Counter Monkey – The Prisoner Dilemma

The Spoony One | Mar 8 2012 | more notation(s) | 

Spoony talks about one of the most divisive issues in the history of roleplaying: alignment.

  • Anony Mous

    Another 1 hour long one?

    I came.

  • ಠ__ಠ

    1 hour of counter monkey? Again? sweet, Let me get a cup of coffee.

  • M_Appel

    i love these videos^^ it is SO much fun to see you just sit there and talk for some reason! :D

  • Kyle Fulton

    The longer these are, the better! Thrilled to see another long one. My friends and I literally gather around like its an old fashioned radio show!

  • ORCACommander

    poetic ad placement when i viewed it :P

  • SoldierHawk


    Thanks so much for these, Spoony. Keeps me happy between game sessions.

  • Prognastic

    Just finished part two of the previous Counter Monkey, only to find a fresh upload when I’m done. I’m not going to get anything done tonight am I? ^_^

    Keep on spooning!

  • Edvinas Rekašius

    Spoony, your Counter Monkeys are awesome! I find them nearly as entertaining as your reviews. Also, I REALLY miss your Vlogs on games/movies.

    • Jason Dyer

       I concur

  • Jerod C. Batte

    Um, look at your average baby: selfish, inconsiderate, no empathy… just like the Joker. Aren’t all babies evil? :D

    I’m not saying they won’t grow up into good people, and I’m not saying that you can’t train them out of that mindset. Obviously, we do. That’s what parenting is about. However, if you really think about it, all babies are essentially mean lil’ buggers lol.

    • Chris Horobin

      But on the flip side of the whole alignment argument, when a character discovers that the barmaid he hypnotised into sleeping with him the night before (I hate vampires, and their players) doesn’t love him unconditionally, and is in fact flirting with other adventurers. He goes out, burns down her house and rides away from the town to do a quest for the towns warden.

      I would have punishe him the level, for burning down a persons house when his alignment is unaligned (4th ed neutral) and that is clearly a chaotic evil act, not to mention the whole mess of problems that comes up when the town watch are involved.

      The player would revolt though, and God knows we can’t have players punished for stupid, malign actions.

      • dunebat

        That’s when you patiently remind the player in the nicest way possible, “*ahem* I’m the DM. This is my house we’re playing in. Please be considerate of me and the other players. Thank you.”

        Or just kill his character off in the quickest, messiest, most wrath-of-God way possible. Whichever.

        • Chris Horobin

          I’m not the Dm for this particular adventure, I’m just a douchy doppleganger bard who he is trying to get killed as quickly as possible.

  • aaronbourque

    Well, Lawful isn’t really related to “the law” so much as tradition and society.

  • unacomn

    Listening to this, it would seem not playing board games was probably a good thing, since I do roleplay the goody two shoes Paladin in computer D&D games.

  • Zejex

    Ok it is this simple: You say, “If it were real and by human logic, the babies would not be evil if they were not raised into it (Orphanage fx). But if it stands written in the holy Handbook, that orc babies are evil, they apparently are, and must be killed (no matter if the people who wrote the Handbook didn’t thought of that, and it is noticeable, it still is) think we squared that one.

    Apropos orphanage, kill the parents, carry the babies in knapsacks, go to the nearest orpanage where they are under watch, plus babies are not harmful or a danger in any way. If they really are evil, they will get put in chains, I don’t know, why can this make people start a fight… oh well, why do they play D&D in the first place you can ask aswell; to argue over prisoners?

    • ORCACommander

       i think he likes you too see the posters in the background. sometimes they are very funny to look at in context to the review.

    • taranaich

      “He killed my wife” “I understand”.
      I see the americans still live by the morals and ethics of the old testament…”

      You are aware this was the *character* that slit another *character’s* throat, right? The one in the pre-industrial fantasy world?

    • Shantal Figueroa

      Revenge is a dish best served cold in any culture, baby. Not saying it’s right, but retribution can feel good. 

    • ftidus12

      No. That’s just plain
      old natural justice. Nothing OT about it. Nothing specifically Middle
      Eastern nor American about it. Its a common thread
      throughout culture, a product of Evolution, not religion.

      If that frightens you, then perhaps it is time you looked into the true face of humanity.

  • jake


  • Fredrik Rastrilla

    Yes. I agree. Moar 1 hours.

  • Jena Marie Dittus

    Spoony totally just backed up the reason why I have a CN character. o.o Complete insanity. =D

  • Ian Arnold

    I had an argument with my friend because he wanted to rule 3/9 planes of Hell (we had conquered it) as a Neutral Good Character.

    • Gregory Bogosian

       There is kind of a literary precedent for that in the Thieves World novels. I think that it is in the very first story.  The new governor of the city of Sanctuary, which is a wretched hive of scum and villainy, is essentially a good guy. Also, in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, two angles who work for the Christian God, end up in charge of Hell, and remain good.  I am not sure that it would have made sense in your particular game, but my point is that, in fiction, a good character can rule over an evil place.

  • Vanvidum

    Gaming with friends in this case is by far the best way to mitigate
    arguments, sure. It just unfortunately makes it harder to find and join a
    new group when you don’t have that long-running rapport. Tough to find when you don’t have a lot of gamers in your immediate circle of friends, you know?

  • Robert Gilliam

    Hey spoony! you know what would be such an excellent video. You should riff of The Gamers 2: The Dorkness Rising. If you haven’t seen it it’s over on youtube. It’s about RPG and it is hilarious. Would love to see your perspective on that movie. (Don’t worry it’s not really a sequal to anything)

    • Jon ‘Geeksquared’ Thurtell

       Yes it is. Its the sequel to The Gamers. Both films are available on DVD from dead gentlemen productions and yes it would be very cool to see spoony review them.

  • Chuster M. Merino

    Typical argument between GM and Blood-thirsty player:

    – But they´re babies!
    – But they´re orks.
    – But… they´re orks.
    [GM looks around]
    – Ok [Rolls a d20] A Ork baby comes around and says “Papa”. What did you do?
    – Mmm… I stab that fucker with my dagger.

  • ORCACommander

    damn levels loss penalty? ya they struck that out in pathfinder at least and pretty sure 3.5.

    i think it was Nietzsche that said that no one considers themselves evil.

    but ya i could not use the alignment system as concrete and would give my character play room or others play room but ya paladins you kinda have to make a bit more rigid than others lol not sure if these warranted a website but alright hope you get it nice and spiffy soon still kinda barebones atm.

  • TheOneCalledSloth

    I would say Vikings are lawful evil with murder, rape and slavery but still holding up honor.

  • SeanMcTiernan

    Orc situation, my buddy Josh’s answer: Well, I’m the only one in the party who speaks Orcish, so I’m going to start rolling diplomacy checks to bring them over to worship of my goddess, Desna (he’s playing a bard). You said they stood down, so they’re not hostile? Okay I only need a 7 or better to succeed at this, and I’ll have Kith use Fortune on my roll so that I get two chances at it and can take the better result.

    Okay, with the orcs in the Indifferent category, we’re going to take the group into custody, making it extremely clear that any shenanigans and Naraina will track them down to execute them, and have Maia making sure everyone’s healthy and well fed. The next day, I’ll do another diplomacy check to get them over to Friendly, and we’ll begin the process of getting information about other Orc tribes in the area that we can go after, taking similar converts there as well. Since that should take most the next day anyhow, we’ll go ahead and make another diplomacy check to get them to Helpful, and that should put them solidly on our side.

    From there, we’ll work out an alliance where we trade with the orcs in exchange for taking down bandit groups in the area for us while we’re off winning more orcish hearts and minds.

  • Chris Evans

    A good solution would just to put a time limit on it for some story reason or another.  It forces the decision, even if it’s the non-decision of time running out.

  •élanger/100000567236259 Luc Bélanger

    I don’t know if you’ve heard this one before (even though you said you heard all the arguments there are) and I don’t game nearly as much as you do, but shouldn’t it come down to trusting the DM and not being an asshole?

    What I mean is, if your players act according to their alignment, he should be a good enough DM not to fuck them over. If the whole party is lawful good and they tie up the guards and leave the orc women alone, they acted in character and maybe he shouldn’t follow up on the encounter if it’s just a raid that’s irrelevant on the plot. If those same lawful good characters slaughter the women and baby, that’s out of character and if he tells them and they say fuck it, maybe then it can come back to bite them in the ass like say, a war party of orcs found the ruins of the camp and tracked the party for revenge.

    I like alignment too and much for the same reasons you do, but other than acting in character it’s not something to think about too much or argue about. In the end the DM decides what are the consequences should there be any or not in the module or whatever.  Nitpicking stuff like that ruins the flow of the game, which is what it is, not an ethical debate about real life. Good players and DMs will work together so that everyone has fun.

    I guess player alignment has a double meaning then since you see the same personality traits in the guys around the table and the bad players are the assholes that ruin the fun.

  • Amy Flynn

    Yay, can’t believe you already put something new up, man you are on the ball this month! Keep ‘em coming.

  • Jeremy Smith
  • Filip Ängstål

    My upcoming 3,5 group that I will be game mastering. will be all chaotic neutral characters…. That will be intressting to say the least : /

    • Tor Nordmark

       dear god, everything will be killed and looted.

  • Josh Laxen

    I really never understood this argument. Killing is killing
    no matter the age. If you think that you can kill a regular orc and that’s
    cool, but then why stop to think about killing either a woman or a baby. You’re
    just going to do it later to the m in their “life”. The second your
    character calls a distinction he should just quit adventuring and become a monk
    dedicating his life to peace and harmony. Simple as that.

  • Agrippa911

    I’ve always disliked alignment, as I feel it’s a straight jacket for players. I’d much rather let a player organically develop their character over time. And when their behavior is inconsistent I’d point it out. If it continued to be inconsistent and illogical, then maybe a small XP penalty.

    Also, never let a players create a party with a broad range of alignments (ie mix of good and evil) as that’s just a recipe for disaster. I’d try to ensure everyone’s good (lawful, chaotic, neutral) so the game doesn’t get sidetracked with a prisoner’s dilemma.

  • Ray hill

    You can kill babies and still be good, just look at abortion doctors.

  • Tom Ottenheym

    Hey Spoony!
    Thank you, another great video!
    1 hour isn’t that long listening to you.
    Me and my friends recently started a new group and as you said because we are friends we know how to deal with our different mindsets; in the end it’s the group that counts.

  • HollywoodCool

    From what I’ve heard with that last Counter Monkey, god I wish I was introduced to roleplaying in one of your campaigns. I hate my group, they don’t take anything seriously and hardly any campaign gets started, let alone finished.

  • sketchesofpayne

    I always use alignment in my games as a personality indicator, rather than a moral code.

  • Zach Lewis

    Awesome video. Keep ‘em flying :D

    P.S.- Was this in any way inspired by last Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead?

  • ZigTheHunter

    I’m with you, they should dictate how they normally act, but not how they always act. If they they do something out of alignment too often without good enough reason, then they should have to change and penalties are in order.

  • brokenaod

    Alignment fights pfff…. worst fight that ended a game was when after our characters 1st fight with a fair amount of goblins and a couple of goblin leaders (i can’t remember how they’re called right now) and bringing half of us near death the dm said and you now reached the town a player cut him off and said wait a min what about my exp.The dm forgot to tell us it was going to be after quest completion exp. and most players started to argue about it,the game ended there.

  • Adam

    I actually have alot to say about this. I’ve been playing DnD for a few years and I always gravitate towards paladins and paladin-like characters. In my most recent campaign, I told the DM that I wanted to be a paladin, but I didn’t want to be “that guy”. You know, the guy that acts as the moral compass for the party wheter they like it or not. I’ve managed to get it to where I can still be a paladin and let the party do what they need to do, as long as I shake my head and say “That’s not right.” It’s even worked for the parties benefit. We use alot of “Good Cop/Bad Cop” When it comes to interrogation. I’ll be the nice but honest guy and let the barbarian make scary faces at them. When we are done, I just walk away. I’m not challenging my morales, and no one gets told what to do. Everyone wins.

    In all my time playing, there has been only 1 serious alignment arguement. I was about 16 and the other person was about 13-14. I was talking about my paladin’s backstory and I mentioned that he loves women and is kind of a “one night stand” kind of guy. The other person began to argue that that sort of behaviour is evil. It was completly ridiculous, and he just wouldn’t let it go.

    Then again, this kid had a character named Anakin, and he had a “lightsaber”, which was really just a magic long-sword. He almost left the group when we went to an area that nullified magic items, because he thought we were being mean to him.

  • Tor Nordmark

    When i played a sorcerer with dragon bloodline (Pathfinder) i was a lawful good character.
    Aaaand of course rest of my party went like, lets make deal with a balor and get demonic power, whereby me, the only good character goes against them.

    It ended that my character turned into a gargantuan gold-dragon and fought against them. We were level 16, so it was justified, but i did still die.

    • Filip Ängstål

      Totally worth it :P

      Sincerely the guy with awesome demonic power :3

      •äck/100003326647983 Sebastian Lagnebäck

         Yupp, those powers where awesome :3

        • Filip Ängstål

          (High five)

          •äck/100003326647983 Sebastian Lagnebäck

             (High five returned)

          • Tor Nordmark

             AAAAnd these guys are the rest of the party…

    • Vismutti

      … Ouch, sounds like a pretty douchy DM. (Not knowing the person obviously.)

      • Tor Nordmark

         ye, i thought it was pretty boring, since i wasnt even allowed to play my character as i had made him.
        Buuut now i have left the group.

  •ázs-Vígh/100000596881025 Balázs Vígh

    Man how I hate the alignment stuff. I remember DMing and I was stupid and way younger so I thought that a hostage situation would be a cool thing. The thing is that they were religios prisoners and the cleric of the group hated that religion and started arguing that we should kill the heretics. A few years ago I played the paladin much like the one Spoony mentioned, the inquisitor type. The group was a thief, a warrior a mage and my paladin. The warrior and thief were buddies in the story I think they were chaotic neutral. The mage was neutral since he only cared about gaining more power and finding ancient artifacts and stuff like that. When I joined in they started doing the paladins are soo booring and party poopers, then came the moment I call the purging. It was we entered a town, which had a church in it that was to a goddess that was a enemy to my paladin’s god. Unluckily the DM made sure that the one who gave us quests was the head priest. The priest taunted me and encouraged the people to do so to make me show my true colour, the colour of the follower of the betrayer god. The mage saved my ass there luckily but I did leave with a little farewell gift. I torched the WHOLE town and crushed the headpriests head with my warhammer the DM was like “WFT you are a Lawfull-Good how can you do that?” The others were “DUDE Seriously WFT?” Luckily I already had my answer: My god teaches tollerance but also teaches that strikes on you honour should be cleaned. The sheperd of the heretic village taunted me and dishonored my name.
    While the DM accepted it he did throw in that what am I going to do next, burn children because they are of different religion? Answer to that: If that is needed to uphold the teachings I will and clean the world of heretics. The next time we played strangely neither the warrior nor the thief wanted to be funny with me.

  • Domenico Hairyfoot Tozzi

    This is why I like being DM to a party of Evil-Aligned players :P
    The entire party in my game is either Neutral Evil or Chaotic Evil, they’d just cut em up.

  • Jamie Sheil

    “I will ban you for arguing politics” 

    Not an idle threat, I’ve seen spoony go nuts on pushinguproses streams, always awesome! Another great counter monkey spoony!

  • Michal ‘Prken’ Hubka

    Hi, could you do a something like a tutorial video… no that doesnt sound right. I mean tell us, how you create a campaign, structure quests and so on. I know you play mostly modules, but i bet you have your own share of original adventures. :)

    BTW.: Love your show

    • ORCACommander

       actually he has said that he makes his own setting most of the time but likes to use modules to add background flavor

  • Andrew

    I used to be in a group with chaotic evil, chaotic good, lawfull good, lawfull evil… Fuck. My. Life…. Especialy has a neutral character.

  • Tor Nordmark

    On the note of not allowing you play character, my DM pretty much said “you wouldnt kill that undead alchemist that tried to indirectly kill you, because you are lawful good!”
    Rly? Ye, i get it was because we wouldnt split the party, but seriously?

  • rollerickus

    lol, I used this tactic I think twice as DM, the latest being orc-children running around during a campfight. I think it is fun to put that in, cause it creates arguments etc. But it does kind of sidetrack from stories.
    And yes, playing to much in character can easily break a party. In the comming DnD session I and a friend both have made a character, mine celestial background, his is fiendish. I don’t know how it is going to work out.

    • rollerickus

      Btw, cool that you liked Planescape much. We’re going to play it, yet I made a Bariaur as a character (celestial decendent), and my friend is a thiefling (fiendish decendent). So difficult to play along with it.
      Any tips anyone?

  • Ian Davis

    Once, our DM argued that our Cleric had to change alinement because he was healing himself before others. Because his alinement shifted, he was abandoned by his god and lost his powers. The player argues for a bit, then gives in and talks to the DM in private the next day.

    Next time we show up, the DM tell us that we’re all dead. The ex-cleric devoted himself to a dark god and murdered us all in our sleep to gain his favor. Needless to say, we were more than pissed. It it wasn’t for the fact that the party died, I’m sure we would have split right there.

  • Brent Coupe

    I actually like the Neverwinter Nights system on alignment. Keeps track of alignments through a numerical counter [0 to 100 for Law/Chaos and Good/Evil, for those that aren’t familiar with the specific system]. It’s quite useful for telling when alignment actually shifts, since you can determine how the numbers change based on specific actions.

  • everstar

    This reminds me of the time my neutral good tiefling lost her last scrap of patience with our chaotic neutral Xaositect wild mage because after our party had successfully sneaked into an enemy camp and out again (a rarity for our party, who almost never managed to go anywhere quietly), he turned around and flung a lightning bolt at the nearest tent.  At her first opportunity, she attacked him because she was furious he’d endangered their party when they were getting away safely.  It didn’t go anywhere, but it still irritates me because it was so stupid.  That character had so many times where he just made things worse and he always got away with it because it was his alignment and we had to go along because he couldn’t be argued out of it.

  • Tor Nordmark

    I also had a character concept that was a blackguard, but his cause was to make people enjoy what they had.
    he was more or less killing people or torturing them so when/if they survived they would find their life more enjoyable. kinda like the saw murderer.

  • Mark Grondin

    One of your better videos, Spoony – and yet, you didn’t touch on so much that I wish you would have. As a player and a former DM, one who played 3rd Edition with the Book of Exalted Deeds and Book of Vile Darkness on the table, I’ve heard the alignment/ethics arguments countless times. And considering you want to hear them, I’d be glad to share.

    It also didn’t help I played both Krynn (Dragonlance) and Westeros (Song of Ice And Fire) campaigns, the former in the Kingpriest Era. And considering we were playing heavy role-playing games, the ethical discussions came up nearly every game.

    Here’s the interesting thing – the Krynn campaign got a little muddier when it came to alignment, particularly when it came to the years leading up to the Cataclysm. The group I was DM’ing was knowledgeable enough about the setting to understand that playing the ‘absolute good’ paragon wasn’t always amicable to the group as a whole. We had a Knight of Solamnia in the group who was bound by the Code and Measure, but he was sort of playing a cross between Sturm Brightblade and pre-Cataclysm Lord Soth, in that he was a kind person who was cursed by a Seer to know that the Cataclysm was coming and that it was the Kingpriest’s fault, but he could not communicate that ideal to the party. It was a really interesting dynamic, and it made certain scenes (like an encounter at the fall of the Tower of High Sorcery in Daltigoth – and here, Spoony, I’m assuming you know Dragonlance enough to know what happened there) very poignant and meaningful.

    With the Song of Ice and Fire campaign that I played in, the DM threw out alignment structures and told the character I was playing (a neutral good paladin variant called a Sentinel) that I was barred from using ‘Detect Evil’ – simply because in that setting, alignment isn’t as easily qualified. It really made the character interesting to play, because I was simply trying to play a kind, compassionate, decent human being, and it’s tough to play that sort of character in Westeros without some elements being exploited by nastier characters. And since I wasn’t playing a stacked character with high Intelligence, it really made for a tough, yet rewarding role-playing experience, as she tried to be a simple good person in an utterly brutal world.

    As a DM, my solution for the Prisoner’s Dilemma is workable, yet controversial. I tend to only throw it in if the party has a cleric at a high enough level to cast geas/quest. And yeah, there’s always an argument when any enchantment/’mind control’ powers get brought into D&D, particularly when you’re playing with The Book of Exalted Deeds on the table, but it was a solution that allowed some compromise, as the monsters under the geas wouldn’t directly attempt to harm the players, and yet still could be allowed to be freed. And since the cleric was responsible, it tended to placate the paladins in the group. It didn’t always work, but more often than not, it tended to be interesting.

    And Paladine almighty, the alignment debate paled in comparison to the ‘Undead Argument’ that sprouted up like dandelions in campaigns I both played in and ran. A lot of the conversations came down to moral relativism and all that, but basically there was a lot to the point that not all necromancers, who dabble with admittedly negative energy to reanimate corpses (although not all the time, depending on the setting), are completely evil. You always tend to get that guy who wants to try the long, hard slog to being a necromancer, and watching him try to role-play such a character is both frustrating and incredibly interesting. Even tossing out baelnorn (Forgotten Realms), the argument regarding the rights of the dead and whether or not cultural necromancy can be considered inherently good or evil is one of the most difficult and complex arguments I’ve ever heard with a game group.

    Interestingly, the campaign I DM’ed where the Prisoner’s Dilemma came up most was one where the adventurers justified an interesting solution that was admittedly more work for me, but I enjoyed it. Their logic was that if they let the monsters go, they could always provide more adventures later in the long term. If they chose to strike back at the characters, they were irredeemable and would be destroyed – and this was always communicated directly to the orcs/goblins/draconians/minotaurs before they were let go. And as a DM, I rolled with it, sometimes bringing them back to betray the party with greater force, sometimes coming back later to repay the party for their kindness. And sure, you get the hardcore violent players who’ll grumble, but you can placate them by saying that if the monsters come back, you can kill their asses. 

    I think a lot of this comes down to the DM contributing to the culture of the game, particularly among role-playing and particularly if you’re going to choose loaded campaign settings, which I didn’t shy away from. Hell, in any Dragonlance setting, particularly in the early years of the Fourth Age, you have deal with the disastrous ramifications of elven-human relationships, or the collapse of the Solamnic Knighthood at the hands of a starving populace, or Fistandantilus’ war against the mountain dwarves in order to get to Zhaman (role-playing that was both the most daunting, most physically exhausting, and one of the most emotional experiences of my DM’ing career, but one of the most rewarding in the long run). In all, it requires a lot of work and a lot of trust between DM and PCs, and sometimes you don’t get that. But when you do, I think you really reach the crux of what great roleplaying is all about – considering moral situations you could never really reach in reality, and learn something incredible about both your character, and yourself.

  • Lee Roberts

    In one game I played a neutral evil character. In a group of mostly lawful’s. The DM had us talking to some guy about something we needed for our main quest. And this guy was just manipulating the group and I just had this feeling he was going to fuck us, and fuck us haaaard. So I had my character promptly kill via sword in the back. The whole group goes “:O the fuck?!” I simply responded with “If you didn’t see what he was doing your as stupid as he was”. A large disagreement started off this which nearly resulted in blows. The DM being brilliant pretty much had my character go off on his own for awhile till the party came to their senses and somehow discovered the dude’s plot. I have no idea how they did cause the DM actually had me sit in another room and just went back and forth.

