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Alignments of the Realms.

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1 Alignments of the Realms. on Wed Oct 06, 2010 3:38 pm

The alignment system in Dungeons & Dragons is a two-dimensional grid, one axis of which measures a "moral" continuum between good and evil, and the other "ethical" between law and chaos. Those characters that fall on one of the extremes are "good" or "evil", "lawful" or "chaotic"; in addition, there is a middle ground of "neutrality" on both axes, describing characters that are indifferent, committed to balance, or conflicted about the struggle between good and evil (or law and chaos). By combining the two axes, any given character has one of nine possible alignments.

Certain classes are restricted in the sorts of alignment they can take. A paladin traditionally must be of lawful good alignment; rogues and barbarians are seldom lawful in alignment. Clerics and other priests must typically uphold the alignments favoured by their deities. Druids must be wholly or partially neutral in their allegiances. Assassins are usually evil. These restrictions have been somewhat relaxed in the 3rd edition of the Dungeons & Dragons game, although a character's alignment may shift if he acts in marked variance from his declared alignment

Lawful Good

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.

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.

It should be noted that a lawful good character does not actually have to obey laws, as intimated above. Lawful alignment means that the character prefers a structured life to any other; this typically means that a set of codified laws are followed.

An incorruptible enforcer, a ruler or politician who acts for the good of his people, and a heroic soldier who strictly obeys the laws of battle are all examples of lawful good characters.

Neutral Good

Neutral good characters desire good without bias for or against order.

A neutral good character does good for goodness' sake, not because he is directed to by law or by whim. Such a character will obey the law, or break it when he sees that it will serve a greater good. He isn't bound strongly to a social system or order. His need to help others and reduce suffering may take precedence over all else.

A doctor who treats both sides in a fight and somebody who feeds the starving in a war zone are both examples of neutral good characters.

Chaotic Good

Chaotic good combines a good heart with a free spirit.

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.

Noble rebel leaders fighting corrupt or venal regimes, vigilantes acting for what they see as the greater good, mercenaries who only work for the "good guys" and anyone who "robs from the rich to give to the poor" are all examples of chaotic good characters.

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2 Re: Alignments of the Realms. on Wed Oct 06, 2010 3:45 pm

Lawful Neutral

A lawful neutral character is directed by law, logic, tradition, or a personal code. Order and organization are paramount to him. He may believe in personal order and live by a code or standard, or he may believe in order for all and favor a strong, organized government.

Lawful neutral combines reliability and honor without moral bias. Note that this does not mean that a lawful neutral character is amoral or immoral, or does not have a moral compass, but that moral considerations--the good or evil of the action--come a distant second to what the character's code, tradition, law, or logic dictate.

A functionary, soldier, or employee who follows orders without question regardless of the result, an arms dealer who sells his wares to the highest bidder, whatever that bidder may do with them, and an impartial jurist who sticks rigidly to the rule book are all examples of lawful neutral characters.

(True) Neutral

The neutral alignment (sometimes known as true neutral) is without prejudice or compulsion. In 4th edition mechanics for Dungeons & Dragons neutral is found under the umbrella of the "unaligned" alignment.

A neutral character does what seems to be a good idea. He doesn't feel strongly one way or the other when it comes to good vs. evil or order vs. chaos. He thinks of good as better than evil--after all, he would rather have good neighbors and rulers than evil ones. Still, he isn't personally committed to upholding good in any abstract or universal way.

This is the most common alignment of sentient creatures in the Forgotten Realms 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.

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. His position is carefully neutral, but he does not continually balance his morals in a yin yang or fanatical fashion.

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 they are often opportunistic in their actions. The epitome of this “militant true neutrality” are the Outlands’ rilmani.

True neutral is committed to the avoidance of extremes, and is non-judgmental.

Nearly all druids are 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 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

Chaotic Neutral

Chaotic neutral is freedom from both society's restrictions and a do-gooder's zeal. In 4th edition mechanics for Dungeons & Dragons chaotic neutral is found under the umbrella of the "unaligned" alignment.

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) or by evil (and a desire to make others suffer). 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.

A wandering rogue who lives both by work for hire and petty theft is an example of a chaotic neutral character.

A chaotic neutral character dislikes laws and regards them as restrictions to his or her freedom. Lawful neutral characters are obsessed with guidelines and restrictions, and follow these codes to the letter. These two alignments are opposites.

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3 Re: Alignments of the Realms. on Wed Oct 06, 2010 3:51 pm

Lawful Evil

Lawful evil is the methodical, intentional, and frequently successful devotion to a cruel organized system.

A lawful evil character methodically takes what he wants within the limits of his personal 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 he 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 personification of lawful evil.

A tyrannical ruler who drafts the rules to suit himself, a corrupt lawyer or judge who uses the law to mask his own misdeeds, and the ruthless bosses and minions of organized crime are all examples of lawful evil characters.

Neutral Evil

Neutral evil is pure pragmatism without honor and without variation—survival of the ruthless.

