As you likely know, I love me some tabletop roleplaying. And like most, I cut my teeth on Dungeons & Dragons. It’s been quite a long time since I’ve played a D&D game, it’s been my own Savage Worlds games and miscellany at gaming conventions.
Cecilia D’Anastasio writing for Kotaku has an article titled: How To Redeem D&D’s Worst Alignment, Which Is Obviously Lawful Good.
For alignment I have a vague love / hate thing going. To the best of my knowledge the concept of alignment only exists in D&D, but I don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of all of the systems that are out there. For those of you that are not sure of what alignment is, it is this - your character’s place on two axis, one their moral compass and the other their legal compass. Robin Hood, for example, is usually offered up as a chaotic good. Wants to see good in the world, but is perfectly fine with breaking the law to make that happen. As a player, I’d tend to agree that lawful good is a tricky one to play without being a boring Boy Scout. As a GM, I’d take a whole table of lawful good players over a single chaotic evil player. Anyone that takes chaotic evil is going to be a headache to everyone else playing.
In the linked article, this is going to be one of the rare exceptions where I’d encourage you to take a look over the comments. In those comments, they debate both sides of the love / hate I have for the concept of alignment.
On the pro side, this is, in black and white on the character sheet in two words, a framework for the personality and drive of your character. It’s less nebulous than Savage Worlds, which has no real spot on a standard character sheet to begin defining these sort of things. Apocalypse World variants like Dungeon World and Masks have a more complex and nuanced approach to defining relationships, which then help define the personality of a character.
On the con side, players regularly fall into the trap of being pigeon holed into one dimensionality of their alignment. “I’m chaotic evil, so I better back stab my own party,” or “I’m true neutral, so I’d better do absolutely nothing to influence this situation,” or “I’m lawful good, so I’d better give all of my loot to the charity box at the temple in the next town,” And that makes for a irritating, predictable, or boring character.
The Kotaku article though does really discuss the good side of alignments, which is from those two simple words should grow a complexity of character. Inside that basis exists only a beginning for choices and actions, not the entirety of logic, passions, or motives.