dragon takes the actions the GM dictates and the GM decides what lawful good means. In that respect, Bahamut can’t oppose his own alignment.

Free Willed Player Dips$&%s

But that brings us to the thing that f$&%s up every system and idea in D&D. The f$&%ing players. See, the players have free will, right? They will choose whatever actions they want. But the players also have alignments. And if there is an objective moral reality to the universe that controls literally the whole universe, how can the players have free will.

And usually, this is the point where people say “AHA! Gotcha!” And they think they broke my entire alignment system. And then I have to explain to them that they are dumba$&es.

Of course sentient mortal beings have free will. They can choose to be good or evil or lawful or chaotic. They have the capacity to be any alignment. What they choose determines the alignment that they are.

You can think of it like this: a mortal soul begins as an unmarked blank slate. Over the course of a mortal life, it gets heated or cooled by all choices a mortal makes. When the mortal dies, something takes the soul’s temperature. And that determines what happens after death. It’s as simple as that. And it totally gels with all of the ideas of D&D afterlives and MOST of the ideas of real-world possible afterlives.

But what does that mean for the alignment on the character sheet? Well, that written alignment is just a statement of intention. When I write “lawful good,” all I’m saying &#; as a player &#; is that my character generally tries to live a good life and believes in social orders over the individual. When I write “lawful evil,” I say people live by social order and I will do whatever I have to do to be at the top of that order. And so on and so forth.

But that alignment doesn’t actually mean a whole hell of a lot. Which isn’t weird anyway. Players state lots of intentions about their character. But once they start playing, the character usually evolves based on table dynamics and how various in-game events affect the character. So, alignment shouldn’t be any more different.

Under this approach, what that means is that the players don’t know their characters’ true alignments in the universe. Only the GM knows for sure who is lawful good and who is chaotic evil and so on. The players have to guess. Moreover, if the players WANT to follow a specific alignment, they have to make their best guesses to keep in line with that moral code.

And that’s exactly how it should be. If it is important to me, as a PC, to be lawful-good, I try to always choose the lawfullest and goodest courses of action, but I can never be really sure. Barring, of course, a detect alignment spell.

Is Any Of This Useful?

Okay, so I’ve made a case for a pretty basic idea. Alignment is a property of the D&D universe. It is woven into the very fabric of reality. Supernatural beings are basically slaves to it. Sentient mortals have only a dim understanding of it, are burdened with free will, and their souls gradually get marked with all of their choices. The alignment on a character sheet is a combination of the player’s intentions and their best guess but their real alignment is a secret until revealed by some sort of magical outside force. And the GM acts as the ultimate moral authority for the universe.

But, fine, is any of that useful? Seriously. Does any of that serve any useful purpose in the game that justifies not jettisoning all of that crap? And the answer is: that depends.

Once upon a time, a dude who called himself Lord British released a video game called: Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar. And it was unlike any role-playing game ever released. It didn’t present a grand quest like “kill the evil princess” or “save the wizard” or anything like that. Instead, it asked the player to become a paragon of virtue. Basically, to become the savior figure in a new religion. The idea was that there were three major virtues that combined in a Venn diagram setup into eight basic values: Compassion, Justice, Honesty, Honor, Valor, Sacrifice, Spirituality, and Humility. And you wandered the world, visiting different holy sites, gathering relics, learning how the virtues related to each other, and so on. Along the way, you were presented with numerous choices and a great deal of freedom and you were constantly being graded on all eight virtues. Now, the game was extremely primitive, but it was also amazing. And alignment served an important purpose in that game. It was the central conflict of the entire game.

You can decide for yourself how much alignment should matter in your game. The best I can do is teach you a functional system. This is how alignment works best. You have to decide if you want it and if you want to do anything with it.

For me, though, I’m hesitant to throw it out because it’s at the core of religion, spirituality, life, and death in the D&D universe. Those things all only make sense because alignment exists the way it does. Why are devils always trying to corrupt people? Because if you turn a mortal soul with free will to lawful evil, it will end up in the Nine Hells serving Asmodeus. Why does Bahamut preach justice, honor, compassion, etc? Because he’s giving you his instruction manual for being lawful good. That way, you end up in his domain. Good gods preach rewards in the hereafter. Evil gods use trickery or bribery to win souls. It all makes a nice kind of sense.

Beyond that, though, such an alignment scheme also allows players to choose their level of engagement with alignment. For example, I can choose to play lawful good. That becomes a goal for my character. My fighter must be honorable, compassionate, and all the other things that go into lawful good. Even when it’s hard. So, when I’m confronted with a tough choice where the easy way out is also the chaotic or the evil way out, I can choose not to take that way specifically because lawful good is a goal for my character. My character thinks it&#;s important to be a good person, even if it kills them.

Of course, not all players can choose to ignore alignment and just be neutral. Characters who draw their power from divine sources are rubbing right up against the alignment system. I know a lot of gamers oppose the idea. But me, I see that as completely reasonable. If you want to play a Paladin of Bahamut or a Cleric of Pelor, you’d better be prepared to live by their commandments. And the shorthand for those commandments is “lawful good” and “neutral good” or whatever. See, part of my philosophy is that it’s never JUST mechanics. When you choose a class or a race or a background or whatever, you aren’t just choosing some mechanical rules to have. You’re also saying something about your place in the world. And if you don’t like that place, well, honestly, you’re choosing the wrong race or class or background.

If someone comes to me and wants to play a human but use the dwarf traits because they want the mechanical benefits of being a dwarf without the baggage of being a dwarf, I don’t have a lot of respect for that. Because you’re telling me mechanics are more important than the world and the characters. And it goes the other way too. If you want your story to ignore the mechanics, I don’t buy that either. Mechanics and story have to reflect each other for the game to make any sort of f$&%ing sense. They have to work together.

So, I have absolutely no problem telling people “hey, you want to a paladin, you’d better be prepared to try your damndest to live by this code.” That’s part of what being a paladin is. It’s not just a divine smite and a suit of nice armor. It’s also a place in the reality that we’re building. And we need to agree on what that place is.

Now, in my game, other things key off of alignment as well. For example, alignment is another way of getting inspiration. Live in accordance with your alignment in a major way? Get inspiration. Likewise, I use divine blessings as magical treasures. Instead of a +1 sword, you might get a blessing of Kord. Same deal: a +1 to attack and damage. But that one comes with some baggage as a tradeoff for its versatility. It only works until you piss off Kord. Kord only bestows his blessings on those who please him.

One of the other things that alignment allows me to do is to ban evil. I do not allow evil PCs. I haven’t for a long time now. There’s a lot of reasons. And every so often, some dips$&% will tell me that this makes me a terrible, limiting, restrictive, a$&hole GM who runs an awful game and doesn’t allow any fun. And those are precisely the dips$&%s I don’t want at my table anyway. Anyone who reacts like that is a terrible player. And I’m done running games for those people. So, as a character starts to slip and I start to realize they are becoming “evil” according to the universe’s (my) definition, I warn them. Because if they cross that threshold, the character must be retired. Those are my rules.

When Players F$&% Up

Now, here’s the big issue. Once upon a time, D&D encouraged GMs to be kind of an a$&hole about alignment changes. It basically said “if a character fails to live up to their alignment, take the character sheet, erase the alignment, change it, take away a bunch of experience points, and punch the player in the throat.” And, with all respect to the various authors of D&D, that’s complete and utter horses$&%. A moral system that expects absolute perfection from imperfect, free-willed mortals is going to fail. People make mistakes. They screw up. They have moments of weakness. That’s why all major religions &#; INCLUDING THE D&D ONES &#; have some methodology for apologizing for transgressions. Because people are human.

In general, I don’t make a big deal about alignment changes. They just happen. The only time I do start to worry is when a character is turning to evil. And, at that point, I pull the player aside and say “you did this, this, and this. In this world, those things are evil. Keep it up and I take your character away because I don’t allow evil PCs and you knew that when you made your character.”

However, once you have divine agents who need to conform to moral standards, you have to get a little more involved in the alignment. What happens, for example, when the lawful good paladin of Bahamut starts drifting toward chaotic good or lawful neutral or neutral evil? In ye olden days, GMs were encouraged to strip divine characters of their powers. If the paladin falls, take away their paladin powers. If the cleric turns away from chaos, take away their divine powers.

And, you know what? I fully support that. A cleric or paladin that has failed their oaths is, in my mind, unplayable as a cleric or paladin. And I make that clear to players right up front. You want to play this character? You’d better be damned sure because the universe is holding you to a higher standard. End of story.

But, if you think about it from the god’s perspective, it’s kind of weird to let someone that valuable slip away from you. The whole “well, you did one evil thing too many so I took away your spells” is really a dumb management technique. Hell, when I f$&% up at work, I get written up before I get fired. Within reason. If the lawful good paladin of Bahamut gleefully burns down a puppy orphanage, you have to let him go.

But I am a big fan of using omens, dreams, visions, and ultimately even divine agents and other members of the clergy to stop a character from falling too far out of favor. It actually makes divine characters MORE interesting in my world because divine upper management wants to work with them. Clerics aren’t just waiting around for the hammer of divine judgment to fall. They get a personal connection with their god. Why? Because god, GM, and player ALL want to see the character succeed.