  • Luke Rees

    Dammit Spoony. A new, hour-long Counter Monkey and I need to be up early. Guess it’ll have to wait until I’m done with university tomorrow.

  • lilllolan

    Great video as always! now let me tell you of a very recent Prisoner dilemma in my group.
    The pc´s had captured an necromancer who had attacked a chapel and could´t get him to talk, so the Cleric (Paelor) and the Fighter (Lawful Good and a whooping 6 int) took him to a room to interigate. after 10 mins they get nothing out of him and then the large and (up to this time) kind fighter starts to break his fingers,legs and ribs while the Cleric tried to make him stop, but when he failed he said “i want no part of this´´ and stepped out of the room. later the Barbarian (Chaotic neutral and often just saying “just kill them´´) stepped in to the room and yelled at the fighter that it was wrong while he was ripping out tooths and head-butting him to death. so even the least expected Character can do something out of alignment sometimes.  ooh and they have hold a kid Drow Prisoner for about 2 weeks now. 

  • Norrikan

    Imagine the following:
    Entering a room, a paladin finds a pair of succubi (basically irredeemably evil demons)  very obviously in love with each other.
    “A paladin must choose between destroying evil and honoring love.”
    from the Book of Exalted Deeds

    Now, as far as personal tales go, this one was the most memorable: The PCs were the personal advisors/enforcers of the ruler of a quickly rising kingdom. At one point, the party was sent to wipe out a camp of the armed remnants of a conquered land. The order they had received from their boss were clear, crush that rebellion and kill everyone involved.
    So far, so average. Now, when most of the camp’s defenders were dead and mop-up duty came around, the group found a hut that the remaining guards desperately defended and, upon inspection, contained a large number of children orphaned by the war. The rebells had picked them up and raised them ever since the start of the conflict.
    And at that point it spiraled out of control.
    One of the paladins argued that the children had learned morals and so on from the rebells and thusly were tainted forever. Killing them now would be a favor to them. In this he was backed by the bard (chaotic good; because she didn’t want the children coming after them in revenge later on) the cleric (lawful neutral; because their orders were clear: Kill everyone in the camp) and the druid (true neutral; because letting starving, traumatized children live among the corpses of their surrogate parents in the middle of a rock desert would be even more cruel).
    The other paladin stated that the children were “obviously imprisioned against their will”, thus had no part in the rebellion and thus were exempt from the order. The fighter (neutral good; just liked children) the rogue (neutral; having had a similar childhood) and the mage (chaotic neutral; he was planning to raise them as loyal assassins) supported his side of the argument.
    Both sides had valid, in-character arguments and made quite passionate speeches about it, too. Considering a number of them were usually munchkins of the highest order, this was very surprising.
    After discussing the whole night and never reaching an in-character agreement, the mage suddenly ported his side and the children away. The following day, everyone rolled up a new character, so they would have one char for each side of the argument. For the next year, my gaming group was hunting itself, alternating PCs every game night, from hunter to hunted and back.
    Non of this had been my intent when creating this campaign, but I was as proud as any DM can be of his players at that point.

    • ORCACommander

       that sounds like a load of fun but how do you avoid the meta gaming problem?

      • Norrikan

        I guess it was largely dependent on the calibre of the roleplayers involved and the fact that the really big decisions were always made by each teams’ leadership, who played mostly muscle for the other group, by way of written notes. The fact that everybody had a stake in both sides’ success helped quite a bit. It also kept the campaign moving at a rapid pace, because the pursuers were always just one step behind. I made this feeling of “no respite, no rest” the central theme of the campaign once I got into the spirit of things.
        But really, metagame knowledge was only used once to any relevant degree when the escapees fooled the other party with a bunch of doppelgangers, quickly teleportet multiple times between a number of cities and then went deep undercover. At that point the hunters were (in-character) stumped and had no lead to follow up on. Thus the randomly selected city they choose to continue the search in just “happened” to be the one the other team was hiding in. Not terribly elegant, but, in the end, I guess it got the job done.
        tl;dr: Keep everyone emotionally invested in both sides and talk to each teamleader outside of the game to plan ahead.

  • Renaissance_nerd

    Yes, yes Spoony you nailed it. A paladin is a soldier, the militant arm of his church and anything that is considered Heretic in nature must be destroyed. My favorite quote is “Lawful Good, It doesn’t mean Lawful Nice”

    So many people think Paladins are this goody goody never harm a fly kind of characters and they arnt. Paladin’s are relentless in pushing their deity’s agenda and will Kill those that stand against their deity or blaspheme against their Deity. When it comes to “Holy War” Paladins do not fuck around.

  • Unholy Fire Dragon

    *comes into the Spoony Experiment…*
    Alignme– *gets trampled by Spoony fans and smashed by a banhammer*

    Seriously though…
    Politics bore me and I’m generally an idiot with politics (and I agree with you, Spoony; I’ve been to WoW’s “trade” chat and I know how it is). I also hate alignments. I’d much rather not have alignments. If I had to choose, then I guess I’d choose the crazy alignment (i.e. chaotic neutral). Hell, I’m kind-of a socially crazy idiot anyways (but still a genius, if that makes any sense). LOL

    If I ever play games that involves alignment specifically, then I basically analyse how the game works and what I want out of the game, and then I choose whatever alignment that will give me the most of it. All I know is that I tend to love characters that can solo a lot, do a lot of long-range/aoe damage and can survive very well head-on (as opposed to having to hide and sneak around). I prefer power/magic over physical ability, and I prefer self-healing/self-regenerating instead of having to depend on buying and using potions. I also tend to stray from what my team wants to do, just so that I can do my own thing.

  • Domenico Hairyfoot Tozzi

    i always thought of the majority of assassins as  Lawful Neutral. They don’t kill out of motivation by good or evil, they kill because of a contract they have been given and they’ve got to abide by that contract.

  • Alex

    I played a paladin and my DM sent us into a goblin village, we arrived early and everyone in the tents was women and children, I couldn’t harm them at all and just left them alone and and could not hide in ambush. It pissed me off a bit in that I had to chose my code over the party.

  • Kevin Zielinski

    Easiest way out of this situation is brainwashing. Not hard. Slaughter the adult orc men and women. Take the babies. Teach them your language, tell them their parents sold them to you then tell them no harm will come their way so long as you’re their parents. Seriously its not a hard choice and considering that they are orc’s their brain power is extremely limited therefore they could be brainwashed quite easily to become “good” or at leased a “use” to the players.

    • ORCACommander

       please change your character sheet to be neutral evil please :P

      • Kevin Zielinski

        Hey what works, works! And it already is Neutral evil. lol

        • ORCACommander

           cheeky bugger

  • Hampus Granberg

    hum.. well, I guess this all basically applies to reality.
    At some point, you just gotta accept it, and move on.
    Homosexuality, rasism, just let the hatred go and live with it, because nature won’t change by mere arguments.

    Thank you Spoony for bringing this up, and thank you for a wonderful time of philosophy.

    Have a good day!

  • JJ Flash

    A good discussion as to why I generally prefer alignment free games.

    A friend of my was playing AD&D under a GM who enforced alignment with an iron fist. To get back at him, my friend rolled up a Pally.  The DM expected the standard goody, goody character, however, the Pally regularly murdered people, burned down towns, etc.  When called on it, my friend (knowing the DM was bible-thumping Catholic) pointed out he was playing the character like a member of the Knights Templar.  Every time the DM said an action was evil, he was met with a historical point of the Templar doing the same thing.  Since the DM couldn’t admit that a member of the Church was in the wrong, the pally was able to get away with just about anything.

    Talk about Trolling your game master.

    • Emil Petrunov

      “Clever girl”~

    • ftidus12


      Yeah, but the Templars were doing that in a time of war (not that it was right and the majority of the Church started calling them out when the Franciscan monks denounced the Templars). Just randomly killing people isn’t being a Templar. It’s just being a dick.

      Secondly, I don’t know what kind of a “catholic” your DM was, but from my experience they are bound by their faith to do the exact opposite of what he did: to admit that someone in the Church was wrong and correct them.

  • Renaissance_nerd

    One thing My Paladin does in the prisoner dilemma is if he can’t take them back to town /arrest them ect. He will do something like tie them to some form of conveyance (horse, mule ect) and just slap that puppy and let them ride off in a random direction. The ride will not be comfortable at all, and it gets them out of the adventurers hair. It’s light justice but it’s still a win/win.

  • Julian Moretti

    I would debate this…. but I’m not that kind of thief.

    • NightStarX

       Best comment in this thread.

  • Aodhan O’Leary

    Alignment as a label that describes how your character normally acts is what I’ve always been in favour of with regards to alignment and that’s all I’ll say about the system as a whole.

    My first character actually ended up Chaotic Neutral after starting out Chaotic Good. There were two major items I think that caused the fall. One was after a battle with a group of hobgoblins, one of them was captured. Now, we knew there was a force of hobgoblins in the nearby area, we were out hunting them, in fact. So we definitely can’t let him go. We can’t take him back to town until after we’ve found the camp as well, by which time he might have escaped and alerted them. 

    So first we tried to coerce him to tell us about the camp. Naturally he refused. My character was fully opposed to him being tortured, though. But she also wouldn’t let him go free. So when the time came to decide what to do – she slit his throat. He was an enemy who would be killed and would kill or betray them at the first opportunity was her reasoning. No shift yet – though it was pretty rough treatment.

    The last big thing was an attempt to refuse arrest that went horribly, horribly wrong. Her backstory was that a corrupt lordling had gotten her to perform at a party and afterwards and first tried to seduce her, but got pretty forward with her. So she sliced his cheek open to get him to back off – naturally resulting in her being thrown into prison. She escaped and blah blah blah, but the lordling happened to come to the town we were currently in the middle of rescuing. A knight and a group of guardsmen came to try and arrest her – she paniced and tried to escape but it didn’t work and we pretty much ended up butchering them. As it turned out the intentions of the guardsmen were evil, while those of the knight were just to uphold the law.

    Yeah, that alignment shift is pretty reasonable, I though, but I also thought her actions made sense, which was the most important thing. And even as a chaotic neutral she wasn’t that crazy, just did what she wanted.

    We also had the prisoner dilemma almost happen, except with trolls. I say almost because one of the guys resolved it by running in and murdering them because trolls = evil. His character was kicked out and he rolled up a new one he preferred anyway.

  • Alchemic Tempest

    Thats why you should have a leader who decides when in doubt.
    If you dont have one, roll a dice, agree first and stuff.

  • Derek B

    I’ve been here. Even more so because in our group the DM DOES allow you to be evil. The main issue I have though is when the DM doesn’t warn you. You mentioned it very briefly, but when a cleric, paladin, bard, barbarian, or other classes change alignment, you also lose your powers. At least until you “atone” for your actions. I’ve never experienced the level loss, but I have lost my powers before. I was playing a LN crusader and the CE fighter was going to kill someone who had surrendered. We knew full well that he’d come after us again, and kill us given the first chance he had, and didn’t stop him. I immediately lost all of my powers. Why? Because I didn’t stop the CE person from killing the prisoner who probably would have become good once we told him about what we had learned regarding his sister’s death. I was floored. Not only had I not gotten warned about needing to stop the fighter other than being asked “He’s charging through your space, are you going to stop him?”, but I had lost my alignment and my powers over something that arguably wouldn’t have come across my character’s mind. But you know full well that since the DM brought that up, it probably would have been that the guy might have become good. Granted it might not have happened too, but you’re getting punished regardless. I hate that.

    I’m in a group doing Pathfinder, and I’ve got a player who’s Neutral Good, and he’s playing it like he’s Chaotic Neutral. However, he’s justifying everything he does as being within his rights as a PC of NG status. I’ve never had to do the level loss thing, but I might have to bring it in if he stays that way.

  • Birk Hauke Wildhirt

    ever heard of disadvantages or qualities?
    if a character murders babies in cold blood i would give him nightmares, flashbacks or some other kind of mental problem
    in my opinion much better than alignments, but i also dislike d&d, it forces the players too much to act according to the rules

  • Sir_D

    I think it is funny that you and Nash, another contributor to TGWTG for those unfamiliar with him, both put out videos basically saying to find the middle ground on certain subjects and stay clear of others.  As I get older, now in my early 30’s, I can’t help but become less dogmatic about some things; but, when it comes to the things that are so inflammatory (alignment and politics) I just have clear rules to stay away from them.  Like Spooney said you just hear all the crap there is to say, pick up all the messes, and try to make amends with people in the aftermath.     

  • northernfrog

    That remind me a Shadowrun game that i run recently. My players enter this old building infested with ghouls and must eradicate thems. In the end they found a ghoulish troll women, dead by given birth to a newborn troll-ghoul. What my players did? no questions asked, they killed the baby and collect the bounty. Thats another day in shadowrun Seatle.

    But the roof did crumble upon them, courtesy of the halloweeners. But thats another story.

  • RedFox

    In 3.x alignment shifts did take place, but they removed the the level penalty.

    Speaking of alignment arguments…

    Drizzt Do’Urden, a CG character from a race who is wholly CE is a prime example of how not every member of a race follows the norm. Though, it really is a rarity.

    As for Paladins, my most stupid death was of a CN halfling thief being mistreated by a LG pally. I was new to the group, and my character was tied up by the pally, because he didn’t want me to steal anything overnight. figuring that I would be able to escape the rope easily enough, he tied me dangling into a tree to make it harder to escape. I screamed about it, which was giving away our position to the enemies in the distance. He decided to knock me out with a sheathed sword and rolled. He TRIPPLE NATURAL 20’d me, KILLING ME. Fuck, I hate paladins. At least when my head flew off because of it, my head rolled into the enemy camp causing the enemies to attack and kill the lot of them….

    As for DM’s arguing alignment changes,

    I once played a CN human/natural-born werefox rouge. (Seeing as werefoxes are “always CE,” I was able to convince my DM to allow me to be CN, using Drizzt Do’Urden as an example of how not every member of a race must be forced into the book’s alignment.) We were supposed to kill the head guard in the guard house because the evil baddy of the game would kill us all if we didn’t. (he was trying to take over the kingdom, and captured us into do it, as he already had a network of assassins getting into key places, except for 2 crucial places, or something like that…) I decided to shift into my animal form and bite the head of the guard, to get the other guards to kill him. (I ended up tossed in a well, and almost drown, but somehow managed to survive.) My party decided to wait it out for a few days for the problem would sort itself out, but I had a bit of a problem. I accidentally turned half the town because of what I did.

    My DM demanded that I become CE for my actions.

    I argued that my actions were a selfish way to get the job done with as little danger to myself as possible. (we were lvl 5, the guard was, like, lvl 15 or something. Suicide missions suck.) It was NOT my goal to turn half the town, just the one guy, so others would do my work for me. I just didn’t care about the guards getting hurt in the process. But I figured they would be able to handle it. (They should have too, it was botched DM rolls that caused it to backfire….) My logic of the situation was well within what I believe CN to be capable of, and finally got my DM to not force change my alignment.

    Unfortunately, my character was banished to never be found by the evil baddy or he would kill me without second thought. I had to roll a new character at that point, which was kinda crap. =>.>=

  • MrJinPengyou

    That would make a good demotivational : Alignments : Source of debates since like…ever

  • bravetoaster

    I’ve not played anything like d&d in 12 years or so–and was never into the roleplaying aspect of it (or any game)–but I’m pretty sure I was always chaotic neutral (or maybe chaotic good). Not because I wanted to be a dick, but because I just like playing a character who REALLY likes smashing things. And that’s all. Screw the law, rightness, wrongness, whatever–I’d be loyal to my party and just smash whatever I could, whenever I could.

    Maybe my understanding of alignments isn’t so good, but I was under the impression that true neutral characters were the worst(?) to deal with. Got any stories about them, if they’re as much of a strange and difficult lot as I’ve been led to believe?

    • Shadowdancer21b

      Some people take true neutral as an excuse to do stupid things like attack their party members because they outnumber the enemy or refuse to help a person because a predator was killing people.  “Circle of life, man.”

  • justcausezz

    Good video Noah. I agreed with meany thing’s that you have said, especially with how the alignment system should be more of a guide then a rule.
      I remember one of the several time’s i encountered “the prisoner dilemma’. I was with this party of myself and four other people. We were trying to save this remote village that had been getting raided on by a Troglodyte war camp near by.
      As were were searching for the war camp, we ran into a party of Troglodyte’s that were heading to the village. Long story short we killed all but one that we had captured. And as you can guess the party was split, with me (the rouge), and The wizards saying we should kill him before he backs stabs us, and our cleric and fighter saying no “that’s wrong’, and one character not really caring either way.

      So after a long heated “discussion’ are Lawful Good cleric decided to compromise. She,  with compassion and love decided to burn the Troglodyte’s eyes out with boiling hot oil. The Troglodyte lived but was blind, the logic being that it was better then dying but also not as dangerous as just letting him go. 

    the rest of the party decided to not mess the the “nice’ cleric in the future.  

  • Nash Knight

    I handled this by giving bonuses and penalties for playing your alignment. If a player role played according to his alignment, he would get a XP bonus; if he didn’t and fell out of character a lot he wouldn’t get any XP next time he should. Eventually I left D&D in favor to my custom system and there I removed the alignment scale completely. Players would describe their characters in general and play accordingly to the description but without the good/evil or similar extreme divides.

    And the paladin conundrum, who didn’t have a situation with a paladin.
    Party: Paladin, fighter and thief (yeah, trouble). They were to investigate a disappearance of of a missing family member and a number of mysterious thefts in a aristocrat’s mansion. Eventually they discovered that the fore mentioned missing uncle has become a were-rat. The party defeats him and captures him and he stars crying and begging them to kill him because he become a monster and doesn’t won’t to live this life anymore.
    Normally, paladin starts comforting him, saying they’ll do anything to help him, although in reality there is nothing they can do. The thief of course, insists that they kill him because his is a were-rat and therefore evil, and even he himself wants to die.
    Unfortunately for the paladin, thieves can steal and have good initiative.
    So the thief swipes the silver cleaver from the paladin’s backpack and chops the unfortunate uncle’s head clean off.
    You can only imagine the kind and the size of the fight this caused. It was a yelling marathon that lasted for hours. I still have traumas.

  • solidsamurai

    If Goku (NG) saw those orcs, he’d be all ‘Are you… are you sorry?  If you say you’re sorry and you really mean it, I’ll let you go.’

    • NightStarX

      Interesting because: Goku died against the first enemy in Dragonball Z. And Raditz is considered one of the weakest villains in the series. I would say “You tell me how well that worked out for him”, but honestly, he came back in one year and then steamrolled over every major villain since without ever being the one to actually finish them off. Except Kid Buu, and then Kid Buu was reincarnated anyway.

      Not to mention that Kid Buu was a kid, and even though he was evil, and basically a mindless child, essentially a Super Teleporting, Planet Destroying Orc for lack of a better term, Goku, a Neutral Good character still had no problem offing a super powered child, but not anyone else.

      Actually come to think of it, what with the overpowered and far too numerous Saiyan class for such a dwindling race, Nameks with way too many due-ex-machina traits, Alignment goofs, and battles with too many plot twists that take way longer than necessary, and useless overshadowed players like Yamcha and Krillin who the DM clearly has bias against, if DBZ was a D&D game, it’d be, like, the worst D&D game ever. :P

      • NightStarX

        DM Toriyama: “And now Perfect Cell decides to hold… a fighting tournament!”


      • solidsamurai

         Never saw the buu saga, but I guess Goku just couldn’t empathize with a souless kid.  His only connection to a lingering childhood (from a man who probably desperately wanted to hold onto child hood, and for whom growing up was a major psychological episode) was probably Gohan, and look what Gohan had to endure!  Heh.

        Or maybe I’m just overthinking it as usual.

  • Renaissance_nerd

    In my games we have the Alignment check, If your character wants to go against his alignment he rolls a check DC = how far against their alignment they want to act. 

    They fail the check then they don’t act against their alignment, it’s simple and puts control into the dice, which if you ask me is where the control of a D&D game should be anyway.

  • Gregory Bogosian

    I thought that you meant the prisoner’s dilemma in game theory.  I must have read the title of the video wrong.    

    • Justin Barabander

       no i thought that too lol.  Being a huge economics nerd I was really hoping that it had something to do with it but unfortunately no… Still it was a great video

  • Jennifer Fowler

    Chaotic Neutral. Auuuugh. I hate that alignment. We had a player in our group who played it EXCLUSIVELY and used it as an excuse to act like a dribbling crazy person. He did whatever he wanted, when he wanted, and generally ground whatever game he was in to a halt with his nonsense. I myself tried to DM a game with him, and he pulled the same stuff. It got his character killed (when 10th level guards tell you to drop your weapon and you respond by callshotting one of their necks with your thief dagger, they’re not going to react well…), and he complained that I hadn’t given him a fair shake. I told him “Look, I gave you 3 warnings. The only reason they attacked was because you freaking decapitated their captain.”

    Honestly, I think that alignment only works in the right hands. I’ve seen players pick CN or NE just so they have an excuse to be a brooding, angry borderline psychopath without being Dr. Insano level (though I’d argue in the case above that his character pretty much WAS Dr. Insano. Dude bred giant man eating plants and used them to overthrow an enemy stronghold. Then he reveled in the bodycount and retrieved the bones of our enemies to use in his creepy alchemist spells. The DM threatened several times to bump him down to an Evil alignment if he didn’t knock it off).

  • Ben Agar

    I love alignments, I really do. But never as the end all, be all, more of just a characterization tool. Like you actually, but by far my favourite alignment is chaotic neutral. Although I don’t use it like the others do, to skimp on the alignment system but I think chaotic neutral has a heap of potential for very deep characterization. My main character in my story, Secret War, Attelus Kaltos is chaotic neutral and he’s quite deep, (I think) It’s more that he’s a good person but is struggling with a darker, selfish more ruthless side.

    All the alignments have huge potential, that’s why I love them but they can’t be the LAW! Or else shit gets real and fast

    • Unholy Fire Dragon

      They can’t be the law because…
      *puts on glasses*
      They’re chaotic neutral. ;-)

  • SeanMcTiernan

    I just remembered one of my most fun moments in Exalted. I was playing a long time character, a Dawn Caste (Warrior). I drew him as this sort of paragon of what it meant to be a hero. I had been playing for a couple of years, racking up about 200 XP (A crapload in Exalted terms), and Oak was now a near-unstoppable badass, even by demi-god terms. In Exalted, there isn’t alignment per se, there are four Virtues (Compassion, Conviction, Temperance, and Valor), rated 1 to 5, with 2 being average. By this point, Oak was sitting on a Five Valor and a four Compassion.

    Well, being Solars, we’re being hunted two full legions, under the direct control of Cathak Cainan, a semi-retired General of The Realm. We’re trying to get away, when Cainan orders the burning of a temple with townspeople, knowing that Oak would move to save the people. Well, unfortunately, one kid did die in the fire, a sort of poignant moment our ST had been getting ready to lob at us, one of those “Yes, this man is EVIL” moments. Unfortunately, he wasn’t quite ready for Oak’s reaction.

