Playing the Character's Alignment
Aside from a few minimal restrictions required for some character classes, a
player is free to choose whatever alignment he wants for his character. However,
before rushing off and selecting an alignment, there are a few things to
First, alignment is an aid to role-playing and should be used that way. Don't
choose an alignment that will be hard to role play or that won't be fun. A
player who chooses an unappealing alignment probably will wind up playing a
different alignment anyway. In that case, he might as well have chosen the second
alignment to begin with. A player who thinks that lawful good characters are boring
goody-two-shoes who don't get to have any fun should play a chaotic good
character instead. On the other hand, a player who thinks that properly role-playing
a heroic, lawful good fighter would be an interesting challenge is encouraged
to try it. No one should be afraid to stretch his imagination. Remember,
selecting an alignment is a way of saying, “My character is going to act like a
person who believes this.”
Second, the game revolves around cooperation among everyone in the group. The
character who tries to go it i alone or gets everyone angry at him is likely to
have a short career. Always consider the alignments of other characters in the
group. Certain combinations, particularly lawful good and any sort of evil,
are explosive. Sooner or later the group will find itself spending more time
arguing than adventuring. Some of this is unavoidable (and occasionally amusing),
but too much is ultimately destructive. As the players argue, they get angry. As
they get angry, their characters begin fighting among themselves. As the
characters fight, the players continue to get more angry. Once anger and hostility
take over a game, no one has fun. And what's the point of playing a game if the
players don't have fun?
Third, some people choose to play evil alignments. Although there is no
specific prohibition against this, there are several reasons why it is not a good
idea. First, the AD&D game is a game of heroic fantasy. What is heroic about being
a villain? If an evilly aligned group plays its alignment correctly, it is as
much a battle for the characters to work together as it is to take on the
outside world. Neutral evil individuals would be paranoid (with some justification)
that the others would betray them for profit or self-aggrandizement. Chaotic
evil characters would try to get someone else to take all the risks so that they
could become (or remain) strong and take over. Although lawful evil characters
might have some code of conduct that governed their party, each member would
look for ways to twist the rules to his own favor. A group of players who play a
harmonious party of evil characters simply are not playing their alignments
correctly. By its nature, evil alignments call for disharmony and squabbling,
which destroys the fun.
Imagine how groups of different alignments might seek to divide a treasure
trove. Suppose the adventuring party contains one character of each alignment (a
virtually impossible situation, but useful for illustration). Each is then
allowed to present his argument:
The lawful good character says, “Before we went on this adventure, we agreed
to split the treasure equally, and that's what we're going to do. First, we'll
deduct the costs of the adventure and pay for the resurrection of those who have
fallen, since we're sharing all this equally. If someone can't be raised, then
his share goes to his family.”
“Since we agreed to split equally, that's fine,” replies the lawful evil
character thoughtfully.” But there was nothing in this deal about paying for anyone
else's expenses. It's not my fault if you spent a lot on equipment!
Furthermore, this deal applies only to the surviving partners; I don't remember anything
about dead partners. I'm not setting aside any money to raise that klutz. He's
someone else's problem.”
Flourishing a sheet of paper, the lawful neutral character breaks in. “It's a
good thing for you two that I've got things together, nice and organized. I had
the foresight to write down the exact terms of our agreement, and we're all
going to follow them.”
The neutral good character balances the issues and decides, “I'm in favor of
equal shares--that keeps everybody happy. I feel that expenses are each
adventurer's own business: If someone spent too much, then he should be more careful
next time. But raising fallen comrades seems like a good idea, so I say we set
aside money to do that.”
After listening to the above arguments, the true neutral character decides not
to say anything yet. He's not particularly concerned with any choice. If the
issue can be solved without his becoming involved, great. But if it looks like
one person is going to get everything, that's when he'll step in and cast his
vote for a more balanced distribution.
The neutral evil character died during the adventure, so he doesn't have
anything to say. However, if he could make his opinion known, he would gladly argue
that the group ought to pay for raising him and set aside a share for him. The
neutral evil character would also hope that the group doesn't discover the big
gem he secretly pocketed during one of the encounters.
The chaotic good character objects to the whole business. “Look, it's obvious
that the original agreement is messed up. I say we scrap it and reward people
for what they did. I saw some of you hiding in the background when the rest of
us were doing all the real fighting. I don't see why anyone should be rewarded
for being a coward! As far as raising dead partners, I say that's a matter of
personal choice. I don't mind chipping in for some of them, but I don't think I
want everyone back in the group.”