In the end, though, sometimes it isn’t to be. And when a divine character falls, well, you have to find a solution that works for your game. And that solution comes outside of the game. That is to say: player and GM sit down and decide what the hell to do. Do you retire the character? Does the character seek atonement? Does the character join a different faith? And does that conversion leave the character with enemies in their former priesthood? Do you rebuild the character as a fighter assuming they retained their combat abilities and lost all their divine magic? It has to be worked out on a case by case basis.

The point is, any useful alignment system has to acknowledge that people aren’t perfect and f$&%ing up happens. It can’t be too strict, but it also can’t be too loose, or it loses all meaning.

Defining Alignments

If you’re still with me, at this point, maybe I’ve convinced you not to throw away alignment. Maybe I’ve even convinced you to make alignment meaningful in your game. Which is cool. It can be very rewarding, especially if your games involve a lot of the spirituality and magical fantasy of the D&D cosmos. But you may have noticed I didn’t actually define the nine alignments. I didn’t even talk about what alignments actually mean.

And the thing is, you, as the GM, are now the final authority on alignment. So, you have to know what the alignments are. I’m going to say this: the absolute best modern writeup on alignment comes in the D&D Players Handbook (PHB ). The writeup in 5E is s$&%. Like so many writeups in 5E. Because alignment isn’t really IN 5E. But really, you need to sit down and decide FOR YOURSELF what good and evil are and what law and chaos are.

But I’ll tell you this: it doesn’t actually have to be that complicated. It can be, if you want it to be, but it doesn’t have to be. To end this article, I’m actually going to share the alignment quiz I give new players at my table so they can choose their alignments. That way, you can see how I do it. Ready? Here it is:

First, Good vs. Evil

Are you willing to suffer harm or make sacrifices to benefit others? If so, you’re good.
Are you willing to harm others for your own benefit? If so, you’re evil.
Otherwise, you’re neutral with respect to good and evil.

Now, Lawful vs. Chaos

Do you think individuals should be expected to give up freedoms for the benefit of society as a whole? If so, you’re lawful.
Do you think you are better off retaining your individual freedoms by living outside of society? If so, you’re chaotic.
Otherwise, you’re neutral with respect to law and chaos.

Don’t clarify. Don’t accept “it depends.” Just tell people to answer those questions and write down whatever alignment results. Let them decide how much they have to lean toward an option before they become that option. Don’t tell them the cutoffs.

Oh, don’t be surprised if a lot of people end up Good and either Lawful or Neutral. That’s how it usually plays out. Because humans tend toward Lawful Good or Neutral Good. As it turns out. Just another thing the PHB got wrong.

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Alignment (Dungeons & Dragons)

Categorization of ethical and moral perspective of creatures in the Dungeons & Dragons universe

In the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) fantasyrole-playing game, alignment is a categorization of the ethical and moral perspective of player characters, non-player characters, and creatures.

Most versions of the game feature a system in which players make two choices for characters. One is the character's views on "law" versus "chaos", the other on "good" versus "evil". The two axes allow for nine alignments in combination.[1][2] According to Ian Livingstone, alignment is "often criticized as being arbitrary and unreal, but it works if played well and provides a useful structural framework on which not only characters but governments and worlds can be moulded."[1]


D&D co-creator Gary Gygax credited the inspiration for the alignment system to the fantasy stories of Michael Moorcock and Poul Anderson.[3][4]

The original version of D&D allowed players to choose among three alignments when creating a character: lawful, implying honor and respect for society's rules; chaotic, implying rebelliousness and individualism; and neutral, seeking a balance between the extremes.[5]

The release of the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set introduced a second axis of good, implying altruism and respect for life, versus evil, implying selfishness and no respect for life. As with the law-versus-chaos axis, a neutral position exists between the extremes. Characters and creatures could be lawful and evil at the same time (such as a tyrant), or chaotic but good (such as Robin Hood).[6]

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D), released between and , continued the two-axis system.[7] The version of the Basic Set went back to the earlier one-axis alignment system.[8]

AD&D 2nd Edition, released in , retained the two-axis system. In that edition, a character who performs too many actions outside their alignment can find their alignment changed, and is penalized by losing experience points, making it harder to reach the next level.[9]D&D 3rd Edition, released in , kept the same alignment system.[10]

D&D 4th Edition, released in , reduced the number of alignments to five: lawful good, good, evil, chaotic evil, and unaligned.[11] In that edition, "good" replaced neutral good and did not encompass chaotic good; "evil" replaced neutral evil and did not encompass lawful evil; "unaligned" replaced true neutral and did not encompass lawful neutral and chaotic neutral.[12]

D&D 5th Edition, released in , returned to the previous schema of nine alignments, and included a tenth option of "unaligned" for creatures that operate on instinct, not moral decision-making.[13]


Richard Bartle's Designing Virtual Worlds noted that alignment is a way to categorize players' characters, along with gender, race, character class, and sometimes nationality. Alignment was designed to help define role-playing, a character's alignment being seen as their outlook on life. A player decides how a character should behave in assigning an alignment, and should then play the character in accordance with that alignment.[14]

A character's alignment can change. If a lawful neutral character consistently performs good acts, when neutral or evil actions were possible, the character's alignment will shift to lawful good. In games, the Dungeon Master (referee) decides when alignment violations occur, as it is subjective and often frowned upon, if not outright disallowed.[14]

Characters acting as a party should have compatible alignments; a party with both good and evil characters may turn against itself.[15]Bill Slavicsek and Richard Baker's Dungeon Master for Dummies noted that a party of good or neutral characters works better as the motivations for adventures are easier, the group dynamics are smoother, and the "heroic aspects of D&D shine through in ways that just don't happen when players play evil characters".[15]


Law versus chaos[edit]

The law versus chaos axis in D&D predates good versus evil in the game rules.

Originally the law/chaos axis was defined as the distinction between "the belief that everything should follow an order, and that obeying rules is the natural way of life", as opposed to "the belief that life is random, and that chance and luck rule the world".[8] According to the early rulebook, lawful characters are driven to protect the interest of the group above the interest of the individual and would strive to be honest and to obey just and fair laws. Chaotic creatures and individuals embraced the individual above the group and viewed laws and honesty as unimportant. At that time, the rulebook specified that "chaotic behavior is usually the same as behavior that could be called 'evil'".[8] Neutral creatures and characters believe in the importance of both groups and individuals, and felt that law and chaos are both important. They believe in maintaining the balance between law and chaos and were often motivated by self-interest.[8]

The third edition D&D rules define "law" and "chaos" as follows:[10]

  • Law implies honor, trustworthiness, obedience to authority, and reliability. On the downside, lawfulness can include closed-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 follow rules nor a compulsion to rebel. They are honest but can be tempted into lying or deceiving others if it suits them.

Good versus evil[edit]

The conflict of good versus evil is a common motif in D&D and other fantasy fiction.[16] Although player characters can adventure for personal gain rather than from altruistic motives, it is generally assumed that the player characters will be opposed to evil and will tend to fight evil creatures.

The third edition D&D rules define "good" and "evil" as follows:[10]

  • 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 harming, oppressing, and killing others. Some evil creatures simply have no compassion for others and kill without qualms if doing so is convenient or if it can be set up. Others actively pursue evil, killing for sport or out of duty to some malevolent deity or master.
  • 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.

Within the game, Paladins, altruistic heroes, and creatures such as angels are considered good. Villains and violent criminals are considered evil, as are inherently evil creatures such as demons and most undead.[10] Animals are considered neutral even when they attack innocents, because they act on natural instinct and lack the intelligence to make moral decisions;[10] in the fifth edition, this is expressed by labeling such beasts as "unaligned".[13] According to Greg Littmann, the predetermined assignment of an alignment to monsters means that they are good or evil by nature.[16] Nevertheless, the rules do allow for individual variances, permitting "a red dragon looking to defect to the side of good"—even though Littmann acknowledges the rarity of such situations.[16]

Although good characters can be defined as having a respect for others, Littmann notes that this does not necessarily extend to the treatment of evil creatures—"a party of good characters will chop and char a tribe of orcs to so much smoking hamburger without the slightest hesitation or regrets".[16]


The nine alignments can be shown in a grid, as follows:

Lawful good[edit]

A lawful good character typically acts with compassion and always with honor and a sense of duty. However, lawful good characters will often regret taking any action they fear would violate their code, even if they recognize such action as being good. Such characters include gold dragons, righteous knights, paladins, and most dwarves.[13][17]

Neutral good[edit]

A neutral good character typically acts altruistically, without regard for or against lawful precepts such as rules or tradition. A neutral good character has no problems with cooperating with lawful officials, but does not feel beholden to them. In the event that doing the right thing requires the bending or breaking of rules, they do not suffer the same inner conflict that a lawful good character would. Examples of this alignment include many celestials, some cloud giants, and most gnomes.[10][17]

Chaotic good[edit]

A chaotic good character does what is necessary to bring about change for the better, disdains bureaucratic organizations that get in the way of social improvement, and places a high value on personal freedom, not only for oneself, but for others as well. Chaotic good characters usually intend to do the right thing, but their methods are generally disorganized and often out of sync with the rest of society. Examples of this alignment include copper dragons, many elves, and unicorns.[10][17]