    I immediately make two virtue checks, that being a Compassion roll and I get 4 successes on 2 dice, and a Valor check, where I get 5 successes, so a near legendary, and a legendary respectively. I look to the group and go, “Guys, book it. I’ll hold them off as long as I can, and catch up as soon as I’m certain you’re safe from the Legions.”

    This… is a blatant lie. As soon as they call their actions to flee, I look to the ST who believes I’m about to do a selfless sacrifice. Instead, I go, “I’m pulling my bow, and I’m gonna Jackie Chan it up the building to get a sniper spot. I’ll pop Arrow Storm Technique/Accuracy without distance combo, and I fire until I run out arrows. I am calling my shot for every soldier’s right eye, and once I’m out of ammo, I summon my sword, and pop Racing Hare to push through the hole in the front I created. When initiative starts, I pop five-fold bulwark stance for the scene.”

    What proceeded to occur was an orgy of violence that has yet to be repeated in our group. Over the next few hours, I proceeded to rip apart two legions, including airships, and even warstriders (exalted mecha). I didn’t even stop there, because eventually people broke and ran, and I tracked every one of them down, using survival, investigation, and sorcery, until I found Cathak Cainan, eveyone who followed his orders that day already dead. God, it was a fantastic moment. I don’t think the ST ever really forgave me for that.

  • Jeff

    Getting into fights because of this kind of thing isn’t something we avoid because my DM loves it when players fight and there’s any kind of strife between players, and will thus try to encourage conflict within the party (because it’s “more interesting”). But it’s not fights over alignment-related divides.

  • Redbob86

    Hey Spoony!  I won’t argue alignments, but I do want to point out something you said: “Nobody in real life thinks of themselves as evil”.  Actually, many do, or atleast choose other words like “I’m a monster” or “I’m just a piece of shit”.

    There are serial killers that have identified themselves as “monsters” while showing virtually no remorse over what they’ve done.  This is usually due to them detaching themselves from their own humanity in order to do the terrible things they do.  It’s basically the opposite of the serial killer who instead de-humanizes his victims to justify his actions (seeing them as things, animals, stupid whores, it puts the lotion on its skin), but it is essentially the same end result, to detach oneself from all moral responsibility to do what they want to do.

    This issue is often brought up on the show “Dexter”, a man who identifies himself as a monster regularly.  I wouldn’t call Dexter chaotic evil because he DOES have a code he follows and DOES try to inact his own brand of justice.  But there was one episode in the second season where a woman called him out basically saying “Dexter, this ‘monster’ thing of your’s is just a pathetic excuse to not take responsibility.  Oh of course I did this, I’m a monster.  You shouldn’t be surprised, I’m a monster”.

    There are real life people that think this way, that have some drive to kill, rape, or something else evil, but are so detached that they don’t even try to justify it one way or the other, they just act, not even caring enough to think of themselves as a human being.  Many wishing they infact were not, then they’d have all the justification they’d need.

    I saw one special about a serial killer who’s first act was stabbing a 12-year-old boy he never met before, and just watched him bleed on the ground with no sign of emotion.  When the boy, crying, asked why he did that, he casually responded “I just wanted to see what it was like”, and walked away. Incase you were wondering, the boy survived the attempted-murder.

    So in conclusion, there ARE people out there who consider themselves evil or monstrous, or long to be that way to live without any conflict or responsibility.

    • Shantal Figueroa

      Spoony DID say that people who consider themselves evil tend to be insane. Serial Killers don’t generally have all the gears in their heads turning right. 

  • Tiffany Coats

    I have a question, could you have a Choatic Neutral? I’ve never played D&D, but I’m interested in it.

    • Tiffany Coats

      Opps, sorry, didn’t watch the entire video before asking

  • CargoCultist

    It has been years since I’ve gamed, but the best way to avoid that kind of problem was a combination of creating characters either as a group or at least with close regard to the other characters / composition of the group AND working out a sort of group contract or charter.

    Nothing legalistic, just summing up a consensus you reached before the campaign.
    Things like “We want an action packed game, not hour long planing sessions over how we break into this Saeder-Krupp research facility”, “We will not sell out other PCs”, “Benny will not attempt to build a world-eating monster” or how alignments, if existant in the system, will be handled, and other stuff.

    Doing that beforehand really helps avoiding a lot of pitfalls. Not all, there will always be some grinding halts, but quite a few.

    So for this prisoner dilemma a useable compromise would be “Surrendering enemies get one chance. If we face them again, we push them out of the airlock.”

  • Burns42

    Have you ever tried the Ravenloft campaign setting? It causes alot of alignment arguments because the roles of good/evil are reversed, where evil is the norm and good people are considered the danger to society.

  • Mike P

    C’mon Spoony, Insano is evil for a reason. For SCIENCE!

    Great story as usual, always enjoy these!

  • Tom Neill

    nice imps!

  • Tom

    It’s a really understandable dilemma, people have varying viewpoints and some people feel more constrained by their personal viewpoints whereas some are trying to be in-character and some think the situation changes things. There are no truly right answers and virtually any point could be argued.

    The part where you said that “no one calls themselves evil” reminds me of my psychology teacher, she said the same thing. I don’t completely agree, but I think I understand what you’re saying at the same time.

    Excepting situations where I’m really role-playing, and detaching my personal views somewhat from the character, I feel like my viewpoints are closest to true neutral, in that I try to avoid extremes.

    I really like these anecdotal videos, I’ve never actually sat down and played D&D(or whatever the overarching term for it is, regardless of setting) but it sounds really interesting. Honestly I can’t even fathom some of the situations you’ve talked about, like with Shadowrun and the drug-injecting water guns and the situation with Tempus in Thieves’ World, I’d love to get into something like that as much as you sound like you have.

  • James Paul Johnson

    In my first campaign I was a True neutral Cleric, so I could use all Cleric options.  Which I manipulated constantly.  It came to a head when we defeated a nest of Troglydytes.  We slaughtered them and looked at the eggs.  The others started destroying eggs and I took one for myself, intending to use it as my own.  I latched onto the word ‘usually’ in front of chaotic evil in the monster  manual.  This did not go over well and it drove a wedge between me in the rest of the group…and eventually we all died.  But that’s what your first campaign is for, to learn what’s acceptable and what’s not. 

  • Tom

    Indeed :D, I love me some Zero Punctuation.

  • DeeGee

    When we first started off, myself and the people in my Pathfinder group didn’t think too much about our alignments. I think for the most part everyone picked Chaotic Neutral because (in the words of our alchemist) “It means we do whatever we want for our own sake.” I went with Lawful Neutral because I wanted to play a nice guy but I didn’t want to be over the top “I must do good at all times and must make my teammate do likewise!” The more we’ve played, the more we got a feel for our characters themselves and the more we’ve put into how we’re aligning ourselves. Our one cleric switched over to Chaotic Good and the other to Lawful Good. But even with these alignments there’s only been one time where they all came up.

    We’d recently let another player join our group. He started off as a Ninja which lasted one session (becuase he decided it’d be a good idea to jump around on the back of an ancient stone god which resulted in him getting squished) So he re-rolled a new character as an anti-paladin. He said he wanted to do it because he wanted to play an evil character and one of our players was already evil. He was talking about our alchemist who is really more greedy than evil. He’s often the first one to shout after battle “I loot the bodies!”. So we tell the kid he can roll one up if he’d like but we had a couple good and lawful characters so he might not be able to do all the evil things he wanted. We ended up entering this tomb where we came across some monks. We tried to talk to them to get past but they wouldn’t respond and one drew his sword on us. Still wanting to give them a chance, I shot an arrow at the guy so we could disable and then interrogate him. I got him but he turned out to be a sixteen year old kid. Now much much earlier in the game (like the first or second day) we’d saved a little boy. I got kinda attached to him but he was killed by the big bad guy of the dungeon. I always felt bad about that. So when the DM said I’d injured, basically, a kid. I felt really bad about it. We soon come to realize the monks aren’t going to let us past them so the only way is to force our way in. The kid playing the Anti-paladin gets all excited and stays shouting about how we need to kill them all and the first person he wants to kill is the kid I injured. I tell him no, I won’t let him. The kid’s disarmed and (at this point due to blood loss) is unconscious. There’s no reason to kill him. He keeps insisting, saying we have to kill him because he (the anti-paladin) is Chaotic Evil and he has to make sure the party does bad things or he’ll loose his powers. I keep saying no because I don’t want to harm anymore kids. The two of us got into a huge argument over this. He kept insisting that because I was neutral I shouldn’t care if the kid lives or dies. I told him as Lawful Neutral I live by my own set of codes and my codes say I don’t kill kids or let those around me kill kids. In the end, we disabled the other two monks in our way (because by that point everyone was getting fed up with the anti-paladin wanting to kill everything) and we moved on. He didn’t show up again after that.

    I feel kinda bad that it turned out like that but I wasn’t about to change my character’s way of thinking just so he could do evil things.

  • Darke Mayer Goulart

    Alignments are just tools to help you to roleplay your character. It’s in the fucking book! Both the PHB and the DMG agree that characters may not always act accordingly to their written alignments. That’s normal and should be expected. Also, if the character keeps acting outside of its alignment, the DM can make the player to change it, because he’s clearly not acting to the alignment.

    What I usually do is this: extraplanar creatures that embody alignments (like celestials, devas, demons and devils) ALWAYS act to their alignments. That’s what their ARE, after all: in 3rd Edition, that’s the reason why spells like Protection Against Evil affect them more strongly than humanoids. Other creatures, however, not only can have a different alignment than what it says on the Monster Manual (a character who metagames “all orcs are evil because it says so in the MM” should be addressed by the DM), but even if they are from a specific alignment, they can act “out of alignment” sometimes. Clerics, druids and paladins, of course, would be called on it by their gods (because they got fucking divine powers to enforce the deity’s ideals and portfolio, after all) and maybe lose their power or have to penitence, but if the Lawful Neutral wizard says “well, the law says I cannot cast a spell on the city, but fuck it this time, I need to cast this spell here and now”, I’d let him do it. If that becomes and habit of his, hey, maybe you are not so Lawful anymore, so maybe you should go to True Neutral instead; please change your alignment.

    If a character is doing something completely outside of his alignment (like a Lawful Good character agreeing to kill the orc babies), I would ask the player how his character justifies taking that course of action to himself. A Good character should not think “because it is easier”, or “because they are all evil”, but maybe the player can think or something else to justify it. If the justification sounds good, I’ll let it slide that time. If he does it again, time to change alignment!

    Bottom line is, and this is specially true for humans, alignment should not be set to stone. A Good character probably should not flee from battle or hide in fear while his friends fight and eldritch abomination; but being a coward once does not make you instantly evil, neither being good makes you immune to using the Shaggy-Scooby Solution to a problem, unless you are a 3rd Edition paladin, of course (you’re immune to fear, after all).

  • Dan Lewis

     I use the following definition for good-evil debates, and it works for me.

    Take the act.  If you hinder yourself to help someone, you’re good.  If you help yourself at the expense of someone else, you’re evil.  If you choose one group over another–unless that group is plainly of one type–you’re doing a neutral act.

    For instance, with the babies debate.  A good character would stop right there and devote the rest of their life to helping these orcs.  Doesn’t matter how important your campaign is, they’re done.  A neutral character would kill them as humanely as possible, to keep them from committing an act of evil later, OR would let them live to avoid having to kill innocent children.  An evil character would turn them into slaves or something–evil’s usually the easiest to roleplay, and the end that is played the least.

    • ORCACommander

       ehhh i find it hard to find a good group to allow an evil character in. and thus is harder to get going but but generally not hat hard t do once you got it going

  • Darke Mayer Goulart

    The 2nd Edition PHB had two nice examples of how a hypothetic group of 9 characters (one from each possible alignment) would react to a battle and the division of the spoils afterwards, and why this kind of group composition is problematic.

  • Casper Warrision

    Enforcing the Law like Judge Dread is Lawful Neutral not Lawful Good

    • Arsenal Of Megadeath

      Im glad you mentioned that. It seems that most people don’t know the difference between Lawful Good: like superman and Lawful Neutral: like Judge Dredd.

      • Darke Mayer Goulart

        Lawful Good: Superman, Captain Marvel
        Lawful Neutral: Judge Dredd
        Lawful Evil: Darth Vader
        Neutral Good: Spider Man (pre One More Day, of course)
        True Neutral: Me (I do not treat other people badly, but also I’d not help a person if it would be too troublesome; I’d rather respect the law, but I can see myself going against unfair laws, like SOPA, and ocasionally pirate a movie or game)
        Neutral Evil: Doctor Insano (after all, he is doing evil FOR SCIENCE! and for himself)
        Chaotic Good: Robin Hood
        Chaotic Neutral: Zaraki Kenpachi (from Bleach), a guy who would betray THE  ORGANIZATION THAT RULES AFTERLIFE just so he can have a good fight.

        • Anne

           Another example for Lawful Good: Sam Vimes

        • Arsenal Of Megadeath

          Neutral Evil: Doctor Insano (after all, he is doing evil FOR SCIENCE! and for himself)? wouldn’t he also qaulify as Lawful Chaotic? XD

        • Arsenal Of Megadeath

          well if spoony was talking about there being a pure evil, that’d be the anti-monitor.

    • Tom

      I’m pretty sure he actually said Judge Dredd is a good example of a Lawful Neutral character in this video.

  • Nicholas Zapetis

    Let me tell you about the time I played the “Best Paladin Ever”.  I worked closely with the Dungeon Master to weave his back story into the plot; It was a fairly generic fallen paladin turned blackguard who managed to make quite a conquering as a villain, but then some heroes come by and give him a healthy helping of amnesia.  The super villain of the plot would then revert the lost memories to try and turn him against the party during the climatic final battle, but he would resist (The villain would then probably use mind control, but it would be one of those “I don’t want to hurt my friends” sort of things).

    So, having a couple years of D&D experience under our belts, we both knew that strictly lawful good, “no gray space” personalities could cause SO MANY moral issues in an adventuring party.  So, instead of choosing Herionious (God of lawful good combat and justice and honor), I picked Saint Cuthbert to be my patron (Lawful Neutral but leaning on the good side god of Wisdom, Truth and Zeal).  Thus, I was not a crusader for all things holy, but of truth and wisdom (the truth part again playing into the dual nature of the character background, etc. etc.).  What this meant was that it was not in my chracter’s tenants to judge based on evil or good, but on truth, something that is easier to get along with.

    Still, the party consisted of trouble makers; such as the chaotic neutral rouge who attempted to burn down a building just to see how the city dealt with fires (Answer: flying wizard fire brigade).  Because my paladin notably did not like the rouge, he would make it easy for the rouge to slip away and cause his own (frankly evil at times) adventures.  “I can’t trust him, but nor can I prove he has committed any crime.  Despite this, he has proven himself in the past and IS an asset to our party.  May he gain wisdom, whatever his path.”  Naturally, the party perceived it as “Getting away” with things “under my nose” but it was a way for everyone to have fun and heck, the paladin wasn’t really a good guy; what were the gods going to do?  Take away the powers I don’t have?

    No, the really issue came when one player wanted to play an evil character.  Not just a evil character, but a Half-Succubi fighter character.  The guy was incredibly worried that my paladin would just detect evil and smite her right away without a second thought.  He had built the fighter full of defenses to try and stop me should I attack.  I told him “If your character doesn’t act suspicious and doesn’t give any reason for me to detect evil, I won’t.”  What do you know, during the meeting, he plays a very shifty, “I want to join your party for unknown reasons” role.  Sighing, I detect evil and “tag ‘em” and reluctantly let the stranger into the party (because, you know, that’s what adventurers do when an old character leaves).  Still, I give them a WIDE margin for morally ambiguous acts, including torturing a prisoner for more information.  Only when we get to the climax of a plot does trouble happen.We fight our way up to the deck of a ship where the general commanding an invasion fleet stands, who is being guest played by a mutual friend and DM.  A Suave, intelligent person (I want to say it was like half-ogre, or some monstrous race like that), he makes a simple villainous speech, “I commend you all for getting this far.  I feel you would be an asset to my army.  I give you this chance to join my side; all you have to do?  Kill a person standing next to you.”This is it, moment of truth.  We have fought together, us free spirits and we would rather die than serve tyranny. We look him dead in the eyes with our resolve.Except the half-succubus fighter.  He stares at me.I stare at him.He stares at me, “It’s a tempting offer.”I stare at him, “Don’t you dare.”Initiatives are rolled.  His character goes before mine.  He takes a swipe at me with a debilitating technique (some kind of knockdown, I think).  He whiffs.My turn. “Smite Evil.”  Knocked ‘em down in one hit.
    The villain laughs that his plan actually worked and uses the time this distraction bought to cast some spells and make an escape.At the end of that session (which involved explosions and several raise deads), we asked this player, “Why did you do that?”

    His response?

    “It’s what my character would do.”

    I have another great story alignments and, well, paladins, but I won’t post that unless you REALLY want to hear it ;-D

    • George Rosenbaum

      Wizard Firemen: a new kind of hero.

      • Nicholas Zapetis

        Why get peasants to carry water buckets when with a meta-magic feat to shift element, you can have wizards with WaterBall, WaterBolt, and Cone of Water?  It was just one of those little details of living in a world with magic that my DM had thought of that really helped build the setting.

        Also, if anyone wants to roll up a Wizard Fireman, that’d be awesome :-D

  • Ryan Leet Haxorz Morrison

    Well with the prisoner Dilemma, you don’t necessarily need to kill them OR bring them to justice. You can bring them back to the city, and sell them to slavery and make coin off of it. Rather than killing them which the Paladin would protest, or bringing them back to town just to see them hanged. You can bring them back to town for profit.

    • Darke Mayer Goulart

      That would be very in character for Neutral Evil people: using others to make a profit, no matter what.

  • Darke Mayer Goulart

    I can’t resist doing this… but, you know how to solve the classic “paladin x thief” dillema, don’t you?

    “I’m not that kind of thief”

  • Aaron Good

    The only time I’ve ever had trouble with alignments in a game I DMed is when the Chaotic Evil Barbarian in a party of neutral and lawful people kept attacking and threatening everyone he met. Needless to say he quickly got a shiv in his gut from a very angry NPC bard. 

    On the whole though, I really liked this summary of the issue. I run my groups with the same philosophy that alignments are just there as a point of reference to quickly judge how any given character might respond to a situation. I rarely (if ever) tell my players to act according to their given alignment. If they act against their alignment I just suggest they think about changing it (with a good story-related reason as to why). 

    On a slightly tangentially related topic, I have noticed, in reference to your idea’s about Chaotic Neutral, that many players who are new to D&D choose CN as their first ever alignment (at least, in my experience). It makes sense as they want the freest possible area to run around and test the limits of the game. Just an interesting phenomenon I have observed. 

  • Jayden Reynolds

    Ah, Spoony. You confused me. I figured you were talking about the Prisoner’s Dilemma (note the possessive), which refers to the game theory thought experiment – it basically sums up as this (from Wikipedia – I knew what it was, but I couldn’t phrase it the way I like):

    “Two men are arrested, but the police do not possess enough information
    for a conviction. Following the separation of the two men, the police
    offer both a similar deal—if one testifies against his partner
    (defects/betrays), and the other remains silent (cooperates/assists),
    the betrayer goes free and the cooperator receives the full one-year
    sentence. If both remain silent, both are sentenced to only one month in
    jail for a minor charge. If each ‘rats out’ the other, each receives a
    three-month sentence. Each prisoner must choose either to betray or
    remain silent; the decision of each is kept quiet. What should they do?”

    This Prisoner Dilemma (note the lack of possession) sounds equally interesting though.

  • Juel92

    Nobody thinks they’re evil I remember was brought up in the Sword of Truth books where Darken Rahl explains that to him you’re evil etc. etc. Quite good books if you haven’t read them Spoony.

  • George Rosenbaum

    I don’t think D&D’s alignment system is sophisticated enough for a moral dilemma. If I’m going to approach the Orc Prisoner Dilemma, I’ll have to temporarily ignore that. Otherwise there isn’t a debate.

    Here’s my thinking: I’m pretty certain that our current court of law doesn’t sentence people to death because murderers are now somehow no longer a human life; they do it because the murderer will potentially go on to kill others (ie: Joker vs. Batman), and life imprisonment is expensive for the court, and possibly not preferable to a prisoner who might become suicidaly miserable in jail.

    Basically, it isn’t about morality or anything out of a book. My mode of thinking is just about saving as many lives as possible. The guards are entirely capable of ass raping you with their swords as soon as your back is turned, so I’m okay with killing them (if not willing to do it myself: there’s still some reasonable doubt that they will learn their lesson. Leave it to the group’s paladin). There’s still some doubt here, so I’ll understand if anyone disagrees here.

    The pregnant women, not so much. Assuming they are well into labor, I don’t think any of these women want to risk miscarriage trying to fight you, or exert themselves too much trying to get help from other orc encampments. Unless the pregnancy is not too advanced, let them live.

    Their babies are clearly no threat, and can even be taken prisoner without loosing too much food (babies don’t eat much, though are fussy). So here’s my solution: The paladin will kill the guards, and any able-bodied women. Leave the really pregnant women in the camp (tied down and near a pile of food, if you feel like letting the nearby village they’ve been sacking handle it). Finally, kidnap the babies, and let the human village decide what to do.

    Sound good?

  • ShinoShaSha

    This isn’t really an alignement argument story, but it does have to do with alignments in a sense… We (my friends and I) had just started a new campaign with ADnD and were pretty much all good or at least lawful neutral… except for the chaotic neutral thief… who decided to try to steal from the rest of the party at every opportunity he had and pretty much refused to accompany the group for adventures… sadly, we kicked the guy out, and we mostly felt bad for him, but the guy just really did NOT want to be a team player…

    • Nicholas Zapetis

      Yeah, Rogues are another class that gets highlighted for inner-party conflict in these games simply because of the personality that is implied by the class.  The top definition of is ”
      a dishonest, knavish person; scoundrel.”  and that can set a bad precedent for character personality.

      Stealing from other players is seen kind of as using your skills to hurt the party, and most of the time the party members like it if they are a cohesive group.  Now, if it’s done in good spirits (say in the case of Tasslehoff Burrfoot or any kender), it can be an annoying but acceptable personality trait.  When it’s done in malice (I have run a game where the Rouge would filch money from players if they were insulted or lost an argument), then you should have a talk with them.

      And do NOT accept “It’s what my character would do!” as the be, all end all argument.  Players are in control of their character’s actions, not the other way around.

  • Ava Luman

    I remember when this happened in a game only it was Kobolds. I think it’s called “The Burning Plague.” Basically the group is sent into a cave of Kobolds to clear them out because a local town believes them to be the cause. The party eventually comes across a the children’s rooms and we spent 2 hours debating on what to do with the children. Eventually our Rouge got tired of the debate and killed them while we were still arguing.

    • sprezzatura15

      I literally just ran the Burning Plague the other night- what a funny coincidence! It looked like they were going to kill the Kobold children for a bit, and they did interrogate them for information, but I really played them up to be tiny and helpless, with lots of childish wailing and pathetic hacking coughs, and eventually my rogue felt sorry for them and stuffed them in his bag of holding to take them back with him as his adopted kids! Later, in the part with the zombies, he was all “I won’t let those monsters hurt my children! Stay in the bag, kids!”

