Dungeons & Dragons: What Are Alignments?

Dungeons & Dragons: What Are Alignments?

Greetings gamers! Karthas here and I’m back with yet another D&D guide for all you new players out there! In my last 2 posts I’ve talked about the different classes & races you can choose from. Today I’m going to talk about a very confusing aspect of your character: alignment. First of all let me say, as a new player you don’t have to really worry about alignment. It really only comes into play if you are trying to role-play your character, but a good backstory or using the Traits, Bonds, Flaws, & Ideals system may be more helpful. But I figured I should lay out the different alignments so new players can understand what they are.

I did my best to come up with examples that I believed embodied these alignments the best, but I also wanted to pull from multiple different series. So you won’t find any two characters from the same movie/book. I’ve also included a quote from each character that I believe is a good representation of their alignment. Well, lets get started!

What is Alignment?

Based on the Dungeons & Dragons Wiki, alignment is:

“a categorization of the ethical and moral perspective of player characters, non-player characters, and creatures”

So what exactly does this mean? Well alignment is a way to determine the morality of a character in your role playing game. The fun thing about alignments is they can even be applied to people in the real world! Now to be fair, most real people won’t fit into one specific category, but I think you will find that you probably lean toward one over others. So here is a great example: You are walking through a store and you see a $20 bill laying on the ground. What do you do? Your response is indicative of your alignment. If you take the $20 for yourself you may be true neutral. If you take the $20 to the cashier at the front, you may be lawful good. So what exactly are the alignments?

What are the Alignments?

There are 9 alignments and they are split up by categories. They are:

To gain a better understanding of how this works just google “alignment chart” followed by your favorite TV show or movie. Chances are you will find an alignment chart that lists a character for each of these alignments. Please know these charts are not perfect, characters can change over time, and no one show will have a good example of every alignment. Here is one for Game of Thrones:

 

Or the Office:

Thanks Reddit for the charts!

Alright so now that you kind of have an understanding of what an alignment is let’s start talking about them. I am going to split them up based on either Lawful, Neutral, or Chaotic because the Good, Neutral, and Evil alignments are easy to understand.

The Lawfuls

The lawful alignments typically have a strict code of conduct they follow. They often feel a sense of duty or responsibility for what they are doing. Often times these feelings can come from a desire for order, structure, or tradition.

Lawful Good

Lawful Good is your Knight in shining armor. They tell the truth, they keep their word, and they speak against injustice. They have a strong moral character and believe that a strong well organized society can bring about the betterment of all. Seeing the guilty go unpunished or if they feel justice was not properly dealt, causes a Lawful Good great anguish. They oppose evil in all its forms and fight it with a strict discipline. A Lawful Good character may come off as zealous or blinded by “faith”.

A great example of a Lawful Good character would be Samwise Gamgee. He stays by Frodo’s side through hell. He stays hopeful knowing that even though they fight a great evil, there is still good in this world. And even when Frodo sends him away, he comes back and fights off Shelob, saving Frodo, and then proceeds to carry him up a mountain. Can’t get much more honorable than that.

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Lawful Neutral

A Lawful Neutral character acts in accordance with the law they live under, traditions they follow, or personal code that they believe in. To the Lawful Neutral order is extremely important and thus they typically fight to bring it about. But while they may believe in order, they do not fall under the Good or Evil alignment because they live between these 2 worlds. They are not trying to bring about order for the betterment of others like the Lawful Good, and they aren’t trying to bring about order like the Lawful Evil to gain power. A Lawful Neutral wants order, simply because they believe that it is paramount to existence.

An example of a Lawful Neutral is Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek. He believes in the rule of law, but will let others come to harm or save them, it completely depends on the rule of law at the time. He has a sense of honor and duty to his crew and to the United Federation of Planets.

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Lawful Evil

A Lawful Evil character lives within the rule of law. They value tradition, order, and loyalty but do it in the pursuit of selfish gains. Often times they will have rules that they live by, such as “not harming women and children” or “never killing an unarmed enemy”. They believe that these rules put them above the loathsome villains who kill indiscriminately. To them freedom, beauty, life, and liberty are empty concepts not deserving of their time. And while they won’t break a promise or law, they are more than happy to have an underling do their dirty work, keeping their hands clean.

A great example of a Lawful Evil character is Darth Vader. He served his master, sought to bring about order to the galaxy, and ultimately lived by a code. But he did all of these things in the selfish pursuit of power. And he was willing to betray his master if it meant he could become the ultimate power in the universe.

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The Neutrals

The Neutrals live between the Lawfuls and the Chaotics. They can sway from one side to the other giving characters freedom, not being held to one specific ideal. Ultimately they try to make what they feel is the best decision at the time, and believe the most important thing in life is freedom.

Neutral Good

A Neutral Good character tries to do the greatest good in each situation. They are the typical hero, helping others, whether that is a poor person on the street, or a King. They feel no allegiance to one over the other, believing that a combination of order and freedom are needed to bring about the betterment of all. They value these things above all else, believing them to be more important than any law or tradition while despising those who take them from others. It’s been said that the Neutral Good seeks the greatest good in each situation, looking to find an option that benefits the most.