Lawful neutral[edit]

A lawful neutral character typically believes strongly in lawful concepts such as honor, order, rules, and tradition, but often follows a personal code in addition to, or even in preference to, one set down by a benevolent authority. Examples of this alignment include a soldier who always follows orders, a judge or enforcer who adheres mercilessly to the letter of the law, a disciplined monk, and some wizards.[10][17]

True neutral[edit]

A neutral character (also called "true neutral") is neutral on both axes and tends not to feel strongly towards any alignment, or actively seeks their balance. Druids frequently follow this dedication to balance and, under Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules, were required to be this alignment. In an example given in the 2nd Edition Player's Handbook, a typical druid might fight against a band of marauding gnolls, only to switch sides to save the gnolls' clan from being totally exterminated. Examples of this alignment include lizardfolk, most druids, and many humans.[9][10][17]

Chaotic neutral[edit]

A chaotic neutral character is an individualist who follows their own heart and generally shirks rules and traditions. Although chaotic neutral characters promote the ideals of freedom, it is their own freedom that comes first; good and evil come second to their need to be free. Examples of this alignment include many barbarians and rogues, and some bards.[10][17]

Lawful evil[edit]

A lawful evil character sees a well-ordered system as being easier to exploit than to necessarily follow. Examples of this alignment include tyrants, devils, corrupt officials, undiscriminating mercenary types who have a strict code of conduct, blue dragons, and hobgoblins.[10][17]

Neutral evil[edit]

A neutral evil character is typically selfish and has no qualms about turning on allies-of-the-moment, and usually makes allies primarily to further their own goals. A neutral evil character has no compunctions about harming others to get what they want, but neither will they go out of their way to cause carnage or mayhem when they see no direct benefit for themselves. Another valid interpretation of neutral evil holds up evil as an ideal, doing evil for evil's sake and trying to spread its influence. Examples of the first type are an assassin who has little regard for formal laws but does not needlessly kill, a henchman who plots behind their superior's back, or a mercenary who readily switches sides if made a better offer. An example of the second type would be a masked killer who strikes only for the sake of causing fear and distrust in the community. Examples of this alignment include many drow, some cloud giants, and yugoloths.[10][17]

Chaotic evil[edit]

A chaotic evil character tends to have no respect for rules, other people's lives, or anything but their own desires, which are typically selfish and cruel. They set a high value on personal freedom, but do not have much regard for the lives or freedom of other people. Chaotic evil characters do not work well in groups because they resent being given orders and usually do not behave themselves unless there is no alternative. Examples of this alignment include higher forms of undead (such as liches), violent killers who strike for pleasure rather than profit, demons, red dragons, and orcs.[10][17]


Creatures not sapient enough to make decisions based on moral choices, but operating purely on instinct, are described as "unaligned".[17] Sharks are savage predators, for example, but they are not evil: they have no alignment.[17] The use of "unaligned" for creatures was introduced in the 4th edition, and retained in 5th edition.[13]


The D&D alignment system is occasionally referenced as a system of moral classification in other contexts.[18]Salon television critic Heather Havrilesky, while reviewing the HBO television series True Blood, analyzed the program's characters in terms of D&D alignments and identified protagonist Sookie Stackhouse as chaotic good, her vampire boyfriend Bill Compton as lawful neutral, Eric Northman as lawful evil, and Lafayette Reynolds as chaotic neutral.[19] In "Hostiles and Calamities", the 11th episode of season 7 of The Walking Dead television series, the character Eugene Porter makes a reference to the D&D alignment system when describing himself as "not good. I’m not lawful, neutral, or chaotic."[20] The alignment chart Internet meme humorously categorizes various items—often characters from works of pop culture—in a three-by-three grid.[21][22]

The system has also been used in research into how people create virtual avatars in the digital world. For example, the computer role-playing game Neverwinter Nights 2 inherits the D&D alignment system and researchers have used the NW2 avatar creation process to show that American undergraduate students tend to select avatars that are similar to their own moral values.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ abLivingstone, Ian (). Dicing with Dragons: An Introduction to Role-playing Games (2nd&#;ed.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. p.&#; ISBN&#;.
  2. ^Fine, Gary Alan (). Shared Fantasy: Role Playing Games as Social Worlds (Paperback&#;ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p.&#; ISBN&#;. Retrieved
  3. ^Calisuri and Corvar (). "Gary Gygax – Creator of Dungeons & Dragons". TheOneRing.net. Retrieved
  4. ^Knode, Mordicai; Callahan, Tim (). "Advanced Readings in D&D: Poul Anderson". Tor.com. Retrieved
  5. ^Gary Gygax; Dave Arneson (). Dungeons & Dragons, Volume 1: Men and Magic. Tactical Studies Rules. p.&#;9.
  6. ^Pulsipher, Lewis (Oct–Nov ). "An Introduction to Dungeons & Dragons, Part V". White Dwarf. Games Workshop (27):
  7. ^Gygax, Gary (). Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Players Handbook. Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: TSR Hobbies. p.&#; ISBN&#;.
  8. ^ abcdGygax, Gary; Arneson, Dave; Moldvay, Tom (). Dungeons & Dragons: Basic Rulebook (4th&#;ed.). Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: TSR Hobbies. p.&#; ISBN&#;.
  9. ^ abCook, David "Zed" (). Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 2nd Edition, Player's Handbook (2nd&#;ed.). Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: TSR. pp.&#;46– ISBN&#;.
  10. ^ abcdefghijklm
  11. ^Heinsoo, Rob; Collins, Andy; Wyatt, James (). Player's Handbook (4th&#;ed.). Renton, Washington: Wizards of the Coast. pp.&#;19– ISBN&#;.
  12. ^Cogburn, Jon; Silcox, Mark (). Dungeons and Dragons and Philosophy: Raiding the Temple of Wisdom. Chicago: Open Court Publishing. pp.&#;30–32, ISBN&#;.
  13. ^ abcdMearls, Mike; Crawford, Jeremy (). Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual (9th&#;ed.). Renton, Washington: Wizards of the Coast. ISBN&#;.
  14. ^ abBartle, Richard A. (). Designing Virtual Worlds. Indianapolis, Indiana: New Riders. pp.&#;– ISBN&#;.
  15. ^ abSlavicsek, Bill; Baker, Richard (). Dungeon Master For Dummies. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley. p.&#; ISBN&#;. Retrieved
  16. ^ abcdLittman, Greg (). "Sympathy for the Devils: Free Will and Dungeons & Dragons". In Robichaud, Christopher (ed.). Dungeons and Dragons and Philosophy: Read and Gain Advantage on All Wisdom Checks. John Wiley & Sons. pp.&#;7– ISBN&#;.
  17. ^ abcdefghijk"Basic Rules for Dungeons & Dragons"(PDF). Dungeons & Dragons. Wizards of the Coast. p.&#; Retrieved
  18. ^Studio (). "The Chart That Explains Everyone". WNYC. Retrieved
  19. ^Havrilesky, Heather (). "I Like to Watch". Salon. Retrieved
  20. ^Handlen, Zack (). "The Walking Dead digs into Eugene's psyche, which is fine if you're into that". The A.V. Club. Retrieved
  21. ^Jay Hathaway (). "Alignment chart memes are back—and better than ever". The Daily Dot. Retrieved
  22. ^DoubleBond (). "Alignment Charts". Know Your Meme. Retrieved
  23. ^Ewell, Patrick J.; Guadagno, Rosanna E.; Jones, Matthew; Dunn, Robert Andrew (July ). "Good Person or Bad Character? Personality Predictors of Morality and Ethics in Avatar Selection for Video Game Play". Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. 19 (7): – doi/cyber
Sours: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alignment_(Dungeons_%26_Dragons)
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DnD 5e – Practical Guide to Alignment

Last Updated: August 25,


Since its earliest editions, Dungeons and Dragons has included a system known as “Alignment”. This system provided a way to describe a creature’s moral outlook in extremely broad terms; general enough to get a broad idea of a creatures’ worldview but not detailed enough to provide specifics about their personality.

While Alignment originally featured just the law-chaos axis, the good-evil axis was introduced in the Dungeons and Dragons Basic Set, and Alignment has continued to work in basically the same way ever since with occasional changes in wording or mechanics. However, as the community has grown and the game has evolved, Alignment has become a weird, achaic holdover from previous editions which players view with increasing scepticism.

In this article, we’ll examine Aignment with a critical eye. We’ll explore the meaning behind the alignment system, the philosophical and moral implications, the mechanical aspects, what 5e’s alignment system does well, what it does poorly, and what we can do to make 5e’s alignment system useful without being stifling or problematic.

A Brief history

The original edition of Dungeons and Dragons (sometimes called “OD&D”) featured alignment in three flavors: lawful, neutral, and chaotic. In the Dungeons and Dragons Basic Set introduced the second axis: good, neutral, and evil.

The alignment system remained largely unchanged for a long time. 4th edition made the first significant change, rearranging the two-axis system into a one-axis system.