      I didn’t think my group would kill them, but I didn’t expect that kind of a reaction either lol!

  • ftidus12

    Here is my issue with alignment:

    I can’t stand Neutral. I really can’t. Lawful and Chaotic [X] (where x is good/evil), as debatable as they may be, have a definitive face (you follow rules 90% of the time or you don’t). Neutral? How the hell does one define the act of maybe/maybe not? It seems that every time I ran a campaign the players who picked Neutral [X] characters were the most boring because they didn’t seem to have a good idea about who their character is and what they want. Usually extremes (IMHO) in alignment are what force players to really get into character and really give life to what is otherwise a series of numbers on a sheet.

    …and that my friends, is roleplaying.

    • Tom

      Really, neutral is the decision that extremes are ridiculous because your character is defined by more particular traits that one doesn’t really feel can be attributed to one side or the other. If you’re of the belief that alignment completely defines your character then I see where you’re coming from, but I think there can be more to it than that.

      • ftidus12

        Most def. However, rare is the player (once again, in my personal experience) who can create and roleplay someone Neutral and not just make them boring/ a munchkin number factory. Sometimes those extremes make the characters and their conflicts really pop, you know?

    • Jimmy TheFish

      You should play like a banker and sell weapons to both sides of the conflict (if thats even possible).

      • ftidus12

        Well, if you’re playing an unusually long Ravenloft campaign (“unusually long” in the sense that the players have managed to survive the highly lethal nature of that setting…usually that’s two adventures)this is what usually happens.

        ….that or Cthuloid-horror sodomy.

    • Darke Mayer Goulart

      The Book of Exalted Deeds from 3rd Edition actually sums quite nicely the difference between Good and Neutral: “If you are just not doing evil, you are not Good; you are Neutral”. The same thing can be applied to differentiate Neutral from Evil, Lawful and Chaotic.

      • ftidus12

        Wow. In my last group, that line from the BOED would have triggered so many alignment arguments that it would have made the Lincoln-Douglas debates look like light dinner conversation.

        I see what you’re saying, though.

  • Arsenal Of Megadeath

    Spoony, that’d be Eric Knowles and Peter Ditto who note that in Preference, Principle, and Political Casuistry,

  • Josh Hark

    oh i had this problem this Wednesday night that someone does not to kill someone because he is the same race as them and does not do anything in the whole encounter and a short argument and almost got us dead because of him i do get what spoonyone meant that is a prisoner dilemma for me

    • sprezzatura15

       my group has a bunch of snobby elves, where even good-aligned ones will be less likely to help when they’re not elves… and I’m always like “really, guys?”

  • tiolenio

    My friend wanted to play a character with split personality disorder, 4 personalities in fact, which were all different alignments. Lawful good, Chaotic evil, Lawful Evil and True Neutral. In effect this guy could get away with anything just by switching his personality. We thought it was an interesting idea, but we eventually talked him out of it. Though now I wonder if we had allowed it and we had come across a moral decision like this, he would be torn into as many pieces as a party would right. How can a character justify doing such a horrible act and not have another personality disagree? To be fair that was why the character’s personality spit because to survive he had to commit some pretty awful acts so… I don’t know. You can justify actually killing them but you might as well have picked a chaotic neutral character.

    • ORCACommander

       the personality(ies) that are not in control are in complete ignorance of the others usually

    • Nicholas Zapetis

      I played in a game with a character like that.  However, each personality was also a separate character and separate player (though each character was a Striker).  Also, the “trigger” for personality switch was a roll at the beginning of each encounter, with a higher chance to remain in personality than to switch.  Naturally, each personality did not know about the others.  One even thought he was a werewolf when he would pass out and wake up with blood all over his hands (turns out he just turned into the Monk).

  • sprezzatura15

    So almost this same thing happened at my group I’m DMing this week- they came upon a pair of sick, helpless kobold children after taking out the squad of kobolds, and I can safely brag that the rogue in my group adopted them and later defended them in another encounter… so I think my group managed to get through the Prisoner Dilemma without too much fuss. Whew!

  • Gerald Kirby

    I have the Prisoner Dilemma crop-up recently in a game I was running, and it was threatening to tear apart the PC party (but not the gaming group). As the Game Master, I made the decision to clear-up the dilemma. While the PCs were arguing over the fate of an Evil prisoner, I had a Neutral Evil follower slit the prisoner’s throat from begin. He did this to curry favour with the PC he had adopted. The party wasn’t pleased, but there was no longer a prisoner.

  • Dreammirror

    Lets see, my paladin story made as short as can be.  Playing 2ed d&d paladin, Forgotten Realms, of the goddess Sune(goddess of love, beauty, sex, etc).  No sense of direction flaw(made party leader for some reason-no clue why).  Did not work closely with the DM to work out how he did alignments(1st mistake).  His world had no detect evil(only detect evil intent-table rule of the dm). We get ambushed in an abandoned castle by powerful bandits, barely survive to run away, losing most of our dungeon swag.  We heal up, return the next night for revenge, and sneak our way inside the castle.  Detect evil intent of no use on sleeping bandits, so we ambush them to even the odds and defeat evil, yadda yadda.  Turns out the bandits had moved on, and an innocent merchant caravan where sleeping there now.  We killed most of them before discovering the error, and the DM slaps my paladin with forced alignment change, dishonor, etc.  Feeling the character is now ruined, I leave on a personal journey of redemption, effectively removing the character from the game.  I love paladins, I love the concept-but unless you are on the same page as the dm, save yourself the grief-they are very hard to play.  I miss that paladin–smoking hot blond with 18 chr whos deity encourages romances, orgies and manaja twas, as well as honor, swordplay and good deeds.   -sigh

  • L1nk1

    About the Orcs dilemma. That’s why you have to have your own court with ya’. That way your lawful characters won’t become vigilantes. Or how is that even considered in dnd? I mean lawful guy should always let the court judge but most of the times there should not even exist any kind of complex court-systems or thought of equality. Anyway, I must be sidetracking badly. :)

    Hmm… If the task was to kill ALL Orcs then the lawful good should think killing ALL of them is right or the lawful good should have asked from his authority BEFORE they go in what to do with prisoners…. But if you are just wandering around the lawful good should have never attacked to the Orc village, which is however evil, because, only defending is considered as good BUT Gandhi did not believe in any use of force but his thoughts were more like a religion but I can’t say it’s more neutral than good…. I’m just trying to say that this is VERY complicated. :D

    • L1nk1

      Can your character prioritize his alignments? like he would think “obeying the law makes you good” or think “If something is morally good it should be a law”. I don’t know really anymore what I’m trying to say. Maybe you guys know better.

  • Omar Alfredo Cantuarias Saleh

    The Book of exalted evil has a lot of examples of how to deal with these “shades of gray” scenarios, especially for a paladin, in my case i run a d&D game where one of the players reached Sanctity, she’s a paladin and pretty much the main protagonist, though she earned this position completely and has to deal with the constant pressure of protecting her companions and the civilians from really wicked bad guys, right now she’s facing againts a Joker tipe bad guy who infiltrated the group perfectly joining as this paladin’s second in command, “Misterio” (As i like to call this bastard) created a paranoia scenario in the group and “Rianna”, the paladin, feels really guilty for not being able to stop this bastard, the player constantly feels a lot of pressure to fill the role of a saint and used to tell me “I’m not that good”, she doutbs herself a lot and doesnt know if she’s doing the right thing, which from certain point of view is awsome because it give the character realism, but i still gave her some help showing her the tips i mentioned in the BoED, for example “Good is priority over Law”, it states that a paladin will oppose a authority figure that abuses it’s power because a corrupt authority is not a rightful authority, it kinda draws the line bethween LG and LN. Or that good people can have differences and discuss them but when it goes down to fighting “it’s not just a fail of diplomacy but a victory for evil”. It states that anyone or anything can be redemmed as well, meaning by the book that an orc can be good if thaught good (using spoony’s example), it will not work all the time but when it does it will be a massive victory for the forces of good, just as a paladin going Blackguard is an enormous victory for evil.

    Other guidelines the book gives to players is that a good character does not kill defenseless enemies, that they have to have mercy, be the better person, etc… Its a very complete book in that regard, some of it’s for “Exalted” characters (basically Mother Teresa characters), but pretty much all applies to good characters in general, not just Paladins, but all classes, rogues included.

    Overall it helped Rianna a lot, she might be protecting her “poor poor lvl 6 paladin follower” (MUAHAHAHAHA) from harm and falling right in the game “Misterio” want’s  her to play, but she’ll still be a champion of good, i dont think “Misterio” will be able to corrupt her at all, but i will try, oh yes i will…hehe

    For “Evil” guidelines theres also the book of vile darkness obiously.

  • CommieCatGirl

    How much XP does an orc baby yield?

    • jesternario

      Well, If the GM isn’t completely DISTURBED BY THAT QUESTION, they may not give you XP at all. Some may even TAKE AWAY XP. Personally, they’re worth all of a half-point of XP. And I would only allow it once before punishing anyone else for it (just like the ant hill XP argument)

      • Darke Mayer Goulart

        Depends. If it is 3rd Edition, probably nothing (CR is too low). In 4th Edition, probably half the EXP that a level 1 minion would give (which is barely nothing at all).

        If it is Ragnarok Online, however, they are Level 43 (!), worth of 315 EXP and 354 Job EXP (!!), and they can use the Call Slave ability (!!!) to call an Orc Warrior and an Orc Lady (!!!!). And there is a quest where one of the steps is to kill 10 Orc Babies (!!!!!).

        Korean MMORPGs are disturbing, I’ll tell you that.

  • Chris Bradshaw

    I once read about a dude who, just for fun, made an alignment system based on 19th century German philosophers.

    Like one person would have the alignment “Max Stirner” and the other person would have “Schopenhauer(sp?)”. I thought that was kind of interesting.

    • Vismutti

      Dude, that sounds awesome. :D

  • LoneWolf343

    A friend of mine, who has some experience DMing, hates the D&D system (his name for it is “DURPS.”) Alignment is the big factor in this, and the other is the weaknesses in the HP system, which you mentioned in the last video.

  • Jordan Selby

    Spoony, love these videos. Please never feel that you have to shorten them or leave out details. We all love long videos. Seriously!

    Anyhoo, my alignment story. To keep it simple, we had a prisoner dilemma with a main villain character. I was DMing, and had 4 PCs. One was a paladin, another was a wizard (or a mage, I forget). 

    When the villain surrendered, the magic user cast a sleeping spell on the paladin. The reasoning was the PC magic user knew the paladin was going to be in a moral quandary. He figured the best way yo eliminate it was to temporarily take out the moral staple of the group.

    It got heated later when the character woke up and demanded answers. The group just decided to say that one of them kill the villain, but they wouldn’t say who. This kept the paladin from being able to dish out any punishment due to not knowing the true perpetrator.

    Stay awesome Spoony.   

  • Aestolia Silverfalls

    The whole argument of nature vs. nurture point of the alignment argument came in in my game in a different manner. 

    Mindless undead. Book says they’re evil, but they’re mindless, how can they be evil. Really they’re only as evil as the person controlling them.

    What if some mage offered a sick farmer some skeletons to work his field while he’s ill? Are the mindless undead still evil then?

    • Ebok

      I would look at it like this. Within D&D alignment is not so much a codified rule of action, but something more akin to the coloring of your soul. This has an effect in the cosmos, determines how beings of soul (outsiders) react to your presence. Magic draws from certain energies, energies tied into these very same divine creatures. As Spoony stated, with D&D these outsiders are very much defined by their color. When you create undead, you are drawing from evil sources, bringing that evil color into the world, and thus tilting the balance of your environment towards that color. The act of creating them and maintaining them is thus evil, irregardless of what you are using them for. This has a coloring of your own soul as well, even if you are doing it for good or at least justifiable reasons.

    • Tom

      Yeah, excepting undead with minds (thus NOT mindless undead :D) they aren’t evil. If your Int score is N/A then I think you have the same alignment as my bookshelf.

  • Qalest

    Walking Dead’s last episode is a Prisoner Dilemma thingy wasn’t it?
    Video on wants/needs of the new 5th edition of D&D?
    Going to Gen Con?

  • Jimmy TheFish

    Spoony we had a squrill in our attic, what we did was say what are we going to do. Filled the hole, put up the trap and caught it. We said what are we going to do, release it in the woods but it come back if you dont drive it far enough. We said fuck it, filled a big of water submerged the cage in water and closed the lid for a few minutes. 

    • Shantal Figueroa

      …That’s awful. 

    • bob bob

      That’s disgusting. You should be ashamed

    • Tariel Corbeau

       yeah… I say what others have said. That is just terrible, you couldn’t take enough time to just go out and dump the squirrel in a forest? That is just bad. Hell I catch spiders/crickets all the time and I just toss them in the flower garden. Cockroaches get smashed but they come up from the sewer and that is why for that. They could be carrying some very terrible things? I always take the time to at least grab a cup and a piece of paper and toss the spiders outside.
      I would have asked for some non kill mouse traps IF you could buy them in my po-dunk little town. ((And you can’t. I’ve checked.)) Since we did have mice at one point. But seriously? What you did was terrible. NOTHING deserves to drown to death. Hell you could have just called ANIMAL CONTROL and asked them to pick it up. They would have done that i bet. Seesh.
      NOTHING deserves to DROWN to death. Have you EVER been even partially drowned? I have, I can say it was the scariest moment of my entire life. And it happened when I was about seven. One the the friends of the family saved my life by pulling me out before I drowned. But there is a panic, a deep panic that you can NOT swim, that you know that once you breathe in you WILL die. THAT is a terrible way to die.

      • ORCACommander

         they WILL just come back. only way to get rid of them is to either go 200 miles which no rodent is worth that for fuel expenditure or you kill it. I’ll agree that drowning it may have not been the best method but certainly the least messy.

        • illidan4ever

          But drowning something is one of the most inhumane ways to kill. Could of at least had the balls to smash it with a hammer if you must. Yeah, it’s gross, but at least you’re trying to consider nature, too. Or just shoot it, but since you drowned it I’m assuming you don’t own a gun.

    • NightStarX

      And here Spoony said there’s no such thing as absolute evil. That comment shoots down the argument for that even harder than he did himself by the end.

      Good job, man.

  • Ben Scanlon

    Alignment: The RPer’s Kobayashi Maru

  • Jean-Baptiste Raucy

    I think alignments should basically be used as starting guidelines. They are useful as cliff notes of what your character thinks and usually acts like, and they’re good for beginners because they help roleplay. They are simple and basic, so when things get more nuanced anc complex, the lines start to blur, which means alignments are no good in settings where morals are gray. You couldn’t possibly have alignments in Game of Thrones, because even the so-called bad guys like Cersei Lannister have believable reasons for the shit they pull.

    Spoony, you said there’s no such thing as absolute evil, but in D&D settings, where there are gods and demons, where metaphysical concepts are active forces, absolute evil actually can exist. Demons acts chaotic evil because they embody that alignment, their mindset is alien and completely inhuman. They are fundamentally evil.

    In that spirit, I’d say an alignment does not depend on how the character sees himself, but on how the cosmic forces judge him. A paladin that ruthlessly kills could consider himself to be in the right, but as far as the divine forces are concerned, he’s no longer good. And characters could very well say “Screw the gods, I do what I think is right !”, but that’s how they see themselves, not how the cosmic scales see them. In such a setting, alignments make sense, and they matter most for magic and gods and religion, not much for human individuals, who many times are simply neutral, guys who want to survive and have a happy life, not fight for great causes.

  • ScreamingDoom

    … If the group will completely destroy the game over this argument, WHY would you as a DM even allow such a scenario to happen? Just fudge the results so there are no Orc women, Orc babies, and they never surrender.

    Sure, it may not be “realistic”, but how realistic do you have to be with a game involving magic, orcs, and undead? The simple matter that there IS an alignment system (which has ALWAYS been bullshit and should never, ever actually be used except as the most general of baselines) means that realism has flown the coop long before the game began!

    Alignments suck and should never be used. You make a good point with Planescape, however that exact same scenario can easily exist WITHOUT alignments gumming up the works; it’s simply an ethical philosophical disagreement.

    Actually, a little bit of basic philosophy could solve all alignment issues. Just decide whether you want a world where there are objective measures of right and wrong (which are ALWAYS right or wrong), a world in which context and motivation matters, or some combination of the two and define what those rules are. Bam, done, ten minutes tops. Far more flexible and less ambiguity (no Always Chaotic Evil bullshit here, since its ones actions that define their goodness or evil, not their inherit makeup).

    The fact that the alignment system is a complete and utter abject failure that should never have been created is evidenced by the addition of the “Unaligned” alignment.

  • Charles Perryman

    I often offer moral dilemmas to my players when I DM.  When no consensus can be reached, the players often end up fighting each other.  PvP can be kind of fun.  However, I had one game where the whole party basically killed each other.  Ended the game, but was still fun.  Sometimes the party forms separate factions who end up splitting from each other.  Makes DMing a pain, but having two opposing groups of players adds some excitement as long as they’re not too attached to their characters.

  • peteman

    I remember doing that once. The character in question was True Neutral, but he did all sorts of things that gradually made me declare him Evil. This included: burning down a house while there were people still in it (the point was to flush out the big bad, but no one in town knew he was involved, so this was effectively a random terrorist attack), paying the hangman to sabotage the noose after the big bad’s noose after he had been exposed and captured (choking him to death instead of snapping his neck), and after being thrown in prison and made someone bitch for numerous crimes he was framed for (and some he was legitimately guilty of), he returned to the prison, paralyzed the guy, and then raped him with Shadow Pixies (to the point where Shadow Pixies is something of a meme with my group).

    What was great as when I had the hanged guy use a Death Curse on him, so someone started framing him and any attempt of this character to declare innocence came out as a proud declaration of guilt and insults toward the person asking. The best part is this exchange:

    Guard: “Mr. Silversmith? You are under arrest!”

    Silversmith: “On what charge?!”

    Guard: (Takes out large pad) Theft, cattle rustling, widespread vandalism, poisoning a well… *goes on for a couple of minutes* arson, and reckless endangerment resulting in death.

    Silversmith: *blink* I am innocent… of a significant number of those crimes!

    3E I believe did away from losing a level for alignment changes.

    • Ebok

       Both 3e and 4e have no punishment for changing alignments. It simply effects how spells which reference alignments effect you.

  • Ebok

    The simple solution between the orc and the party is ignored by stating that RACE is a blurred distinction that occurs within a species. Orcs are quite obviously a different species of animal. They should not exhibit many “human” qualities, and any degree of communication between the two should be made impossible by the DM. Species which survive using the same resources, do not co-exist within the same habitat without conflict over those resources. This conflict should be recognized and created as a narrative for the party before any such example, irregardless of any alignment issues. In such situations it is not good to save the orc, because they will kill grow up to kill your people. It is not evil to kill the orc because they are in conflict with your species, its like saying that ugly alien is cute, even if it’s race is destroying your countries, burning your farmlands, and murdering everyone.

    Narrative trumps alignment, and often creates far more realistic and profound stories.

    • Tariel Corbeau

       Yeah but you could always say that orcs are only evil because they are RAISED that way and it is all they know. You could say if they are raised by good people that they good be a good race. Its a ‘nature vs nurture’ thing. And as my favorite mustached blind old man once said.
      “look at the children.”

  • Dario Chung

    In my case, I came across this problem. The situation was to take out some bad guys, but they had hostages inside a cave. We started planing to blow up the place, as we didn’t have a good character, mostly neutral or evil. The neutral guys started arguing to not do that. We should somehow save the hostages too. Also, some players were affected by that, as they own morals, not their characters, came into play. Not good when this happens.

    As a DM, I enforced no Evil character and some stuff like 0HP isn’t dead, it’s knock out. Overkill would be needed to kill.

    Some protested, so I made a game with everyone evil or neutral/chaotic. In the end they weren’t comfortable with it, so they agreed with me.

    This just to avoid those moral arguments in the game. Also, I didn’t use rules that punished alignment changes. If a player wanted to change, just give a reason and if it’s reasonable, go for it.

  • jordan stone

    There’s an image on the net where a sufficient argument is made that Batman is every single DnD alignment at once. That’s why I prefer to sum up alignments as ‘how they usually act’, and in that situation I’d consider Batman neutral good, he tries to be a good guy, tries to uphold morality and justice, but he breaks the law to do so and follows his own moral code.

  • Jesse M. Danielson

    I think that people who play CN as “do whatever you want” is a bit of a cop-out.  The point of neutrals is that they don’t go out of their way to hurt people, but also don’t go out of their way to help people.  A well played CN would be the easy rider of the D&D universe, someone who really has no respect for authority or order but who really just kinds of goes around doing their own thing while trying to leave others alone.  If someone’s burning down orphanages for fun, I think that’s really starting to approach CE, since it crosses the “how many people do I hurt to do this” line.  Likewise, if someone’s idea of fun is saving a burning village of people they have no real stake in, that’s starting to drift CG.

    But I tend to be on the side of not liking the way the Alignment system ends up going.  If it’s going to be used, I prefer it to be descriptive rather than prescriptive.

    On the Orc babies stuff, if you don’t you should read the Goblins webcomic: 

    It does a very good job of kind of showing how messed up the D&D world would be were it to actually occur in reality, in addition to being one of the most hardcore RPG comics I’ve every read XD

  • Jesse M. Danielson

    incidentally, the art gets much, much better later on XD

  • urupomias

    Rape the men, adopt the women, kill the babies ;D

    • ORCACommander

       Bosc “We shall Enslave their Women! Eat Their Children! and Rape Their Cattle!”

  • Cody Jackson

    Here’s a possible solution to the dilemma – claim Lawful Neutral as your alignment. Killing women and children isn’t in your contract.  If the guards came after you later, well that would be on them, not you.  Self-defense is alignment-neutral after all.

  • edczxcvbnm

    I tend to play an evil character on the rare occasions that I have played.  I know the group is against me so I let them do what they want and when they aren’t looking do the evil thing.

    So, in this case I would agree to take the Orcs hostage and ride back into town.  During the middle of the night I would slit all of their throats and wake everyone up in the morning with Orc Bacon.  I try my best to turn it into a positive to get everyone off my back.

    1) Now we have more food!
    2) We saved time by not going all the way back to town.

    They are not too happy but there isn’t a whole lot they can do and I got what I wanted.  This doesn’t last long as I become slowly less trust worth and yeah.  But it gets you through a few situations and hopefully the GM realizes this will turn bad fast and stops presenting these sorts of obviously conflicting moral choices less the group splits up.

  • JenxRodwell

    Alignments are one of the main reasons why I stray from D&D as a system. But, just like Spoony, I love Planescape so very very much….

    My take on the whole dilemma is that before the game begins, hell before even characters are created the DM and all the players need to sit down together and discuss this and come to a consensus on how they are going to be treating alignments in the game. Once everyone agrees only then can you start the gaming process. And if anyone breaks the agreement, then they should be called out on it. Simple as that.

    Oh, and if you just CAN’T agree on how to handle the situation? You probably shouldn’t be gaming together.

