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Understanding Alignment
#1
I've been noticing a lot of people have been having trouble getting their alignments down on their character profiles. There is a page on the Wiki discussing it, but I didn't find it particularly helpful and I doubt most read it. As far as alignment goes, Law-Chaos can be especially confusing because its definition has varied from time to time, and Good-Evil can be confusing because people tend to take them to wild extremes. Below is how I understand the system to work, and how I believe it was originally intended to be interpreted.

Good-Evil is best to talk about first, because it's probably the "stronger" alignment axis for the average character, and fully understanding Law-Chaos requires you to know what Good-Evil really is. The best way I tend to find to determine Good-Evil alignment is to ask myself how the character views others (particularly strangers) versus himself. A character that places others before himself is usually Good, and one who places himself before others is usually Evil. Those that try to be "fair" and balance between favoring themselves and favoring others are usually Neutral.

Good

A Good character is characterized by being (generally) selfless and having a high regard for life. A Good character puts others, even strangers, before himself, and would gladly let himself starve if it helps someone else eat. This degree of selflessness is what defines being a Good character.

Good characters may enjoy fighting, but will usually only kill if they have to. Good characters are far more likely to show mercy to enemies than those of other alignments...they are people too, after all.

One of the problems I've seen is people putting up a "Good" alignment tag on a character that should probably be Neutral. Think very carefully before you label a character as Good.

Evil

An Evil character is characterized by being (generally) selfish and having a low regard for the lives of others. An Evil character thinks about himself first and foremost, and will only worry about strangers if it helps him in some way. That said, it's not impossible for an Evil character to care about others, particularly those close to him.

While Evil characters are more likely to murder others (especially if it can save their own skin,) not all Evil characters are killers. Indeed, not all Evil characters are expressly out to make the lives of others miserable. Evil only represents a strong degree of self-motivation, and it's rarely beneficial to harm others just for the pure sake of it when these same people could help you out later.

People who make characters that are Evil tend to bring it to a strong extreme...characters that are out to harm others, take over the world, psychopathic, and so on. People forget the more subtle, less destructive Evil. A truly convincing Evil character is one that cares about himself and his own position, and will do whatever it takes to get himself up to the top. That said, Evil characters can work together, provided it helps everyone involved. A group can do things that an individual may not.

Obviously, Neutrality represents a balance between the two. Characters that balance their own needs with the needs of others, who have a regard for life but may be willing to compromise it if their own are in direct peril, and who may have ambitions without willing to step on others to reach them.

Law-Chaos is next, and probably the harder concept to understand. Just as Good-Evil represents a character's views on others versus himself, Law-Chaos represents one's views regarding society versus the individual. It's important to note that Law-Chaos has very little to do with Good-Evil...a Chaotic Evil person is no more Evil than a Lawful Evil one...they're just evil in different ways.

Lawful

Lawful characters believe that certain individual freedoms may need to be given away in order to strengthen society as a whole. These characters tend to view themselves more as an individual part of a greater plan or machine that drives their lives, and as long as everyone does his part, everything will turn out fine.

Lawful characters tend to be methodical, predictable, and orderly, and tend to highly value the power of teamwork. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and Lawful characters are more likely to join and be faithful to factions and organizations. They tend to value the successes of the faction/organization as a whole, rather than attributing them to any particular person. They are far more likely to listen to the advice of others and cave into peer pressure. They also are more likely to stick to tradition and what has been proven to work already.

Despite the name, Lawfulness does not actually mean to have a strict adherence to the law. For example, a vigilante that brings corrupt politicians to justice for the better of society may be Lawful, even though his actions are actually outside of the law.

Chaotic

Chaotic characters believe that the rights of the individual outweigh the benefits of society. These characters view themselves and others as individuals first, and members of an organization after. They are often the first to criticize the government or seek to rebel.

Chaotic characters, as individuals, tend to favor unpredictability and spontaneity. They may recognize laws and join organizations, but usually they do so for fear of punishment, the rewards for doing so, or because it fits their moral beliefs anyway. They can see the benefits of teamwork, but more highly regard the actions of the individual. A certain degree of fickleness defines Chaotic characters, but they are also free spirits and unlikely to cave into peer pressure as they go their own way.

Chaotic alignment doesn't represent insanity (though most truly insane characters tend to be Chaotic due to their natures.) Chaotic characters instead represent a willingness to forge one's own path instead of the path of tradition or society. They tend to be the spark of imagination, creating new ideas and ways of thinking.

Neutrality, naturally, represents a balance between the two. Characters who understand both the values of society and the power of the individual and try to balance the needs of both.

And that's a wrap.
Have you hugged an orc today?
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#2
Nicely put, sir! Hopefully this will make it a little more clear for people.
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"We are here on earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different."
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