  • Lawful Good
  • Good
  • Neutral
  • Evil
  • Chaotic Evil

This was a confusing departure, doing away with both Lawful Evil and Chaotic Good alignments. 4th edition also removed the mechanical impacts of alignment, so this may have been done to simplify the alignment system. However, it unintentionally introduced the implication that lawfulness was somehow inherently good and chaoticness was somehow inherently evil.

With the release of 5th edition, Wizards of the Coast returned Alignment to the two-axis system. However, like 4th edition, 5th edition has largely done away with the mechanical implications of alignment (though there are some exceptions which we’ll discuss below).

What is Alignment?

Alignment is an extremely simple two-axis system used to describe a creatures’ general “moral attitude”. While this doesn’t portray the minutae of philosophy, it can be a quick shorthand to determine how a creature might behave. For example: a lawful-good creature will generally by just, kind, and orderly, while a chaotic evil creature will often be selfish and unpredictable.

Alignment is descibed using the creature’s positon on each of the two axes. A creature who is lawful and evil will be described as “Lawful-Evil”. A creature who is neutral and good will be described as “Neutral-Good”. A creature who is neutral on both axes is described simply as “Neutral”, though previous editions have used the term “True Neutral”.

Alignment doesn’t go into more detail than that, and to some degree it’s not intended to. Intelligent creatures are complex, and there’s no way to perfectly describe a creature’s philosophical outlook in a space small enough to fit on a character sheet.

While alignment is listed using discting steps (lawful, neutral, chaotic. good, neutral, evil.), a creature might lean in one direction or another. Alignment is somewhat clumsy in cases where a creature doesn’t fall neatly into one category, so an evil-leaning lawful-neutral character can be difficult to describe in the broad strokes used by the Alignment system.

Law and Chaos

The first axis of Alignment is the “Law vs. Chaos” axis.

Creatures which are “Lawful” tend to be orderly and organized. They often value rules and structure, and therefore value systems which support those ideals: laws, traditions, systems of honor, etc. At its best, being Lawful means honesty, trustworthiness, reliability, and stability. At its worst, being Lawful means being rigid, stagnant, judgemental, and tyranical.

Creatures which are “Chaotic” value freedom and flexibility. They value freedom of choice, individualism, and adaptability. At its best, being Chaotic means a readiness to accept change, to explore new ideas, and to explore new ideas. At its worst, being chaotic means being disorganized, unreliable, irresponsible, and sometimes even destructive.

Law and Chaos are intentionally separated from Good and Evil because being lawful or chaotic aren’t inherently good or bad qualities. There are plenty of stories about heroes who you might describe as chaotic, and there are plenty of stories about villains who you might describe as lawful.

Good and Evil

The second axis of Alignment is the “Good vs. Evil” axis.

Creatures which are “Good” tend to be altruistic, generous, and peaceful. Good characters often give of themselves to help others.

Creatures which are “Evil” tend to be selfish, greedy, and sometimes even malicious. While 5th edition doesn’t specifically say so, previous editions have stated that “implies hurting, oppressing, and killing others”. The exact published definition of “evil” has changed somewhat over the game’s history, but in general evil creatures are willing to harm others in order to get what they want.

The good vs. evil axis is perhaps the heart of the controversy around Alignment. We’ll discuss this more below.

The Ten Alignments

The ten alignments are described below based on their descriptions in the 5th edition core rules with some elaboration based on previous editions. The Player’s Handbook contains brief descriptions of each of these alignments, but I also encourage you to read the Wikipedia entries and the entries below.

We’ll revisit alignments later in the article to expand on what we can do with these alignments.

Lawful Good creatures act how a “good person” is expected to act. They follow rules, respect legitimite authority, and treat others with kindness, honor, and respect.

Lawful Good has long been considered the alignment of idealistic heroes. Paladins were locked into lawful-good alignment until late in 3rd edition, and paladins have long been a beacon of moral certitude. However, characters who are lawful good are frequently seen as morally rigid and stubborn, so the alignment is often derided as “lawful stupid”.

Neutral Good creatures do their best to do what they consider “good”, but don’t cling to rules or stricture so much as Lawful Good creatures. A Neutral Good creature might still obey the law or society’s expectations most of the time, but they are not rigidly bound by them, and they view doing right thing as more valuable than obeying some strict doctrine.

Chaotic Good creatures do what they believe to be right with little regard for the opinions of others. They are guided by their own sense of good and evil rather than the prevailing opinions of society, and they do not feel bound by rules, laws, or other creatures’ expectations of behavior.

Lawful Neutral act in accordance with the law, tradition, or with some code of behavior. While this code can often be external (the law, a religious tradition, etc.), it can also be self-determined.

Neutral creatures do what seems like the best option in any given situation. These creatures might lack strong moral convictions, they might be indecisive, or they might simply be unoppinionated. Such creatures typically act based upon their momentary needs and desires rather than based on a moral philosophy.

Perhaps the hardest alignment to play, Neutral implies that a character either can’t, won’t, or hasn’t performed enough self-reflection to align themselves anywhere else within the Alignment system. In a party of characters who are usually not also Neutral (even if alignment is selected at random), it’s difficult to remain Neutral while your party is murder-hoboing or leading a divine crusade.

Chaotic Neutral creatures follow their whims, valuing their own freedom and self-interest above other concerns. Such creatures dislike being ordered to do things, and pay no regard for rules or other creatures’ expectations. And, while they are not always selfish to the point of harming others, they feel no compulsion to help other creatures in need.

Many new players fall into the trap of “Chaotic Neutral” as a universally permissive alignment. Innumerable adventurers have been made Chaotic Neutral as an excuse to murder, pillage, and rob their way through life. Remember: within the confines of the Alignment system, harming others for personal benefit (murder, robbery, etc.) is evil. There’s nothing wrong with playing an evil character, but let’s not lie to ourselves and pretend that “Stabby the Burgler-Arsonist” is Chaotic Neutral.

Lawful Evil creatures act within a code of behavior, but are otherwise self-centered. They are often tyrants, or would be if they could, seeking to use their code of behavior to advance their own interests.

Neutral Evil creatures are self-interested, and do whatever they can get away with to advance their own interestes. They might follow rules if it serves them, but they do not feel bound to do so. At the same time, they aren’t to unpredictable as Chaotic evil creatures.

Chaotic Evil creatures are motivated by arbitrary and often malicious whims. They are typically greedy and selfish, and are often violent. They give no thought to the wants or needs of other creatures, and pay no heed to rules or expectations. Such creatures will typically only bow to authority when threatened.

Chaotic Evil’s description has been weird since at least 3rd edition. 5e’s description starts with “creatures act with arbitrary violence”, which sounds a bit harsh. But compared to the 3rd edition entry, that’s pretty gentle. 3rd edition describes such creatures as “hot-tempered, vicious, arbitrarily violent, and unpredictable”, and goes on to describe other evil stuff like spreading evil and chaos.

Unaligned creatures (yes, “Unaligned” is an alignment) lack the mental capacity to make philosophical judgements, and therefore don’t have an alignment. Such creatures include beasts and unintelligent undead. While these creatures may still exibit alignment-like traits (squirrels dillignetly collect and bury good; dogs might act sympathetically toward a sad or injured humanoid), these behaviors are considered less about moral judgement than they are about conditioning, and unaligned creatures lack a capacity for self-reflection which would allow them to examine the moral implications of their thoughts and behaviors.

What is Wrong With Alignment?

Perhaps the largest controversy within the alignment system is the “good vs. evil” axis, which prevents a gross oversimplificiation of morality. The easiest way to expose the problem is simply to ask “who decided what is “good” and what is “evil”?”

Dungeons and Dragons has historically followed a simplistic good-evil philosophy which real-world people may find familiar: Greed is bad, generosity is good. Respecting others is good, treating others with disrepect is bad. Honoring commitments is good, breaking them is bad. Harming others for selfish interests is bad, protecting the vulnerable from exploitation is good.

But who decided that those things are good? The real world has a long history of philosophers, religions, and laws which have gradually steered humanity in various directions, and I’m nowhere near qualified to explore them in any serious level of detail.

But why do our real-world ideas of a good and evil apply to characters within our games? Those characters don’t have the same world history that we do, and it seems silly to assume that a fictional world with dragons and magic would somehow naturally evolve the same moral philosophy which you or I might consider familiar. Fictional worlds would necessarily have different views of good and evil, just as different real-world cultures have different views of good and evil, and societies at different points in their histories have different views of good and evil.

So, again I ask: “Who decided what is good and what is evil?” If you examine a game setting (your own or someone else’s), you can likely find an answer. In many settings, the same answer is the same: good and evil are often defined by the setting’s gods.

Settings like Forgotten Realms have polytheistic pantheons with deities who are often directly involved in the word, and access to those deities via magic or interplanar travel means that mortals can directly ask the gods to weigh in on what is good or evil. The DM, who is presumably portraying the gods in their own game, is therefore the ultimate arbiter of good and evil.

How to Use Alignment

The simplest answer is “don’t”. To some degree, Alignment is a relic of the ’s, and its difficulties and inherent philosophical problems can be frustrating, and it can feel as though there is little payoff for putting your character’s complex belief system into a neat box. It’s perfectly fine to play without alignment. Almost nothing in the game cares about creatures’ actual alignments, so there’s essentially no cost to doing so. But, assuming that you’re still open to the possibility of using Alignment, I’d like to lay out some concepts that may make alignment appealing.

