4e Alignment System

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Although I really like the 4e game. I hate what they did with the alignment system. Instead of 9 choices Lawful Good, Neutral Good, Chaotic Good, Lawful Neutral, True Neutral, Chaotic Neutral, Lawful Evil, Neutral Evil and Chaotic Evil. They now just have Lawful Good, Good, Unaligned, Evil and Chaotic Evil. Why?

The problem I have with this is that I don't think the 5 alignment system represents characters as specifically as the 9. In the PHB of 3.5 it had very nice explanations as to why each of the 9 alignments were completely different to each other.

This didn't mean a character didn't have flexibility with their actions hence why their alignment could change.

Now I can't pick my favorite alignment that I apply to myself in real life as well, Chaotic Good. I know 4e Good nows covers it as well but there are still significant differences between CG and NG.

Also Lawful Evil made a lot of sense for a villain's motivation but now they have to be chaotic or neutral towards law. Unfortunately I don't have the 3.5 PHB to back up my argument with quotes right now, so I'll elaborate later in another post.

But anyway this is the space to debate the change in the alignment systems, whether you love it or hate it?
I just dislike the Alignment system in general. Why should I be holed into playing my character a certain way? I shouldn't. They should just get rid of that system altogether.
If anything I say is wrong, clueless or spelt incorrectly, it is because, I am, in general, wrong, clueless and... Well, I'm usually spelt correctly.
I know 4e Good nows covers it as well but there are still significant differences between CG and NG.

Would you say these significant differences noticeable at the game table, or are they just philosophical differences? I personally never saw much difference between the two in play, unless I'm in a Planescape game where everyone seems to have their specific alignment etched on their forehead.
4e D&D is not a "Tabletop MMO." It is not Massively Multiplayer, and is usually not played Online. Come up with better descriptions of your complaints, cuz this one means jack ****.
I just dislike the Alignment system in general. Why should I be holed into playing my character a certain way? I shouldn't. They should just get rid of that system altogether.

Yeah, alignment has caused more arguments as to what each alignment really means and difficulty in implementation than any other aspect of this game, from what I've seen over the past 20 years or so.

Having said that, Alingmnet is still alive and well in my ongoing (3 years now) Planescape campaign, which we have converted to 4th Ed, but we've broken it down to:

-Good
-Evil
-Unaligned

-Chaotic
-Lawful

-Lawful Good
-Chaotic Good

-Chaotic Evil
-Lawful Evil
I like the new system, you can work a crazy person into the Good alignment easily if you feel the need to play one.

"Good" now implies that the person looks at laws and rules, makes decisions if those laws and rules further their goals in life, and choose to obey the rules or disobey accordingly.

A "chaotic good" person really is just the subset of "Good" that are complete idiots and always think that every rule or law is out to get them. Basically a "Good" aligned person with an irrational prejudice against the law. Just make a note on your sheet if you must?

This gives the benefit of the doubt..most people just like to have CHAOTIC written on thier sheet so they have something to point to when they stupidly break rules that are there for very good reasons. (But I *HAD* to rob that orphanage, I'm *CHAOTIC*, it says so right here!!)
I liked the versatility and detail of the old one. The 4E alignment system looks slapped together at best. I'd rather not try to shoehorn something into a single axis system when I can have the versatility of a 2 axis system.

I use a grid to illustrate the alignment "plane" and use colored pencil markings to keep track of where my players are. Someone does something sorta naughty, they might move one intersection down. If they play a prank on a city official, maybe one intersection to the right. If they do something like kill a baby for fun, they go 20 intersections down, etc.

IMAGE(http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y71/GameJunkieJim/alignment.jpg)
Don't you find it interesting how concepts anything like D&D's alignment system don't exist in anthropology, psychology, or philosophy? In fact, as far as I can tell, D&D possesses the only example of such a system. Even novelists don't use any kind of alignment system when creating characters for their books, nor do actors use one to get more in touch with their characters.

Is this because no one else has caught on to the genius that is the D&D alignment system? Or could it perhaps be that everyone else realizes the D&D alignment system is completely unnecessarily and for lack of a better word; dumb?

I have a suggestion for you! Look at my profile! It has links to information on Myers-Briggs Typology. There's also a lot of information on it's wikipedia page. It's not difficult to learn either, being only slightly more complex than the D&D system. What's more, it's information that will be useful outside of D&D, because like, real psychologists use it and stuff.

So instead of writing some stupid alignment in your alignment box, I challenge you to write down something like "INFJ" instead. I assure you, your characters will be better for it!
I use a grid to illustrate the alignment "plane" and use colored pencil markings to keep track of where my players are. Someone does something sorta naughty, they might move one intersection down. If they play a prank on a city official, maybe one intersection to the right. If they do something like kill a baby for fun, they go 20 intersections down, etc.

