Alignment Archetypes

So we were sat playing a D&D session, and one of our players was encouraged to make an alignment shift. Essentially his wizard has gone from trigger happy to full on axe-crazy so it was suggested he switch from Chaotic Neutral to Chaotic Evil. Since he's a new player (we all are, this campaign was specifically for people with little to no D&D experience) he wasn't entirely sure what the difference was so we ended up explaining by bringing up characters from pop culture.

We decided that Chaotic Evil would be Sauron from Lord of the Rings. This is the more obvious choice. He just wants to own and control everything and if getting that involves crushing everyone with an army of orcs then so be it.
For Chaotic Neutral we went with Sherlock Holmes. We argued a bit about this one but with all the rules he breaks you can't call him Lawful and he doesn't really care about other people so much so you can't really call him Good...but nor is he devoid of compassion so he's not Evil either. He just wants to be allowed to solve mysteries and for people to recognise how smart he is for solving mysteries.

Naturally after the Holmes discussion we got talking about who we could have for the other alignments within our combined spheres of interest.
Lawful Good: Sam Vimes. Hard bitten and cynical though he is, he's genuinely a good person who does his best to uphold the letter and spirit of the law
Neutral Good: Finn the Human. Another one we debated a bit (it was either this or Chaotic Good) but overall Finn just likes helping people by any means he can
Lawful Neutral: Mace Windu. He stands for the Jedi Way and doesn't seem to let how he feels get in the way of that. Not a bad guy but a hardass who always says rules as Rules
Lawful Evil: We went with classical literature again for this one; Ebenezer Scrooge. A petty, greedy, miseryguts, he's made his fortune by screwing people over in a completely legal fashion
Neutral Evil: Thanos, specifically the MCU version of him. Overall he just switches it up too much about whether he's got an honour code running right now or not, so we decided he couldn't be Lawful under our terms...but probably thinks of himself that way

So to turn this from an anecdote into a discussion, what would your choices be? Do you think ours were completely wrong? And do you have any suggestions for Chaotic Good and True Neutral, those had us a little bit stumped

Sauron is lawful evil. He's not against order, he simply wants to dictate it on his terms.

Chaotic Good: From Greek Mythology, Prometheus. He didn't give two fucks what the Gods thought, he felt man deserved fire and stole it for their benefit, even as it meant having to get munched on by a vulture for eternity

A more modern and grounded example, Paul Kiersey from the Death Wish movies. A classic example of going outside the law...WAY outside in this case...in order to deliver what one felt was right and just.

I fucking hate alignments, they are the single worst thing to ever happen to RPGs and I love that newer systems are slowly reducing their importance because they suck ass.

I say use them as a source of inspiration to how your character may act but put more effort into your character's personality traits, ideals, bonds and flaws and make that the focus of the character and don't treat the alignment as a rule, nothing is more frustrating than people telling you what your character would and wouldn't do.

Anyway, my only thought on this is that it's fine to compare the alignments and categorize stereotypes but don't think of them as absolutes and let people make their characters change, if someone decides that something happened that will make his character change his attitude towards the world let them, just don't get married to the alignments and let people change their mind if they want to, because playing something you don't want to is extremely frustrating and boring.

Kaleion:
I fucking hate alignments, they are the single worst thing to ever happen to RPGs and I love that newer systems are slowly reducing their importance because they suck ass.

I say use them as a source of inspiration to how your character may act but put more effort into your character's personality traits, ideals, bonds and flaws and make that the focus of the character and don't treat the alignment as a rule, nothing is more frustrating than people telling you what your character would and wouldn't do.

This, pretty much..

If you take alignment seriously in any way, it immediately starts to create problems. For example, what happens when you have a society like the Forgotten Realms drow, who worship a chaotic evil god and whose society tolerates murder. Are drow lawful for obeying the laws of their own society, or are they chaotic because those laws themselves are chaotic in nature?

It's just a weird system that doesn't do justice to the complexity of real ethics.

evilthecat:

Kaleion:
I fucking hate alignments, they are the single worst thing to ever happen to RPGs and I love that newer systems are slowly reducing their importance because they suck ass.

I say use them as a source of inspiration to how your character may act but put more effort into your character's personality traits, ideals, bonds and flaws and make that the focus of the character and don't treat the alignment as a rule, nothing is more frustrating than people telling you what your character would and wouldn't do.

This, pretty much..

If you take alignment seriously in any way, it immediately starts to create problems. For example, what happens when you have a society like the Forgotten Realms drow, who worship a chaotic evil god and whose society tolerates murder. Are drow lawful for obeying the laws of their own society, or are they chaotic because those laws themselves are chaotic in nature?