Alignment is “The World”‘s Opinion

Alignment is not determined by the character; it is determined by the general views of “The World”. That doesn’t mean that everyone in the world gets a vote; it means that your characters alignment is based on the moral opinions of the world around them.

For example: Goofus lives in Puppyville, but hates puppies and scares them away from his house whenever he sees puppies. The people of Puppyville love puppies, and treating puppies with kindness and generosity is viewed as “good”. Therefore, within the moral opinions of Goofus’s world, he could be considered “evil” because he is doing something that the world sees as cruel or selfish.

By comparison, Gallant lives in Peanut Butter City, a city where things are made from magical peanut butter. Puppies love Peanut Butter City, but have a nasty habit of eating the buildings made of peanut butter, thereby rendering people homeless. Gallant makes his living by scaring puppies away from Peanut Butter City. Because he is protecting the vulnerable citizens, he could be considered “good”.

Goofus and Gallant are doing the same thing: scaring away puppies. Niether act is inherently good or evil, but based on context and the prevailing moral opinions of their world, we can measure a character on the alignment scales.

Alignment is Descriptive, not Prescriptive

Perhaps the best advice I’ve ever read on alignment is that Alignment is “descriptive”, not “prescriptive”. This means that alignment describes a creatures’ behavior, but it does not dictate their behavior.

For example: Gallant is Lawful Good. He is in all ways considered a great person, and he is widely respected. However, Gallant has a sweet tooth, and one day he has a weird moment and decides to steal a candy bar. Gallant will likely feel bad about it later, but he’s not magically incapable of non-good acts. If he were a player character, his Dungeon Matser should never say “Gallant would not do that because he is Lawful Good!” Instead, the Dungeon Master might ask “This seems like an unusual choice for Gallant”, and allow Gallant to contnue. If Gallant continues to deviate from his alignment, the Dungeon Master might change Gallant’s alignment to reflect his new normal.

Alignment Can Change

People can change, and characters are no exception. Innumerable stories feature good characters falling to evil or evil characters redeeming themselves. Player characters are not somehow exempt from this phenomenon. A character’s experiences over the course of a campaign might change their outlook on the world, so changing alignment over time can be a very interesting way to portray character growth beyond more mechanical stuff like gaining levels.

Reimagining Alignment

“Reimagining” may be an over-sell. “Re-label” may be more accurate. Simply by changing the terminology of the Alignment system, we can hit the original intent of the system while also removing some of the complicated moral philosophy stuff.

First, replace the chaos-law axis with dogmatic-pragmatic. Dogmatic characters adhere to a set of principals, while pragmatic characters behave according to what they think is practical in a given situation. This maintains the core concept, but removes the sometimes confusing association with actual law since a dogmatic character can still be opposed to the law of the land, local traditions, or other rules systems with which they disagree.

Second, replace the evil-good axis with selfish-selfless. Selfish characters act based on their own needs and desires, while selfless characters act based on the needs and desires of others. This removes the judgement that acting in your own self-interest in inherently “evil”, and breaks away from the implied morality written into the game. It also separates the notion of “evil” from the implied maliciousness and violence.

These two changes allow players to explore less-heroic personalities without the stamp of “evil” on their character sheet. A player could play a pragmatic-selfish character (the equivalent of chaotic evil) without being judged as an inherently murderous, violent monster.

A Third Axis

Adding a third axis can add additional nuance to the Alignment system without massively increasing the complexity. I propose adding a new “antisocial-prosocial” axis. This indicates how the creature behaves toward other people and toward society, which tells us a little bit more about how the creature applies their Alignment to the world around them.

Antisocial creatures are rough, hostile, standoffish, and generally unwilling to associate with society in a friendly way. At best they are impolite, demeaning, disrespectful, or insulting. At worst they are aggressive, pushy, or even violent.

Neutral creatures are often indifferent or ambivalent toward society and toward other creatures. They are not outwardly hostil unless provoked, but also are not immediately friendly or helpful.

Prosocial creatures are friendly, polite, and generally choose to participate in society. At best, a prosocial character is helpful, charming, and pleasant. At worst, a prosocial character is manipulative or conniving.

Some examples: A lawful-good-antisocial character (or selfless-dogmatic-antisocial) might run a charity or a hospital or some other broadly kind service while in-person they constantly make demeaning remarks to those around them. A chaotic-evil-social character (or selfish-pragmatic-social) might make their living as a thief, but they’re charming to speak to and they always offer directions and to local tourists.

You might reasonably think “that doesn’t feel like a meaningful addition to my game”, and honestly you’re probably right. Alignment is already an extremely minor part of the game, and adding more stuff to it isn’t necessarily an improvement. Use what works for your group.


Alignment is at the same time complicated but overly simple, confusing yet a helpful abstraction, and overly-rigid yet flexible enough to be useful. It’s a strange beast. You don’t need to use it, so if it’s a problem it’s totally fine to do away with it. But at the same time, taking a moment to fit a creature into an alignment may be helpful to convey basic information about a creature’s moral standing.

Other References

Sours: https://rpgbot.net/dnd5/players/alignment/
Alignment in Dungeons and Dragons 5e


A typical creature in the game world has an alignment, which broadly describes its moral and personal attitudes. Alignment is a combination of two factors: one identifies morality (good, evil, or neutral), and the other describes attitudes toward society and order (lawful, chaotic, or neutral). Thus, nine distinct alignments define the possible combinations.

These brief summaries of the nine alignments describe the typical behavior of a creature with that alignment. Individuals might vary significantly from that typical behavior, and few people are perfectly and consistently faithful to the precepts of their alignment.

Lawful good (LG) creatures can be counted on to do the right thing as expected by society. Gold dragons, paladins, and most dwarves are lawful good.

Neutral good (NG) folk do the best they can to help others according to their needs. Many celestials, some cloud giants, and most gnomes are neutral good.

Chaotic good (CG) creatures act as their conscience directs, with little regard for what others expect. Copper dragons, many elves, and unicorns are chaotic good.

Lawful neutral (LN) individuals act in accordance with law, tradition, or personal codes. Many monks and some wizards are lawful neutral.

Neutral (N) is the alignment of those who prefer to steer clear of moral questions and don&#;t take sides, doing what seems best at the time. Lizardfolk, most druids, and many humans are neutral.

Chaotic neutral (CN) creatures follow their whims, holding their personal freedom above all else. Many barbarians and rogues, and some bards, are chaotic neutral.

Lawful evil (LE) creatures methodically take what they want, within the limits of a code of tradition, loyalty, or order. Devils, blue dragons, and hobgoblins are lawful evil.

Neutral evil (NE) is the alignment of those who do whatever they can get away with, without compassion or qualms. Many drow, some cloud giants, and goblins are neutral evil.

Chaotic evil (CE) creatures act with arbitrary violence, spurred by their greed, hatred, or bloodlust. Demons, red dragons, and orcs are chaotic evil.

Alignment in the Multiverse

For many thinking creatures, alignment is a moral choice. Humans, dwarves, elves, and other humanoid races can choose whether to follow the paths of good or evil, law or chaos. According to myth, the good-aligned gods who created these races gave them free will to choose their moral paths, knowing that good without free will is slavery.

The evil deities who created other races, though, made those races to serve them. Those races have strong inborn tendencies that match the nature of their gods. Most orcs share the violent, savage nature of the orc gods, and are thus inclined toward evil. Even if an orc chooses a good alignment, it struggles against its innate tendencies for its entire life. (Even half-orcs feel the lingering pull of the orc god&#;s influence.)

Alignment is an essential part of the nature of celestials and fiends. A devil does not choose to be lawful evil, and it doesn&#;t tend toward lawful evil, but rather it is lawful evil in its essence. If it somehow ceased to be lawful evil, it would cease to be a devil.

Most creatures that lack the capacity for rational thought do not have alignments—they are unaligned. Such a creature is incapable of making a moral or ethical choice and acts according to its bestial nature. Sharks are savage predators, for example, but they are not evil; they have no alignment.

Like this:


Sours: https://dnd5e.info/beyond-1st-level/alignment/

Guide 5e alignment

So you’re filling out your character sheet and getting ready to kick off your Dungeons & Dragons game.

Name? Check.

Class? Check-a-roo.



What does that mean?


What Is Alignment?

In short, alignment is a reflection of your character’s morals and motivations. How they view and interact with the world around them stems from their decisions and tendencies.

Are they a rule-follower or do they prefer to do things their own way?

Are they a generally good person or are they more inclined towards evil or selfish behavior?

While your character’s alignment doesn’t necessarily exist to put them in a type of box, it does provide a type of guiding light for how you roleplay them.

Today we take a dive into the nine alignments available in Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition and explore how characters of each alignment might look in your game.

Good Alignments In Dungeons & Dragons

Lawful Good Alignment

The Lawful Good character believes that it is their responsibility to do the right thing by society’s expectations. There is no reason to not help someone in a bad situation simply because it’s the right thing to do! The Lawful Good character obeys the rules, upholds traditions, and does their part to contribute to a society that is fundamentally good.