A neutral evil character does whatever he can get away with. He is out for himself, pure and simple. He shows no remorse for those he kills, whether for profit, sport or convenience, and he has no love of order and holds no illusion that following laws, traditions, or codes would make him any better or more noble. On the other hand, he does not have the restless nature or love of conflict that a chaotic evil villain has.

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.

Career criminals, particularly those who harm others for money, such as hitmen, are the most obvious example of neutral evil.

Chaotic Evil

Chaotic evil is power without control, selfishness unfettered by any law.

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. 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 embodiment of chaotic evil.

Many serial killers would fit this description, as would indeed most of the more violent and reckless criminals found in the worst sorts of places

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4 Alignment RP Evil PC's bt Amun Quoi on Mon Oct 25, 2010 10:32 am


Back in 2002, when I was playing on an NwN1 server, there was a lot of debate going on about evil characters in the world. Mostly, these arguments centred on two things: alignment and in-character justifications for evil acts. What they failed to see was that playing an evil character is not just writing a story, it's about interacting with people.

So, I wrote some guidelines for all the new players picking up NwN and playing online, based on my own gaming experiences in the aforementioned world.

Seeing the topic on evil deeds here on Moonlight and Shadows, I went back and retrieved my article to repost here. Now, I don't claim to be the final word or an expert of any kind - heck, I've never even played a pen-and-paper game in my life! Smile But this article has had some previous success, and so I am led to believe that something about it went right.

Evil characters
In this article, I will talk about evil characters. I recommend everyone reading this, even if you are not planning on playing one. This article should help you understand evil characters, and feel comfortable playing with them, even if your character isn't evil.

First of all, a word about the tone of this article. I will talk a lot about what you shouldn't do. It might look like I am deliberately trying to put off people wanting to play evil characters. That's because I am. :mrgreen: Evil characters are not for everyone. But that doesn't mean that you're not welcome to try, it simply means that you need to be extra careful.

Take note on what words are used. I use the word player to refer to the real life person playing the game, and the word character to refer to one in-game character.

What is an evil character?
There are as many types of evil as there are evil persons. Not one of them is the same as another, there is no common mold. If I say evil and you think of a villain, you're not the right person to play an evil character. Smile

Villains are the Bad Guys that make the life of heroes a living hell. They are a literary abstraction, a contrast to the goodness of the heroes. They cannot stand up to the scrutiny of continuous playing. In the traditional heroic epic, villains only make brief appearances. Yes, some of them have very memorable personalities, but that is because the structure of the epic allows for them to surface.

Think about Darth Vader. In the original Star Wars movies, he was a villain. Creating a character based purely on what was known about him at that time wouldn't have worked. Darth Vader isn't so much a character but a personification of the Empire and its iron grip on the galaxy. Take away the Empire, take away Luke, and Vader is nothing.

In the prequels (and please, no sidetracking here, just view them as examples Wink), Vader's character was expanded upon. Anakin was given a storyline to be a hero in. Now, Anakin is a character that you could play. That's because he's no longer a villain.

Villains are not meant to be played as player characters in an online multiplayer roleplaying game. So you can forget about playing one.

Whatever you do, do not base your evil character on DnD alignment alone. The alignment system has its uses, mostly in describing an existing character's overall attitude towards society, and for traditional hero-villain contraposition. But starting a character and thinking "okay, he's lawful evil, what does he do?" is a recipe for disaster.

In fact, you can forget your character being "evil". :mrgreen:

Creating a personality
If you start with the sole purpose of having an evil character, you're doomed to fail. Why? Because then you're not creating a personality for the character. Evil is not a model, not a state of mind, not an upbringing. It does not define how the character reacts to the world. Like I said earlier, there are as many types of evil as there are evil persons.

Don't play a villain. As was stated earlier, villains fall apart when they have no heroes to torment. And besides, can you imagine Ragnarök the Slayer of Nations slicing up goblins at level 1? Wink

Don't play a monster. Players will encounter many monsters along their travels, most of which are slain on sight. Some may even exchange a few words before the inevitable. Again, not much value other than that brief encounter.

If you can't play villains or monsters, what does it leave you? An intelligent person who does not think of himself as evil. This is important, so I'll repeat it. Your character does not think of himself as evil. That's right, no fanatical servants of dark gods bent on destruction, no maniac slayers and no backstabbers. This leaves you with a character whose morals are twisted, but on the surface he appears just like anyone. He might do the very same things that everyone else does, but deep down his motives are dark and evil. He might protect his loved ones only to maintain an iron grip on them himself. Killing goblins might bring him a perverse satisfaction, yet he can control his bloodlust. He might have a higher goal in life, but the means to reach that goal are questionable at the least, and horrendous at the worst.

You will have to seek models for your character - complex, multi-faceted characters with personality traits that border on selfish, immoral and even grotesque. You will have to understand these characters, find out what makes them tick, identify yourself with them. You must be able to understand why they act the way they do. You will not find these characters in traditional heroic epics. You won't find them in R.E. Salvatore books, you won't find them in Bond movies. And no, any of Jack Nicholson's characters won't work, either.