This is one of the big reasons I'm glad the old system is gone. People seem to not understand what the law/chaos axis was about. Killing a baby for fun would be as chaotic as it is evil. Pranking a city official shouldn't matter if they were a city official at all. Law/Chaos was about whether or not the character is orderly or impulsive. Not how they react to city officials.


And luckily, 4e is clearer on that. The engines of chaos who seek to destroy at all costs are understandably chaotic evil. Everyone else who is evil gets to be evil without the unnecessary extra label of neutral or lawful. And demons aren't arbitrarily teamed up with Barbarians just because they both act impulsively (thus, Chaotic).


Think of it this way. The Paladins continued to be insufferable (Lawful Good), while the non-pompous goodies teamed up (Neutral Good and Chaotic Good became Good). The somewhat civilized villains got together (Lawful Evil and Neutral Evil became Evil), while the Demons and Orcs continued about on their rampages and constant backstabbing (Chaotic Evil). Everyone who didn't care enough became appropriately unaligned.
The Bruce Campbell of D&D.
I prefer that the new alignment system isn't as specific as the old one.

As per my posts in my "Unaligned vs Neutral" thread, I feel that "unaligned" is useful as an "opt out" or as a "none of the above" choice for characters for whom promoting one of the alignments is NOT a primary motivation.

With the previous "neutral" alignments, players still had to be concerned that their actions would move them towards an alignment they don't want for their character. The new, more general, motivation-based alignment system is friendlier to players and makes it easier for them to control alignments of their characters. (IMO, YMMV)
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This is one of the big reasons I'm glad the old system is gone. People seem to not understand what the law/chaos axis was about. Killing a baby for fun would be as chaotic as it is evil. Pranking a city official shouldn't matter if they were a city official at all. Law/Chaos was about whether or not the character is orderly or impulsive. Not how they react to city officials.

It's certainly chaotic, but not to the same degree. Killing it for fun and then making a marionette out of it and using it to freak the mother would be just as chaotic as killing it. Again like you said; people didn't always understand the alignment axes.


Killing a baby isn't always chaotic either.

I meant to say in order to disrupt an official function. On the same token, disrupting an official function to postpone the death of someone who doesn't deserve it is chaotic, but much less so.
Killing a baby isn't always chaotic either.

When it's only for fun, it is. It's commiting a nontrivial act solely to rectify an impulse.

I meant to say in order to disrupt an official function. On the same token, disrupting an official function to postpone the death of someone who doesn't deserve it is chaotic, but much less so.

It's not necessarilly chaotic, either. The question would be if they're doing it impulsively or if they have a plan.


Which is why this new system is better. It's not only more concise, it doesn't require the debate to understand.
The Bruce Campbell of D&D.
Which is why this new system is better. It's not only more concise, it doesn't require the debate to understand.

Then why all the threads?

A 3 alignment system would be easy to understand. Good. Neutral. Evil.

The 9 alignment system is pretty easy to understand.

The current 4 1/2 alignment system is too arbitrary, and too restrictive to work properly with ethical and moral quandaries.
Then why all the threads?

A 3 alignment system would be easy to understand. Good. Neutral. Evil.

The 9 alignment system is pretty easy to understand.

The current 4 1/2 alignment system is too arbitrary, and too restrictive to work properly with ethical and moral quandaries.

9 alignment system was not easy to understand. Nor was it even sensible. People constantly argued about Chaotic Bards and Barbarians and Lawful Rogues throughout several editions. And the Chaotic Good Barbarian was as close to the Lawful Good Palidin as the Chaotic Evil Demon, but the chances of the Paladin and Barbarian getting along are 10,000% more likely. Law/Chaos was a weak axis.

These threads aren't about any technical fault of the system. They're just offense at change, mostly. They seem to be filled with the notion that just because there is no "chaotic good" that Wizards is somehow saying that all good guys have to be Paladins or they're not good enough.

But yes, 3 alignments would be easy to understand. 9 alignments certainly wasn't for many. The 5 of this system is still easier to understand than the 9 by far. It's not confused by personal codes, respect for society, or the like. There's no need to debate what they mean.
The Bruce Campbell of D&D.
This argument is getting downright silly...oh wait...these arguments were ALWAYS silly.

Not all conflict stems from misunderstanding and ignorance, the world is not so simple.

The 9 alignment system works far better for GameJunkie, and he either didn't have any of the problems other people had with it, or found them relatively minor. Thus, the 3.5 alignment system is superior for GameJunkie.

Manion found the 3.5, 9 point alginment system to be unnecessarily complex, disruptive to the natural flow of the game, and often times extremely problematic. He prefers the 4E alignment system for it's streamlined nature and elimination of redundant or confusing elements. This isn't because Manion is stupid and doesn't understand how to make the 3.5E alignmen system work, it's because the 3.5E alignment system is inappropriate for his style of play. He should be using an alignment system that fits his games.

