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Building Blocks 34: Alignment 3

Alignment 3: Good vs Evil

The tension between good and evil is a much more common and pervasive concept in modern culture.  Stories and movies typically have this as more of their driving force than a tension between law and chaos.  In terms of Dungeons and Dragons, good vs evil is usually expressed in terms of the lengths one is willing to go to protect others.  The third edition D&D rules define good and evil as follows:

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 harming, oppressing, and killing others. Some evil creatures simply have no compassion for others and kill without qualms if doing so is convenient or if it can be set up. Others actively pursue evil, killing for sport or out of duty to some malevolent 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 committed to others by personal relationships.

The good/evil axis is therefore defined more in terms of how a character treats others.  This axis is far easier to understand and grasp than the law/chaos axis – there are far less gray lines involved.  A lawful character can break laws and still maintain their lawfulness, however a good character would find far fewer loopholes to use in murdering an innocent individual.  That is not to say however, that dilemmas do not exist. A good character may be faced with the decision of whether or not to attempt to save 1 individual, an action that could jeopardize thousands of others, instead of abandoning that individual to death to save the thousands.  (A lawful good character would typically save thousands for the greater good while a chaotic good character would save the individual).

Another way of thinking of good vs evil is the lengths of which someone would go to protect life.  A good character constantly goes out of their way to save life, often at the risk of their own.  An evil character would very rarely go out of their way to save the life of another especially at the risk of their own.  However an evil character would not likely go to much trouble to avoid killing while a good character might go to great lengths to avoid even killing someone who is evil.  Neutral characters would avoid killing someone, especially an innocent person, but would not typically go out of their way to save the life of a person they didn’t know, especially if it was risky.  A neutral character would typically only go to the lengths of either extreme only if they had something personal (usually a relationship of some kind) at stake.

What modern western culture would consider heroes (especially the super variety) would almost exclusively be good.  They constantly and consistently save lives and most make it a point not to kill their villains.  Spider-Man, Superman, Batman and the like would all be good. Not being a killer is not necessary here though.  Wolverine would be considered by many to be a good character (and argument could be made for neutral).  While he is often viewed as a selfish loner (chaotic) and he typically has few qualms about killing, he consistently takes risky actions to save others.

The typical antihero would usually be considered neutral.  These are people that are perfectly content to live their lives without getting involved in the major conflicts going on around them.  When suddenly they have a reason to be involved (either they are forced into it or they befriend someone who causes them to be involved) it is not to carry the banner for good, but because of circumstance that they end up with that banner.  Kevin Costner has several movie characters that would fall into this category: Waterworld, The Postman, and even his version of Robin Hood become heroes through this manner.

Even a chaotic evil character can become the “hero.”  Vin Diesal’s Riddick is such a character, most of his “heroic” actions being motivated by survival, revenge, and, in rare cases, a friendship or relationship of respect.  Being evil does not require constantly performing sadistic acts and being a mass murderer.  It can simply be the attitude of putting their own goals and motivations above those of others to the extreme of not even caring about their lives of freedom.  Malicious intent is the norm, but it is not necessary to be evil.

You can read more about specific alignments here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alignment_(Dungeons_&_Dragons).  I won’t go into any greater detail however since, as I have already mentioned, alignment has a very limited role in DDO.

*Some material taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alignment_(Dungeons_%26_Dragons)

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