A great example of a Neutral Good is Spiderman. He is the stereotypical “hero” determining the best solution in each situation. Working outside the law he seeks to bring about justice for those who need it. He fights the bad guys, but is willing to give them a chance to change should he believe they have the capacity. And finally, he does not follow a set of rules, but merely does good.

 

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True Neutral

A True Neutral character does whatever seems like the most beneficial thing at the time. They don’t uphold the ideals of good and don’t fight for evil. They’re willing to work with whatever side will benefit them the most, similar to a mercenary or soldier of fortune. Though some characters seek to be True Neutral because they want to maintain balance, ensuring neither side gains the advantage over the other. They may come off as apathetic, lacking on conviction, and indifferent.

It was tough finding a good example of a True Neutral character, but the Daedra from The Elder Scrolls Series are pretty close. While the Daedric Princes can come off as evil or good, they ultimately are self serving, doing what is in their best interests. They deal with mortals to simply gain something, and they may be true to their word, depends on what is most advantageous to them.

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Neutral Evil

A Neutral Evil character is possibly the most selfish character you can be. They are willing to do the most vile and corrupt things if it means that they will gain more power, wealth, status, etc. To them, the people who stand in the way of their goals are disposable, and do not believe that following laws, codes, or traditions make them any different from anybody else. But they are willing to use laws or pure chaos to achieve their goals. They have no issue with betraying their allies, taking bribes, or even killing innocents. As long as it can benefit them somehow.

A great example of a Neutral Evil character is Lord Voldemort. He seeks only power, but is willing to use laws, or even chaos to achieve his goals. He was willing to kill a child and his defenseless parents because they stood in his way. And he used those beneath him, simply using their loyalty as a means to an end.

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The Chaotics

Chaotic characters believe in ultimate freedom. They do whatever their conscious leads them to at the time not concerned with the repercussions of their actions. They follow the beat of their own drum, and don’t care how others feel about it.

Chaotic Good

A Chaotic Good character does what they think is best, with little regard to what others may expect of them. They believe that they should make their own way in this world, but they do not use people, or see them as disposal. On the contrary, a Chaotic Good is kind and believes in goodness, showing it to those they come across. But they believe that laws and structure simply prevent people from expressing who they truly are.  To them, individuality and freedom are the most important things for people, and wish to remove any obstacle that may prevent people from doing so. They also believe randomness of action is a form of ultimate truth.

A great example of a Chaotic Good is Robin Hood. He stole from the rich and gave it to the poor believing that the organized government was flawed and sought a way to undermine it. But he showed kindness to the less fortunate, wishing to help them achieve their ultimate purpose in life. He had no loyalty to, what he perceived, as a corrupt government and sought to make a difference. Believing that the freedom of each man was more important than any sense of loyalty.

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Chaotic Neutral

A Chaotic Neutral character follows their own desires and pursuits, not attempting to protect the freedoms of others while doing so. They value freedom, liberty, and avoid authority, but are primarily concerned with these concepts for themselves, making them very unpredictable. They don’t believe evil or good should win, believing that their balance is the ultimate truth. Thus the Chaotic Neutral does not try to be good or evil, they simply make decisions that they are feeling more strongly about in that moment. Some may say that the only thing you can rely on a Chaotic Neutral to be is unreliable.

A great example of a Chaotic Neutral is Captain Jack Sparrow. He is neither good or evil, simply doing what he thinks is best in the moment, regardless of the impact it will have on others. At times he may do things that seem like he is good, while other times he may do something that may almost seem evil. He is ultimately seeking what is the most advantageous thing at the time, but is willing to break laws, betray allies, or help defeat the bad guy at the time.

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Chaotic Evil

Chaotic Evil characters are driven by their greed, hatred, and thirst for power, and they are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their goal. They are violent, brutal, and unpredictable, living by no code, and following no rules. To the Chaotic Evil, chaos and evil are the only two truths in the universe. Organization and structure are tools used by the weak to try and wrestle some control over the chaos that permeates all things, but they are doomed to fail. Some even see it as their job to show the futility of these things.

The Chaotic Evil is a megalomaniac, trusting no one, seeing everyone as disposable, and looking out only for themselves. Some chaotic evils see it as their job to sow evil and chaos wherever they may go, simply because, to them, that is the true nature of the universe, and to fight it is futile.

A great example of a Chaotic Evil is the Joker from The Dark Knight. He sought to bring Gotham to its knees by showing them that they had no control of the chaos that existed within everyone. He killed indiscriminately, brutally killed and murdered Batman impostors, and had no regard for those who stood in his way. His underlings were disposable, and he could care less for all the money in the world. To him chaos and violence were the only truths.