I happen to hate BOTH of the alignment systems, though I prefer 4E's a bit as it's more low-key. I find other tools far more useful in fleshing out and defining a characters personality, and often find the alignment system in general is in direct conflict with these other tools I use. Thus, I should not use either of them, because they're both inappropriate for my games. If my players want to use either one, I don't care, they're perfectly free to, but I'm not going to use them as a DM, nor am I going to play in a game where I am required to use them.

They teach us these things in kindergarten, I suppose we just forget over the years.
9 alignment system was not easy to understand. Nor was it even sensible. People constantly argued about Chaotic Bards and Barbarians and Lawful Rogues throughout several editions. And the Chaotic Good Barbarian was as close to the Lawful Good Palidin as the Chaotic Evil Demon, but the chances of the Paladin and Barbarian getting along are 10,000% more likely. Law/Chaos was a weak axis.

These threads aren't about any technical fault of the system. They're just offense at change, mostly. They seem to be filled with the notion that just because there is no "chaotic good" that Wizards is somehow saying that all good guys have to be Paladins or they're not good enough.

But yes, 3 alignments would be easy to understand. 9 alignments certainly wasn't for many. The 5 of this system is still easier to understand than the 9 by far. It's not confused by personal codes, respect for society, or the like. There's no need to debate what they mean.

It still takes a massive amount of shoehorning to get things in properly. Where does my lawful Evil BBEG fit in? Just evil? He's an extremely LAwful character. He has a strict code of ethics. His morals are downright deplorable.

He has a spot on the old alignment grid, and it's easy to track other alignments in relation to his. It's easy to track how much he has to do to redeem himself morally if needs be. It's easy to see the effect of a mental imbalance brought on by a mace to the face.

The 4E system is quite lacking to me. If it was feasible to use a 3 axis system on paper, it could open the way for an even more detailed alignment system, but for 2D the 2 axis system is tops.
4e covers a broader spectrum of characters, however I should note that alignment while silly sometimes should stay in the game, both because it is traditional and because there are strong arguments of objective evil and objective good as far a philosophy is concerned. The problem with 4e alignment was the law and chaos axis, no matter how much I wanted it to be just as important as the evil and good axis, it never was and never could be. That is why it was thrown out, instead we got three alignments and two sub-alignments that, while carrying the LAW and CHAOS tags do not actually buy in to the old flawed concept of Law v Chaos.
He has a spot on the old alignment grid, and it's easy to track other alignments in relation to his. It's easy to track how much he has to do to redeem himself morally if needs be. It's easy to see the effect of a mental imbalance brought on by a mace to the face.

See that's where I have the issue with that system. It implies that if you are the kind of person that derives enjoyment from killing a baby for fun, that there would be some listed number of "good deeds" you could do to suddenly become good. It doesn't work for me. It implies that actions dictate morality.

Someone could dedicate his entire life to helping old ladies across the street and rescuing kittens, but if in his heart nothing brings more joy than the indrescriminate slaughter of innocents, he is still evil.
It still takes a massive amount of shoehorning to get things in properly. Where does my lawful Evil BBEG fit in? Just evil? He's an extremely LAwful character. He has a strict code of ethics. His morals are downright deplorable.

He's simply evil. That's not shoehorned. A strict code of ethis doesn't even make you lawful. Chaotic Barbarians can have strict codes of ethics. Confusing those two is a commonly seen weakness of the old system.

Now it's simple. No need to debate that he's extremely lawful or try to justify what that means in his context. He's evil. His specific kind of evil doesn't need to be shown on a grid. "Just evil" isn't "just" anything. It's bloody evil. As you said, his morals are downright deplorable.

He has a spot on the old alignment grid,and it's easy to track other alignments in relation to his. It's easy to track how much he has to do to redeem himself morally if needs be.

Which is all bloody silly. You can't establish moral relationships like that. Trying to fit him into a grid is a shoehorn maneuver.
The Bruce Campbell of D&D.
It still takes a massive amount of shoehorning to get things in properly. Where does my lawful Evil BBEG fit in? Just evil? He's an extremely Lawful character. He has a strict code of ethics. His morals are downright deplorable.

Not, he's just evil. Having a strict code of ethics is part of personality, not alignment.
He has a spot on the old alignment grid, and it's easy to track other alignments in relation to his. It's easy to track how much he has to do to redeem himself morally if needs be. It's easy to see the effect of a mental imbalance brought on by a mace to the face.

He has a spot on this alignment system too, it's called "evil" and redemption is a philosophical concept, giving "evil points" is beyond gamist and goes straight into the field of STUPID.
The 4E system is quite lacking to me. If it was feasible to use a 3 axis system on paper, it could open the way for an even more detailed alignment system, but for 2D the 2 axis system is tops.

Wrong, the second axis isn't a true alignment axis, it is merely a type of behavior that certain people are prone too.
To go on a bit of a tangeant, one of the main thing I like about the new alignment is how it plays off the new Gods in the book.

