I have few issues with good and evil. In most shows, stories, games, movies there are good guys who we want to win, and bad guys who we want to see defeated. I call it „five-year-old alignment system”. When the adventurers fight a band of goblins, it’s not time to ponder what makes goblin evil, it’s time to kick their little green asses!
Law and Chaos, however, even though they predate the Good and Evil in RPG alignment systems, are odd. What makes Chaotic Neutral character different from a True Neutral one? They both can justify any action they wanted. Some might even argue that the chaotic character could not serve organizations or rulers, could not settle down – so in effect, even though Chaos represents free spirit and flexibility, a chaotic character is more limited than the neutral one! Chaotic alignments are weird, but that’s because we can interpret chaos in many ways, and unlike Good and Evil we can’t reject it completely. My solution to this problem was to redefine Law and Chaos in a fantasy dungeon-crawling game.
Here follows a simple variant of the alignment systems. Other approaches to Law and Chaos are certainly possible. Some published systems include Honor replacing Law or spiritual purity replacing Good.
Lawful characters are stable, sane, constant in their beliefs, and their beliefs are usually consistent with the experienced reality. Chaotic characters are crazy, quirky, idiosyncratic, and their beliefs are often ingrained in their psyche, to the point of them ignoring the objective reality. Neutral characters have certain beliefs that might not be completely rational, but they’re able to normally function in society.
The advantage of Chaos, however, is that it implies creativity, inspiration and strong drive of certainty. A dogmatic fanatic is chaotic, as is a brilliant engineer or a cruel wizard torturing people to obtain knowledge. Chaotic alignment has little influence on your Charisma, Intelligence or Wisdom scores.
A lawful good character realizes that the society could not function without people that support each other. Perhaps she has been raised in a loving family, or maybe she has seen first hand the consequences of cruelty and oppression. She opposes evil because it’s her moral duty and she probably feels that she could inspire people to do so. If she has sufficient skill and talent, she will fight for her ideals, but she will never throw her life – unless it’s clearly the best possible choice.
A commander that leads from the rear is Lawful Good.
A neutral good character does good because it’s good. She does not want reward for her deeds, and more often than Lawful Characters is devoted to eradicating evil. They might be gloryhounds, wanting to shine in the light of good, or they might be humble healers assisting others.
A cleric that protects a small village against orcs is Neutral Good.
Chaotic good characters have often their own reasons to destroy evil, but they’re seldom explainable. They can come from their innate beliefs, delusions or talents. In their quest for good, many disregard – or are plain not aware of – social norms, laws and customs. Some inspire the others to subvert laws and customs in order to free themselves from the tyranny of reason.
A paladin that frees slaves no matter what the cost is Chaotic Good.
This person is a rationalist, maybe cynical or battle-weary killjoy. She believes that generally life makes sense and is skeptical towards things she can’t experience directly.
A wizard that sees magic as a great science is Lawful Neutral.
True Neutral people have usually little concern for good and evil. They prefer to live without conflicts, but they can hurt others when it’s necessary or it benefits them in the long run. They have understanding for foibles of others and are less rash than lawful or chaotic characters.
A monk that perfects his body and soul harmoniously is True Neutral.
Chaotic Neutral characters follow their own idiosyncrasies, often personal obsessions or talents. They’re most likely to reject accusations of being mad (sometimes even violently) or consider themselves someone else. They might also be talented in one particular skill or talent forgoing all others.
A sorcerer that infuses himself with various experimental substances is Chaotic Neutral.
Such a character is an egotist and an egoist, plain and simple. He has little delusion – the world is cruel and deadly, so he himself must become deadly. In combat he will never shy away from fighting dirty as long as he will be the only one standing – and usually, when he fights, he kills. If he is smart enough, he would like to rule; but usually he is content with simply being the richest or the most powerful. Lawful Evil people seldom torture others, believing that they will not tell truth under coercion
A rogue that kills people when he doesn’t need them is Lawful Evil
Such people tend to kill when it’s necessary or when they like it. They sometimes have their own little rules and foibles prohibiting them to kill, and they tell themselves that violence is not an answer. They torture people, sometimes because they like it, and sometimes because they believe that it’s the best method of interrogation.
An alchemist that has a secret plan to take over a kingdom in five years is Neutral Evil
Chaotic Evil people might kill because the voices told them to, or because it’s the right thing to do, or simply for fun. The more intelligent ones are capable of making great plans – but they typically end in misery and blood.
A corrupt cleric leading secretly a cult of murderers and publically a head of influential circle is Chaotic Evil.
In such a system Lawful outsiders represent rationality and stability – Devils tempt and deceive, while Demons usually appear to rend and butcher. Most normal monsters tend to be Neutral – while many aberrations and undead can be Chaotic.
Lawful gods are patrons of knowledge and wisdom, while Chaotic Good ones can be quirky and charming, but there’s something odd about them.