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Final Thoughts

Well I hope that these were helpful. Like I said I did my best to come up with examples who I felt truly embodied these alignments. These are by no means the only ones, but I think they are some of the best. If you believe you have a better example let me know below in the comments! If you are interested in digging deeper into each of the alignments check out this site. Thanks again for stopping by. Be sure to subscribe to our site to stay up to date on the latest guides and news. And get access to our Dropbox folder where we are always adding pre-made D&D characters!

What alignment do you think you are? Tell us in the comments below!

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5 thoughts on “Dungeons & Dragons: What Are Alignments?

  1. Demotivational posters for the Alignments is not only juvenile, but misleading to new players. “Oh, my alignment is this, so I have to behave that way. I’d love to behave THAT way, but, that’s not my alignment.” Total nonsense. What your character wants to do IS your alignment, that IS your set of morals ethics and beliefs that propel your character throughout the world. Alignment is a shortcut for those that have weak backstories or weak characters; “I act this way because I do.” Real alignment, real characters have no need for it. Alignment can change on a whim through experiences, long reflection, introspection, conversations, arguments, debates, battles, etc. While D&D is a game, you don’t have to follow the alignment path pre-carved for you.

    1. Hey, thanks for reading! So as I mention at the top of the post, alignments really are not that important when it comes to playing. Personally I enjoy the new Traits, Flaws, Bonds, Ideals system that was introduced in 5e because it helps the player come up with a good back story, like you mention. I wanted to touch on alignments because they are still there, whether for good or bad. My hope is that new players looking for some information on alignments can find this helpful but also know that it is not required.

  2. This article while well written, ends up exposes the issues regarding alignment. I think alignment in terms of Lawful vs Chaotic and Good vs Evil is expressed in terms of external qualifiers and this works if and only if everyone can agree on exactly what these external qualifiers detail and how morality works which always breaks down. Sure murder is “evil” … but is murdering goblins “evil”?

    Even in your own article the discrepancies exist. Under Lawful you describe it as “The lawful alignments typically have a strict code of conduct they follow. They often feel a sense of duty or responsibility for what they are doing. Often times these feelings can come from a desire for order, structure, or tradition.” however, you then proceed to categorized Robin Hood as Chaotic. However to me the “steal from the rich and give to the poor” creed is a perfect example of strict code of conduct that Robin Hood follows, it just happens that Robin Hood’s laws aren’t the same laws that the government is set, therefore bringing in confusion as to what exactly “lawful” is.

    I think alignment should be thought of in terms of internal values rather than external qualifiers. If instead of Lawful vs Chaotic we think in terms of Order vs Impulse. You decide whether your character acts in a way that is preordained, well thought out and ordered or is conducive to impulsive behaviour and reacting on a whim.

    Additionally instead of Good vs Evil which requires an external morality that must be agreed upon you can internalize it by considering it Selfless vs Selfish. Selfless characters put others before themselves and will strive to make the lives of others better, while selfish characters care only for themselves and will do what is best for their own interests.

    This turns alignment away from being a box that your character has to fit into resulting in the poor “I’m Lawful Good obviously I’d kill your Evil Rogue character” type conversations that plague D&D, into more of a roadmap that indicates how your character would react to the world around them and how your character can make their own decisions which is how we all live in the real world anyways.

    Unfortunately the alignment system most likely will not change and this confusion will continue to persist as people rage online battles as to what is “good” and what is “evil”.

    1. Hello, thanks for reading! I completely agree with you that alignments are not perfect. Characters can change and people don’t fit perfectly into a single category. Regarding the lawful stuff, I agree as well. Some have argued that lawful good only follows good laws. While I disagree with this, I understand why they say that. It eliminates the confusion (like you mentioned regarding Robin Hood). Ultimately alignment is not the best way to roleplay, I think the traits, flaws, bonds &ideals system in 5e is better. And the system you described sounds better. I just wanted to touch on alignment for any new players who may be seeking info on the topic

  3. I would agree that the alignments may not match up with how other people (noted above) my perceive them, being experienced players, however for a new player they quite clearly divide up with how people of a certain alignment might react to a given scenario.

    Chaotic doesn’t quite imply impulse, as a chaotic character ‘could’ react to the same scenario in the same way twice – just because they are chaotic doesn’t mean they have to be impulsive – like the robin hood example (why a Russell Crowe picture of all pictures?), they will always do the same thing, but they wont bow down to the current majority rule of government / law, instead taking the path of personal choice – in the classic stories, he obviously went back to the lawful side when King Richard returned from the Crusades.
    Classic example would also be Zeus from mythology ;D

    You could, for instance, have a lawful good person whos ruler / rules they follow would be considered evil, but they may not “realise” this detail yet (traditional trope) – they then continue to still be lawful good when they realise this, but change to a different side.

    Once you are experienced in character building, you don’t need the alignment stuff, except as a scale for the DM to understand your character, but it really helps new players transition from traditional movie / game / fantasy story lines they may have encountered and make it easier for them to think how they should be playing.

    All in all, really good article, keep up the “good” work 😀

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