It's just a weird system that doesn't do justice to the complexity of real ethics.

In second edition, metaphysical Law and Chaos were as real as Good and Evil. So Drow would be chaotic evil. (They also frequently view their laws as suggestions, just saying).

Later editions started having the "personal code" style of law and chaos. Which muddied the waters significantly.

Sauron is lawful evil because he wants to create a totalitarian state, Holmes is lawful good because he tries helping people, Vimes is chaotic good because he upholds the spirit and the letter of the law. Or so you can argue.

More or less anyone can be argued to fit squarely into more than one alignment, because the alignments don't really work.

Thaluikhain:
Sauron is lawful evil because he wants to create a totalitarian state, Holmes is lawful good because he tries helping people, Vimes is chaotic good because he upholds the spirit and the letter of the law. Or so you can argue.

More or less anyone can be argued to fit squarely into more than one alignment, because the alignments don't really work.

We figured since Holmes doesn't help people for the sake of helping people he's more Neutral than anything. We're basically just big jigsaws to him

Lawful Good: Optimus Prime, Hank Hill, Lois NoLastName.

Chaotic Evil: Rick Sanchez.

Alignment is a lot less complicated than people say. Good cares aboot the well being of others, Lawful thinks that rules are a good tool to make a world they want.

Palindromemordnilap:

Thaluikhain:
Sauron is lawful evil because he wants to create a totalitarian state, Holmes is lawful good because he tries helping people, Vimes is chaotic good because he upholds the spirit and the letter of the law. Or so you can argue.

More or less anyone can be argued to fit squarely into more than one alignment, because the alignments don't really work.

We figured since Holmes doesn't help people for the sake of helping people he's more Neutral than anything. We're basically just big jigsaws to him

Not purely for the sake of helping people, no, the intellectual exercise is a big part of it, but he still does help people rather than harm. If he was amoral, there's all sorts of other things he could be doing.

Palindromemordnilap:

Thaluikhain:
Sauron is lawful evil because he wants to create a totalitarian state, Holmes is lawful good because he tries helping people, Vimes is chaotic good because he upholds the spirit and the letter of the law. Or so you can argue.

More or less anyone can be argued to fit squarely into more than one alignment, because the alignments don't really work.

We figured since Holmes doesn't help people for the sake of helping people he's more Neutral than anything. We're basically just big jigsaws to him

While Holmes is dedicated to the chase, i think it's unfair to say he doesn't help people out of kindness. Plenty of stories have him bend the rules to protect a sympathetic character and he seems to disdain villainy.
The fact Holmes is sometimes unconcerned about the law however, would push him towards Neutral Good for me, but this conversation really exemplifies why alignments don't really work, because just by emphasising different part of a characters, well, character you can push them into several alignments.

Souplex:
Chaotic Evil: Rick Sanchez.

Rick is an intrinsically selfish character. Most of what he does is about his own self-interests. He allies with people because it suits him and betrays them because it suits him. He causes chaos and destruction because it benefits him. He tears down governments, not purely for the pleasure of it, but foremost because they are in his way. It's all about him.

If anything that makes him Neutral Evil.

By the way, while I hate the alignment systems, as a rule, I do not mind actually mind discussing alignments, it's fun and it allows you to see more or less what people's personal philosophies are, but precisely due to that is why it doesn't work, as a rule, the DM for 5E that I have and me disagree completely on where the limits of Lawful Good are, and he also thinks he gets to decide when a character changes alignment, this has only caused me problems when I've played a Paladin, since when I'm not doing that I ignore the alignment completely and don't give a shit what he says, even with a Cleric because when I play a Cleric I follow my Religion's philosophy, not the alignment, and I do extensive research, I believe I handed him 3 pages of what my religion's Dogma was all based on research for the Goddess I followed, and for future Clerics he can't really argue because one of my shadiest characters is a God of Knowledge and I invented his philosophy and Dogma, I don't really care he decided he was considered a Neutral Good deity when he became a God I was that guy, and he didn't give a rat's ass about morals, he let people die in order to get books and let someone he was interrogating die because he knew that the dead are always cooperative under the Speak with the dead spell, sure he didn't fight but that's because he was a scholar not because he cared about morals, he didn't fight because it wasn't his job, not because he had anything against it, after all, he had a Barbarian bodyguard why would he fight?