It always annoyed me to no end that the god of death was evil - is there something more natural then death? That Elonara (sp?) was essentially the goddess of the 'walt disney' forest (Obad'hai (sp) was fine however). That the god of the elves was Good.

Thank you for a much more sensible, much better crafted and designed pantheon... in no small part to them using so many Unaligned Deities.


I'm not a big fan of the whole Alignment system however. I still think the old World of Darkness Nature/Demeanor split was the best way to label a character's personality/ethics (That's not going to make me popular on those boards tho :P).
Not, he's just evil. Having a strict code of ethics is part of personality, not alignment. He has a spot on this alignment system too, it's called "evil" and redemption is a philosophical concept, giving "evil points" is beyond gamist and goes straight into the field of STUPID. Wrong, the second axis isn't a true alignment axis, it is merely a type of behavior that certain people are prone too.

It's not a scorecard, it a method of tracking. "Evil" is too base and broad. It's a method of oversimplifying something that didn't need to be simplified in the first place, because anyone that had two brain cells to rub together could understand it given time. My definition of alignment calls into question the moral and ethical tendencies of the character. Thus 4E is lacking for me there. Alignment is defined by personality. (Certainly not the other way around.)
You never need to "shoehorn in" a character in this alignments system. If your character's MOTIVATIONS don't fit one of the four alignments (LG, G, CE, E), then your character is "unaligned". Simple.

In the old system you HAD to find the right alignment to describe the ACTIONS of your character.

(Note: emphasis was not on motivations, which meant you had to track good/evil, chaotic/lawful, or neutral actions to "determine" your alignment. Now the player determines the character motivation, which either fits an alignment or doesn't, and the alignment is no longer a concern in play.)
fo diggity Twitter: www.twitter.com/fodigg Comic Books You Should Have Read: http://tinyurl.com/ycxe9l7
Don't you find it interesting how concepts anything like D&D's alignment system don't exist in anthropology, psychology, or philosophy? In fact, as far as I can tell, D&D possesses the only example of such a system. Even novelists don't use any kind of alignment system when creating characters for their books, nor do actors use one to get more in touch with their characters.

Is this because no one else has caught on to the genius that is the D&D alignment system? Or could it perhaps be that everyone else realizes the D&D alignment system is completely unnecessarily and for lack of a better word; dumb?

I have a suggestion for you! Look at my profile! It has links to information on Myers-Briggs Typology. There's also a lot of information on it's wikipedia page. It's not difficult to learn either, being only slightly more complex than the D&D system. What's more, it's information that will be useful outside of D&D, because like, real psychologists use it and stuff.

So instead of writing some stupid alignment in your alignment box, I challenge you to write down something like "INFJ" instead. I assure you, your characters will be better for it!

In point of fact novelists do use such sytems. The DnD system was taken from popular fantasy novels of the 60's and 70's by the likes of Michael Moorcock. So yes, novelists do do it. This does not stop alignment from being one of the most ignored concepts in all of gaming. Even people who bother to choose an alighment rarely bothered to read it. This new alignment system makes sense: most will pick unaligned and do what they want. A few others will make a choice to stad behaing some moral code. And people won't be stumbling around with neutral.
I think this topic sums up why Wizards decided to simplify alignment: getting any two players to agree precisely on the specific definition of an aligment is like getting two cats in a bag to be friends. When one is a Beatles fan and one is a Stones nut.

Given how many topics in the old "What's a Player / DM to do?" boiled down to "ALIGNMENT ARGUMENT", I'm surprised that Wizards didn't get rid of the whole silly system altogether.

GameJunkieJim: your houseruled system can still work in 4e. They took the DM rule that said "No houserules guys. Seriously" out of the final version.
Given how many topics in the old "What's a Player / DM to do?" boiled down to "ALIGNMENT ARGUMENT", I'm surprised that Wizards didn't get rid of the whole silly system altogether.

I was hoping this would've been one of the sacred cows they not only beat to death, but also whose corpse they would've mutilated. I've always found it to be too ambiguous to be worth it. I would've found alignment more interesting as a mechanic in a world with truly black-and-white morals and ethics, and this is something I'm finding less appealing as a gamer as I grow older.
You never need to "shoehorn in" a character in this alignments system. If your character's MOTIVATIONS don't fit one of the four alignments (LG, G, CE, E), then your character is "unaligned". Simple.

In the old system you HAD to find the right alignment to describe the ACTIONS of your character.

(Note: emphasis was not on motivations, which meant you had to track good/evil, chaotic/lawful, or neutral actions to "determine" your alignment. Now the player determines the character motivation, which either fits an alignment or doesn't, and the alignment is no longer a concern in play.)

The old alignment system did not determine, nor was it affected by the actions of your character. So many bad DM's made Paladins fall because of this oversight.

The intent is what's important, not the action, hence the motivations were key.
I was going to make a long tretise on how D&D has never known exactly what it was doing with Law and Chaos even before they added the G/E system but then I remembered Fank and K already covered most of it.

