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Nerdarchy > Dungeons & Dragons  > Alignment  > On D&D Alignment and Behavior: Nubz Chimes In
alignment behavior

On D&D Alignment and Behavior: Nubz Chimes In

D&D alignment

Where’s my grognards at? This classic diagram comes from the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook.

D&D alignment

Alignment has been a part of gaming since it’s inception. Arguably, alignment has been a concept within society of the real world since society’s inception.

From the beginning, alignment could be used to describe the actions of every level of society from the humble serf who shares their bread to the despot who claims to have the best interests of the people at heart but lives upon the backs of their citizens through childish antics and hypocritical actions that fly in the face of their constituents.

Okay, I will step off my soap box against chaotic evil. So D&D alignment was brought up by Nerdarchy on the YouTube channel in the ArmorClass10.com-sponsored video above, and I would like to weigh in on what was said about alignment.

As always, these are my opinions and you are entitled to have your own.

In fact, I encourage you to watch the video after you read this, and let Nerdarchy know what you feel about alignment in the comments sections here and on YouTube.

Broad spectrum of behavior

alignment behavior

In direct response to the video let me address a few bullet points mentioned in the video…

  • Using comics and media to show examples of the alignment in action is a great idea I have been using for decades. It not only shows the alignment beyond the page, it also encourages discussion (which I will do in future bullet points) as to who is what alignment. That discussion not only encourages camaraderie through sharing of thoughts and feelings, but it also establishes a spectrum of agreed upon characteristics for your gaming group.
  • Describing alignment as a spectrum is one of the best things I pulled from this video. I applaud the analogy, as it truly is something most would not think of. Indeed, humans think of alignment and many other things as absolutes. Though life is so full of shades of gray, color, and gradient hues that being on the autistic spectrum or the Kinsey scale is the most accurate analogy I can think of. It reminds of how the old editions allowed you to put an alignment in parenthesis for showing if you were close to another alignment. Such as if you were lawful neutral but closer to good than evil, you would be lawful neutral (good). I still use this and it never fails to show those intricate dynamics.
  • Now I do agree that Batman is lawful good, but I want to add the caveat of “at times.” Depending on the writer, who is under the cowl, and other factors it could be argued that Batman slips into the lawful neutral alignment. In fact, in the comics Bruce himself mentions he isn’t the best guy and for a true paragon of alignment looks to Dick Grayson aka Robin, Nightwing, Target, or Agent 37. My view on Batman’s alignment is further enforced by the paladin of vengeance, who is ealignmentasily the equivalent within fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons, being described as typically lawful neutral alignment.
  • Now Superman is, in his normal incarnation, obviously lawful good. Superman is the paladin of old, and as such is at times predictable. Though the most predictable thing about him is how he inspires others to be greater than they are. Much the same way as Captain America is an inspiration to others and often leads the charge even though he is not in fact the most powerful member of most teams he is on.
  • Malcolm Reynolds of Firefly I argue is not chaotic nor lawful – I put forth that he is a prime example of neutral good. You can see this in his fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants being balanced by the plans and rules he lives by. Good, bad, he is the guy with the gun. Though you could make a case for every alignment in the game through the actions of the crew and antagonists of this amazing show. Zoe is easily lawful good, though that spectrum shows another lawful good alignment in that of Book. Jayne is chaotic neutral to contrast Inara’s lawful neutral. Wash is chaotic good with his randomness but good heart. While Kaylee is a great example of neutral good in a way that contrasts the spectrum between Malcolm’s actions. The tyrannical government that pursues River is lawful evil to balance out the Reavers’ chaotic evil. Speaking of River and her brother… You have true neutral and lawful neutral respectively. The operative is another lawful neutral character. Finally, the doctors that made River into what she is today are neutral evil. The entire alignment is represented in this show, if you wish to see it.
  • Pursuit of balance is not a moment-to-moment thing. To have someone switching allegiance mid-fight is counter intuitive to the whole point of the game – to have fun. In fact, I would say that is not true neutral, it’s chaos! A person who follows the alignment of true neutral would work for both sides, but they would switch sides over a lifetime and not days. While you may work for good in a war, you might do evil actions after the war is settled. Chaos, law, good, and evil would be balanced but it is a game of the long run.  True neutral alignment is a game of patience.

