Alignments: The Appendix of Role Playing.


Everyone is born with an appendix. An appendix is a small sac that houses good bacteria. When the gut is infected the appendix helps with the re-population of said good bacteria in the digestive system. As most people in the world know sometimes the appendix might get infected and cause severe pain and discomfort. What do we do when that happens? We cut that bacteria filled sac and remove it from our body. What was once a good influence on our digestive system is now a threat to the entire body. They are sort of like alignments actually if you think about it.

Types of alignments

Before we go into the nitty-gritty of it all we need to know what does the word alignment even mean? Now I am going to google the definition like how I googled what an appendix was. The Merriam-Webster definition for the word Alignment is (there are like 4 definitions so I’m only going to list the one that makes sense in the context of role-playing): “an arrangement of groups or forces in relation to one another“. In the fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons, the system I play on, there are nine alignments in total that belong to three “groups”. I call them groups because a better word escapes me. The three groups are GoodNeutral, and Evil. Each group has three different alignments. Lawful, neutral, and chaotic. Now for the people that are new to role-playing let me put these alignments into perspective. For the Good group, we have Lawful Good, Neutral Good, and Chaotic Good. The same is for the other two groups. Lawful means that as a character you follow the word of law, if you break the law it is considered an act that is foreign to you. “I would never do that! ” is something a lawful person would say if they were asked to, for instance, break into another’s home. That explains the first part of the two-word pair. Lawful Good means that you are a good person that follows the law. This is where things get a little convoluted. Neutral Good means that, even though you are a good person, you don’t really care about things? I mean you don’t break the rules but you would if need be. Chaotic Good is basically doing the right thing without regards to rules or laws. Like Robin Hood.

Moving on to the next group: Neutral. Lawful Neutral is basically a judge. Impartial. Unbiased. Follows the law. Now I would type Neutral Neutral but that’s redundant so most people just say True Neutral or just “Neutral”. Remember that guy from Futurama? “I have no strong feelings one way or the other.” They are exactly in the middle of the balancing beam, so to speak. Chaotic Neutral, or as I like to call it, “The Bane of your DM’s Existence”. A Chaotic Neutral character’s mindset is “Looking after numero uno”. As long as whatever he is doing is helping him then he will happily do it. When things change though he might not stick around. Since Chaotic Neutral characters do what they want DMs can have some trouble dealing with them.

Last but not least we have Evil. Evil is, just as it sounds, Evil. Lawful Evil is like being a dictator. You are Evil but you find that rules are still important, as long as they serve you. Neutral Evil is a person that does what he does in order to stay alive without any regrets or remorse for what he does. Chaotic Evil is chaos for chaos’s sake. Like The Joker. He just does things for the sake of it. Those things are more than often chaotic in nature.

getting rid of the proverbial “appendix”

Now that we covered the nine alignments I can tell you why, in my experience, they are bad. When making a character you have many options, one of those is choosing an alignment for your character. The problem here is that people tend to “play into” their alignment. Let me explain: I am a paladin. As a paladin, I am lawful good. I do what is right and uphold the law at any cost. Now imagine I’m in a game with three other people as players. The task at hand is to steal a priceless artifact from some trader in the current town. Immediately I refuse the task, I am lawful good! I would never steal something from anyone! What I did just there logically is fine, I role-played what I believed my character would say. Here is what happens next. The group wastes precious game time trying to convince me to take the mission but I still refuse. They decide to leave without me. I am left alone in the inn while the other three players go on and have their adventure. Not only did I, as a player, ruin the mood I also split up the party and made things awkward for the DM since he will try his best to keep me in the story. Cutting away from the action and going back to me to see what I would do. This creates discord in the group of players and the story that the DM prepared. I’ll give you another example. I play a chaotic neutral character. Through the course of the session, things go normally until the party encounters some tough bandits. Noticing that the party might lose I, as a chaotic neutral character, decide to switch sides and join the bandits in killing my party. They all die, the session ends. “But I’m chaotic neutral, that’s my alignment. It makes sense!” yeah, it does make sense. It still sucks though. That person sucked all the fun from the room like an apathetic vampire.

You see what I’m talking about? Situations like these ruin the game for everybody. So what do we do? We throw alignments out the window. Just play your character. Forget about pre-determined alignments, do whatever feels right by your character. No one knows how to play your character but you. Another problem with alignments is when you do something in-game and the DM says “You can’t do that, you’re Lawful Good. I won’t allow it”. I honestly do not see any sort of upside to having alignments. Keep in mind when role-playing your character there is always a human behind the character. That human should make sure that he is not ruining the game for the other humans. The number one job for any DM is to make sure the players have fun. That is also the job of the players themselves. Having a moral compass is essential of course, but that’s just what it is. A compass. I used to play by alignment and the one time I decided not to pick one and just play was the first time I truly enjoyed role-playing. If your character is friends with the party then they are that, friends. Friends don’t act indifferent to their friends just because their alignment says so. It’s true that only you know how to play your character and no one should tell you otherwise but there is a line. I digress, that is a post for another time.

There is no right or wrong when it comes to talking about alignments because this issue is not black and white. It is gray. Very gray. This is just my opinion and many other players share the same opinion. Some might say that alignments are a must and can tell you why in one thousand words or less. I don’t think anyone will bother reading this but if you did thanks, I guess. In the end, just make sure to have fun, if you’re not having fun then whats the point right?

I don’t have a catchy signing off one-liner so… bye? I’ll make sure to think one up in the interim.

About the author


A wise man once said, " He who does not know the falcon, grills it ". I live by those words every day. I also enjoy playing a little fifth edition now and then.

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By Whitegrave


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