Spinning the Wheel (The Golden Tower Supplement)
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Ok, so you've chosen a race and a class. You've picked out a weapon, armor, and little doo-hickies (mundane and magical) that will help you adventure easier. Hell, you've even rolled random stats for your PC in the Player's Handbook. Now comes the hard part: determining your alignment. Many people choose not to pick an alignment, opting to "spin the wheel", choosing an alignment that suits the player's mood at the moment or is necessary to complete a task/meet a goal.
This section of the Golden Tower will help you to focus your idea on what alignments are and are not. It will also help you to focus on what your alignment truly is. I have also included a sample story that deals with alignment on a strong scale and how the players reacted, due to a misunderstanding of alignment.
Alignments of Note
Some alignments of note have been played to death, and others have yet to be played properly. It goes without saying that anyone can play a chaotic evil character: to quote Humpty of the Digital Underground, "Doowutchyalike". Other alignments (chaotic good, neutral good, neutral) are played well enough, due to the Western society we live in. The following alignments... eh, not so much. (NOTE: The takes on each alignment below are specific to the Golden Tower campaign, but can be used in other campaigns.)
We all know someone who wanted to be a paladin in a campaign. They want the show, the pomp, the circumstance, etc. What they DO NOT WANT is the responsibility of being a lawful good character. Many people behave like straight-up jerks when playing lawful good. That seems to be the common interpretation of what a lawful good character is: a super-powered cop with a mild God complex. Realize that lawful good is whatever the DM/GM wants it to be. Of course, you have to get into his/her head to know what that might be... so why not do it? Ask questions, pick their brain, etc. Ultimately, find out what their morals are. If the DM/GM seems clueless and cannot give a good explanation of their idea of lawful good or simply refuses to let you know, then DO NOT play a lawful good character in that campaign. It's the safest way to go. Sorry.
I once met a person who said that playing lawful neutral was the hardest alignment of all to play. When I asked him why, he went on to say that a lawful neutral character would weigh all the angles and see what would be the best way to proceed. It sounded like over-thinking to me, and I told him so. Easiest way to proceed is to play as the book directs. Just be a decent person. End of discussion.
Some people play this alignment as either chaotic evil or neutral evil: slaughtering like a madman, betraying anyone who gets too close or screwing everyone over in general. Lawful evil, if you read the entry, is not like that. Yes, there's evil, but it's a focused and controlled evil. They are loath to break promises--something a blackguard that joins with a party of adventurers would never do to his teammates. God help those who get in the way; if they happen to be party members, a lawful evil character might hesitate. Note the emphasis on "might".
One way to play lawful evil is to be focused...all the time. Players, PCs and NPCs will get the hint if you exude the "not to be messed with" vibe. A good example of lawful evil is Drago from Rocky IV.
OK, this is an evil most people are familiar with. Neutral evil, I think, is one of the most unpredictable alignments to play. A person playing this alignment can play as if nothing is out of the ordinary with them, until things do not go their way. Once that happens, their true colors come through. A neutral evil PC or NPC could just as easily stab the enemy in the back as one of their companions or an innocent bystander, all for shits and giggles. In short, this alignment is what people choose when playing a rogue. This alignment is easily confused with lawful evil or chaotic evil.
Ah, the bane of my existence. Chaotic neutral is a very easy alignment to play, but usually executed poorly because so many people abuse the definition of what chaotic neutral means. The alignment represents a free spirited way of being. What that does not mean is rampant murder and looting. Understandably, some free spirited people do that. Most societies refer to that type of person as a "sociopath", and sociopaths are usually classified as evil. Hence, a chaotic neutral person cannot complain about why he is being harassed by a lawful good paladin for evil acts: any act that is malicious in intent (stealing from the collection plate to buy potions, killing a NPC because they may or may not have treated you as you wish to be treated, attempted rape, etc.) is an evil act...even if you are chaotic neutral. That's why there are no chaotic neutral paladins in the core rulebook(s).
I have heard many complaints over a table about why an evil act committed was not an evil act. They always start or end with "But I'm chaotic neutral, not evil. I can do what I want." Not so; I have learned that players "spin the wheel" on this alignment the most depending on how they feel that day. To combat this, I recommend the following:
- Unless you are sure of what your character is and can do, don't play chaotic neutral.
- If you don't want any strings attached to an alignment and you plan on not being a sociopath, go neutral. It's always a safe bet.
- If you want to do whatever you want to whomever you want no matter what the law says, It's best to play neutral evil or chaotic evil.
Murdering Babies in a Holy Temple
One anecdote stands out in my mind when I think of alignments: the murder of a newborn half-rakshasa in a temple of Pelor. Some of you are saying, "Hey! if the baby is half-rakshasa, it can't even live in a temple, much less be born in one" or "Rakshasas are fully grown devils; they can't be born..." To such critics I ask them to suspend their disbelief, for this is a fantasy game.
Two PC by name, Lily Descartes (CN female half-orc fighter 10) and Wayang Kulit (CN male human marshal 1/rogue 9), chose to pursue the harrier in the Golden Tower campaign, Ashram Singh. These two took offense when Singh invaded their dreams with a nightmare spell. In said dream world, he told them of the child to be born--his son--to a pregnant catfolk female formerly in their care but left behind at a temple of Pelor. He spoke with all confidence that he would be able to access the child without any interference from either PC. Out of spite and with strong indignation, the two PCs decided to kill the child before Singh could retrieve it.
The day in question, both Lily and Wayang show up at the Pelorite temple to find their former charge giving birth to Singh's son. Before the midwife could announce the gender, the half-orc Lily decapitated the baby. As an extra measure, Wayang killed the birth mother. With both innocent mother and child killed in a temple of Pelor at the hands of chaotic neutral characters, I made a DM/GM call and changed their alignments to chaotic evil. Naturally they balked, asking why didn't Pelor strike them down or something like that instead of changing their alignments. I quoted page 19 of the Dungeon Master's Guide--what can be classified as a unbreakable rule in Dungeons & Dragons--and they still had beef (see the arguments presented in the "Chaotic Neutral" entry). Despite my earlier statement, I made an exception to allow these two chaotic evil PCs continue their pursuit of Singh. Ultimately, the duo faced off against scro mercenaries from another dimension, Wayang Kulit escaped death and the melee-based Lily died fighting a flying arcane caster. Verily, the gods work in mysterious ways...
To this day, I make sure that people who play my game understand what chaotic neutral means IN THIS GAME and what will happen if their actions are contrary to the prescribed notion. So far, no one's crossed that line...yet.
I want everyone who reads this article to understand that I am not out to penalize you, I simply want the least amount of static in my game. Character alignment is one of the sources of said static, as well as player interaction (not character interaction) with said alignments due to misinterpretation. To prevent such static and disruption of the game session, I offer these takes on the nine alignments. You do not have to believe these takes or agree with these takes; I simply ask that you not bring any ass-hattery to the table. Remember: the less the mess, the greater the game.