    Now, the way I like to see alignments is not so much as something that dictates how you act, but something which labels your acts. Let me try and explain it – you do not act nice because you’re Lawful Good. You’re Lawful Good, because you act nice. This means that I don’t think alignment change should infer any penalties and, in fact, I think it should happen a lot more often.
    Characters who are not Celestials, or Demons or Modrons or Slaadi or any other extraplanar race should have their alignment constantly changed in response to their actions. (For example, look at the Planescape: Torment video game. You start neutral and just go from there) So just because your character starts the game thinking of himself or herself as a Neutral Good all around nice person, it doesn’t mean they’ll remain such during the game.

    Now, with the extraplaner characters who originate from a specific Outer Plane and are thus creatures who embody an alignment, there the change should happen really, really hard, and after much dedicated effort from either the character or from outside forces to change their alignment. A demon or devil can rise, as much as a celestial can fall. But BOTH those examples are extremely rare and only happen in extreme circumstances. And really, why are you allowing your PCs to play such characters in the first place? Do you LIKE headaches?

  • Daemian_Lucifer

    Unlurking for the first time(woohoo).

    I see that someone has already linked goblins,which gives us a great view of a paladin villain.Especially in a comic where he kills a human baby,because it was adopted by mosnters,and therefore has a potential to become evil:

    One of the main reasons that Ive stopped playing d&d is precisely the restrictions of alignments.Its so much better to not have them at all.

    Also,I have a small nitpick,Spoony:You said “SENTIENT races”,when it should be “SAPIENT races”.Sentience means having senses,so basically any animal,and some plants,are sentient,and so would be undead as well.Sapience is usually defined as possessing wisdom,so its a step above self-awareness,which is a step above intelligence.

    • Tariel Corbeau

       That is a small nitpick, a lot of average people make that mistake. Hell even Penny Arcade makes it.
      It should be sapient there too you know. Its a mistake since we all argue we have ‘sentience’ and the average person just thinks that is ‘what makes us human.’ is a common mistake is what I am saying.

      • Daemian_Lucifer

        It is a common mistake,yes,but that doesnt mean it shouldnt be pointed out.The more people know about it,the less common it will be.

      • Nicholas Zapetis

        To be fair to Penny Arcade, “Sentient” still works in that context.

    • Dreammirror

       Ugh dammit Daemain, I had to follow your link to Goblinscomic and spent 4 hours reading it lol -pretty good series.  My afternoon is shoot, but thanks for the link -odd way to view goblins but was refreshing.  Kin was kewl.

  • Allen Elk

    I love stretching alignments.  I usually play a fairly brutal character, but as I play monks, paladins, and samurai-type characters, they tend to be lawful-good.  I simply use rationalization.  In the orc baby dilemma, it’s simple: the children are innocents, the men cannot be trusted, and the women are helpless.  In that view, my lawful-good character says “Cage them up, leave them plenty of food, and send someone to collect them.”  Now, my brother on the other hand, he plays chaotic-good.  He’d take them as prisoners and let them die in an “accident” sort of thing, such as we wake up to find the women and children gone and the men dead.  None of us would be able to say who killed them, but the players all know it was my brother.  When he plays paladins, which he has done, he always goes with the “convert and kill” method.  He ties them up, demands they convert to good, and no matter what they answer, he kills them afterward.  If they convert, they will have no chance to relapse, so their souls are saved.  If they don’t, then they’re evil and must be destroyed.  As far as the alignment change system works, I use points.  Basically, you give a point value to alignments to say how strictly you adhere to them, like a lawful-good character who really doesn’t love the law, but follows it because it keeps him out of trouble.  He’s still lawful because he won’t break the law, but he doesn’t force others to adhere to them if they choose not to, and he’s accepting if there’s no other way.  As for the chaotic-neutral, I hate that alignment for one reason: assassins.  I DM’d a game where two players both designed ruthless cut-throats, one modeled after Riddick, the other after Artemis Entriri.  As they couldn’t join the party as evil, they chose chaotic-neutral, and proceeded to do whatever they wanted, when they wanted, just for the sake of they wanted to.  While they never burned any buildings down, they did murder city guardsmen to see how long it would take to discover he was missing.  They had a mission to do that required knowing the response time, though, so I couldn’t say it was an evil act, it was just an uncaring one.

  • jesternario

    I don’t have a story about a paladin driving a wedge in the group. I DO, however, have a story about a thief pushing a paladin off a cliff when he wasn’t expecting it :)

    • Darren Copley

      I need to hear this story…

      • jesternario

        It’s not much of a story, sadly. We were in a city in the Negative Elemental Plane, and when the Paladin wasn’t looking, the Thief full on pushed him with his full strength off of the bridges between buildings, which was the only thing keeping the Neagive Elemental Energy from killing them.

    • Tariel Corbeau

       Sounds like something my friend would do, she hates paladins with a passion.

  • Cody Osborne

    I couldn’t help but notice the Zero Punctuation Imps on your book shelf and thinking “Ben Yhatee Croshaw for the win!

  • Demonchow

    A group I DM for had this problem when they encountered a patrol trying to find their city the were starting in a huge forest. this patrol surrendered(unlike any of the others) when the offer was made expecting to be lead to there city for imprisonment. the party didn’t like this and wanted to kill them rather then risk them escaping with knowledge of its location, everyone expect the druid that is… who said they surrendered and therefore no one could hurt them. the bard of the party walked off with the druid to argue with her, and once out of earshot/visual, the wizard fire balled them because ‘they tried to jump me’.

    solution presented: its easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission.

  • Krystian

    That is the reason why you play EVIL guys that eat babies skin them and wear them as a hat. no morality no problem. or at least you have either all lawful good or no lawful good.

  • uberphish-studios

    I actually know a guy who roleplays (in a non-D&D setting) a self-proclaimed ‘Evil Overlord’. In his own mind, he exists to be some hero’s foil. He is evil for the sake of balancing out the world and being that force that drives some young peasant to be the hero the world needs. Of course, he’s powerful enough that no-one’s stopped him in forever and he’s settled into being a *corporate* evil overlord, but the premise remains, and it’s a really fun character to interact with. He knows he’s evil, and he knows that it’s his role in the way of things to fall to someone on the side of ‘good’, or at least the oppressed masses, but he just keeps working at his empire until someone manages to take him down in an honorable, orderly way.

  • Cyphus

    Really? Alignment is based on INTENT which is why I find rifts alignment system superior example someone dies because the person was trying to kill you and you punch him in the face and he falls and hit his head on a corner thats self defense if you punch a guy and knock him out and proceeded to beat him as he is unconcious thats manslaughter first degree murder is with planned pre meditation with intent and elaborate plan (IE the group vs Tempus Thales) second degree is spur of the moment you didnt plan on killing him but he was there so you killed him. bandit/orc principle bandit doesn’t want to farm so instead he robs people who work for their money to pay for food orcs same thing you ever see a orc farm and be self sustaining? good vs evil is basically are you in it just for yourself (evil) or for the benefit of the general populace (good) is it impulsive (chaotic) or well thought out and to be self sustaining without determent of others (lawful) as for the whole good evil creatures they are creatures because they are magical they are bearing the taint of good or evil an angel is good because they ar ethe magical embodiment of good a devil or demon is evil because they are the magical embodiment of evil undead are evil because they used evil powers to make a dead corpse alive once again Eberron campaign setting has (good) undead people as ancestors who were deemed worth raised up as undead ancestors to defend tombs.

  • Natalie Kirk

    Is it possible to be an evil alignment while pretending to be good? Like, roleplaying a double agent?
    (I’ve never played D&D)

    • Cyphus

       Pretty sure thats how the quintessential King’s Chanellor that act as advisor the the King but secretly intends on overthrowing him plays out a good old detect alignment (intent) spell or sense motive skill

      • Natalie Kirk

        When I read this, my first thought was Jafar, and then the phoney chancellor in Chrono Trigger.

  • TheGrumpy Celt

    In my experience a lot of alignment arguments comes down to conflicts between the players about issues unrelated to the actions of the characters. The alignment issue is just a personification of other issues.
    Even if a creature can identifiably be called evil, evil doesn’t exist on its own. You can have a bucket full of water, but you cannot have a bucket full of evil.

    • Cyphus

      But you can have a bucket full of Holy water

      • ORCACommander

         or unholy water

    • Raziel Raven

       I’ve seen a toaster oven full of evil!

  • Cameron

    I’m in a non alignment, but back story situation. My character is a former slave, and we’ve come across a place where there are children slaves, being bred or kept for food. Based om my backstory, I can not agree to leave and not free them. But there is no way to actually get them out of there. And we’re only level 4/5, and we know for a fact that the person in charge of all this is a Litch, at least level 14.  So I pretty much have ot refuse to leav,e and all my group wants to go and continue on our quest, so we’re handcuffed and have no clue on what to do

    • Dreammirror

       In your shoes, I would have to admit that while your character abhors slavery and would never wish to see it inflicted on another, can NOT at that time, do anything for them.  It may be painful to face, but if you really want to help them, you have to survive to grow more powerful, gain allies, etc so that someday, you could return to effect change there.  If you die, you die and those kids remain slaves-no change.  Its brutally harsh, but that is the truth as I see it :/

    • ORCACommander

       basically talk to your dm about creating a subplot that once you gain enough power you can go back and try and to rescue the kids. don’t know your rule set but i am pretty sure pathfinder has rules for sub plots.

    • Shantal Figueroa

      Promise the kids you’ll come back for them and continue partying with the group. Your character will be really torn and depressed for awhile, but then he’ll have even more motivation to become stronger and be more determined. Then as your campaign nears an end, ask the DM if you can really go back and take out the Lich and free the kids.  

  • Jacob Elias Land

    Albo gator em

  • Jacob Elias Land

    What about the paths of humanity, path of blood, etc in VTM? Man, path of Power and the Inner Voice was so often used for an excuse to ignore morality in the game

  • RedCoatGunman

    I have two stories to add, both of which involve me being the odd man out. The more recent was a 3.5 Forgotten Realms campaign in which my character (a chaotic good swashbuckler) opposed some of the party who were trying to justify destroying a town to protect a secret that could destroy all of Faerun (needs of the many etc.). Luckily, a solution to the conundrum presented itself before the argument could escalate.

    The other scenario was a bit less civil. I was playing a Neutral Good Cleric (hoping to be able to look the other way sometimes for the sake of the group). I was trying to negotiate with a group of elves that were self isolated from the rest of the world when two of the party were caught STEALING FROM THE CHURCH. A fight ensued between us and the guards. My character would not be able to ignore this, yet I didn’t want to fight the rest of the party on my own. I became so frustrated that I completely flipped out. I effectively killed the game, and the group, all being my friends, never invited me back to play.

    I understand that I was out of line in the second case, but I don’t know what I should have done. The easy answer is to roll with the punches or even make a new character, but I don’t thinks that’s fair to me. I like playing good characters. Finding another group isn’t really an option because I don’t know many people who play RPGs (though I am now in a meet up group). I know that there is a balance here somewhere, I just don’t know what it is.

  • Mateusz K.

    Great arguments Spoony. You should invite some rpg player / dm to discuss this with him – would’ve made an even better video. I myself am for rewarding how the players act out their alignment. I guess they choose to act out the aligment as they choose to play a role of a thief, a warrior or a priest – good role-playing (and acting on the aligment is also role-playing) deserves a reward. The forced aligment change was a major threat and blow to the character. There were rarely any major side effects when players had come to and argument. I had players killing each other, betraying them, stealing from each other… but I would never let it ruin the game… I myself had a few skirmishes with other players including my own very old character dying in one of those… but I wasn’t mad at the other player – the dice were on his side, and had I had more luck, I would’ve killed him.
    I only once had to kill a character for deliberate attempt to destroy the campaign – he was asked to leave the party and on his way he got attacked by wolves in the woods and died.
    I was also several times forced to stop other players from doing something out of character, and it resulted in arguments over what is the level of control I have over the players character – but when he can’t deal with it – I call it bad role-playing (he could be under a spell for what he knows, and he must roll with it or else).
    Many times I allowed for bat shit insane behavior when we had fun… like in a bar brawl someone shouts at the top of his voice: I throw my knife at the bartender – I was like roll the dice, and no concerned that his character woudl never do that.
    I guess I mean this: when It’s convenient for me or the plot I require players to act out their CHOSEN aligment (they could’ve gone with a different one) but then it’s not relative to the story – they can do as they please – if they want to argue – great, good role-playing is rare and it is those situations that allow us to feel like we are choosing our own actions and not just reading of the character chart of the player’s handbook.

    Thank you again Spoony for such a great vlog on rpgs – I really hope you give us a stream or vlog of a real rpg game with your friends.

  • Corona Sunstar

    When ever I begin a new campaign, especially in a fantasy setting with alignments, I give the party a short test in character.  The test is as follows….

    The party leaves one of the starting towns in the campaign and finds caravan tracks with obvious signs of pursuit, after investigating this they find several humans (2 to 1 odds based on party size) fighting with a group of orcs (again about 2 to 1 odds based on party size).  The group has little to no time to determine the situation and must make a decision on what they do.  The options that are usually available in this situation are to help the humans fight the orcs, or help the orcs fight the humans, or leave the area.  The trick to this is that the caravan is being led by the orcs and it is the humans who are trying to pillage.  If the party chooses to put aside the racial bias that all orcs are evil (since it says so in the book) and help them the party will eventually learn that the orcs are being led by a powerful druid (at least when I use this test) called the Earthmother who has taken a clan of evil orcs and rehabilitated them to being goodly aligned.  Of course on the other side of the coin if the party sides with the humans who are common bandits they will earn the wrath of the Earthmother.  I personally find that this usually will lead to players thinking much more carefully about their actions and not outright slaughtering anything they see as evil (because the books say they are evil) but also helps to keep the prisoner dilemma to a minimum later in the campaign (especially if the group has gotten on the good side of the Earthmother, who offers to take any prisoners under her guidance in the future)

    As for my own personal thoughts on alignment in general as a GM, I absolutely hate when a player gives the fact of the alignment they are as reason for their actions.  I can debate either side of the argument for the prisoner dilemma with the example of the orc women and children as well as the guards who surrendered.  I personally usually stick to a lawful, neutral, or even sometimes chaotic good aligned character when I am playing, but even there I cannot justify with any alignment that I play killing without at least trying to find another solution to the problem at hand.  Just wanted to give my thoughts on this topic.  I hope that at least some of my rambling has been coherent enough to give some decent insight into something.

    Love the Countermonkey vlogs, please keep them coming its always great fun to hear your stories.

  • Lyrander

    What I like to do in D&D (and any game that enforces Alignment for that matter)?  Have it be divinely enforced.  Good and Evil exist because the gods say so.  Elves are Good and orcs are Evil because of who Correllon and Gruumsh have thrown in their lot with.  And yes, philosophers love to debate alignment in universe.  In a particular homebrew setting me and my friends like to use, a major NPC (who would be Chaotic Good in most settings) is Chaotic Evil purely because he’s working to abolish Alignment.  To me, this makes it much easier to enforce Alignment because I can simply say, “I know that your character considers himself Chaotic Good, but the gods have decided otherwise.  If you don’t like that decision, then either work to please them or overthrow them.”

  • MFlorian

    Uh oh.  Did you start another tangent site?  Did you learn nothing from Wrestle Wrestle?  =P

    Unlike the wrestling, which you got bored with, you’re going to run out of stories and it’ll get merged back into the main site again.

  • Svetoslav Savov

    i think that if my character wona drink blood from the body of spear impale baby he will.

  • Adam Michael Szlamp

    Spoony. That is not the Prisoner’s Dilemma, I don’t know how you fucked that up so hard. The Prisoner’s Dilemma is this. There are 2 robbers, 1 has stolen the diamond the other has 10 million dollars to buy off the stolen diamond. They agreed beforehand that the diamond be handed off in a field and the money be stored at the train station. This can lead to four outcomes, one where the diamond robber has nothing because he was betrayed, another where he trusts the other and gets the money, another where he just betrays the money man but gets no money because he was going to betray him, and finally where the diamond robber keeps the diamond and the money. That’s the prisoner’s Dilemma sometimes called a game of “Fuck you Buddy”, it’s basic Game Theory where it shows the best outcome is to betray the other person. What you described is the stupidest mortality argument people keep using. You don’t know the future, it’s unreliable to think about any outcome simply because you don’t know you shouldn’t even think about. A noble warrior only kills what he deems evil now, not some stupid pseudo he has no logical way of predicting. I especially hate it games because being a good guy is always the best solution, and when I’m a dick it often turns back on me the most retarded way possible.

    • Mikko Simonen

      Did he at some point call it the Prisoner’s Dilemma, though? With the apostrophe-s?

      • Mikko Laurinen

        I’d agree with Mikko here, the dilemma OF the prisoners and that involving taking prisoners are two pretty different things.

    • Michaevelli

      That isn’t the prisoners dilemma either.
      In fact the prisoners dilemma is to show that the best outcome in average is not to betray each other.
      Suspect A and suspect B get 6 months prison time each if they don’t betray the other one and not snitch on each other, making 12 month total. If A snitches on B or vice versa the snitch gets 3 months and the snitched a year, making 15 months total.

  • Vismutti

    Yeaahhh… I think the only way to avoid conflicts is to play a game that doesn’t have alignments or at least isn’t strict about them. I have to say though, I like them too! I love the idea of the Lawful – Chaotic scale rather than just Good vs Evil.

    On “true evil”: There are people who DO consider themselves evil and revel in it. But they are really, really few and probably insane, making them bad villains. They’re the kinda guys who just want everybody dead. And you know, extreme sadists. I mean not the kind of responsible sadists who have a kink for whips and stuff, I mean like evil sadists.

    I think many evil people might consider themselves neutral. They may not think they’re good but they have the right to act the way they do in their worldview. That’s actually what I think people mostly think: I have the right to do this and it’s not my fault if others get hurt by it because why should I sacrifice my profit for the sake of others? It’s their fault for being weak and stupid!

    But yeah, true evil people who know they’re evil are extremely rare and insane. And yeah, probably most people do consider themselves good even if they’re evil.

    Mount Olympus is the lawful good? xD I’m not going to argue if that’s the setting, it’s fine! I’m just laughing at the idea that these Greek gods from Greek mythology would be in any way lawful or good…

    Btw, since you mentioned political parties… it would actually be interesting to do an alignment system based on the political spectrum. Like scales of socially conservative versus socially liberal, of economically left-wing versus economically right wing, of nationalist versus internationalist, of growth versus degrowth, of environmental versus non-environmental… And so on. I’d love to see how that’d work out. :D (Obviously you’d need way more than just two extremes and a centrist in between on those scales though. Since there are way more levels in these issues.)

  • Placid_Snake

    I’ve never played tabletop RPGs so I don’t know how it goes there, but when it comes to video games, all I have to say is: chaotic neutral FTW.

  • Bertramn

    I love the alignment-system, I even use it in non-D&D-games to have a point to start the character of my character, then I often go on variants of the specific alignments.

    For example:

    In an RPG a friend of mine wrote, which also plays in a Fantasy-world, I made a character and started him off as basically True Neutral, but in a way where he would most of the times say “the end justifies the means” if the situation was ambiguous in any way, but had a sense of justice none the less,
    so basically he knew some things he did were wrong, but he did them FOR something.

    This would often lead to conflicts with my party because they were all more or less Lawful Good and didnt like it much when I suggested we jsut kill the prisoners or loot dead bodys.

    In the end his code of morale was his dilemma.
    We played a campaign in a country that was basically pretty similar to the Arabic region on our world.
    What has to be known to understand the situation though is that Gods and Demons, like in D&D do exist and do regularly interact with the humans or other races, Demons however are only different to Gods in that they come from this planet, Gods came here from outside and are more powerful.

    In the country we were in there had been a war between two peoples and the Demons they worshipped, and one side had won and was ever since oppressing the other.
    The 4 Demons on the winning side had enslaved the 5 Demons on the other.

    Our party heard this story from both perspectives and something was fishy about the winners.
    My Theory as a player was that there had never been a war, but it was so far in the past that nothing survived until this day to disprove that, and that the Demons had been trapped since a WorldWar the elves had fought Aeons ago against all other Races.
    (In this war they would trap demons and abuse their power to create magic artifacts.)

    Anyway we met one of the enslaved Demons and needed his help for a quest, but we then promised him that we would free him.
    Our party didnt know then that he was one of the “Bad Guys”, when we learned that however everyone but my Character turned on him and didnt intend to keep the promise but rather destroy the Demon for good with the help of the “Good” Demon and his Clerics.

    The party got to a situation however where my character had the choice to either keep his promise and serve as a vessel for the Demon for him to leave the dark temple he was held in, or endanger the entire party.
    I chose to help him.

    My party however were not happy with that decision because if the Demon escaped they feared he could cause a civil war in that country and even though he promised to them to leave the country and never return they ceased all cooperation.
    My Charakter was then left alone in the temple, unable to escape the Guardian Spirits without the help of his friends, while they went outside the temple and basically blew it up with the help of the clerics in a ritual that took about a week (a time in which my character was in pitch black darkness most of the time and had only a dwindling food supply).

    My Character was then given a last chance by the “Good” Demon to surrender and let him kill the “Bad” one, but I refused and was thus killed.

    • Rhesus

      too long, did not read

      • Bertramn

         then dont reply?
        lol man

      • NightStarX

        So basically you’re either illiterate of have severe ADHD and didn’t take your Ritalin this morning.

        What do you want for that, a cookie?

        • Rhesus

          So… Because I chose to skip reading a page-long entry in the comments section after having watched an hour of Spoony monologuing I have ADHD? And how would a cookie help me with any of that?

          I sense that you are looking to stir up some trouble, which is a weird thing to do over the internet.

          If you think my comment is pointless, then you replying to it is doubly so.

          So what’s your next move? Will you try to get my blood boiling by nitpicking at what I’ve just typed, or maybe write some generic insult about my mother/weight/looks/intelligence?

          Or do the smart thing and ignore this pointless exchange altogether…

  • Bertramn

    Oh, I just remembered about the “Knights of the Old Republic”-series.
    They had a pretty cool System of Alignments too, where you could either turn to the Good or to the bad side, later you could influence your partymembers too.
    I HAD to play a Jedi there, because the cruel actions I had to take to become a Sith almost broke my heart sometimes.

  • Ismo väisänen

    I don’t see what the big problem is. If you are playing a character, you don’t have to apply your personal sense of morality to your character. The modern Western sense of egalitarian justice is a very narrow and new thing. Just now we have started to realize that perhaps dualism is wrong. Just go to the South and you’ll find people, who think we should just nuke those fucking terrorists. 

    The point is, if you are playing a character, especially in any kind of medieval setting, you can assume that even the paladins feel like the righteous moral good thing to do is to protect order and everything good by mercilessly slaying the wicked.

  • Tjitze de Boer

    There are those who consider themselves evil but put all good things under that category.
    Also there are people who think they are evil inherently (origional sin).
    Or those who feel they’re evil because they don’t think being good is impossible in reality (some extreme altruists).

  • Gamers Corner

    Dr. Insano is a character? *blinks*

    • Dreammirror

       Dr. Insano is evil?? *blinks*

  • Mikko Simonen

    Hey Spoony, Mt. Celestia is the lawful good plane. Mt. Olympus is, IIRC, on Arborea (chaotic good).