Alignment as a guide

alignment behavior

The crew of Serenity from the TV series “Firefly.” Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite, Ron Glass, Sean Maher, Morena Baccarin, Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk and Summer Glau. [Photo by Lee Stringer]

So the character you play is how you want to play it. There is no hand crossbow to your head stating alignment has to be one way or another. The way you see an alignment is how it is, just like a person who is doing horrific acts of violence can still believe they are doing the right thing. Any justification you have for your alignment, is how your character can see it. Your Dungeon Master can tell you how it works for mechanical purposes such as spells and effects, but there is nothing in this world that can determine how you act out that alignment. A good friend of mine once described the paladin as lawful good, but not lawful nice with the statement of, “it’s the difference between asking do you believe in god and do you believe in my god?” A small change in the sentence, but a huge change in meaning. It changes the view of the alignment from a do-gooder Boy Scout to a dedicated crusader ready to get others to convert or die as the heathen scum they are. How you use it is up to you, and as varied as any other aspect of humanity.

Alignment is a fluid thing, and should not be prone to snap changes. One action should not snap people up and down, or left and right on the spectrum. Just like a soldier in war, or any parent, you may be faced with tough decisions. Those decisions are an amazing chance for an oft-neglected feature of life – regret. If you are a good-aligned person, you could have issues for a long time when you had to put a villain down. Maybe you needed to steal something to save lives, and the guilt depresses your character at times. Alignment is a great way to express depth and emotion in your character. It’s the difference between play by numbers, and being a character who owns a scene in such a dynamic way as to be a memory looked upon fondly for years to come. To use an analogy, your character is a treasure chest and alignment could be the key to unlock it.

Did you know that Nerdarchy did a series of in depth articles on each alignment?
Check them out (I am linking them all here) if you are interested. Be gentle, it was our early days…

Lawful Good

Neutral Good

Chaotic Good

Lawful Neutral

True Neutral

Chaotic Neutral

Lawful Evil

Neutral Evil

Chaotic Evil

Well there are my thoughts on Nerdarchy’s alignment video. Go check it out and let us know what you think on alignment. Let us know your favorite representative of a particular alignment from any source. How about you, what alignment would you consider yourself and why? I want to hear about this, as it is everything that humanity is about. You, me, and all the other Nerdarchy fans out there have seen alignment in our every day life. You have seen varying degrees of every alignment and so have I. Now let’s hear about it in the comment section here, and on YouTube.

Play on PS4 or PS3? Did you know that Nerdarchy has a community that plays together often? Go ahead and search in the community section for Nerdarchy and for the player Nubz_The_Zombie!

Did I miss something? Have any Questions or Comments? Feel free to message me at www.facebook.com/NubzTheZombie or at nubz.the.zombie@gmail.com

Stay Nerdy,

Nubz

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Nigel “Nubz” Sanford

Nubz hails from the American Pacific Northwest where he has spent the last 24 years living the gamer life and running campaigns of all kinds. Through this he has managed to sate his acting bug and entertain many. Now a father, he wishes to pursue writing to leave a legacy in Nerd culture for his offspring to enjoy.

6 Comments

  • A.J. Kinney
    July 6, 2017 at 11:39 am

    I drafted an article with a similar theme inspired by the same video, but I was u happy with the finished result. Alignment is something I consider very important to my play style, needless to say I the about it a lot. When I create a character I ask myself, what alignment do they think they are? Why?

    • Doug Vehovec
      July 6, 2017 at 1:09 pm

      Ditto what Nigel said. I have been a writer my whole life, professionally for many years now. There are absolutely things that make me cringe when I look back. But I can see improvement as well. Also, there is something extraordinary that takes place when you share creations with wider audiences. Whether you get responses/engagement or not, internally it instills a desire to continue and do more. You will find your own perspectives broaden as well as refine and change, discover new ideas and learn new things yourself. And like Nigel mentioned you never know what might have meaning for the reader.
      If you would like to pursue more writing opportunities with Nerdarchy please feel free to reach out and we’ll see what we can do about that as well!
      – Assistant Web Editor Doug

    • A.J. Kinney
      July 7, 2017 at 11:48 am

      Thank you Nigel and Doug for your encouragement. I am very passionate about alignment in D&D so I want to make sure I share my views clearly. Perhaps it is time to dust off the draft and polish off the rough spots. Keep an eye on your email Nerdarchy because when it is finished it is coming your way.

  • Eric W.
    December 20, 2017 at 5:26 am

    An article about gully dwarves made me remember the 2nd ed Dragonlance sourcebook (although I can’t find my copy). If I recall correctly, it actually had an alignment tracker which was a pair of lines made up of a series of hash marks with Neutral in the middle and Chaos/Law, Evil/Good NEAR the end of each line (so it was possible to be more good than Good, more chaotic than Chaos, etc). When your character performed an action that could potentially shift their alignment, the DM could move the PCs alignment tracker. I was actually going to use this for my neutral neutral necromancer* in a 3.5 campaign once, but the DM and I completely mishandled the situation and I wound up replacing that role-playing PC with a game wrecking, roll-playing barbarian. *for every [evil] spell he cast, the PC cast a [good] spell of comparable power, and he got a bonus to the ‘summon zombie’ spell for being a necromancer.

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