Spoilered because it's long.

Show
Law and Chaos: Your Rules or Mine?

Let's get this out in the open: Law and Chaos do not have any meaning under the standard D&D rules.

We are aware that especially if you've been playing this game for a long time, you personally probably have an understanding of what you think Law and Chaos are supposed to mean. You possibly even believe that the rest of your group thinks that Law and Chaos mean the same thing you do. But you're probably wrong. The nature of Law and Chaos is the source of more arguments among D&D players (veteran and novice alike) than any other facet of the game. More than attacks of opportunities, more than weapon sizing, more even than spell effect inheritance. And the reason is because the "definition" of Law and Chaos in the Player's Handbook is written so confusingly that the terms are not even mutually exclusive. Look it up, this is a written document, so it's perfectly acceptable for you to stop reading at this time, flip open the Player's Handbook, and start reading the alignment descriptions. The Tome of Fiends will still be here when you get back.

There you go! Now that we're all on the same page (page XX), the reason why you've gotten into so many arguments with people as to whether their character was Lawful or Chaotic is because absolutely every action that any character ever takes could logically be argued to be both. A character who is honorable, adaptable, trustworthy, flexible, reliable, and loves freedom is a basically stand-up fellow, and meets the check marks for being "ultimate Law" and "ultimate Chaos". There aren't any contradictory adjectives there. While Law and Chaos are supposed to be opposed forces, there's nothing antithetical about the descriptions in the book.

Ethics Option 1: A level of Organization.

Optimal span of control is 3 to 5 people. Maybe Chaotic characters demand to personally control more units than that themselves and their lack of delegation ends up with a quagmire of incomprehensible proportions. Maybe Chaotic characters refuse to bow to authority at all and end up in units of one. Whatever the case, some DMs will have Law be well organized and Chaos be poorly organized. In this case, Law is objectively a virtue and Chaos is objectively a flaw.

Being disorganized doesn't mean that you're more creative or interesting, it just means that you accomplish less with the same inputs. In this model pure Chaos is a destructive, but more importantly incompetent force.

Ethics Option 2: A Question of Sanity.

Some DMs will want Law and Chaos to mean essentially "Sane" and "Insane". That's fine, but it doesn't mean that Chaos is funny. In fact, insanity is generally about the least funny thing you could possibly imagine. An insane person reacts inappropriately to their surroundings. That doesn't mean that they perform unexpected actions, that's just surrealist. And Paladins are totally permitted to enjoy non sequitur based humor and art. See, insanity is when you perform the same action over and over again and expect different results.

In this model we get a coherent explanation for why, when all the forces of Evil are composed of a multitude of strange nightmarish creatures, and the forces of Good have everything from a glowing patch of light to a winged snake tailed woman, every single soldier in the army of Chaos is a giant frog. This is because in this model Limbo is a place that is totally insane. It's a place where the answer to every question really is "Giant Frog". Creatures of Chaos then proceed to go to non Chaotically-aligned planes and are disappointed and confused when doors have to be pushed and pulled to open and entrance cannot be achieved by "Giant Frog".

If Chaos is madness, it's not "spontaneous", it's "non-functional". Actual adaptability is sane. Adapting responses to stimuli is what people are supposed to do. For reactions to be sufficiently inappropriate to qualify as insanity, one has to go pretty far into one's own preconceptions. Actual mental illness is very sad and traumatic just to watch as an outside observer. Actually living that way is even worse. It is strongly suggested therefore, that you don't go this route at all. It's not that you can't make D&D work with sanity and insanity as the core difference between Law and Chaos, it's that in doing so you're essentially making the Law vs. Chaos choice into the choice between good and bad. That and there is a certain segment of the roleplaying community that cannot differentiate absurdist humor from insanity and will insist on doing annoying things in the name of humor. And we hate those people.

Ethics Option 3: The Laws of the Land.

Any region that has writing will have an actual code of laws. Even oral traditions will have, well, traditions. In some campaigns, following these laws makes you Lawful, and not following these laws makes you Chaotic. This doesn't mean that Lawful characters necessarily have to follow the laws of Kyuss when you invade his secret Worm Fort, but it does mean that they need to be an "invading force" when they run around in Kyuss' Worm Fort. Honestly, I'm not sure what it even means to have a Chaotic society if Lawful means "following your own rules". This whole schema is workable, but only with extreme effort. It helps if there's some sort of divinely agreed upon laws somewhere that nations and individuals can follow to a greater or lesser degree. But even so, there's a lot of hermits and warfare in the world such that whether people are following actual laws can be just plain hard to evaluate.

I'd like to endorse this more highly, since any time you have characters living up to a specific arbitrary code (or not) it becomes a lot easier to get things evaluated. Unfortunately, it's really hard to even imagine an entire nation fighting for not following their own laws. That's just… really weird. But if you take Law to mean law, then you're going to have to come to terms with that.