And see, that's the other thing right, it's all about perception but that character I mentioned was True Neutral, he acted out of his own interest and would always put himself first, sure he would help people as long as it was helpful to him or the cost of doing it was low or negligible and yes he helped the heroes but that was because he was working with them and it was obviously in his best interest to help them, and though at first they didn't get along by the end he was close friends with 3 of them even if he was on bad terms with the rest, but because he was a not violent and his last action before dying involved doing the right thing the DM decided he was now Neutral Good when he became a God, but the thing is he didn't do it because it was the right thing to do, he did it because he had been travelling with people who suffered great losses in order to accomplish that and his best friend had just died failing to accomplish that, at the moment it felt that on that time he would do that for his friends and he died like a hero, but that doesn't change his nature it doesn't change his alignement.

And in the end that's why Alignement isn't important, being Neutral doesn't mean you won't risk your life for a cause that isn't your own, it just means that there has to a justification why you would do that, even if in the past you haven't and you have prioritized your own safety over that of your companions.

Oh anyway for me the quintessential Chaotic Good character would be Dirty Harry, actually a lot of Clint Eastwood's characters, Walt from Gran Torino perfectly fits the mold too, but anyway it's a character that has a very strong personal philosophy that doesn't fit with the law, for example Dirty Harry purposefully breaks the law in order to catch perps and tries to bait them into giving him an excuse for killing them so that they can pay for their crimes without having to go to court, that way he doesn't risk having them escape by exploiting the system and a huge part of the movie is how it's both the right thing to do but also why things go so wrong.

Seriously though watch Dirty Harry, it doesn't get more Chaotic Good than that even if he is a cop.

As for True Neutral, I don't have any pop culture examples but the character I mentioned before fits, anyway it's a character that doesn't go out of his way to do good or evil and is willing to both do evil or do good depending on what suits them best and while they obey the law they aren't beholden to it and will break it if it's convenient, now since they are not evil they may take actions that make them seem good such as giving money to a beggar or small stuff like that but when it comes to taking a risk they will evaluate the situation to see if it's something that's important enough to them or if it's convenient enough to them, with this kind of character it's very important to give them a strong motivation because by nature they are not the kind that would go adventuring[1], for example, a scholar from a troubled University which isn't receiving enough funds and they either need to acquire treasure to fund the school or need to make a discovery that will bring prestige to the school which would lead to securing funds from a third party.

[1] As with anything this isn't necessarily true and it's very much open to interpretation, because again Alignements don't really work as a rule.

Kaleion:
By the way, while I hate the alignment systems, as a rule, I do not mind actually mind discussing alignments, it's fun and it allows you to see more or less what people's personal philosophies are, but precisely due to that is why it doesn't work, as a rule, the DM for 5E that I have and me disagree completely on where the limits of Lawful Good are, and he also thinks he gets to decide when a character changes alignment, this has only caused me problems when I've played a Paladin
...
And in the end that's why Alignement isn't important, being Neutral doesn't mean you won't risk your life for a cause that isn't your own, it just means that there has to a justification why you would do that, even if in the past you haven't and you have prioritized your own safety over that of your companions.

Oh absolutely agreed, alignment is not the be all and end all. The alignment shift I mentioned in my opening only came about because the character went from "I'm a bit over enthusiastic about using fire bolt" to "So I've got this jar full of eyes I've been taking from the fallen enemies..." and was done because the player liked the idea after the DM suggested it rather than at the GM's demand.
And since you mentioned Paladins, there's been no forced conflict between the chaotic wizard and our lawful good paladin. Apart from the paladin being a little shady in his own right, he takes the view that its better having the wizard fighting with us against our enemies than not, and quite likes having him around when it comes to interrogations. My guy is the good cop, paladin is bad cop and wizard is mad cop, its a surprisingly effective trio

Lawful Good: Captain America, Proffesor Xavier
Neutral Good: Spider-Man, Thor, The Thing, Invisible Woman
Chaotic Good: Wolverine, Iron Man, Black Widow, Human Torch
Lawful neutral: Uatu, Nick Fury, Mr. Fantastic
True Neutral: The Collector
Chaotic Neutral: Deadpool
Lawful Evil: Dr. Doom, Thanos, Magneto
Neutral Evil: Scorpion, The Shocker
Chaotic Evil: The Purple Man

Chimpzy:

Souplex:
Chaotic Evil: Rick Sanchez.

Rick is an intrinsically selfish character. Most of what he does is about his own self-interests. He allies with people because it suits him and betrays them because it suits him. He causes chaos and destruction because it benefits him. He tears down governments, not purely for the pleasure of it, but foremost because they are in his way. It's all about him.

If anything that makes him Neutral Evil.

He actively hates rules and authority, even when he is the rules and authority. That's Chaotic.

