Good vs. evilEdit
Good characters and creatures protect innocent life. Evil characters and creatures debase or destroy innocent life, whether for fun or profit.
"Good" implies altruism, respect for life, and a concern for the dignity of sentient beings. Good characters make personal sacrifices to help others.
"Evil" implies a lack of concern for others, and in extreme cases purposefully hurting, oppressing, and killing others. Some evil creatures simply have no compassion for others and kill without qualms if doing so is necessary or convenient to their goals. Others are actively malicious, killing for sport or out of duty to some evil deity or master.
People who are neutral with respect to good and evil have compunctions against killing the innocent but lack the commitment to make sacrifices to protect or help others. Neutral people are generally committed to others by personal relationships rather than by a general sense of moral obligation.
Being good or evil can be a conscious choice, particularly in the case of people or entities that recognize the objective existence of alignment in the default Dungeons & Dragons cosmology. For most people, though, being good or evil is an attitude that one recognizes but does not choose. Being neutral on the good/evil axis usually represents a lack of commitment one way or the other, but for some (particularly druids) it represents a positive commitment to a balanced view. While acknowledging that good and evil are objective states, not just opinions, these people maintain that a balance between the two is the proper place, if not for all people then at least for themselves.
Animals and non-sentient creatures are neither good nor evil. Even man-eating carnivores and animals trained to kill are neutral because they lack the capacity to distinguish between morally right or wrong behavior.
Law vs. chaosEdit
Lawful characters tell the truth, keep their word, respect authority, honor tradition, and judge those who fall short of their duties.
Chaotic characters follow their consciences, resent being told what to do, favor new ideas over dogma, and do what they promise if they feel like it.
"Law" implies honor, trustworthiness, obedience to authority, and reliability. On the downside, lawfulness can include close-mindedness, reactionary adherence to tradition, judgmentality, and a lack of adaptability. Those who consciously promote lawfulness say that only lawful behavior creates a society in which people can depend on each other and make the right decisions in full confidence that others will act as they should.
"Chaos" implies freedom, adaptability, and flexibility. On the downside, chaos can include recklessness, resentment toward legitimate authority, arbitrary actions, and irresponsibility. Those who promote chaotic behavior say that only unfettered personal freedom allows people to express themselves fully and lets society benefit from the potential that its individuals have within them.
Someone who is neutral with respect to law and chaos has a normal respect for authority and feels neither a compulsion to obey nor a compulsion to rebel. He is honest but can be tempted into lying or deceiving others.
Devotion to law or chaos may be a conscious choice, but more often it is a personality trait that is recognized rather than being chosen. Neutrality on the law/chaos axis is usually simply a middle state, a state of not feeling compelled toward one side or the other. Some few such neutrals, however, espouse neutrality as superior to law or chaos, regarding each as an extreme with its own blind spots and drawbacks.
Animals and other creatures incapable of ethical action are neutral. Dogs may be obedient and cats free-spirited, but they do not have the ethical capacity to be truly lawful or chaotic.
The law versus chaos axis has generated some controversy and confusion. Different books, and even different parts in the same book, have interpreted law and chaos to mean different things. Among its different interpretations are a person's feelings on government and laws, a person's sense of honor, how orderly and logical a person's mind works, how flexible a person's mind is, whether a person prefers cities or countryside, and even how orderly a person likes to keep his or her house.
A lawful good character upholds society and its laws, believing that these laws are created to work for the good and prosperity of all. He is both honest and benevolent. He will work within the established system to change it for the better, and strives to bring order to goodness that other good-aligned characters might pool their resources to better the world. A lawful good character combines a commitment to oppose evil with discipline. Most lawful good characters live by a strict code of honor, or by the rules of conduct set down by their deity. They will generally selflessly act by these codes even at the cost of their own life.
Lawful good combines honor and compassion for the innocent.
It must however be stressed that blind obedience to local laws is not required by the Lawful Good alignment. A Paladin is not in violation of his alignment if he decides to take up arms against a usurper on behalf of the rightful king, for example, even if that means going against the sedition laws instated by the usurper.
An incorruptible cop, a ruler or politician who acts for the good of his people, and a soldier who refuses to compromise the laws of battle are all examples of lawful good characters.
Neutral good characters do good for goodness' sake, not because they are directed to by law or by whim. Such a character will obey the law, or break it when they see it will serve a greater good. They aren't bound strongly to a social system or order. Their need to help others and reduce suffering may take precedence over all else.
This alignment desires good without bias for or against order.
A doctor who treats both sides in a fight and an aid worker who feeds the starving in a war zone are both examples of neutral good characters.
A chaotic good character acts as his conscience directs him with little regard for what others expect of him. He is kind and benevolent, a strong individualist hostile to the claims of rules, regulations, and social order. He hates it when people try to intimidate others and tell them what to do. He will actively work to bring down unjust rulers and organizations and to liberate the oppressed. He finds lawful societies distasteful and will avoid them, often living as a nomad or hermit.
Chaotic good combines a good heart with a free spirit.
Noble rebel leaders fighting corrupt or venal regimes, vigilantes acting for what they see as the greater good, and anyone who "robs from the rich to give to the poor" are all examples of chaotic good characters.