Ethics Option 4: My Word is My Bond.

Some DMs are going to want Law to essentially equate to following through on things. A Lawful character will keep their word and do things that they said they were going to. In this model, a Lawful character has an arbitrary code of conduct and a Chaotic character does not. That's pretty easy to adjudicate, you just announce what you're going to do and if you do it, you're Lawful and if you don't you're not.

Here's where it gets weird though: That means that Lawful characters have a harder time working together than do non-lawful characters. Sure, once they agree to work together there's some Trust there that we can capitalize, but it means that there are arbitrary things that Lawful characters won't do. Essentially this means that Chaotic parties order one mini-pizza each while Lawful parties have to get one extra large pizza for the whole group – and we know how difficult that can be to arrange. A good example of this in action is the Paladin's code: they won't work with Evil characters, which restricts the possibilities of other party members.

In the world, this means that if you attack a Chaotic city, various other chaotic characters will trickle in to defend it. But if you attack a Lawful city, chances are that it's going to have to stand on its own.

Adherence to Self: Not a Rubric for Law

Sometimes Lawfulness is defined by people as adhering to one's personal self. That may sound very "Lawful", but there's no way that makes any sense. Whatever impulses you happen to have, those are going to be the ones that you act upon, by definition. If it is in your nature to do random crap that doesn't make any sense to anyone else – then your actions will be contrary and perplexing, but they will still be completely consistent with your nature. Indeed, there is literally nothing you can do that isn't what you would do. It's circular.

Rigidity: Not a Rubric for Law

Sometimes Lawfulness is defined by people as being more "rigid" as opposed to "spontaneous" in your action. That's crap. Time generally only goes in one direction, and it generally carries a one to one correspondence with itself. That means that as a result of a unique set of stimuli, you are only going to do one thing. In D&D, the fact that other people weren't sure what the one thing you were going to do is handled by a Bluff check, not by being Chaotic.

I Fought the Law

Regardless of what your group ends up meaning when they use the word "Law", the fact is that some of your enemies are probably going to end up being Lawful. That doesn't mean that Lawful characters can't stab them in their area, whatever it is that you have alignments mean it's still entirely acceptable for Good characters to stab other Good characters and Lawful characters to stab other Lawful characters (oddly, noone even asks if it's a violation of Chaotic Evil to kill another Chaotic Evil character, but it isn't). There are lots of reasons to kill a man, and alignment disagreements don't occupy that list exclusively.
Well... At least we got custom avatars....
GameJunkieJim: your houseruled system can still work in 4e. They took the DM rule that said "No houserules guys. Seriously" out of the final version.

The funny thing is, it's not really houseruled. It's the way it was explained in the 1E PHB, I just made it easier to visualize than the basic grid in that book shown here:
IMAGE(http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y71/GameJunkieJim/AC1E.jpg)
I was going to make a long tretise on how D&D has never known exactly what it was doing with Law and Chaos even before they added the G/E system but then I remembered Fank and K already covered most of it.

The thing is, it's a combination of all those things. A perfect alignment system would be 4th dimensional, having many more axes than would be easily understood. The 2 axis grid was a good simplification of this, and encompassed all of those things, and simplified them. This just doesn't happen with 4E.
You never need to "shoehorn in" a character in this alignments system. If your character's MOTIVATIONS don't fit one of the four alignments (LG, G, CE, E), then your character is "unaligned". Simple.

That would be a reasonable system, but it doesn't seem to be the one described in the 4th edition PH. Instead of leaving Unaligned as a default category into which otherwise uncategorizable individuals fall, the PH provides specific guidelines for what it means to be unaligned -- you don't go out of your way to help or harm others, for example, and you support law and order only to the extent you benefit from the system. Or in rare cases, you see yourself as so far beyond concerns about goodness and order that you don't have an opinion about them, as is true for the Raven Queen.

Neither of these scenarios would hold for a Lawful Neutral character, for example, who cares deeply about obeying rules and regulations even when he himself is harmed by so doing. He violates the 4th edition definition of Unaligned, for certain, taking neither a neutral approach toward social order nor expressing a head-in-the-clouds indifference to it. Nor does the new LG alignment fit him any better -- he isn't particularly altruistic, nor does he jettison the law whenever he deems it sufficiently oppressive. And the remaining alignments suit him even less.

I'd agree with the general point that SOME characters -- those whose 3e alignments were determined mainly through personality quirks like being judgmental or uncreative -- will naturally move to Unaligned in 4e. But that still leaves a fair number of characters without a natural home in the new edition.
The thing is, it's a combination of all those things. A perfect alignment system would be 4th dimensional, having many more axes than would be easily understood. The 2 axis grid was a good simplification of this, and encompassed all of those things, and simplified them. This just doesn't happen with 4E.

Except by combining those factors you end up with people who are Lawful and Chaotic at the same time. That makes the entire system a failure.