A Lawful Good character might tend to come off as “preachy” to the other members of the party (particularly if they are prone to antics that are less-lawful and less-good!) However, this type of character is great for reinforcing (or even determining) the party’s moral compass as a whole.

Some Lawful Good Examples

Captain America (Marvel), Ned Stark (Game of Thrones), Superman (DC Comics)

Neutral Good Alignment

Some characters are born good, some achieve goodness, and others have goodness thrust upon them. The Neutral Good character isn’t particularly inclined towards Law or Chaos and instead focuses on helping people as they are able to. As such, they likely believe that there is some value to having rules in society but they also want the freedom to break away from traditions if they wish. Rather than obeying authority figures based solely on their position, Neutral Good characters seek to act in a way that creates the greatest amount of good.

It’s not uncommon for characters with this alignment to be forced into the role of an adventurer. They might have been chosen by the quest-giver or have been put in a situation that adventuring was the best (or only) option. As you play, the Neutral Good character is very likely to find themselves swayed more towards either a Lawful Good or Chaotic Good alignment during the adventure.

Some Neutral Good Examples

Frodo Baggins (Lord of the Rings), Kaylee Frye (Firefly), Luke Skywalker (Star Wars)

Chaotic Good Alignment

You’ve got to break a few eggs to make an omelet. Such is the case with the rules when a Chaotic Good character takes action. With a distaste for (or distrust of) authority, the Chaotic Good hero would rather live by their own rules as they set out to help others. These characters are flexible with a focus on the greater good, though they might also be a bit unpredictable in their noble pursuits.

The Chaotic Good character particularly hates seeing people being oppressed by corrupt rules and laws. They are quick to defend those who can’t defend themselves and focus on doing the “right” thing rather than worrying about the consequences.

Some Chaotic Good Examples

Robin Hood (Folk Hero), Matt Murdock/Daredevil (Marvel), Zidane Tribal (Final Fantasy IX)

Neutral Alignments In Dungeons & Dragons

Lawful Neutral Alignment

No alignment represents adherence to order and objectivity better than the Lawful Neutral character. This type of character is by-the-book within their followed traditions, rules, and organizations. Meanwhile, they tend to avoid letting matters of morals cloud their judgment when performing their duties.

Unlike the Lawful Good character, a Lawful Neutral character is unlikely to lecture the more chaotic members of their party about the values of being Lawful. They are honest and trustworthy characters who act in whatever manner is becoming of someone in their position. Because of their objectivity and strict following of the law, this alignment has frequently been referred to as “The Judge.”

Some Lawful Neutral Examples

Judge Dredd (Judge Dredd), James Bond (), The Qunari (Dragon Age)

True Neutral Alignment

Pragmatic, independent, and balanced, the True Neutral character takes no rigid stance between Law and Chaos or Good and Evil. What is “good” in one culture may very well be “evil” in another. Because of this, they have a deceptively complex view of the world around them.

While they reciprocate kindness and will have no problem defending their allies, those who the True Neutral character doesn’t know are a different matter. The True Neutral character takes care not to find themselves involved in others’ business and, as such, will have to weigh whether or not it is worth it to help someone that they don’t know. Each moment is viewed for what it is and the True Neutral character acts accordingly.

True Neutral Examples

Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Holmes), Tyrion Lannister (Game of Thrones), Lara Croft (Tomb Raider)

Chaotic Neutral Alignment

Chaotic Neutral spirits are the very definition of a free spirit. Like Chaotic Good characters, they don’t care for laws, restrictions, or any government. However, unlike Chaotic Good characters, they focus primarily on their own well-being before concerning themselves with the needs of others.

Because they tend to be selfish, it’s not unreasonable to expect a Chaotic Neutral character to attempt to take the best loot for themselves or turn tail and run if a situation is looking dire. Nevertheless, a Chaotic Neutral character is filled with surprises and may follow a selfish action just as quickly with an altruistic one.

Chaotic Neutral Examples

Cat Woman (DC Comics), Captain Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean), Deadpool (Marvel)

Evil Alignments In Dungeons & Dragons

Lawful Evil Alignment

Just because they’re evil doesn’t mean that Lawful Evil characters don’t uphold a strict order (though most often they find themselves conveniently at the top of such an order.) These characters are commonly diabolical masterminds, merciless conquerors, or corrupt officials.

The Lawful Evil character adheres to a clear hierarchy in which the weakest remain at the bottom where they belong. Rising in the hierarchy is indicative of a person’s strength and maintaining the codes of an organization is key in such a system. Of course, those higher up in the hierarchy must never get too comfortable lest they find themselves quickly deposed by similarly ambitious underlings.

Lawful Evil Examples

Cersei Lannister (Game of Thrones), Wilson Fisk/The Kingpin (Marvel Comics), Dolores Umbridge (Harry Potter), Darth Vader (Star Wars)

Neutral Evil Alignment

Evil is as evil does and the Neutral Evil character does whatever they can get away with. There’s not necessarily some grand evil plan that they are scheming nor do they necessarily crave the wanton destruction like their Chaotic Evil counterparts. Rather, the Neutral Evil character simply seeks to take what they want and has no concern about whose hands they have to step on to get it.

That said, a Neutral Evil character isn’t stupid and doesn’t allow their lack of a code or honor to create unnecessarily risky situations for them. Sometimes it may be more prudent to play along with the rules of a situation if it opens up opportunities to manipulate others into getting the character what they want. As long as someone is still useful to the Neutral Evil character, they may be safe… for now…

Neutral Evil Examples

Voldemort (Harry Potter), Mystique (Marvel), Shang Tsung (Mortal Kombat)

Chaotic Evil Alignment

Greedy, selfish, and destructive, the Chaotic Evil character just wants to watch the world burn. These aren’t typically your characters with any kind of plan. Rather, they cause harm simply because they want to. Because they lie so often, it’s rare to find a Chaotic Evil character working with others. Even amongst evil characters, aligning with a Chaotic Evil person is hardly a good move for anyone who values their own life.

There is no low that these characters won’t stoop to in pursuit of their selfish desires. With fickle attitudes and virtually no predictability to their behavior, Chaotic Evil characters are perhaps the most terrifying alignment. It’s no wonder that this alignment is common amongst demons and serial killers.

Chaotic Evil Examples

The Joker (DC Comics), Alex DeLarge (A Clockwork Orange), Ramsay Bolton (Game of Thrones)

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Sours: https://tabletopjoab.com/dungeons-and-dragons-alignments-explained-with-examples/
A Crap Guide to D\u0026D [5th Edition] - Cleric

When you create a character for D&D, you’ll need to choose an alignment. This article explains the nine different D&D alignments, plus examples of well-known characters that fit each alignment.

The nine Dungeons and Dragons alignments are:

  • Lawful Good
  • Neutral Good
  • Chaotic Good
  • Lawful Neutral
  • Neutral
  • Chaotic Neutral
  • Lawful Evil
  • Neutral Evil
  • Chaotic Evil

Read on for more about each D&D alignment, example characters for each one, and how to choose an alignment for your character. 

Hi! This post may contain affiliate links to online stores. If you click a link and buy something, I may get a commission at no extra cost to you. See my affiliate disclosure.

Dungeons and dragons alignments tabaxi

What are alignments used for?

Your alignment guides how your character acts and responds to situations. It’s not a super-restrictive set of rules that you must always follow. No-one follows their own rules all the time, right?

Alignments are a helpful guide for how your character generally acts and behaves. It can help you to roleplay your character in a way that feels authentic and true to who they are. 

How do the alignments work?

The alignments are usually two words long. Let’s take the example of Lawful Good. 

The first part of the alignment, ‘Lawful’ describes that alignment’s ethics. The ethics section of the alignment indicates that character’s perspective on society as a whole. Do they respect authority or rebel against it? Do they like order and hierarchy or prefer individuality and freedom?

The second part of the alignment, ‘Good’, describes that alignment’s morals. Will they trample on others to get what they want, or do they want to help others? Will they hurt people for fun or will they protect them at all costs?

The alignment chart

The nine alignments exist on a chart. Ethics (Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic) on one axis, and morals (Good, Neutral and Evil) on the other axis. 

Lawful GoodNeutral GoodChaotic Good
Lawful NeutralNeutralChaotic Neutral
Lawful EvilNeutral EvilChaotic Evil

Lawful vs Chaotic

There are three positions on the ethics axis – Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic. 


A Lawful character follows the rules, respects hierarchy and believes in power given by society. Lawful characters believe in honour, following traditions and being trustworthy. They have faith in societal rules because they are how you create a functioning society where everyone acts in the way you expect. 

While they may sound noble, Lawful characters can be inflexible and blindly follow the rules even if they make no sense. They can harshly judge others that don’t follow the same rules and place their loyalty to the system above their loyalty to friends and family. 


Sitting in the middle of the ethical axis, Neutral characters do not feel compelled to follow every rule and societal belief, nor do they feel the need to disrupt and rebel against everything. A Neutral character follows the rules that align with their own agenda, that are convenient to them, or they think are necessary. 

Neutral characters will usually follow the rules because they generally lead to a better outcome for them. However, they can break the rules if they believe the benefits to them outweigh the risks.