You'll need to look deeper than that, away from pop culture products and into stories where no character is any more good or evil than any other. Planescape: Torment is perhaps the only computer RPG with NPCs that had at least some depth. In books, look to Michael Moorcock's works (Elric for example), Ravenloft novels (especially P.N. Elrod), Planescape novels, Ray Bradbury, Neil Gaiman's Sandman comics... in movies, look to stories that centre on an evil character who is understandable, or ones where every character has their own dark secrets. In real life, look to criminals, outcasts and people you would not like in any circumstances.

This is the reason why you should not play villains. Villains do not act understandably, they are plot devices.

If all this does not make you feel uncomfortable at all, you can forget about playing an evil character.
If you feel a queasiness of sorts, you're on the right track. Twisted Evil

Now you must push further, get under the skin of the character. If you cannot bring yourself to understand your character, enter his mind, you will fail. If you can, I applaud you, because I've yet to play an evil character successfully myself.

Taking other players into account
Now that I've described the lower limit of an evil character, I must tell you that there is an upper limit as well.

Remember that a Neverwinter Nights world is not pen and paper. While in a PnP game you could play a character with evil and/or selfish agendas more easily, NwN is a multiplayer game where the players do not know each other. A selfish character would not split loot, would sell items at high prices, would not help party members and so on. Even if you do keep in character about this, most players (not characters) will be angered at this.

Keep in mind that even if you consider yourself to be a good role player, there are many who are not. Not everyone will be able to respond to your evil character in a proper manner. The more complex your character is, the more likely it is that other players fail to understand you're acting in character, and will only see you, the player, as being selfish and nasty. This is why playing an evil character is such a burden. You need to be able to be in control of the situation, to choose your actions so that they do not lead to angry players. You are essentially stepping in the shoes of a DM for a while - it's your responsibility to ensure that those around you have fun as well.

And often it's not even about whether someone's a good role player or not. There are so many ways to get misunderstood in any online communication. Maybe the other player's just having a bad day - it only takes one seemingly innocent evil sentence to get a griefing complaint on your neck.

I consider D&D in general and NwN in particular to be light role playing. If you create a character that is too complex and multi-layered, you won't be able to communicate his personality effectively enough for people to understand it. This is the paradox of evil characters - you cannot play a predictable murderer, but you cannot play a complex person with a personality that takes too long to surface. You must not be explicitly evil, but you must not be so subtle that no-one sees the signs. There is a small niche in between these two limits, and managing to squeeze yourself there is no easy task.

If you do manage, you will contribute to the world immensely, and make the game have much more depth for everyone involved. Whether these rewards are worth the effort to you, well, that's your decision.

Practical hints
I've talked a lot about theory in the above. If you're still reading, you're probably adamant enough to go through with the process. So how does one create an evil character? Again, there are as many types of evil as there are evil persons, so there is no guaranteed mold or process for creating one. This chapter consists mostly of separate tidbits of information that may nevertheless come in handy.

First, the character does not think of himself as evil. Some are opportunists, some care for personal benefit, some have a twisted view on the laws of the land - and of course there are those who serve a really totally naughty god. Wink You also have to keep in mind that no NwN persistent world is a realistic one. There are several gameplay-related compromises that make it good for playing in, but not quite as flexible as a real world.

Now, recall what was said about intelligent evil. Stupid evil generally ends up killing people for personal benefit or pleasure. And that just brings up the entire player-vs-player issue again. So, intelligent evil is the way to go.

Intelligent evil is sly - it manipulates people to reach his own goals, and takes advantage of opportunities. Intelligent evil comes in many guises. One is the charming rogue who talks a lot:

"Hullo there. Oh my, that suit is just smashing! Did it cost a lot of money? Yes? Wow, you must be a wealthy man. Oh really? Well, it wouldn't be right for someone like you to go around carrying that much gold while someone like me starves on the streets, now would it? It would you say? Would you feel more comfortable if it saved you from getting a few choice cuts from this little sword here?"

In the example above, you're clearly manipulating the character, not the player. The player will instantly understand that the act of being evil is directed at their character, and can respond accordingly. You will also immediately see if the other player doesn't understand what's happening, or doesn't want to role play being mugged. If you tried to push the situation, you'd only end up being complained about to a DM.

Another example is Grimgnaw from the Neverwinter Nights 1 original campaign - he was certainly evil, what with the obsession with death, but he didn't go around killing everyone. He is a good example of evil who does not look for personal gain, but is a bit more complex. Evil clerics are a tougher case. They are usually quite fanatical, and have that "convert or die" attitude. As was stated earlier, fanatics don't suit player character all too well - although you're welcome to try.

One way of coming up with mannerisms for an evil character is to use parts of your own personality - do things that you can think of but would never dare. Or do the opposite of what you would do. Or tap into that dark place in yourself that you've never had the courage to look into.

An evil character might act differently when it comes to people close to him. He might be very protective of his loved ones and sacrifice himself to save them, even if he ruthlessly exploits everyone else.

Final words
In conclusion, you should remember these points:

  • Don't get stuck on alignment
  • Don't play evil just because it's evil
  • Make a character with an interesting personality which just happens to be considered evil by some
  • Try to find good models
  • Create a character that you can identify with
  • Always consider other players and their playing fun

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