Outraged at the totally true but tactless accusation of cowardice, the chaotic
evil character snaps back, “Look, I was doing an important job, guarding the
rear! Can I help it if nothing tried to sneak up behind us? Now, it seems to me
that all of you are pretty beat up--and I'm not. So, I don't think there's
going to be too much objection if I take all the jewelry and that wand. And I'll
take anything interesting those two dead guys have. Now, you can either work with
me and do what I say or get lost--permanently!”
The chaotic neutral character is also dead (after he tried to charge a
gorgon), so he doesn't contribute to the argument. However, if he were alive, he would
join forces with whichever side appealed to him the most at the moment. If he
couldn't decide he'd flip a coin.
Clearly, widely diverse alignments in a group can make even the simplest task
impossible. It is almost certain that the group in the example would come to
blows before they could reach a decision. But dividing cash is not the only
instance in which this group would have problems. Consider the battle in which they
gained the treasure in the first place.
Upon penetrating the heart of the ruined castle, the party met its foe, a
powerful gorgon commanded by a mad warrior. There, chained behind the two, was a
helpless peasant kidnapped from a nearby village.
The lawful good character unhesitatingly (but not foolishly) entered the
battle; it was the right thing to do. He considered it his duty to protect the
villagers. Besides, he could not abandon an innocent hostage to such fiends. He was
willing to fight until he won or was dragged off by his friends. He had no
intention of fighting to his own death, but he would not give up until he had tried
his utmost to defeat the evil creatures.
The lawful evil character also entered the battle willingly. Although he cared
nothing for the peasant, he could not allow the two fiends to mock him. Still,
there was no reason for him to risk all for one peasant. If forced to retreat,
he could return with a stronger force, capture the criminals, and execute them
publicly. If the peasant died in the meantime, their punishment would be that
much more horrible.
The lawful neutral character was willing to fight, because the villains
threatened public order. However, he was not willing to risk his own life. He would
have preferred to come back later with reinforcements. If the peasant could be
saved, that is good, because he is part of the community. If not, it would be
unfortunate but unavoidable.
The neutral good character did not fight the gorgon or the warrior, but he
tried to rescue the peasant. Saving the peasant was worthwhile, but there was no
need to risk injury and death along the way. Thus, while the enemy was
distracted in combat, he tried to slip past and free the peasant.
The true neutral character weighed the situation carefully. Although it looked
like the forces working for order would have the upper hand in the battle, he
knew there had been a general trend toward chaos and destruction in the region
that must be combatted. He tried to help, but if the group failed, he could
work to restore the balance of law and chaos elsewhere in the kingdom.
The neutral evil character cared nothing about law, order, or the poor
peasant. He figured that there had to be some treasure around somewhere. After all,
the villain's lair had once been a powerful temple. He could poke around for cash
while the others did the real work. If the group got into real trouble and it
looked like the villains would attack him, then he would fight. Unfortunately,
a stray magical arrow killed him just after he found a large gem.
The chaotic good character joined the fight for several reasons. Several
people in the group were his friends, and he wanted to fight at their sides.
Furthermore, the poor, kidnapped peasant deserved to be rescued. Thus, the chaotic
good character fought to aid his companions and save the peasant. He didn't care
if the villains were killed, captured, or just driven away. Their attacks
against the village didn't concern him.
The chaotic neutral character decided to charge, screaming bloodthirsty cries,
straight for the gorgon. Who knows? He might have broken its nerve and thrown
it off guard. He discovered that his plan was a bad one when the gorgon's
breath killed him.
The chaotic evil character saw no point in risking his hide for the villagers,
the peasant, or the rest of the party. In fact, he thought of several good
reasons not to. If the party was weakened, he might be able to take over. If the
villains won, he could probably make a deal with them and join their side. If
everyone was killed, he could take everything he wanted and leave. All these
sounded a lot better than getting hurt for little or no gain. So he stayed near the
back of the battle, watching. If anyone asked, he could say he was watching
the rear, making sure no one came to aid the enemy.
The two preceding examples of alignment are extreme situations. It's not very
likely that a player will ever play in a group of alignments as varied as those
given here. If such a group ever does form, players should seriously
reconsider the alignments of the different members of the party! More often, the
adventuring party will consist of characters with relatively compatible alignments.
Even then, players who role-play their characters' alignment will discover small
issues of disagreement.
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