    Also, personal alignment experiences: Last time I played I had my NG wizard order his summoned fire elemental to attack a gargoyle who had surrendered. The DM immediately announced that I was now true neutral (and probably going toward NE fast). Then I asked the party cleric to stabilize our obviously treacherous, unconscious gargoyle prisoner. So it’s not just the players who should let the DM finish what they’re saying.

  • Christopher Scott

    I’d just like to say thank you Spoony for sticking up for the Paladin class, as it is my favourite class to play. I used to get so much hate from other players because they felt that my character would not allow them to have fun (which in extreme cases was killing the peasants). I eventually found a way to play Paladins that allowed them to not only stick to their alignment but also get along with other characters, avoiding the Thief/Paladin issue that happens ALL the time. Lawful does not necessarily mean “Adhere to all laws regardless of what they are” It can also mean that you have a set of values that you will not break, a set of lifestyle guidelines that you follow because you believe them to be right. This allows the Paladin to respect other peoples choice of lifestyle even when it goes against their own. “The thief steals from merchants, whilst this is against the law of the town I trust the thief to be a good person therefore I trust his actions.” It is a lot easier if you play a Paladin that has no ties to a city and is purely dedicated to travelling the world helping people on the way, this avoids having to blindly follow all laws as the laws will change from place to place.

    I would also just like to take a minute of silence for all the poor hours of roleplaying that were lost in arguing about alignments.

    • Terri

      Same here.  I love to play paladins myself, and one of my longtime friends played thieves.  Most of our exchanges I could best describe as like Shepard and Joker from Mass Effect; mutual respect rendered most alignment arguments as bickering at worst.  And it was amusing to the rest of the circle as the thief did ‘evil deeds’ behind the paladin’s back or the paladin would ‘mother to child’ stare down the thief in some situations.  True, there was the occasional fight; they weren’t easy but could be worked out.  Ah, to be friends.

  • Paralay

    After watching your other Counter Monkey videos I got my old RP-group back together and we started to play again (we lost 1 guy, since he moved away 10 years ago, but the rest of us were still good friends). In the first adventure, before the group even met, two of my players started to kill each other :) It could have been worked out, but the Drow (I told him, that he had to come up with a good reason/backstory on why he is going on adventures weeks before the game startet, if he wanted to be a Drow, but he didn’t) didn’t listen to anything I said about the situation in the game and so he acted just stupid and the other player didn’t want to back down either. (I made a mistake to, but it was not the main reason why it didn’t work out) Following that “epic” start it ended with the Drow getting brought to justice for being a Drow later in the adventure and a week of “Who’s to blame” in Skype while we played World of Tanks.
    I agree on most of the things you said about alignments but there is another thing that came up during my planning of the campaign: It’s basicly the about the role of the DM:
    Does the GM have to forge the group together or does he “only” have to provide the world and circumstances the charactes meet and let them go from there? It’s the simple Gameflow by pushing the players vs. getting your campaign fucked up by people who are allowed to do almost anything.

    • Dreammirror

       Having Dm’ed a few campiagns that ended due to players acting like this, I would say this.  The DM has the responsibility to assemble the players and set up  guidelines on day 1.  This means letting them know if they don’t want to waste their time, they need to also come up with some basic rules they will act by on day 1 or don’t bother playing.  Spoony’s group had the main one -don’t screw each other over/sell out each other (without a damn good reason) early on, and I commend them on that!  Once all the ground rules are laid out and agreed upon, as a DM, I prefer to provide the world/circumstances/plot hooks to them and see the direction they choose to go.  A good DM has to be able to work on the fly and respond to changes of direction–Players will always surprise you.  My 2 cents.

      • Paralay

        Thanks for that, I was dumb enogh to think, that my friends would come up with a way to connect as a group if I give them a shared goal and put them directly beside eachother in front of a blackboard…I really should have known better :)
        btw.: For me the funniest part of Spoony’s video was about the Assassin/Ninja, since the Drow wanted to be exactly like that.

  • gerald chubbuck

    I played a true neutral character once. Only once. That’s not to say I had NN on on character sheet just once. My true neutral character had an alignment die. In a situation where a moral choice came up I’d roll a D20. 1-5 I would chose the chaotic evil option, 6-10 I would chose the lawful evil option, 11-15 chaotic good, 16-20 lawful good. That was a fun character.

  • George Rosenbaum

    Why can’t the adventurers just take the food from the orc village, and use it to feed the prisoners? Surely there is enough to feed everyone, now that most of the orcs are dead.

  • Jonas Håkansson

    You need to post these as audio only-files as well. I would love to listen to you talking on my mp3-player while working away from the computer, riding the bus, or whatever. Seriously, consider this, please.

    • MrWizard0022

       I agree, this would make a great podcast.

      • ORCACommander

  • Toni

    The problem is poeple thinking Aligment too strictly. It is a pointer. Goal, aspiration. Guideline. NOT a hard, fixed rule. This seriously bugs me with people who have such a rigid view of it:

  • ManFaceMan

    I know nobody really cares, but there’s a common misconception that “Lawful” means “Follows the laws”.

    “Lawful”, in the DnD sense, simply means you uphold a personal code that you will not break should you come into a situation that challenges it. It may well be the actual laws of the country, but it doesn’t have to be. Many of the gods have codes that their followers must uphold dutifully that do not necessarily coincide with the law. Someone who follows those to the letter is still Lawful even if they break physical laws.
    Similarly, someone “Chaotic” will break codes or laws without a qualm if they think that it is the most intelligent thing to do in that situation, or even just because they feel like it.

    Good people don’t like hurting people to get what they want, and evil people don’t care or maybe even enjoy hurting others or causing strife. They can still have relationships and even be ‘honorable’, but they’re still generally Evil. 

    Even DnD itself supports all of this in a lot of supplements and fluff text, straight down to explaining that even “Always Chaotic Evil” has exceptions. Hell, there are stats out there for a redeemed Succubus Paladin or whatever.

    Anyways, just my 10c

  • kikyoo

    Well it’s easy to say that true evil does not live among us, but there are cereal killers rapists people who put their children in a microwave. Some people are sick twisted and cruel, and it’s naive to say that they do not exist. They have always existed, and they will always exist. Some people are just fucked up.  Not every soul can be saved and not every soul is a good one. It’s easy to say everyone is good from the comfort of your chair in your living room, but there are some sick fucks out there who do just get a thrill out of killing someone or raping someone.

    Anyways I submit that a Neutral good character is just a template. Like you said it’s just a guideline. In my mind most Soldiers are Neutral good. Unless Soldiers also act as city guards, then it’s more lawful good, but then they can be really fucked up. If it’s law that the soldiers go out into the city and rape women, or kill any infants that don’t stop crying when they pass by. They might not be inherently evil, that’s just the law. The law might have been written by someone who was evil, but that does not make everyone under them evil by association. Now the difference is a Lawful good guard of this regime would kill and rape without question. The Neutral good solider/guard is more likely to recognize that the law is not really good, and might pass up some opertunites to murder infants and rape women. Now the trick is, if that guard is put on the spot, AKA a bunch of his buddies are out having a good time, and decide to hit up a house to rape and murder babies, generally they’d probably do it to save face, and not turn their friends against them. Chaotic good would recognize the law as the evil it is, and attempt to stop it. Most of your super heroes are actually more chaotic good than lawful good if you stop and think about it. Goku for example is EXTREMELY chaotic Good. In my perspective Chaotic good characters are the “most” good. Doing good regardless of the law.

    If I am playing a good character I usually go for Neutral Good. Someone who recognizes right and wrong beyond the extend of the law, but generally will try to obey the rules as long as they are not too obstructive. A Solder that gets orders and bends them around to acomplish the mission without compromising his own set of morals is kind of how I view it and play it. In regards to the prisoner dilemma, this hypothetical soldier would kill each and every one of the orcs and slaughter the babies. This is someone who fights in wars. To destroy all the enemies, and even children will grow up to fight against them. So Zero tolerance among even the most stalwart and “good” soldiers is kind of how I envision that era of time.

    But I digress. I actually don’t really dig the whole alinement system. Having a complex personality shoehorned into a very specific “thing” really screws with the experience epically if you’ve got some hard ass saying “Good characters can not kill anyone who surrenders!”. So I use them as general guidelines, but mostly I just ignore it. I also HATE the arguments over it. This is just my perspective on it.

    • ManFaceMan

      Neutral Good is not good that doesn’t care. It’s good that believe good must be upheld independent of law or chaos. It is a force of good, doing the right thing because it is the right thing. A neutral good character would absolutely NOT let that crap fly.

      Neutral Good is a golden age superhero. Would Superman let it fly?

    • jdreyfuss

       An archetypal soldier is lawful neutral, not neutral good. A soldier’s duty is to his orders, regardless of the consequence. The fact that a soldier has an overriding duty to disregard orders that would result in atrocity doesn’t change that, since plenty of evil can be done without violating the rules of war.

  •ä/1355151774 Emil Jyrä

    There were many fights between players when i used to rp, many times my friend when he got pissed by the arguing was just going to slaughter everybody or not help the people in distress and wanted to kill them, so many times it ended in one of us dying. It was good drama but it wasn’t fun when a character you have months die by your friends blade.

  • Henrik Olsson

    i think PC aligment is stupid and mostly only to be used for clerics and paladins and again at that point it is to merely guide your char in a general fasion. but for NPC aligments is a great tool for the DM to remeber who this charcater is meant to act and how he would respond in some situations

  • spade75

    The key to RPG games was always to work as a team or else there is NO POINT! they tend to turn on one another… 

  • Gildedtongue

    Alignment is great for a general “how is this character,” But, yeah, specifics can change.

    I always felt that it was a good way to build a general feel for various characters/classes.

    Take the bard for example (using 2nd ed rules stating that in some way they have to be neutral, since that made sense.)

    A Lawful Neutral bard would be the Propagandist.  Songs and such would be about how great the king is, how virginal the queen is and all sorts.

    A Neutral Good bard would be more of the “Motivational speaker” type.  All about telling people about how to be good and great and realize your potential and the like.

    A Chaotic Neutral bard would be the Rockstar.  It’s all about the life style, the cheers of thousands, sleeping with groupies not matter gender or race.  Live hard, die pretty.

    A Neutral Evil bard is the Sell-out.  They build songs that most people like, being able to get as much gold in the taverns and palaces as mortally possible.

    The True Neutral bard is the Artist.  They’re the smarmy, beret wearing hipster jerks who write because of their tortured soul or whatnot.

    Now, doesn’t mean that the Rockstar can’t write some love-song, or the sell-out might write some ballad about the queen, but, just their general repertoire.

    Other classes can work on this.  A lawful evil fighter would be a mercenary, whereas a lawful neutral fighter might be a soldier or man-at-arms.  Doesn’t mean they can’t have side projects, but just their general activities.

  • Michael Rainey

    Running a campaign right now. We have a vampire character who wanted to hide his vampirism, but he wasn’t really hiding it well, he was more ignoring it. So to give him more trouble I gave him some leather gloves that turned out to be cursed, during battle he mad a save every time he was injured passed a certain degree. Using this his rage become a lot harder to repress and I even made it sentient, hoping he would be able to convince it to work with him. Instead during a nightmare sequence I put all my characters through he submitted to the demon inside hoping it would free him from the danger of his nightmare (Since he believed it to be real). This caused a very big berserk moment once the party freed him that almost killed his character. He got upset at the pali and cleric because they wanted to smite him and I had to explain that their alignments and gods (Bahamut and the Raven Queen) were not very happy with an undead like a vampire, especially one that had lied to them about his identity. Anyways I’ve rambled but thought I would share my own alignment dispute.

  • Wiktor Jankowiak

    I don’t really have much against alignements, or at least the “old” ones. You know where there were 3 main tiers and than 3 separations of that (Lawfull, -standard-, chaotic). I believed it gave people enough room while actually giving those less “capable” of rp’ing some directions as to how to act. The new system (v.good, good, unaligned, evil, v.evli) not so much. It suffers from the opposite effect, it doesn’t grant helpful direction and to be honest is basically useless at this point. 
    But that’s just my oppinion :).

    As to the prisoner dilemma itself… Hmmm… I don’t think I’ve ever had it with any of my parties, mainly cause we’re mostly balanced on terms of what we’re doing (apart from an insane warforged cleric O_o) with and to people. If we ever encountered such an issue I think we just breezed through it for that very reason.
    The issue I encounter and that bugs me greatly is the situation where a DM is kind of enforcing certain alignment on the players by his vision of the world. Let me explain that, I play a thief in one of my games. While he’s usually a good guy he IS a thief, that means that whenever he sees an opportunity to make some money, he will lie, steal and cheat his way into it. Now I’m perfectly ok with punishment if my rolls blow, it just happens happens I tried to pickpocket and rolled a botch “oops”. Too bad.

    Issue starts when I want to perform some complex con and the DM just stands “in the way” openly stating that whatever my rolls will be it won’t matter “because the people you’re trying to con are just too high level” etc.
    This can get really annoying because it doesn’t allow me to play my character the way I would want to. If I get caught and punished, so be it! As long as it was my rolls getting me down OR the fact that I did something SO DUMB that the DC is simply too high for anything but a crit.
    But don’t put a player in a position where you just outright say “no” to any of his ideas that involve doing something morally questionable for his personal gain.

    As a final explanation I’ll tell you a story. my thief and his party visited a city of mages so we decided to spend some of our money and get our stuff enchanted. To get a new armor I decided to sell my dagger (since I got a new one in a dungeon just a session earlier) to the enchanter. I got a receipt for the armor and was told to arrive next day to pick it up.
    Instantly an idea popped up into my head. I have mages in my party and I’m a skilled forger, I got the proper paper (very specific type) and created a nigh perfect forgery (rolled something around a 36 my char had a +17 to thievery) and than bluffed my fellow mage, evil as that might be, into casting some magic on the forged document that is similar to the one on the original that I got for the armor. Mage rolled something good (24ish) and I was pretty much ready to do this thing when the DM just outright stated that he won’t allow it no matter the roll. Not wanting to start a pointless discussion with the dm (who is god after all) about that kind of thing and keeping in mind that the preparation itself took 20 or so minutes, I asked a different party member who was trained in a arcana to look at the receipt and determine the quality of his buddy’s enchantment. As the DM stated it was not good enough (and it never would be).
    While I understand why he did it it still kinda bugs me. Plus it wasn’t the only time.

    Anyway good show Spoony :) hope you got more stories to tell us.

    • Raziel Raven

      I have a feeling this is much less an alignment issue, and much more a ‘Railroading DM’ issue. And from the story, it’s far more likely that he let you do it to punish you when you fail, and was upset when you didn’t.

  • Greg

    in one of the books for 3.5 dnd there is a system called tendencies were (as a example0 if a person is lawful good but somtimes steps out of his alignment and does chaotic things we wound say he is lawful good but has a tendencies towards chaotic actions. I find this system works a lot better to describe your character.  

  • sbkMulletMan

    This is eerie!  With the previous Counter-Monkey, Spoony talked about dealing with citizens with the “Carrot & Stick” metaphor on the same day my History Professor talked about a nearly-identical topic in his lecture (even using the Carrot & Stick metaphor), and THIS counter-monkey has Spoony talking about the things I learned in my Psychology class today (well, yesterday, but it was “today” when it was posted, heh).

    The process is known as “Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Reasoning”, and is a 3-level process:

    1: Preconventional Level (fear of punishment, self-interest, bargaining, “They’re just going to kill US when they get a chance/They’re just going to be evil when they grow up, KILL them!”)

    2: Conventional Level (Conforming to the laws and standards of society, “They must be brought to trial”)

    3: Postconventional Level (Human Rights supersede the laws of society, “They’re BABIES, we’re NOT killing them!”)

    And I have an exam coming up next week, so I just got a great moment to review my notes and now, thanks to “The Orc Baby Scenario”, I will NOT forget the Theory of Moral Reasoning (which would be the “Elaborative Rehearsal” method of memory). 

    So thanks for inadvertently helping me with my schoolwork, Spoony!  Well, back to watching the rest of the video before I make this place even more educational.  Bring forth the Cheetos and Mountain Dew! 

    • Grendle1853

      Maybe your professor is a fan of the Spoony Experiment.

      • sbkMulletMan

         The timing is the other way around: After classes, I came home, watched the new Counter-Monkey videos, and bam, Spoony was talking about things I heard in class just hours ago.

        The first time was eerie enough, but twice in a row?  I think a certain “friendly” ghost is haunting me agai-


  • Nick H

    Is enslavement an option? 

    • sbkMulletMan

       “Can we keep him, pleeeeeease?  I promise to feed it and walk it every day!  I’ll take good care of Orcy, please let me keep him!”

      …These are the silly thoughts that run through my head when I haven’t slept for a while. 

      • Nick H

        I was thinking more along the lines of ‘Cuff them, feed them, take them back to town and sell them’. Even if they eat, they’ll probably catch some sort of profit. It of course assumes slavery is legal and that orc slaves are acceptable. It could also be considered good; considering the alternative is killing the, or evil; you sentence them to a life in labour or they might break free and kill people. 

        I got into a similar situation a few years back when a doctor of an opposing faction surrendered. He put his gun down and asked casually for mercy. Long story short, the players got into a huge arguement which subsided when one player threw the doctor his gun and shouted ‘Defend yourself!’. He got off a single shot before being dissolved by a plasma cannon.

  • spade75

    Anarchy is spoiled rotten. 

  • draxo

    I am one of the players who prefers no alignments if they are fully enforced.
    My favourite alignment system was from DC Heroes Third Edition.

    They had alignments.. but they were not a concrete label.  They were a guideline ‘If you are unsure what to do in a situation, refer to this as an inclination, but do not feel forced to enact it’

  • jdreyfuss

    I try to use alignment as a guide to my characters’ actions. I usually think of it this way:

    Lawful Good = The Paragon. The character believes law and good are dependent upon each other, but there is still the realization that one can be lawful without being good or vise-versa.

    Lawful Neutral = The Judge. The character’s duty is to the law above good or evil. It doesn’t matter whether the outcome of the action is good or evil as long as it is just.

    Lawful Evil = The Fascist. The character believes that the purpose of the law is to maintain order above all else and is willing to use any amount of force necessary to do so.

    Neutral Good = The Messiah. The character’s duty is to good above law or chaos. He strives to follow the law where possible, but doesn’t care if the outcome is just, as long as it has the greatest benefit for good. Unlike CG, he will follow the law whenever it wouldn’t create an evil outcome.

    True Neutral (see below)

    Neutral Evil = The Psychopath. The character’s duty is to himself above law or chaos. He has no regard for law or chaos and will choose whichever best fits his needs. The important thing for him is furthering his own goals, whatever they may be.

    Chaotic Good = The Noble Thief. The character believes that good is more important than the law and will only follow the law if he genuinely believes the law has a good purpose. Unlike NG, he will not follow the law simply because it isn’t evil, but only because it is truly good.

    Chaotic Neutral = The Anarchist. The character’s duty is to chaos above good or evil. He is often unpredictable, either because he does not ascribe to traditional notions of morality, he actively opposes enforced behaviors, or he is completely divorced from reality.

    Chaotic Evil = The Psychotic. The character wants to watch the world burn. He is impulsive and rarely gives thought to the long term consequences of his actions as long as they satisfy some short term goal.

    True Neutral: There are two major archetypes for true neutral, the Mercenary and the Stabilizer.

    The Mercenary’s only duty is to his employer. He will work for anyone as long as the price is right. He may have some moral compass that will lead him to choose one job over another, but in general his interest is in the job rather than the outcome.

    The Stabilizer’s duty is to the world at large. He feels that no one side should take precedence over the others and strives to maintain that balance by opposing any who look like they might gain undue control.

  • spade75

    Chaos is gaming freedom and stuff like that…

  • Lairdom

    I always saw the Alignments as more of a guideline than an actual rule. Acting out of character is normal. It happens in real life so why not in game. People do things that they don’t like all the time. It’s the point where the person is so used to doing that that he doesn’t react to it anymore is when I would say your alignment has changed. And even at that point I would never penalize with a level loss. People change all the time. Childhood bullies can become good people.

    I do love the alignments thought. And I am saddened that it’s not used properly in games anymore. Mass Effect has the renegade/paragon system, but it’s nowhere near as good as a proper alignment system, because people act certain way to unlock more options, not because their character would do that. I always thought it would have been better to allow players decide how much of a renegade/paragon your character is from the start. But because there is only 2 absolutes, it’s not enough to define a character.

    • J.G. te Molder

       Play “The Witcher”, and “The Witcher 2″, those are games that use it well, although strictly speaking there’s no alignment system you see anywhere to speak of. You simply make decisions as you play along the game, and depending on those decisions things change.

      Sure, there are multiple playthroughs are to see those endings, how the story changes, but I always consider my first playthrough the “real”, “canon” playthrough so to speak, the one that reflects the initial moral decisions and gut instincts.

  • regon206

    would chaos-good be some one who causes chaos in the name of balance.

    • jdreyfuss

       That’s more like one form of chaotic neutral. I think his example of Robin Hood is the best illustration of the concept. He’s good, and because he’s good he opposes Prince John, the evil ruler, but once the good ruler, King Richard, returns, Robin supports him.

  • fiddlewheel

    could you make a video about Rule Enforcing players? or at least player types in general?
    The rule enforcers have ruined many games that I have been a part of, it is the thing that has always plagued my play group since the very start of D&D, which have recently stopped being an issue, for there are always those that would argue that this and that isn’t realistic, this is and so and so…
    ugh… you know what I am talking about right?

  • Ville Gunnarsson

    This alignment dilemma kind of reminds me of an old problem of protestant theology: children were seen to have salvation since they aren’t yet aware of good and evil and therefore are not affected by original sin. So if someone kills a child, the child goes straight to heaven. So , if you believe in this theology, why not simply kill your child as soon as he/she is born and guarantee him/her a place in paradise? I’ve even heard religious people having a serious debate about this issue. :) Pretty sick.

  • J.G. te Molder

     I disagree with the idea there is no true evil. Most Psychologists like to think it’s merely a damaged brain, a condition, that is called sociopathy, but really, they’re just evil.

    These are people who have no conscience, who do not care about how much damage they do, how much they hurt people, they only care about their own self-gratification; pure selfishness. Of course, they won’t go around “this is evil, so I’ll do it”, they’ll go around, “will this give me pleasure/satisfaction/gain”, and if the answer is ‘yes’, they’ll do it, regardless of what happens to other people. They will destroy people, even so-called loved ones, without care. They will use, and manipulating without shame.

    They care so little that they don’t bother with any self-analyzing. So they don’t identify as evil, not because they consider themselves good, but because they care so little, or rather not at all, that they don’t bother identifying themselves as either good or evil at all. In fact, if you confront them about it, they’ll quickly if not immediately lay the blame elsewhere, and bring up excuses – not because they ever had those excuses while doing an act, but because they don’t want to suffer punishment.

    I think, that if you could some force them into genuine self-reflection, they will almost certainly identify themselves as evil, but they just won’t care. They’re reaction would be along the lines of, “Huh, so I’m evil? Oh, well, say, where’s my next victim.

  • Aleksander Adamkiewicz

    I have a story to share that sort of ties into the video.
    I ran an adventure once within  a high-magic setting with the magic of that world essentially entering the “industrial revolution” and being used on a massive scale. It was a modified 4.0 game.
    The rule of the game was: No Elves, Orcs, Dragonborn, etc. humans only.