Characters with a Neutral alignment may see themselves as superior to Lawful and Chaotic aligned characters because in not taking sides, they are the only alignment with true freedom to decide. 


Chaotic aligned characters aren’t random in their actions. Instead, they are simply the opposite side of the ethics spectrum to Lawful characters. Chaotic aligned characters live by their own rules instead of the rules society has decreed. They believe that is the only way an individual is truly free and can live up to their full potential. 

Chaotic characters dislike and distrust authority, don’t like following orders, and live life on their own terms. They can be flexible and adaptable and do what fits the situation and their own agenda. 

Characters with a Chaotic alignment may rebel against rules to try to bring about change or simply to create anarchy. They may take actions with a complete disregard for the consequences. 

Good vs Evil

The moral axis has three positions – Good, Neutral and Evil. 


Good characters care about others and act in ways that help and benefit them. They protect the innocent, defend the weak, and go out of their way to help other people. 


Characters aligned with Evil will eliminate others, cause them harm and make them miserable. They do not feel remorse for their actions and will take down anyone, whether those people are innocent or not. 

Characters may be aligned with Evil for many different reasons. For example, it could be because they follow an Evil deity, they work for an Evil master, or because they enjoy it. 


Neutral characters are very much in the middle ground. They do not go to the extremes of Evil characters and harm the innocent, and likewise, they will not go to the extremes of Good and take actions that harm themselves to help others. 

The actions of Neutral characters are driven by their loyalty to others and themselves. If an action is in their best interest or in the best interest of those to whom they are most loyal, they will take it. 

While all characters may naturally change alignments through character development, it is especially common for Neutral characters to move to a Good or Evil alignment if the majority of their actions favour one moral alignment over the other. 

Lawful Good

Lawful Good crusader miniature

Lawful Good character examples: Superman, Robocop, classic Paladins

Lawful Good characters always do the right thing as expected by society. They always follow the rules, tell the truth and help people out. They like order, trust and believe in people with social authority, and they aim to be an upstanding citizen.

Lawful Good characters believe in societal rules because they benefit everyone. If everyone followed their own rules there would be chaos and people may end up hurting each other. 

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Justice is really important to Lawful Good characters. If someone doesn’t follow the rules, they should be fairly judged by the system. They are angry when people get away with breaking the rules. 

They also believe that good behaviour and good deeds will be rewarded. 

A Lawful Good character holds themselves to the same standards that they hold everyone else. They very rarely, if ever, break the rules. If they do break the rules they will feel extremely uncomfortable doing so. 

Lawful Good characters do have some downsides. They can be irritatingly inflexible in their beliefs. They can come across as arrogant and self-righteous. They may fail to understand why an individual would pursue their own freedom and interests over the greater good. 

For a closer look at the Lawful Good alignment including how to roleplay it, usual traits, insults they might give, background ideas, and more check out my Lawful Good alignment article.

Neutral Good

Neutrasl Good alignment tabaxi miniature

Neutral Good character examples: Gandalf, Spiderman, Harry Potter

Neutral Good characters do their best to help others, but they do it because they want to, not because they have been told to by a person in authority or by society’s laws. 

While they will generally follow the rules and laws of society, they do so because they lead to good outcomes, rather than because they feel obligated to by authority figures and institutions. 

A Neutral Good person will break the rules if they are doing it for good reasons and they will feel confident and justified in their actions. 

One negative of Neutral Good characters is that they care about upholding Good more than abiding by any laws, so they can adopt Chaotic behaviour and be unpredictable if pushed.

For more detail on the Neutral Good alignment including roleplay ideas, typical traits and even insults to dish out, check out my Neutral Good alignment article.

Chaotic Good

Chaotic Good Tiefling miniature

Chaotic Good character examples: Robin Hood, Luna Lovegood, Mary Poppins

Chaotic Good characters do what their conscience tells them to for the greater good. They do not care about following society’s rules, they care about doing what’s right. 

A Chaotic Good character will speak up for and help, those who are being needlessly held back because of arbitrary rules and laws. They do not like seeing people being told what to do for nonsensical reasons. 

These people will rebel and break the rules to do what’s right and may even try to bring about societal change. 

Chaotic Good characters may appear strange to others because they do not abide by societal expectations to fit in. 

On the negative side, the actions of Chaotic Good characters can negatively affect other Good people. They may not care about the hard-earned success of Good people because their success was earned in the system that the Chaotic Good character disagrees with.

For a deeper dive into Chaotic Good, check out my Chaotic Good alignment article.

Lawful Neutral

Lawful neutral alignment miniature

Lawful Neutral character examples: Judge Dredd, Space Marines, Amanda Waller

A Lawful Neutral character behaves in a way that matches the organization, authority or tradition they follow. They live by this code and uphold it above all else, taking actions that are sometimes considered Good and sometimes considered Evil by others. 

The Lawful Neutral character does not care about what others think of their actions, they only care about their actions being correct according to their code. But they do not preach their code to others and try to convert them. 

Lawful Neutral characters like rules, order and organization. They follow these to the letter for their own sake. Moral decisions don’t come into the equation for them so even if they hurt others in carrying out their duty, they feel no guilt, remorse or anguish.

Because a Lawful Neutral character is so emotionless in following their own laws it is easy for them to appear Lawful Evil. 

The Lawful Neutral alignment can be bad when the character seeks to control others, eliminate anyone who is different and restrict all free will.

For a closer look at the Lawful Neutral alignment, check out my article.

True Neutral

True neutral druid miniature

True Neutral character examples: Lara Croft, Malcolm Reynolds, Rincewind

True Neutral (sometimes called Neutral Neutral) characters don’t like to take sides. They are pragmatic rather than emotional in their actions, choosing the response which makes the most sense for them in each situation. 

Neutral characters don’t believe in upholding the rules and laws of society, but nor do they feel the need to rebel against them. There will be times when a Neutral character has to make a choice between siding with Good or Evil, perhaps casting the deciding vote in a party. They will make a choice in these situations, usually siding with whichever causes them the least hassle, or they stand to gain the most from. 

A Neutral character may be preoccupied with their own agenda and simply have no interest in what’s happening around them, they may just be looking to see who can offer them the best deal, or simply doing what’s most convenient in any situation. 

On the negative side, True Neutral characters can come across as apathetic and indecisive. They can be frustrating to work with because they don’t want to commit to any side.

Take a closer look at True Neutral in my article.

Chaotic Neutral

chaotic neutral tabaxi rogue miniature

Chaotic Neutral character examples: Captain Jack Sparrow, Cat Woman, Guybrush Threepwood

Chaotic Neutral characters are free spirits. They do what they want but don’t seek to disrupt the usual norms and laws of society. 

These individuals don’t like being told what to do, following traditions, or being controlled. That said, they will not work to change these restrictions, instead, they will just try to avoid them in the first place. Their need to be free is the most important thing. 

Chaotic Neutral characters do what is most likely to ensure their freedom, protect their free will, and get them the outcome they want. That might be a Good action like helping someone, or an Evil action like failing to tell the truth. However, a Chaotic Good character is more likely to take a Good action than an Evil one because it usually results in a better outcome and an easy time of it for them.

Chaotic Neutral characters might be one step away from being caught for a misdeed in one moment, then redeem themselves with a good action in the next moment. They can easily slip into Chaotic Good or Chaotic Evil if they take too many Good or Evil actions in a row. 

Chaotic Neutral characters sometimes disrupt order just for the sake of it and leave others to sort it out. It makes them a frustrating ally to have in a D&D group!

For more about the Chaotic Neutral alignment, see my article.

Lawful Evil

Lawful evil alignment miniature

Lawful Evil character examples: Darth Vader, Lex Luther, Dolores Umbridge

Lawful Evil characters operate within a strict code of laws and traditions. Upholding these values and living by these is more important than anything, even the lives of others. They may not consider themselves to be Evil, they may believe what they are doing is right. 

These characters enforce their system of control through force. Anyone who doesn’t follow their code or acts out of line will face consequences. Lawful Evil characters feel no guilt or remorse for causing harm to others in this way. 

Characters with a Lawful Evil alignment may follow their own Evil moral code or be part of an ordered system following a leader. However, if their master stops adhering to the code, they may seek to overthrow them or find a replacement. 

Lawful Evil alignments are particularly bad because Evil combined with order and structure, often leads to very powerful Evil movements and society-wide regimes.

For a deeper look at Lawful Evil, check out my article.

Neutral Evil

Neutral Evil alignment miniature

Neutral Evil character examples: Jabba the Hutt, Bowser, Cruella de Vil

Neutral Evil characters are selfish. Their actions are driven by their own wants whether that’s power, greed, attention, or something else. They will follow laws if they happen to align with their ambitions, but they will not hesitate to break them if they don’t. 

They don’t believe that following laws and traditions makes anyone a better person. Instead, they use other people’s beliefs in codes and loyalty against them, using it as a tool to influence their behaviour. 

These characters make allegiances with others to further their own agenda but will quickly leave allies when they are no longer useful. 

Characters with a Neutral Evil alignment will hurt others if it furthers their agenda but they will not harm people for no particular reason. Unless their agenda is to spread evil for evil’s sake, in which case, they may harm others en masse. 