4th EDs system is STUPID, but it isn't self contradictory.
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A perfect alignment system would be 4th dimensional, having many more axes than would be easily understood.

This is why I'm very fond of the affiliation system featured in quite a number of 3E supplements. These are essentially a system with an unlimited number of dimensions (okay, maybe not unlimited, but there's one dimension for every organization or purpose you can affiliate yourself with), and feature quite a broad window of devotion to it, with a chart of what kind of actions and personal development you can undergo to contribute to your affiliations and appropriate rewards for contributing significantly to said affiliations.

Here's a sample affiliation (from Complete Champion; it's mostly devoted to the cult of Olidammara):

http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/ex/20070504a&page=1
The funny thing is, it's not really houseruled. It's the way it was explained in the 1E PHB, I just made it easier to visualize than the basic grid in that book shown here:

Well, apart from the fact that the sizes and shapes of the various alignments have been changed between 1E's diagram and your grid.

Oh, and that the precise amount of goodness or evilness or lawfulness or chaoticness that's needed to shift you from one alignment to another has been defined in terms of handy squares, ensuring that characters are not only the sum of their choices, but can choose exactly what they are.

I'd rather keep universally objective defintions of subjective concepts out of my game, but I much prefer the DM telling the player "You sell yourself as a Robin Hood character, but you're robbing the rich to feed the you. I'm changing you from Chaotic Good to Chaotic Neutral" to the player thinking "Hmm, I've been doing some bad things lately, but as long as I don't kick any more puppies I'm still one click away from being Neutral Evil".

Ugh. This is why I hate alignment.

Edit: What I really really would have loved in 4E would have been a default ruleset that was alignment-free, but included optional rules for including alignment. Or vice-versa. I don't have a problem with houseruling alignment away in my own games, but it might have cut down on a couple of topics on this board at least. ;)
I'm also not a big fan of the new alignment system, although I understand why they use it. It is (in my mind) a more streamlined 3rd edition system that groups together numerous similar alignments. Let me demonstrate...

Chaotic evil (CE): this is what it says. Powerhungry selfish jerk with no qualms or scruples.

Evil (CN, LE, NE): generally self-interested and willing to exploit others for your own benefit. Has scruples of a sort.

Unaligned (LN, NN): Means well, but is largely unmotivated by the moral concerns of good vs. evil. Will prefer good actions and companions provided the cost is not very high (just like most people in real life).

Good (CG, NG): Willing to pay high costs to promote peace, virtue, etc. but largely concerned about individual instances related to individuals (the one evil king, that one bandit gang, etc.).

Lawful good (LG): Concerned with systemic order for the sake of peace and justice. Will deal with individual instances as part of a greater whole (does the law/society promote justice? does this man live by the right moral code? etc.)

In reality, most of the grouped-together alignments played very similarly, so I can see why they've stuck them together. I just wish they'd used different language. Even more importantly, I wish they'd just dumped alignment altogether. It's a clumsy tool that is really only necessary for people who are not very good at coming up with a character's world outlook.
Except by combining those factors you end up with people who are Lawful and Chaotic at the same time. That makes the entire system a failure.

4th EDs system is STUPID, but it isn't self contradictory.

Which is really the best you can hope for when a system is trying to concretely define concepts that have bedeviled philosophers for generations. The points 4e's system has in its favor are that it doesn't screw your character like 3e's class restrictions did, it isn't action based like the previous one specifically said it was, and with unaligned, you don't even have to participate in it.
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Which is really the best you can hope for when a system is trying to concretely define concepts that have bedeviled philosophers for generations. The points 4e's system has in its favor are that it doesn't screw your character like 3e's class restrictions did, it isn't action based like the previous one specifically said it was, and with unaligned, you don't even have to participate in it.

And why on earth do we need some sort of philosophical/behavioral definition floating in the air above a character, anyway? Let a character's decisions have consequences, and let those consequences drive the story. A clunky game mechanic isn't necessary for a character's behavior to be important in the story.
The problem I have with this is that I don't think the 5 alignment system represents characters as specifically as the 9.

Strange. The problem I have with it is it's still 2 alignments too many. LG and CE aren't really needed at all. Basic did fine all those years with just LNC. Why can't 4e just have GUE? Oh, looky there, it does at my table.
That would be a reasonable system, but it doesn't seem to be the one described in the 4th edition PH. Instead of leaving Unaligned as a default category into which otherwise uncategorizable individuals fall, the PH provides specific guidelines for what it means to be unaligned -- you don't go out of your way to help or harm others, for example, and you support law and order only to the extent you benefit from the system. Or in rare cases, you see yourself as so far beyond concerns about goodness and order that you don't have an opinion about them, as is true for the Raven Queen.