Saelune:
Lawful Good: Captain America, Proffesor Xavier
Neutral Good: Spider-Man, Thor, The Thing, Invisible Woman
Chaotic Good: Wolverine, Iron Man, Black Widow, Human Torch
Lawful neutral: Uatu, Nick Fury, Mr. Fantastic
True Neutral: The Collector
Chaotic Neutral: Deadpool
Lawful Evil: Dr. Doom, Thanos, Magneto
Neutral Evil: Scorpion, The Shocker
Chaotic Evil: The Purple Man

Cap routinely fights the rules. He's NG not LG. Tony generally plays by the rules and was on the pro-registration side. He's NG with a splash of L.

Souplex:

Chimpzy:

Souplex:
Chaotic Evil: Rick Sanchez.

Rick is an intrinsically selfish character. Most of what he does is about his own self-interests. He allies with people because it suits him and betrays them because it suits him. He causes chaos and destruction because it benefits him. He tears down governments, not purely for the pleasure of it, but foremost because they are in his way. It's all about him.

If anything that makes him Neutral Evil.

He actively hates rules and authority, even when he is the rules and authority. That's Chaotic.

Saelune:
Lawful Good: Captain America, Proffesor Xavier
Neutral Good: Spider-Man, Thor, The Thing, Invisible Woman
Chaotic Good: Wolverine, Iron Man, Black Widow, Human Torch
Lawful neutral: Uatu, Nick Fury, Mr. Fantastic
True Neutral: The Collector
Chaotic Neutral: Deadpool
Lawful Evil: Dr. Doom, Thanos, Magneto
Neutral Evil: Scorpion, The Shocker
Chaotic Evil: The Purple Man

Cap routinely fights the rules. He's NG not LG. Tony generally plays by the rules and was on the pro-registration side. He's NG with a splash of L.

I use Cap BECAUSE he is a great example of a Lawful Good character who is not a slave to corrupt laws. He never fights the Law because he is not Lawful, but because those laws are in opposition to Lawful Goodness. He doesnt break the law if he can avoid it. The reason alignment gets a bad rap is because too many people think a Lawful character has to uphold the law, regardless of what those laws are.

Cap is a man of integrety and discipline who follows his code to the letter, even when it puts him at odds wth tyrranny, or rather, especcially.

Basically Cap is Lawful Good not Lawful Stupid

Saelune:
The reason alignment gets a bad rap is because too many people think a Lawful character has to uphold the law, regardless of what those laws are.

If "Lawful" can mean following your own rules, rather than the rules of society in general, how is it a useful term? Surely most heroes follow their own view of what is right.

09philj:
Sauron is lawful evil. He's not against order, he simply wants to dictate it on his terms.

Well... arguably. Tolkein stated that Sauron's "love of order" was his virtue, and the cause of his fall. Yet, this still led him to follow Melkor, who was the bringer of discord to the music of the Ainur, and who could not realistically be called Lawful.

Lawful Good: Superman, Jim Gordon, Adrian Monk.
Neutral Good: Herakles.
Chaotic Good: Jesse Custer, Mr. Fox, Deadpool.

Lawful Neutral: I don't know... the librarian in Symphony of the Night?
True Neutral: Kamaji, No-Face.
Chaotic Neutral: Odysseus, Guts, Zeniba.

Lawful Evil: Voldemort, Sauron, Sheriff Cooley, Ganon, Bowser, Two-Face, Wallace Breen, Seth (of Egyptian Mythology), Yubaba, the Cigarette Smoking Man.
Neutral Evil: Deadshot, Deathstroke, the Witch of the Waste, the Man in Black (of Westworld).
Chaotic Evil: Melkor, Ungoliant, the Godhand (of Berserk), Nyarlathotep, Loki (of Norse Mythology, not Marvel), Randall Flagg.

Thaluikhain:

If "Lawful" can mean following your own rules, rather than the rules of society in general, how is it a useful term? Surely most heroes follow their own view of what is right.

I'm with Saelune on this, actually. Most heroes follow their own view of what's right, but far from all have codified a system of morals that they follow. That's the difference.

Batman (as modern DC portrays him) has a codified moral system to which he adheres, for instance, so I could see how he would be Lawful Good. Booster Gold, on the other hand, is heroic, but is much more flexible in how he will respond to a situation, so I would call him Neutral Good. And Deadpool has nothing approaching a codified system, but will still be compelled towards the good-- hence, Chaotic Good.

Lawful in D&D terms isn't about legality, but codification. Otherwise, it would change once the character has crossed borders.

 

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