Wednesday, April 21, 2021

AD&D Alignment Notes

Alignment in D&D is one of those perennial (and perennially frustrating) topics of discussion, because everyone has their own ideas about what the words mean, and the definitions provided in the books are overly vague and generalized to the point of being essentially meaningless, so there's a lot to argue about and for people to accuse each other of being both Wrong and possibly A Bad Person. 

What it ultimately comes down to is that each individual DM should decide how they want to define and handle alignment in their campaign world and let the players in that campaign know what they've decided early on rather than assuming everyone is in agreement and then getting into arguments later on when the players do something based on a different interpretation than the DM. While that's surely wishful thinking (because players who disagree with how the DM defines things aren't going to disagree any less if they see it in writing in advance) I've nonetheless collected some notes both on how I view the alignments in my games along with some representative examples of characters from fiction and media who I feel fit into each of the alignment buckets, and figured since I've gone to the trouble to write this stuff down I might as well share it. The examples serve a second purpose as well, by drawing characters from a variety of sources that I'm interested in and feel are relevant to the style and flavor of the games I like to run (as opposed to other lists you can find online, which tend to be limited solely to examples from comics, Star Wars, and Harry Potter). 


Lawful Respects (and expects) authority and loyalty derived from formal structures (title, office) and hierarchical organizations

Chaotic Respects (and expects) authority and loyalty based on individual personal qualities (strength, charisma, renown, family ties) and fluid or informal power-structures

Good Seeks to help others, especially the weak

Evil         Seeks to exploit others, especially the weak

Neutral Pragmatic, opportunistic, or indifferent 

Representative examples from fiction and media:

Lawful Good John Carter (Edgar Rice Burroughs), Agent Dale Cooper (Twin Peaks), Roland Deschain (Dark Tower), Hermione Granger (Harry Potter), Spock (Star Trek)

Neutral Good Cazaril (Curse of Chalion), Jake Chambers (Dark Tower), James T. Kirk (Star Trek), Harry Potter, Shimrod (Lyonesse)

Chaotic Good Lyra Belacqua (His Dark Materials), Eddie Dean (Dark Tower), Katniss Everdeen (Hunger Games), Kickaha/Paul Janus Finnegan (World of Tiers), Peter Pan

Lawful Neutral Judge Dredd, Inspector Javert (Les Misérables), Agent Albert Rosenfield (Twin Peaks), Severian (Book of the New Sun)

True Neutral Ged/Sparrowhawk (Earthsea), The Gray Mouser (Fritz Leiber), The Man With No Name (Sergio Leone movies), Nifft the Lean (Michael Shea), Rhialto the Marvelous (Jack Vance)

Chaotic Neutral Harry Mudd (Star Trek), Loki (Marvel movies), Skafloc (The Broken Sword), Captain Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean)

Lawful Evil Casmir (Lyonesse), Lady/Dorotea Senjak (The Black Company), President Snow (The Hunger Games)

Neutral Evil Kane (Karl Edward Wagner), Khan Noonien Singh (Star Trek), Steerpike (Gormenghast

Chaotic Evil BOB (Twin Peaks), Cugel the Clever (Jack Vance), Voldemort (Harry Potter)


  1. Other figures I'd love to hear your take on their alignments, Trent:

    - Elric, Moonglum, Rakhir the Red Archer, Erekose, Corum, Hawkmoon
    - Fafhrd, Sheela, Ningauble
    - One Thumb, Shadowspawn, Lythande, Cappen Varra, Jamie the Red, Durbo, Prince Kitty Kat
    - Conan
    - Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Lando Calrissian, The Mandalorian, Obi_Wan Kenoki (Alec Guiness and Ewan McGregor)
    - John Wick
    - James Bond (Sean Connery and Daniel Craig)


    1. I intentionally didn't include characters who I feel straddle multiple alignments or change alignment over the course of their career (or depending on who's writing them), or who don't seem to exemplify any particular alignment, which is why at least some of those folks got left out. But FWIW (and these are all quick gut-level assessments, so I could probably be convinced some of them are miscategorized):

      Elric - NE in the earliest written stories, eventually becoming NG. Later-written stories tend to have him more N to NG even when they're set early in the timeline.

      Moonglum - TN

      Rakhir - not sure; been too long since I've read anything with him in it. CG maybe?

      Erekose - not sure; haven't read the book(s?) where he's the main protagonist

      Corum - LG

      Hawkmoon - NG

      Fafhrd - straddles the line between NG and N

      Sheelba and Ningauble - CN

      Thieves' World characters - not sure; been too long since I've read those books

      Conan - straddles the line between CG and CN

      Luke Skywalker - LG

      Han Solo - starts out CN, ends up NG

      Princess Leia - LG

      Lando - CN

      Mandalorian - CG

      Obi-Wan Kenobi - NG

      John Wick - LN

      James Bond - ostensibly LN, but with Chaotic tendencies

    2. Further note re John Wick - presumably in the past (prior to his retirement) he was LE

      Re Mandalorian - he also started out as a different alignment (probably LN) but by the end of season 2 I feel like he's more CG than anything else. He's probably the one I'd be most easily convinced to change my placement of

    3. I'd say Roland Deschain makes a jump from LE at the beginning of The Gunslinger to LG by the end of The Waste Lands, although he started LG in the flashbacks to his youth in Wizard and Glass and The Wind Through the Keyhole. But I think you have the other DT characters about right.

    4. I was thinking more about the later volumes in the series (including the flashbacks) more than the first couple where, thinking back, I'd say you're probably right that he's LN at best. Which means I should probably remove him as an example, but I don't want to because in those flashbacks and last few books he feels really quintessentially LG to me, and I also like the symmetry of having characters representing all 3 good alignments from the same series.