A lawful neutral character is directed by law, logic, tradition, or a personal code. Order and organization are paramount to her. She may believe in personal order and live by a code or standard, or she may believe in order for all and favor a strong, organized government.
Lawful neutral combines reliability and honor, without moral bias.
A functionary, soldier or employee who follows orders without question regardless of the result and an impartial jurist who sticks rigidly to the rule book are all examples of Lawful Neutral characters.
A neutral character does what seems to be a good idea. She doesn't feel strongly one way or the other when it comes to good vs. evil or order vs. chaos. She thinks of good as better than evil — after all, she would rather have good neighbors and rulers than evil ones. Still, she isn't personally committed to upholding good in any abstract or universal way.
The neutral alignment is without prejudice or compulsion.
This is the most common alignment of sentient creatures and the alignment of almost all animals and other creatures of very low intelligence.
Some neutral characters commit themselves philosophically to neutrality. They are of the true neutral alignment as described in Dungeons & Dragons.
A true neutral character sees good, evil, law, and chaos as prejudices and dangerous extremes. He advocates the middle way of neutrality as the best, most balanced road in the long run.
Some true neutral characters actively support balance in the world, and seek to avoid having any one side, law or chaos, good or evil, become too powerful over them or anyone else, and will work against whichever side is the most powerful. They tend to side with the underdog in any situation, and are often opportunistic in their actions.
True neutral is committed to the avoidance of extremes, and is non-judgmental.
Druidic True NeutralEdit
In Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, all druids were true neutral. The true neutral alignment is central to the philosophy of neutral druids:
Because a druid's main charges — plants, animals, and the health of the planetary ecology — essentially lack alignment or ethos, druids feel free to use almost any means necessary to protect them.
The druidic order works to maintain the natural balance among the alignments. However, druids do realize that most individuals' actions — including their own — will not prove significant to the cosmic balance. The druid sees the friction between alignments as the driving force in the world.
When faced with a tough decision, a druid usually stands behind the solution that best serves nature in the long run.
A chaotic neutral character follows his whims. He is an individualist first and last. He values his own liberty but does not strive to protect the freedom of others. He avoids authority, resents restrictions, and challenges traditions. A chaotic neutral character doesn't intentionally disrupt organizations as part of a campaign of anarchy. To do so, he would have to be motivated either by good (and a desire to liberate others), evil (and a desire to make others suffer), or be lawful neutral. A chaotic neutral character may be unpredictable, but his behavior is not totally random. He is not as likely to jump off a bridge as to cross it.
Chaotic neutral is freedom from both society's restrictions and a do-gooder's zeal.
A wandering rogue who lives both by work for hire and petty theft, and an arms dealer who sells his wares to the highest bidder, whatever that bidder may do with them, are both examples of chaotic neutral characters.
A lawful evil character methodically takes what he wants within the limits of his code of conduct without regard for whom it hurts. He cares about tradition, loyalty, and order but not about freedom, dignity, or life. He plays by the rules but without mercy or compassion. He's comfortable in a hierarchy and would like to rule, but is willing to serve. He is loath to break promises, and is therefore very cautious about giving his word unless a bargain is clearly in his favour.
This reluctance comes partly from his nature and partly because he depends on order to protect himself from those who oppose him on moral grounds. Some lawful evil villains have particular taboos, such as not killing in cold blood (but having underlings do it) or not letting children come to harm (if it can be helped). They feel these personal morals put them above unprincipled villains.
Many lawful evil characters use society and its laws for selfish advantages, exploiting the letter of the law over its spirit whenever it best suits their interests.
Some lawful evil people and creatures commit themselves to evil with a zeal like that of a crusader committed to good. Beyond being willing to hurt others for their own ends, they take pleasure in spreading evil as an end unto itself. They may also see doing evil as part of a duty to an evil deity or master.
Lawful evil is sometimes called "diabolical", because devils are the epitome of lawful evil. Other examples of lawful evil characters include tyrants, petty bureaucrats, and gang bosses.
Lawful evil is methodical, intentional, and frequently successful devotion to evil.
Neutral evil characters do whatever they can get away with. They are out for themselves, pure and simple. They shed no tears for those they kill, whether for profit, sport, or convenience. They have no love of order and hold no illusion that following laws, traditions, or codes would make them any better or more noble. On the other hand, they do not have the restless nature or love of conflict that chaotic evil villains have.
Some neutral evil villains hold up evil as an ideal, committing evil for its own sake. Most often, such villains are devoted to evil deities or secret societies.
Neutral evil is pure pragmatism without honor and without variation — survival of the fittest.
Most career criminals, particularly those who harm others for money, such as hitmen, would fall under this category.
A chaotic evil character does whatever his greed, hatred, and lust for destruction drive him to do. If he is simply out for whatever he can get, he is ruthless and brutal. If he is committed to the spread of evil and chaos, he is even worse. Fortunately, his plans are haphazard, and any groups he joins or forms are poorly organized. Typically, chaotic evil people can be made to work together only by force, and their leader lasts only as long as he can thwart attempts to topple or assassinate him.
These characters will commit any act to further their own ends. Chaotic evil is sometimes called "demonic" because demons are the epitome of chaotic evil.
Chaotic evil is power without control, selfishness unfettered by any law.
Many serial killers would fit this discription, as would many of the more psychotic paramilitary or gang leaders found in the world's most savage conflict zones.