Monday, June 1, 2015

Tales from PnP: RP'ing Alignment

Pop Quiz:  Your LG (Lawful Good) Paladin has been fighting a CE (Chaotic Evil) being, when all of a sudden, the CE mob surrenders and promises to leave and never darken that part of the world again, if you'll just let him go.  What will you do?

I know there are some out there who would say*, "Well, I'm a Paladin, so I can't just kill him ('cuz he surrendered)...I guess I let him go."   But (most of) my old PnP running buddies had a saying:  "It's 'Lawful Good', not 'Lawful Stupid'."

One of my buddies came up with a nice little solution - hold a field trial.  So this one time, at band camp...I mean, when he was the DM, I did just that (he had always wanted to, but never really had the opportunity).  We were fighting a group of peasants who were being led/directed by their evil lord to fight.  The evil lord fled so naturally the peasants surrendered.  I was running my LG Paladin, so I held a field trial where I presided and the other players were the jury.  And of course the peasants claimed the always popular "I was just following orders" defense.  But it did not sway the jury:  The verdict came in (guilty) and the sentence came down (execution) and was carried out (though I did not perform any of the executions, myself).

But that kind of begs the question:  which alignment is easiest to role-play (RP)?

For me, that's an easy question:  (True) Neutral.

They way I see it - and they way I play it - is that if you're neutral, you can do whatever you want.  Law, chaos, evil, good - doesn't matter.  You're basically looking out for yourself.  Feel like being generous and want to give so money to a beggar?  Go ahead.  See a nice, fresh pie cooling unattended on a window sill?  Take it, if you want it.  No matter what you do, it's OK - alignment-wise, at least.  {Granted, even my "(True) Neutral" characters tend to do a lot more good than evil, but let's face it - breaking into houses, smashing things, searching through cabinets, taking what you find (without permission), etc. are not generally considered "good" acts, and yet, so many RP games (*cough* NWN *cough*) allow even LG players to do so with impunity.  But then, in NWN†, my (True) Neutral characters may start off as that way, but usually end up being NG by the end.  Go figure...}

But I do know some people who think that if you're playing a (True) Neutral character, then "you have to seek balance", offsetting any evil acts with good ones (and vice versa) and lawful acts with chaotic ones (and vice versa).  And that is one way to play a (True) Neutral character, if you want, but it seems like a lot of work.

In fact, if I remember correctly, that is how the AD&D 1st edition described (True) Neutral characters.  And while that description may still remain in the books, I do believe "my" interpretation is also provided now, as well.

As far as the question of which alignment is hardest to RP, most everyone I've asked say the same thing:  LG.

But just remember:  It's "Lawful Good", not "Lawful Stupid".

* How do I know this?  Because we had a couple in our little PnP group, that's why.  One liked to pull that kind of...bovine excrement whenever he was DM'ing.  Of course, he also liked to try and get the non-good player-characters to try and betray the party, which he was successful at on at least one occasion.  {Child of unwed parents...}

† In NWN (and NWN2), your actions actually influence your alignment‡.  You can start-off being CE, but do enough good deeds, and it can change all the way to LG.  Now, I never really saw much "law, chaos" shifting, but "good, evil" was plentiful.

‡ Fortunately, we never really bothered with alignment shifting in PnP.  It did happen on the rare occasion, but generally, whatever alignment you claimed to be was what you were, whether your actions actually dictated otherwise (the exception would be by some magic/cursed item or relic).  Although, we did allow one to shift alignments, if they wanted to, but no more than one-shift at a time (with a minimum time frame between shifts).  In other words, you could not, in one step, go from CE to LG; you'd have to go through CN, CG, NG, and then LG (or other similar pattern).


  1. I treated Neutral Good the way you treat True Neutral.

  2. I wanna be chaotic neutral!

  3. I think you already are...

  4. Muahahahahaha!!!!!!!