Really? I honestly didn't catch that. What I did see was repeated statements that the unaligned character "didn't pick a side", which, to me, works perfectly fine with my interpretation. Even with what you've quoted, it just seems like they're trying to carve out a nitch for the other alignments, not limit "unaligned":

  • you don't go out of your way to help or harm others
  • you support law and order only to the extent you benefit from the system
  • you see yourself as so far beyond concerns about goodness and order that you don't have an opinion about them


Seems to me like point 1 is just saying "you're not motivated by good or evil" (ie: not "Good" or "Evil" alignment). Point 2 just seems to be saying "you're not motivated by law, but you see how it can benefit you" (ie: not Lawful Good/Chaotic Evil). And point 3 is just saying "you care about other stuff" but for some reason they made it sound really grand. I think those three points describe a "none of the above" option.

And the name "unaligned", IMO, pretty obviously means "not aligned".

Neither of these scenarios would hold for a Lawful Neutral character, for example, who cares deeply about obeying rules and regulations even when he himself is harmed by so doing. He violates the 4th edition definition of Unaligned, for certain, taking neither a neutral approach toward social order nor expressing a head-in-the-clouds indifference to it. Nor does the new LG alignment fit him any better -- he isn't particularly altruistic, nor does he jettison the law whenever he deems it sufficiently oppressive. And the remaining alignments suit him even less.

The issue here is that point 2 talks about the Law/Chaos axis without any overt mention of "good/evil" as a part of it. It sounds like the system the really wanted was G, E, L, C or just G, E.

Change the word "law" to "justice" and the system still works. "You are not motivated by justice." That implies the good. You can still be a stickler on law and be unaligned.

I feel this is a problem with the one line you quoted, and from how you wrote it I'm not even sure it's a direct quote. Do you have a page number? Regardless, the point of the unaligned option is that it covers everything not covered by G, LG, E, CE, so your examples would be unaligned. Or, you know, LG but struggles with the good part. I'd allow that at my table.

I'd agree with the general point that SOME characters -- those whose 3e alignments were determined mainly through personality quirks like being judgmental or uncreative -- will naturally move to Unaligned in 4e. But that still leaves a fair number of characters without a natural home in the new edition.

This is the mentality that causes problems with all alignments systems. The need to find a home. The need to place it on a grid.

In a system with four alignments and a "not aligned" option, that's no longer an issue. You're either one of the four, or you're not. No nitpicking to find a place on a 9-panel grid.
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The way I always understood Lawful vs. Chaotic and it seems a lot of other players I've known is that a lawful character will be more likely to have an abstract, unyielding ethical code they can be held too. This works well for the obnoxious Paladin, as well as for the Lawful Evil Devil you can make a contract with. Chaotic basically means the opposite of that - and thus leads to more impulsive behaviour. This also works in the "Laws of the Land" thing, since that's generally what provides this code. Basically, none of the mentioned explanations in that essay are perfect because you need to use a bit of several of them. 

Chaotic in a sense could be put down to "carelessness of actions" in some cases; they don't really think about what "good" is but still want to do "good" things. Neutrals probably think about their alignment the most, since again the "Lawful" crowd are following a more abstract code, rather than a rational one. 

The old alignment system is an interesting paradigm, [b]if it's used as a guideline[/i]. Not to define the character. This is where the problem arises. 


Good - Tries to do good by others; has an interested in the wellbeing of those around them.
Lawful Good - Does this, however, mostly through an abstract ethical code which may not be the best means to the end.
Neutral Good -  Does so more rationally.
Chaotic Good - Does so impulsively.

Neutral - Not particularly interested in the wellbeing of others, but not necessarily to the extent where you'll do them harm for personal gain.
Lawful Neutral - Only really interested in the coherency laws and rules, not whether or not they're right or wrong.
True Neutral - Not very interested in either, but try not to be a total bastard. 
Chaotic Neutral -  Impulsive, childish, likely to do whatever they feel like without much regard for others, but won't do incredibly cruel things.

Evil - Effectively a sociopath, no real regard for the wellbeing of others and will actively hurt people to succeed.
Lawful Evil - No regard for people, but again, can be held to a consistant code, usually a particular set of laws or a contract. A bad person, but can be (mostly) trusted and worked around.
Neutral Evil - No real regard for either, but not overly inconsistant or impulsive. Basically, can be trusted to some small degree.
Chaotic Evil - Impulsive, destructive, cannot be trusted, no real regard for anything much, save certain deities or idelogies that fall under the CE banner.  "Crazy" in a cartoonish sense.

I think the alignments are more like archetypes - very useful in describing certain types of characters. "Lawful Evil" is a good archetype for Devils and "Suit" type characters. Chaotic Neutral works well for a lot of barbarian type characters, and classical "heroes". 

I would maybe draw the chart more like a diamond as I believe "Neutral Good" to be the most good and "Neutral Evil" to be the most evil; as they're not weighed down either by impulsiveness or other people's laws. 
Why not just chuck alignment altogether and have the players write down words with actual meanings that describe their characters?
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