    So i got that one guy, there is always that one guy, that didn’t want to play a human.
    He wiggled out of the rule by saying he was a magically deformed human, a chimera, an experiment gone wrong from the “magic pollution” (not quite as catchy as “Age of Manure”)

    So ok, after insisting that his character stat-wise would be treated as a human I let him play it. But I told him that there -will- be consequences for choosing this and that the populace will not react favorably to someone that has scales and the tail of a lion.

    So we got to the point at which the party escorted one of the characters to the Magic Academy and the Headmaster (an antagonist in the making) went completely off the rocker about our Chimera buddy (a logical thing to do really) and wanted to imprison him for “further study”.

    What I planned was that the rest of the party would say “fuck no!” then the headmaster would summon some lvl20 magical guards to intimidate them and they would grudgingly back away hatching a plan how to rescue chimera-guy and I could slowly unfold the Magic Academy conspiracy etc.pp.

    Instead two of the guys sided with the headmaster and the other two with chimera-guy. So before the fight broke out and everyone got killed I backed down from the push to imprison him. But the bad mood was already seeded, now they didn’t trust each other and the party was split.

    Yeah that campaign didn’t go anywhere.

  • Farel

     I find these debates quite fascinating, but obviously you gotta have people with reasonable minds for this…

    spoony, as you’ve played Persona and apparently the SMt games… one or two, I’m sure you know the existence of Law and Chaos there, but the fascinating thing there is that they are only associated with Good and Evil on the surface. Law may be goody goody, but it means captivity, it means being trapped, while chaos means freedom and independence. A lot of people really love to see things 1 dimensionally, but as you’ve said “noone really wakes up wanting to be evil for the sake of being evil”, so this approach seems a lot more proper for these kind of things!

  • Darke Mayer Goulart

    The Koreans that made Ragnarok Online solved the “baby orc dillema” quite nicely:

    Orc Baby: Lv 43, HP 1143, 64-75 damage, 315 EXP. Able to call minions: Orc Warrior and Orc Lady.

    So, not only you can kill the little bastards, they also pack quite a punch! A tipical Novice character would be killed with 1 or 2 hits.

  • Darke Mayer Goulart

    I’ll have to say that I was probably one of the few people here where I live that actually LIKED that paladins became “champions of a particular deity” in 4th Edition, instead of “annoying goody-two-shoes” that they were before. Mostly because of the only RPG magazine we have here bashed the new edition because it was not OGL anymore, so they couldn’t keep releasing their stupid Tormenta line of books compatible with D&D. So they kept bitching about things like “now even Neutral gods can have paladins! How horrible!” and “Dwarves don’t get a penalty to Charisma anymore, how we’re supposed to tell they are grumpy? How horrible!”, all that while saying that “characters are more than the numbers on their sheets”. No wonder they are struggling now.

    • jdreyfuss

      I always thought it was silly that the makers of D&D accounted for the possibility of a paragon of good in the paladin and a paragon of evil with the blackguard, but never thought that there could be a paragon of justice as some kind of neutral paladin.

  • John Random

    WH40K solved the orc baby issue pretty neatly by having Orcs reproduce in a way that doesn’t involve a foetal stage.
    Our old DM had the bandit argument fixed by simply making it clear that lawless men will be executed in most places and that anyone who catches them might as well save everyone the trouble by doing the deed themselves, this also meant they were far less likely to throw themselves at people’s mercy.
    When it came to alignments we always ran with that the characters actions decides alignment, which lead to a bit of kicking around the axis.
    Personally i’m just tired of it and do away with it when playing Basic/1E since it rarely adds anything that I can’t handle with Setting specifics anyway.
    Hell even Gygax said he regretted alignments precisely because all the arguments it’s caused.

    • jdreyfuss

       The fact that everyone hangs bandits doesn’t justify a field execution if the bandits do surrender. A strongly lawful character is still going to see that as less just than allowing a civilly appointed judge make that determination. It’s still vigilantism. If no bandits throw themselves upon the party’s mercy, the quartering dilemma isn’t going to come up.

      • John Random

        It all depends on the society base you’re using.
        IIRC Paladins or maybe it was Clerics of the Pantheon Head had de-facto judge, jury & executioner status as well.
        That was my old DM’s campaign though, it hasn’t come up in any of my games.

  • lightice

    But…animals almost never fight to the death. Not unless they’re given literally no other choice. Animals that aren’t crazy with rabies or some other sickness will always prioritize survival above all else, and avoid fights where they’re clearly outmatched, and flee if they are surprised or fail at their own ambush. Wolves that attack people who aren’t either sick, young or elderly are very hungry wolves indeed, for example. 

  • Steven Anthony Skelly

    I remember my first character in D&D being a Paladin, in fact we had two, plus a ranger/thief character and I think a Cleric. We got along well, the GM was pretty easy on us regarding alignment because we were new and it was about fun… Which kind of had me playing a rather axe crazy Paladin who acted more like a Merc. Though I never went too far as to do anything blatantly evil or illegal but I’d skirt the line a little.

    My Gods kind of hated me but put up with me cause the numbers of Paladins were dwindling and thus were a little more lenient with who they got. Which was the lampshade anyway. Again, we were just trying to have fun and have a joke while playing and we didn’t want alignment getting in the way of all that cause it looked a real show stopper.

  • Michael Wilbur

    I must say, you’ve given me a lot to think about.  I’m working on a Pathfinder conversion of the Elsewhere Incorporate Universe, which has a slightly different alignment system.  How would a Void Monk react in comparison to a Chaos Gadgeteer?  Did the Glyche Corruption change the alignment of the Rimstakkens who suffered the most through it?  I had written it off before, but now I see alignment is definitely something I need to consider going forward.

    You really should consider putting all of the Counter Monkey stories into a book, Spoons.  Not only would it serve as an entertaining read, it would also be a handy reference and instruction book for new players and people wanting to DM.

  • Mother Ace

    So, just saw this counter monkey, and Ive started to notice Spoony been doing the Sam Harris-okay at the end of statements more and more. Anyone else spotted this? It gotta go Spoony! Its the intellectual equivalent of doing the teenagegirl “like” in every other phrase

    • NightStarX

      So, in other words, about as intellectually sound as the amount of typos and grammatical errors in your post?

      “I just saw”, “I’ve”, “the Sam Harris “okay””, “Has anyone else spotted this?”, “It’s got to go, Spoony!” “It’s”, “teenage girl”, and a period at the end of your sentence.

      • Mother Ace

         at least the post is consistent in it’s bad grammar, but c’mon, think I’ve noticed it only once before in anything Spony has done. In this post its suddenly all over the place when he argues something. Just wonder why that is. (And I just compared Spoony to Sam Harris, how can that possibly make you go all aggressive defensive on my grammar in a sms-style post!)

  • Jere Kujansuu

    My roleplaying group has had many arguments because of alignment. Now that some of us have played for about 20 years we know to avoid the alignment battles. For instance, my friend has a dnd character who is a paladin and my character is a neutral good rogue/wizard. When my character spots an opportunity to gain wealth or magical items through not so legal means, he weaves a lie about going scouting or preparing for the next adventure and when the paladin says “ok, you go do that” I sneak and steal to my hearts content. Even though the paladin might suspect something, he does not have any proof against my character and he knows that my skills are quite useful so he lets it slide. Noone gets hurt, everybody stays friends and all is good. Though sometimes the arguments cannot be avoided. This always ends up in a fight that leads to the death of one or more characters.

    Anyway, love you Spoony! Never stop counter monkeying!

  • SunOvaGun

    I always saw alignment as just a placement of a general view your character had on themselves and the way they wish to act and that mad leg room so that players can at least have chances before losing levels and I was always very clear that as long as you could give reasons as to why your character is acting out of alignment and can justify it good enough I’ll let it slide if I ok it when I DM.

    As for chaotic neutral my solution to that was you either RP it well or your evilish acts have to be spur of the moment and not preplanned much like how chaos goes no planning.

    I gotta say I love and dread when these situations come up in games cause they make a fun social experiment at the start and then eventually someone stabs a paladin or the holy crusader kills a companion

  • Crudu Alex

    This is quite similar to The Lamia Father.

  • ramses ijff

    The great problem of alignment is that western society, which is the part of the world playing the most DnD, generally does not agree on what is good and what is evil. For example, you used the zero-tolerance guy who is still considered good. But other people would say that zero-tolerance is the absolute epitome of evil and that no such character could ever be considered good.
     The main solution I found is determining good and evil in-universe, rather than just leaving them as abstract moral concepts. Think similar to ultima 4’s 8 virtues. If you really want to divorce the good in-universe from the good out-of-universe, you can actually put some highly questionable stuff in the ‘good philosophy’, though it would still need a decent reason. In this system, ‘good’ becomes following the morals of the philosophy, while ‘lawful’ means following the rules.

    One idea I had for such a setting involved the absolute worst possible definition of lawful good you could get away with. For example: In a dungeons and dragons setting, is it not clear that some races are more moral than others? So wouldn’t it make sense to kill all these evil races? sure, but what about the neutral races? Using magic, we could clearly determine that they are less ‘good’ than we are, so killing them could only improve the world. But all these races keep interbreeding with humans, and the morality of such a hybrid is always in-between that of both parent species. So clearly, these children need to die as well. And now you have orders of paladins inspecting any babies for physical irregularities and raiding neighbouring lands on xenocidal campaigns.

    • ramses ijff

      As an added note: Paladins, in my opinion, should not have been a core class. The core classes should have been the archetypes; the fighter, the rogue, the mage, the cleric, the druid and the ranger. Paladins, as an archetype, are really just fighter/clerics who follow a good god. Even if I had to add a ‘noble’ extra core class, I would probably choose the knight archetype, rather than the paladin. The knight can be played by a lot more types of players and probably has tenets that are a little less vague than ‘do good and follow law’.

  • noloveforhate

    Kill the guards, send the women and children walking. Newborn child is never correct; you can’t say for certain what they’ll become.

  • Ville Gunnarsson

    I actually haven’t before thought that in D&D there actually exists real, definitive evil. It’s pretty interesting since in reality there is no such things as good or evil and the whole 20th century philosophy is founded on that realization. The idea that there are objective moral values is always founded on religious grounds and since in D&D gods are definitely real, they provide grounds for such objective moral values. But if the alignment system is really constructed on the idea of objective moral values and the idea that there’s an absolute evil, then I can’t really see how conscious beings like orcs could be defined as inherently evil beings. They are conscious the same way humans are conscious in a more profound way than – say, a dog – are they not? So they should be able to make judgments between good and evil actions just like humans do, and every orc makes those judgments individually.

    Shouldn’t the evil alignment be reserved for only demons, the undead and other unnatural abominations that have been created by the very evil? They’re not in any way natural (they don’t reproduce like natural species etc.) but orcs, trolls and other so called evil creatures do. So at least it could be argued that since orcs reproduce in a similar way than humans and other mammals, they are driven to their “evil” deeds by their natural drives that are typical to all mammals. So what really makes these beings evil? At least they shouldn’t be put into same category with beings like undead since orcs have other motives than just to destroy everything that’s “good” and living.

    Damn, now I’m beginning to see why the alignment system can really be so controversial. :)

  • DFX

    oh… a bad name for Anarchy again ?
    Anarchy is not about chaos, in fact, it’s an absolute opposite – idea that there no need for controlling and enforcing power to achieve order in social system. it’s about non-enforcement and _self-organizing order_, not fucking chaos.

    even guy who written “he actively opposes enforced behaviors” added
    “The character’s duty is to chaos above good or evil” and
    “he is completely divorced from reality”. WTF?

    but, of course, centuries of pissing on the literal meaning and inculcation of “no order without a master” idea as an axiom haven’t passed without a result.
    this is, again, why people like religions so much – then earthly masters stop to impress, they just search for alternative, pre-packaged orderly behavioural patterns and moralities, and sleazy assholes always happy to provide…

    • jdreyfuss

      I’m not going to get into politics of Anarchism, so I’ll just apologize and say that chaotic neutral really is the hardest type to fit an archetype to. The anarchist is probably the most positive CN type players would play, since he’s the one that opposes enforced behavior.

      I didn’t mean that CN characters have all three characteristics; that’s why I separated them with ‘or’ and not ‘and’. I originally called it the Loon, but again that only covers the person who is completely divorced from reality, not all CN characters. I also considered the archetype Barbarian, but that’s more the person who doesn’t ascribe to traditional notions of morality, since he wasn’t raised in them.

      If you have a suggestion for a CN archetype name other than anarchist that would be great. I don’t particularly like it either, but it’s the best I could come up with.

      • jdreyfuss

         I changed it to the Wildcard, since that better fits the idea that the character is unpredictable, rather than assuming any philosophical reason for it.

      • DFX

        you wrote a good classification overall and, yeah, it would be tough for you to pick different words, since it’s not even your, Spoony or anybody else’s fault that in-game anarchists can only be described by CN type, where “C” stands for “chaotic”.
        it’s game’s authors fault that they equate “Law” to “Order” and, therefore, “Disobedience” to “Chaos”.

        • Foster Davies-Smith

          Well in the end the biggest problem with the whole Law/Chaos axis is that people tend to misinterpret it into their extremes. The smartest way to do it in my opinion is for the axis to simply show how much respect you have for it. For instance A druid I was playing as was Lawful neutral. He didn’t care about good or evil but he cared about his friends, his duty and his family which kept him in the group strong and solid. A good play for Chaos was another druid I played in a different campaign who was Chaotic Neutral. He chaffed at rules and had no respect whatsoever for people who tried to force them on him but that’s as far as it went. Alignments are only really a problem when they’re shoved in someone’s face, if it’s more flavor text to your character then it’s done right.

  • Michael Jebbett

    That’s what I love about pen & paper RPGs; much of the rules and workings of things like D&D could be applied to the world at large. To a point.
    Electronic RPGs are much more limited in what kind of decisions you can make or what can happen, whereas a tabletop is more organic, or at the very least has the potential to be more organic.
    Pity I don’t play them very often.

  • Damon Rastus

    What I did was require a SAN check. If you make your check, you can do whatever. If you fail, you must abide by your alignment until you reclaim your wits.

    I use this to show the characters natural state. Or to put it another way, their ‘programming’ that takes over when rational thought is inhibited.

  • Kimarous

    I’ve never had the chance to play D&D, but could the following Lawful Neutral concept work? From what I understand about “Lawful” is that applies to pretty much any codified rules, be it the law in general, a personal code, or the operations in a group. If I ever play D&D, I was thinking of making my character “a student of the law,” studying all the rules he ran across, working within them, and if necessary, twisting them to his advantage. For example, let’s say he got captured while infiltrating the Thieves Guild, whereupon the Guild Master wants him dead. He obviously cannot invoke the law at large, but if the rules of the Thieves Guild (which he has studied) prohibits murder, he might invoke that to force a trial, cast doubt in their leadership, or at the very least stall things until backup arrived.

    This sound like a good Lawful Neutral concept, or is that something else entirely?

    • jdreyfuss

       Being a law student, my opinion is based on my conception of the difference between an attorney and a judge, but to me a character that chooses which law to invoke in order to best fit his own needs in a situation is true neutral, since that’s what an attorney does. Lawful neutral looks for the outcome that best fits what the law he follows says.

    • Steven Baumann

      In my eyes, Lawful means you uphold the law (obviously), but the Good/Evil axis dictates how you handle this. 

      If you are Lawful Good and a child steals a piece of fruit, you are likely to scold the child and return the stolen property, maybe taking the child with you to perform some charitable event.

      If you are Lawful Evil and a child steals food, depending on your laws you would send the child to slavery in the mines or remove the child’s hands for stealing.

      Lawful Neutral has no real moral Good/Evil sway, so in my eyes you would uphold the law to the LETTER. If your character is a guard in a city, no matter if a man kills the murderer of his wife or a heretical cleric slays a shop full of merchants selling trinkets of a ‘false god'; you will send both of them straight to prison and both will likely be hanged, by law. You would not sympathize with either men. The law is law, whatever it may be, and if ANYONE breaks it you are within your code to mete out justice as you see fit to uphold that law with VERY few exceptions.

      Lawful Neutral is, in my opinion, much more harsh than Lawful Evil. A Lawful Evil character may do evil things but could possibly be willing to comprimise, such as accepting a large bribe or some form of favor or letting him have your wife for a week. A Lawful Neutral character will most likely arrest or kill you on the spot, no deals, no comprimise, no mercy.

      TL;DR: Yes, Lawful Neutral would be good for you if you plan to uphold the law to the letter, using methods that would both be considered Good or Evil to ensure those laws were kept with little to no comprimise.

    • Tee Xugo

      This is a solid concept for a (believable) LN character. In the Planescape campaign setting there is, in fact, a whole faction of people with a similar disposition; they’re called the Fraternity of Order, if you wanna take a look.
      Much more interesting, btw, than the stereotyped psychopathically strict LN cardboard cut-outs Maysin described. Unless you rolled up a Modron… not a rogue, mind you, but a normal Modron, you know, those the book says won’t hold up as a player character race exactly because they have no free will and are simply no fun at all to roleplay.

  • Christopher Miles

     Ok talking about alignment totally reminds me of the Pyro-Kynetesis/Inquisiter I drew up once. He would use the Exhalted feat that turns spell like abilitys into alignment based attack. SO the Bolt of fire that is the Pyros Bread and butter substituted for the paladins detect evil ability……BY BURNING PEOPLE IN THE FACE! If they were good they recived no damage. If they were not good then they were obviously evil and deserve what they get.

       I never played this character for obvious reasons.

  • Garret02

    Alignment issue requires a good team of players and a good DM. Like you pointed out, alignments shouldn’t be used as a box of possible actions for players. Alignemnts should be very flexible. Ones alignment is made of ones actions and there is no estabilished set of actions for each alignment. If there is a questionable situation one should be evaluated by the way he usually acts on top of his fixed alignment. And the way you, Spoony, evaluate a character (ie “You feel terrible inside while you do your action”) is very good.

    Although I rather like and encourage these situations where different kind of characters would act differently. While paper RPGs are games they are as close to real life as they can get and it’s interesting to see how people will act in certain situations. But then again I didn’t hear such arguments nearly as much as you and in my group somebody would eventually concede a point after not so long if not because other side argument made more sense then for the sake of the game.

    It’s a shame you don’t permit evil characters. I usually play lawful evil character. However as alignments are flexible I don’t necessarily act outright evil in brigth light and when faced with lawful good or good characters overall I question what is really evil to plant my seed in their mind. I try to play smart evil dude not evil evil dude. I evaluate each action according to my personal code and what will it bring ME in a short/long term. Depending on a result I might act like a good guy.

  • RogerS

    I remember a scenario being given to a paladin in Neverwinter Nights: Shadows of Undrentide: Where she had a test that involved her dealing with an orc child. And she felt it was unfair that her test involved that kind of dilemma.

    As I played a paladin in that scenario, I actively questioned her alignment and she expected me to go the same route as her, treating them like inherently “evil” creatures.

    Did it not even cross her mind that, a show of mercy might change the child’s alignment, its viewpoint? To try to encourage other orcs to form more peaceful tribes?

    What do you do? This is what I would do.

    Half the classes I play, be it a Chaotic Neutral Rogue or a Chaotic Good Fighter or Lawful Good Paladin: I would show mercy to their lives. They surrendered, so get the weapons away from them, and anything after that is up to the party, but honorable fighters wouldn’t kill a surrendered foe. I mean, we DID slaughter over half their tribe and looted them…

    Honor, Mercy, or just plain “balanced dickery” of a rogue. You got the exp, you weakened their tribe enough to not be a threat to others, you got the loot, there’s no real need to slaughter the kids.

    Unless there’s an evil character in the party.

    But the whole dilemma is this: “They tried to kill us”. But I would shake my head at that, because “We DID kill them. A LOT of them.” Without actually knowing the history of the tribe itself and its relations with neighboring areas (this could be a 500 year old blood feud thats lost all meaning and has just become “the way things are”), I couldn’t be honest in my reasoning there.

    Hell, all it could take is one band of really good half orcs to fix this situation.

    And this whole situation gets kind of awkward if there is a half-orc in the party, or someone in the party has bad past history with orcs (or worse, with this particular troop)….

    Alignment can be argued for hours, but thats because they’re always relative to the group, the characters and their own personal alignment and histories.

  • afbee

    Your argument about the “Lawful Good” paladin that will destroy anyone who worships a pagan god is completely against how the book defines Good.  To quote the book:

      “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 hurting, oppression, and killing others.  Some evil creatures simply have no compassion for others and kill without qualms if doing so is convenient.  Others actively pursue evil, killing for sport or out of duty to some evil 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.  A neutral person may sacrifice himself to protect his family or even his homeland, but he would not do so for strangers who are not related to him.

    You may notice that your “Good” paladin is described pretty well where it says “Evil”.  Killing without compassion is a large part when it comes down to it, and if your god’s creed is to kill anyone who worships and uses the power of a different god even though they do not commit evil acts, then you worship an evil god.  People can definitely have different opinions about how good and evil should be defined, but in the end this should be decided by the DM (With maybe some calm discussion with the players.  Emphasis on calm.)

    I believe if you were to treat each section like a color gradient from white, to gray, to black, instead of stark and total definitions then people will find it much easier to understand how to fit their characters actions within these three parts of the alignment.

    Seriously?  Kill those babies?  Well I guess if the paladin were to use their Detect Evil Alignment power and see that the babies were in fact evil I’d ALMOST understand… but that still leaves out compassion.  Being “Good” is not supposed to be easy, otherwise everyone would make personal sacrifices to help others.  Hell, it might not say it in the book but it would not be much of a stretch to say that your alignment could CHANGE depending on what actions you take, so maybe killing evil just because it’s evil is not always good.  Maybe it would be better to define which sentient creatures can change their alignment, and which cannot.

    In short:  RTFM before you go off the deep end of a philosophical tirade with your fellow players, antagonizing a group of what should be your friends.  Ask yourself how playing your character as you intend affects your friends (I’m assuming you will be playing with your friends and you would care about their enjoyment as much as yours).  Maybe it would be a good idea to just hash out amongst everyone including the DM how far or deep to take alignment and what each part is really about. 

    • Raziel Raven

       Knights Templar. Crusades. The Inquisition.

      A god can be good and still have followers do evil in his name. Followers can be good, and still do acts others might consider evil.

      • Haakon Løtveit

        Last time I checked, the pope didn’t cast Remove Disease on AIDS victims, indicating quite clearly that the real world isn’t a DnD setting like Grewhawk, Faerûn or Planescape.

  • Patrick Coyle

    I pity the old paladins, in a way.  Looking back, the entire class seems like such an elaborate trap.  They get awesome evil-smiting powers that anybody would envy, and all the player had to do in return was be an obnoxious prick.  Make one wrong move with a harsh DM, and the paladin suddenly becomes a substandard fighter for the rest of his life. I’m pretty sure Keldorn in Baldur’s Gate 2 was meant expressly to remind players and DMs alike that you could be a righteous champion of justice without having a stick up your butt about it.