Above all else, Neutral Evil characters care about one thing and one thing only, themselves. 

Neutral Evil characters are particularly bad because they can carry out Evil for Evil’s sake, with no code to follow or rebel against. 

Check out the Neutral Evil alignment in detail in my article.

Chaotic Evil

Chaotic Evil alignment miniature

Chaotic Evil character examples: The Joker, Voldemort, Bellatrix Lestrange

Chaotic Evil characters care only for themselves with a complete disregard for all law and order and for the welfare and freedom of others. They harm others out of anger or just for fun. 

Characters aligned with Chaotic Evil usually operate alone because they do not work well with others. They can be controlled with force but only temporarily. As soon as they have a chance, they will take out the person controlling them. 

They may be driven by their desire to spread Chaos and Evil or because they enjoy it. They are unpredictable and freely express wild and intense emotions because they see no reason to control or suppress them. 

Chaotic Evil characters are the most Evil of all because they are out to destroy everything – order, tradition, life, freedom and choice. 

For more on the Chaotic Evil alignment, see my article.

What about the alignment of animals and creatures?

Animals and creatures who can’t take moral actions are thought of as unaligned. They are following their instincts to respond to the situation in front of them, rather than responding with an intellectual understanding of the societal rules and consequences for their decisions.

How to choose your alignment

Dungeons and dragons miniatures

Think about the type of character you want to play

Ask yourself questions about the type of character you want to play to figure out where they sit on the ethical and moral axis. 

Do you want to play someone who is inherently good or bad? How do they feel about authority and following orders and traditions? 

What is their main motivation and how far will they go in pursuit of it? Are they prepared to harm other people to get what they want?

Take an alignment test

Wizards of the Coast have an alignment test. You can answer the questions as yourself to see what your personal alignment is, or you can answer the questions as if your character is answering them. Then you’ll know what alignment to give your character. 

Find a character alignment chart for a show or film you love

To create a good, well-rounded character to roleplay, I find it helpful to base them on a character or person you know quite well. The better you know your character, the better you know how they will respond to a situation so you can roleplay them instinctively and help the session flow smoothly. 

Consider the alignments of your group

If the group you’re playing in has a mixture of Good and Evil characters it can be difficult to form allegiances in the party. 

A mixed group makes for an interesting campaign for a while, but eventually, the party will become divided and characters may need to leave to stay true to their alignment. 

Alternatively, character development could lead characters to change their alignment allowing them to work together as a party without moral issues. 

Conclusion – D&D Character alignments

Whichever you choose, remember that your character’s D&D alignment is only a guide and that it can change during a campaign as your character develops. It’s actually really interesting when this happens!

If you’re looking for a miniature for your D&D character take a look at Reaper Bones minis on Amazon like Sir Brannor, a human Crusader Captain, or Damien, a Hellborn Wizard tiefling.

If you’ve already got your mini sorted but want some cool D&D stuff to make you feel epic when you play check out my favourite 13 accessories for players!

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A creature's general moral and personal attitudes are represented by its alignment: lawful good, neutral good, chaotic good, lawful neutral, neutral, chaotic neutral, lawful evil, neutral evil, or chaotic evil.

Alignment 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.

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.

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.

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.

The first six alignments, lawful good through chaotic neutral, are the standard alignments for player characters. The three evil alignments are for monsters and villains.

Lawful Good, "Crusader"

A lawful good character acts as a good person is expected or required to act. He combines a commitment to oppose evil with the discipline to fight relentlessly. He tells the truth, keeps his word, helps those in need, and speaks out against injustice. A lawful good character hates to see the guilty go unpunished.

Lawful good is the best alignment you can be because it combines honor and compassion.

Lawful good can be a dangerous alignment when it restricts freedom and criminalizes self-interest.

Neutral Good, "Benefactor"

A neutral good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates but does not feel beholden to them.

Neutral good is the best alignment you can be because it means doing what is good without bias for or against order.

Neutral good can be a dangerous alignment when it advances mediocrity by limiting the actions of the truly capable.

Chaotic Good, "Rebel"

A chaotic good character acts as his conscience directs him with little regard for what others expect of him. He makes his own way, but he's kind and benevolent. He believes in goodness and right but has little use for laws and regulations. He hates it when people try to intimidate others and tell them what to do. He follows his own moral compass, which, although good, may not agree with that of society.

Chaotic good is the best alignment you can be because it combines a good heart with a free spirit.

Chaotic good can be a dangerous alignment when it disrupts the order of society and punishes those who do well for themselves.

Lawful Neutral, "Judge"

A lawful neutral character acts as law, tradition, or a personal code directs her. Order and organization are paramount to her. She may believe in personal order and live by a code or standard, or she may believe in order for all and favor a strong, organized government.

Lawful neutral is the best alignment you can be because it means you are reliable and honorable without being a zealot.

Lawful neutral can be a dangerous alignment when it seeks to eliminate all freedom, choice, and diversity in society.

Neutral, "Undecided"

A neutral character does what seems to be a good idea. She doesn't feel strongly one way or the other when it comes to good vs. evil or law vs. chaos. Most neutral characters exhibit a lack of conviction or bias rather than a commitment to neutrality. Such a character thinks of good as better than evil-after all, she would rather have good neighbors and rulers than evil ones. Still, she's not personally committed to upholding good in any abstract or universal way.

Some neutral characters, on the other hand, commit themselves philosophically to neutrality. They see good, evil, law, and chaos as prejudices and dangerous extremes. They advocate the middle way of neutrality as the best, most balanced road in the long run.

Neutral is the best alignment you can be because it means you act naturally, without prejudice or compulsion.

Neutral can be a dangerous alignment when it represents apathy, indifference, and a lack of conviction.

Chaotic Neutral, "Free Spirit"

A chaotic neutral character follows his whims. He is an individualist first and last. He values his own liberty but doesn't strive to protect others' freedom. He avoids authority, resents restrictions, and challenges traditions. A chaotic neutral character does not intentionally disrupt organizations as part of a campaign of anarchy. To do so, he would have to be motivated either by good (and a desire to liberate others) or evil (and a desire to make those different from himself suffer). A chaotic neutral character may be unpredictable, but his behavior is not totally random. He is not as likely to jump off a bridge as to cross it.

Chaotic neutral is the best alignment you can be because it represents true freedom from both society's restrictions and a do-gooder's zeal.

Chaotic neutral can be a dangerous alignment when it seeks to eliminate all authority, harmony, and order in society.

Lawful Evil, "Dominator"

A lawful evil villain methodically takes what he wants within the limits of his code of conduct without regard for whom it hurts. He cares about tradition, loyalty, and order but not about freedom, dignity, or life. He plays by the rules but without mercy or compassion. He is comfortable in a hierarchy and would like to rule, but is willing to serve. He condemns others not according to their actions but according to race, religion, homeland, or social rank. He is loath to break laws or promises.

This reluctance comes partly from his nature and partly because he depends on order to protect himself from those who oppose him on moral grounds. Some lawful evil villains have particular taboos, such as not killing in cold blood (but having underlings do it) or not letting children come to harm (if it can be helped). They imagine that these compunctions put them above unprincipled villains.

Some lawful evil people and creatures commit themselves to evil with a zeal like that of a crusader committed to good. Beyond being willing to hurt others for their own ends, they take pleasure in spreading evil as an end unto itself. They may also see doing evil as part of a duty to an evil deity or master.

Lawful evil is sometimes called "diabolical," because devils are the epitome of lawful evil.

Lawful evil creatures consider their alignment to be the best because it combines honor with a dedicated self-interest.

Lawful evil is the most dangerous alignment because it represents methodical, intentional, and frequently successful evil.

Neutral Evil, "Malefactor"

A neutral evil villain does whatever she can get away with. She is out for herself, pure and simple. She sheds no tears for those she kills, whether for profit, sport, or convenience. She has no love of order and holds no illusion that following laws, traditions, or codes would make her any better or more noble. On the other hand, she doesn't have the restless nature or love of conflict that a chaotic evil villain has.

Some neutral evil villains hold up evil as an ideal, committing evil for its own sake. Most often, such villains are devoted to evil deities or secret societies.

Neutral evil beings consider their alignment to be the best because they can advance themselves without regard for others.

Neutral evil is the most dangerous alignment because it represents pure evil without honor and without variation.

Chaotic Evil, "Destroyer"

A chaotic evil character does whatever his greed, hatred, and lust for destruction drive him to do. He is hot-tempered, vicious, arbitrarily violent, and unpredictable. If he is simply out for whatever he can get, he is ruthless and brutal. If he is committed to the spread of evil and chaos, he is even worse. Thankfully, his plans are haphazard, and any groups he joins or forms are poorly organized. Typically, chaotic evil people can be made to work together only by force, and their leader lasts only as long as he can thwart attempts to topple or assassinate him.

Chaotic evil is sometimes called "demonic" because demons are the epitome of chaotic evil.

Chaotic evil beings believe their alignment is the best because it combines self-interest and pure freedom.

Chaotic evil is the most dangerous alignment because it represents the destruction not only of beauty and life but also of the order on which beauty and life depend.

Sours: http://easydamus.com/alignment.html

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