    Meanwhile, I don’t have an alignment story, but a similar tale of DM railroading…  A rather large Dragonlance group I played with in high school had a guest DM step in one week while our regular one decided to relax and be “just a player” for the night.  The very FIRST thing he did after learning about our characters was demand our elven bladesinger and dwarven battlerager fight to the death over irreconcilable racial hatred.  Unable to be dissuaded (claiming that the rulebooks stated characters of those kits were especially proud members of their respective races), and unwilling to let anyone else try to break it up (claiming that they should have tried to kill each other when they first met), we could only sit and watch while our two best fighters threw dice until the battlerager was dead and the bladesinger an inch away from following suit.

    Then fifty draconians break into the tavern where this impromptu bloodsport was happening.  In the middle of Palanthus.  We spent the rest of the night throwing dice while things died, and our DM spent the next night calling us all up and apologizing, telling us to pretend none of it happened for next week.

  • Maysin

    Two stories here relating to alignment discussion.

    First: I have run a campaign where all the players agreed they wanted to be rogue-type characters in an urban setting. The nature of this campaign had to allow the players to be of an Evil alignment, though most did stay neutral. There were no strictly “Good” characters in this campaign.  For the most part, the group of players did work well together until a particular event happened.  One of the group members wanted to mutiny against their guild leader, and they all agreed except for one who secretly went to the guild leader and revealed the plans of the player to them. 

    In most cases, I would have gone a different route, but I believed the ‘snitch’ player had a legitimate reason for doing so. His character was consistantly being downplayed, ignored, or just plain insulted by the character who was instigating the revolt. Also, this scenario was bound to happen at some point due to the nature of the campaign.  At some point, around levels 8-10, both plots began to unfold with the ‘snitch’ coming out on top with a few decisive blows and critical moments. 

    Most everyone was shocked, but accepted and understood the events because of what had happened. The main instigater, however, began accusing the ‘snitch’ character of being “out of alignment”. Both of them were actually real close friends IRL but that particular backstabbing moment and the alignment discussion was brought up nearly destroyed their friendship. The one guy even wanted to go so far as to make a character that was the brother of the dead instigater that was seeking revenge on the snitch, but the campaign had to end there. Most agreed it was a fun campaign, but one was severely pissed off at the result.

    Second: This one is short, and involves a Lawful Good Monk eating a human heart. Yes, you heard that correctly.  No, there wasn’t some convoluted reason or scenario that involved bringing back his dead sensei or doing so was apart of his Monk code, etc. The character ate a human heart ‘because he wanted to see what it tasted it like’.  While it is a legitimate reason in some bizarre ways, he argued that it wasn’t evil but the rest of the group believed it was. In 95% of cases, eating ANY sort of humanoid heart is, in fact, rather taboo and wholly barbaric/chaotic… IE not very becomming of a Lawful Good Monk.  If it happened again, the Lawful Good Monk was most likely NOT going to be Lawful anymore and lose quite a bit of his power.

    • solidsamurai

       Although he could argue that behind the close doors of his monastery, some strange customs do occur.

      Being a monk isn’t necessarily knighthood.  It’s vows, while technically lawful, are wholly different.

      Therefor, it can be argued that dining on a heart isn’t chivalrous, but is in the spirit of ‘trying new things’ which is what the whole monk ‘self domination of mind, body and soul’ is all about… ?

      Of course, that explanation is to convoluted to do anything but confuse the heck out of any listeners, so probably just don’t bother. :D  As GM, I would’ve just said ‘go ahead’, as long as no one plot-related watching.

  • Il Principe

    Has no one ever thought about creating an alignment roll with some modifiers like “extreme duress”? So if a DM feels that you are not playing your character according to your alignment, he can ask for a roll. Similar rolls are pretty standard in other role playing systems with negative feats such as “Anger” or “Greed” which might affect how your character acts, whether you as player want to or not (which is pretty much how you yourself face in real life, you just don’t have to roll a die for it).
    Plus, if a character acts way “out of character”, he might have to change alignment at some point (without punishment such as class loss, that’s stupid because it enforces the already all too often unhealthy players vs DM paradigm that many groups suffer from). But instead the character with the changed alignment now might suffer from a deep seated guilt or something similar to PTSD.

    However, as a DM myself (though not DnD), I would never allow my characters to point at something in a rule or source book as a line of INGAME argument . There has to be a strict separation between Player knowledge and Character knowledge (thus for me starting to argue about modern psychology or genetics is not really getting into the mindset of your RPG, in a medieval world, there is no such knowledge available, that’s as if William the Conqueror and George Washington would start to argue about the Watson Crick model of the DNA, that for me is not getting the world you are moving in).

    • solidsamurai

      Well unless of course William the Conqueror had taken levels in wizard and decided to go time travelling, to meet up with barbarian/fighter/factotem george washington, to defeat him in a debate as peculiar part of his epic destiny to lead norway in occupying england, thus preventing the red coats from ever setting foot in america (and preventing the deaths of thousands)… !

      • Il Principe

        And it’s still better than Disney’s Jon Carter!

  • StormRyder67

    Well this one’s more of an IC alignment argument. We had taken prisoners (what a shock) and my character was actually a high ranking agent of the Karrnathi throne (love Eberron), as such she was authorized by law to carry out summary executions and she being Lawful Neutral had no issue with this. Our Lawful Good Cleric said fuck no and there was this whole long argument in which everyone pretty much agreed IC that my character was a jackbooted government thug whilst the poor woman is just going, “They’re going to be executed anyway!” That was interesting.

  • Dragdar

     Kill the guards , the women and the children. Loyalty to the human race comes first. Deportation would be an option but that still doesnt eliminate the genetic threat one day.
    Do you know what the Hebrews did after the emigration from Egypt? they straight out slaughtered EVERYTHING, none of the tribes in the “promised land” remained. Gone, erased from history.
    You know why it took them 40 years?! they were busy killing.
    And the Hebrews didn’t want to assimilate them genetically, they considered them dirty and inferior.
    When Romans destroyed Jerusalem they left NO STONE upon another. Same with Corinthians, total destruction, the only way to make sure it doesn’t bite you in the ass later.

    History is full of examples

    • Maysin

      Whether you are misguided or trolling, that is an interesting way to put it; however, in the context of DnD with an imaginary universe that has no history relating to real world, that makes no sense. Our history is completely different than game history, so that logic would fall short unless you were a Human Ranger with your Favored Enemy set to Orc.

      • solidsamurai

        Even so ‘favored enemy’ just means your skilled at hunting that enemy, it doesn’t mean you harbor some deep seated emotional resentment for them. 

        Oh jeeze, here we go again… xD

        • Maysin

          I agree, hence why my suggestion was still a stretch of the imagination. :P

    • ftidus12

      Nope. A genocide would be a bad move for a people who had so few numbers and needed trading partners and allies (genocides tend to make people nervous about trusting one’s up and coming civilization and the Isrealites desperately needed diplomatic relations to hold) . They only fought with other tribes when they were attacked first (and only after diplomacy failed) and even then only with the support of the other peoples of Canaan. Hence why recovered historical records are full of the Isrealites coexisting, intermarrying and trading with the other tribes of Canaan. Secondly, the Hebrews were all about assimilation and were eager to bring in others to swell their ranks.  So your both your statements are completely false.

      “Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From?” by William Dever

      “Ancient Canaan and Israel: An Introduction” by Johnathan M Golden.

  • GunsmithKitten

    I will not party with a Chaotic Neutral if I can help it. No. Never. Every single time, it’s bit me in the ass, either personally (I don’t know how many times a CN rogue simply ripped off not just inconsquential goods, but weapons and armor that as a Fighter I NEED) just because it was funny at the time. Granted, in most of those circumstances, the offender was either abanoned to face the wrath of the authorities him/herself, or if they were harming me or the party, got a face full of a backup weapon, including a PC death in one case where my gladiatrix had her main weapon filched and thrown overboard from the ship because the halfling felt I was “too uptight”. 

    So no, even if forced, I give them a wide berth and let them know that so much as touching me will have consequences. Have ot keep the CN’s in line. 

    • solidsamurai

       Well being ‘insane’ and all, I’m sure they’d understand your attempts to punish them.  :)

    • Raziel Raven

       I’ve always found that people who choose to play Chaotic Neutral do so just so they have an excuse to act like an ass to other players. “Hey, it’s what my alignment says I should do!”

  • James

    Ah, alignments, how we have debated this heavily in my group. We have a guy who thinks chaotic good would burn down a castle, killing most of the people in it & the surrounding area, to obtain an item for the greater good. While we have another guy who in the same game, had their chaotic good character attack the other one for murdering a bunch of people rather than sneaking in & stealing the item instead.

  • James

    Ah, alignments, how we have debated this heavily in my group. We have a guy who thinks chaotic good would burn down a castle, killing most of the people in it & in the surrounding area, to obtain an item for the greater good. While we have another guy who, in the same game, had their chaotic good character attack the other one for murdering a bunch of people rather than just sneaking in & stealing the item instead.

    As for playing evil, if done right, it can mesh well with a party. Or at least I like to think that when playing lawful evil characters who take all the ‘rid the world of evil’ quests just to get stronger/richer & eventually just to make themselves look good & take away resources/experience from good people who could potentially threaten my character’s plans. We have another player who will play chaotic evil who’s a jerk & adventures cause it’s like getting free license to murder & loot, indulging in selfish wickedness, without any downside.

    However, my group generally doesn’t have many characters that are evil in our games. Especially since last time we had an all characters are evil game, it ended shortly after it began with one character saying the wrong thing to another & getting cut in half, which because the character being killed was evil & did many bad things, it was technically a good act.

    Personally, I dislike how deeply entrenched the alignment system of D&D is with the mechanics of the game. Classes, items, feats, & magic. In moderation, this would be okay, but they do it way too much in the core D&D of 3.5 & earlier. Not sure on the 4th Ed really. Been years since I played that.

  • LordBejita

    The baby situation depends on the xp value of slaughtering babies.  I do know one character who is damn proud of waking up in the morning and wondering what type of evil they can do today, Aaron from “Titus Andronicus” by Shakespeare.  Not that I am argueing :)

  • Sideshownic

    OMG all the paladin hate!

    The paladin alignment is a “weakness” of the class.  A way to make it harder to play.  The class is a very powerful mix of warrior and cleric.  The difficulty of playing the class doesn’t come from game mechanics, like combat or survivability.  The difficulty of the class comes from trying to make the ridiculous loyal good alignment work in various settings.

    Let’s take another class for example: a mage.  Low hit points, weak armor.  One of the difficulties in playing this class is surviving combat due to the fact that you are brittler than glass.  You can do that many ways: cower behind your meat shields… i mean… teammates, save your most powerful spell until you are in imminent danger, etc…  However, no one can yell at the mage player: “Dude, you are weak.  Get more hit points and wear a full plate armor”.  It can’t happen.  It goes against being a mage.

    The same can be said for the paladin.  Sure, people got annoyed then Sir Tireswing (I was never good at finding names) was being good (or overly good, according to them), but the challenge was to make it work.  Not having to play alignment is like allowing a mage to wear a full plate of armor without penalty and giving him the hit points of a fighter.  It becomes too easy to play, and no fun.

    • Ryan Laskowski

       “The class is a very powerful mix of warrior and cleric.”
      The cleric is a powerful mix or warrior and cleric. Paladins are one of the weakest classes in 3.X, even in casual play. They are worse at direct fighting than a fighter, near useless spellcasters, and have almost no utility skills or magic. The alignment restrictions are there strictly for roleplay, not in any way to balance the class. Clerics of a Lawful Good deity should be held to the same standard as any paladin.

      • Sideshownic

        Yeah, I guess what I said applies more to 2nd edition, which is what I played.  Oh my god I am old :(.  For example, I didn’t quite like the cleric limitation on blunt weapons only.  I love me a good two-handed sword.

  • John Lindgren

    Please turn counter monkey into a podcast spoony. Would be so much more fun to listen to. :)

  • Godofzombies

    Interesting thing with looking up the orc’s alignment is this, and i know its a very rules lawyer thing to do, but in this situtation it works for the best. The chaotic evil alignment is for adult orcs. i doubt even that one special adventure has stats for orc babies, so you can say “ok where does it say that the babies are chaotic neutral?) and so one can argue that babies have a “neutral” alignment.
    Personaly im for killing the men, leave the women alone option. It’s like you said, its a line.
    And while it hasn’t come up in my group, i’d be sore pressed not to kill another pc over it, cuz my rogue ( assassin) has very martial code of honor about only killing the strong and the evil. So if any suposedly good paladin starts killing babes in front of my char, roll inititive, backstab, and everything i got right on him. I wonder what it would lead to.

  • toms

    I am offended by this video on an academic level. The Prisoner’s Dilemma is a game theory um… game.
    A crappy cop sees a broken window and 2 kids who didn’t do it but happen to be in the area. The cop arrests both of them and puts them in separate rooms.
    He gives each kid an offer: If you rat out the other guy then he has to help pay for the window. And if he rats you out then you have to pay for it. If both of you rat each other out then you split the bill. And if both of you stay quiet then there is no evidence and you both go free.
    Each kid doesn’t know the other kid and how they will act. If they both stay quiet then nobody gets punished, but if one stays quiet while the other rats them out then he has to pay even more. So in almost all situations, people put in the Prisoner’s Dilemma will choose to rat the other out.

    Also: this video is great. But if a species is chaotic evil they are basically all bad all the time. They are like an alligator, a spider, an ant or a rattlesnake. You cannot do anything to prevent them from doing what they want and they will mess you up later. Nobody feels bad about smashing alligator or rattlesnake eggs since they are always ‘evil’.

    • Raziel Raven

      Except that animals are neutral, doing what is necessary to survive. And killing a creature’s eggs because their kids MIGHT someday be a danger is a rather callow thing to do.

      • Nicholas Patrick Hayes

         Well yes. But this is an argument of practicality vs absolute morality. Either you don’t ever kill potential threats or you kill potential threats that have a decent chance of becoming actual threats

        • Raziel Raven

           Except a rattlesnake’s bite rarely ever kills someone. And alligators leave humans alone, as long as they don’t venture into their territory. In both these examples it’s the invading human who could be best considered as evil.

    • Groverfield

      I’m rather certain that orcs are described as “usually chaotic evil” not always (at least in 3.0, 3.5, and 4.0).

      Another way to do this is to decide that as an infant the babies have
      1-2 INT at most, which similar to animals is not developed enough to
      form alignments.

      OR if it’s in 3.5 edition like I’m used to, just solve the dilemma
      magically.  Detect evil and call it a night.  No, it doesn’t solve the
      argument entirely, but it does push the boulder down one of two cliffs.

  • Oisin McColgan

    Solution: Be a paladin of the god of death “They will be judged in the afterlife!”

    Seriously though, I get rid of alignment in my games and if someone plays a character with a strong moral code (such as a paladin though occassionally a monk too) I have them write up the tenants of their code before the first game so that it’s absolutely clear where they stand on any given issue.

    • ftidus12


      Does taking that alignment give a bonus to bluff whenever you put “bro” or “dude” in the sentence?

  • ra_myers

    Interesting thing about alignments and assassins in particular, in my 4th edition group there is a new character who’s a Drow Assassin and worships Vecna, but is technically neutral/unaligned (although he does lean more towards the evil side) my group nearly outright refused having him in because the others are some form of good, and they view assassins and also Drow as irredeemably evil (no, they haven’t heard of Drizzt Do’Urden, yet). Now I have something to direct them towards to not be so picky about alignments.

  • David Pelletier

    Rock, Paper and Scissors… pretty much solves many things. Alignments should be seen like a general situation morality more that automatical reaction.

  • Jayden Reynolds

    “These are people who have no conscience, who do not care about how much
    damage they do, how much they hurt people, they only care about their
    own self-gratification; pure selfishness.”
    These people usually are in fact brain damaged or sociopathic. Psychology may not be a hard science, but there are some truths within it.

  • Jayden Reynolds

    I totally see how Spoony could rant for an hour on how strictly rules for RPGs could be enforced.

    Mr. Antwiler, if you get the time, do this!

  • cteshwayo

    There was this one time in my game where we attacked a lizardfolk settlement.  In our case, our party agreed to disagree.  The paladin actually left, refusing to have any part in what was going on.  My cleric was unwilling to abandon the party, but saved as many civilians from the other party members as possible.  Our ranger, whose backstory included a special hatred for lizardfolk, went on a killing spree.  And our barbarian, who had taken some damage, took his vampiric sword and proceeded to use every civilian he could find as a healing potion.

  • Michael Werner

    I’ve acctually never played a boardgame-rpg, though I would love to, and I’m trying to get my friends together to play. I bought the D&D Red box :P.
    But Countermonkey is my absolute FAVORIT on (and the phantasmagoria LP)
    Keep them coming, all the time, as much as possible.
    Thanks you from sweden

  • toms

    How am I only the second dude to notice the Zero Punctuation Yahtzee Imps are to Spoony’s left on the book shelf.

    I didn’t know that some games punish your changing alignment. Most characters that I have changed via interacting with other player’s characters and enemy characters.  

    • ORCACommander

       you are really the 50th

  • Arsenal Of Megadeath

    Lawful Good, “Crusader” – BATMAN, CAPTAIN AMERICA 
    Neutral Good, “Benefactor” – SPIDERMAN, GREEN ARROW
    Chaotic Good, “Rebel” -WOLVERINE
    Lawful Neutral, “Judge” – JUDGE DREDD, ALPHA LANTERNS
    Neutral, “Undecided” – UATU, THE WATCHER, THE MONITOR
    Chaotic Neutral, “Free Spirit” – DEADPOOL
    Lawful Evil, “Dominator” – DARKSEID,DR.DOOM
    Neutral Evil, “Malefactor” – JOKER,
    Chaotic Evil, “Destroyer” – THE ANTI-MONITOR
     these are just my thoughts.

    • Dragdar

       Interesting !

    • lightice

       Batman breaks the law routinely, you know?

      • Arsenal Of Megadeath

        batman is a recognized agent of the law. otherwise com. gordon , not to mention the world court, would be tearing down wayne manor.

      • uninspired_username

        Sometimes a lawful character can be someone who strongly follows a moral or personal code, even if they don’t always follow the laws of whatever city or nation they live in.

    • Tyghost

      There’s one incarnation of Batman for every one of these alignments (except maybe chaotically evil).

      • Arsenal Of Megadeath

        hmmn, what about that version from super friends where he was red with a moustache?
        and that image is flawed. every batman in that image serves for lawful good. the batman(s) in those images are recognized agents of the law. only the stupidty of the captions suggest otherwise. not a single one of those images represent an alternate universe batman.

  • Rpground

     the way you described the alignments made me think i may not be roleplaying as the proper alignment after all these years. my characters have always been neutral evil,because i felt that i did some pretty nasty shit,but there we’re cases where i would opt for the so called “light side” choice. hell sometimes i would even give a beggar a bone by throwing a few gold his/her way. sure i murder,pillage,rape,maim, ect.  but i still do some nice things here and there. you can imagine then how awkward this is for a cleric. anyway,from this it seems like more more chaotic neutral then anything else. but i guess that would be describe me for im mostly in it for the fun of it. when i was in a group,we never really had this kinda problem. everyone had their own way of solving the situation ofcourse so at times we just rolled for it. the person with the highest roll we went for. sure it was random,but it was in the hands of lady luck so no one could really complain at the outcome. added alot to the adventure doing things that wouldnt normally happen. not the best way to go about it but at least we all agreed that was just how the numbers rolled,so there was nothing to argue about. although when people got lucky with like 3 or so in a row we would be a handicap against them,so there was a chance they would win but not under normal circumstances. so i fairness in all things. so yeah,not really must else to tell other then that. other then its really great to watch these and just remember your own adventures back in the day as we listen to you as you reminisce as well.

  • Groverfield

    I chuckled at the “thief” saying “I am justice.”

    Alignments didn’t factor into this dilema so much, but here goes for my own prisoner dilemma

    I DM’ed a campaign that turned into this situation by wandering into a fight which I didn’t plan on them wandering into (about 30-40ish kobold warriors of various NPC classes versus 2 level 1 PCs).  After they (somehow out of luck) took down about 80% of them without getting below 50% HP, they started using intimidate to make the warriors cower in place.  Instead of killing the prisoners, they made them sever the heads of their fallen comrades, tie them together in a rope made of the dead kobold intestines, and dragged the heads through sand back to the nearby village where they were imprisoned.  The more good aligned of the two was somewhat against it, but allowed it to happen because it might be an effective deterrant against further attacks and it spared the ones that surrendered while still punishing them.  Mind you, these weren’t the innocent civilians described in that setting, these were warriors.

    Edit: also people can be straight up evil without having a psychological disorder, usually with personality disorders which can be quite different.

  • maxi90

    Spoony: Most times the party will just agree to kill the orc babies, be cause fuck is, they are orc, they are going to be evil

    Me: Dude, that´s kinda racist.

    Spoony: “But then the good charachter steps in and says, “Dude, that´s kinda racist”

    Me: *Gasp*

    • Dragdar

       great job on confirming the severity of your brainwash. “oh, Pol correctness guide us”
      an invention of 20th century media.

      back in the day there was no such thing as “racism”, it was called “loyalty to your own kind” in the face of adversity. Mixing was approved only if the cultures were compatible.

      Either your gene-pool thrived or it didn’t, or you struck a deal with strangers and you all left each other alone.
      One of the biggest examples of this are the Crusades which halted the advance of the Arabs… for a while.

      • maxi90


  • Patryk Halaczkiewicz

    good example of playing alignment vs claiming alignment, once had a Chaotic Good wizard, who tried to have that for a requirement he needed (and I’m already laughing…) and whenever we ran into an npc, enemy or ally, he asked “does he have any gear” and basically called dibs on quest npc gear as he wanted to kill them after they were useful…..long version short we threatened him as a group that he’d just go through forced alignment change (and this was 3.5 D&D just for the record)

  • Dante Alberti

    I thought the simplest option was just to leave them alive.

    • doresh

      Don’t forget to tie them up and steal their stuff XD

  • Patryk Halaczkiewicz

    although only example of anyone I know ever having a “problem” with a paly was when the paly was lawful good….and played him like a zealous nut job who was, by some definitions, quite evil, in fact he made some of the villains look nice

  • SilverFoxR

    Honestly, like you said in the “story”, alignment can be a fascinating tool… I kind of find that the more interesting situations is when you corrupt the ideals of the stereotypical alignment… as in making characters who are indeed “lawful good” as the villian and still remaining within their alignment.

    Here’s a great example – the Soulcalibur game series…

    Everyone is fighting over these two swords – Soul Edge (which represents pure chaos and evil) and Soul Calibur (which represents pure justice and good). The thing is, however, that commonly, nature demands balance… if evil is destroyed, another evil must take it’s place or the world is destroyed… and vice versa…

    …and that’s exactly what can happen in Soulcalibur. If Soul Edge “wins”, it will destroy every life form and consume it’s soul as nourishment, as it’s pretty much the harbringer of death and destruction. So, you’d think “well, Soul Calibur represents justice, so it should win”, right? Wrong. Soul Calibur is ABSOLUTE justice. You wonder what that means? What could possibly be ultimate, absolute order and justice?


    If Soul Calibur “wins”, it will freeze the world, crystalizing every life form so it can’t rebel and potentially bring upon a new chaos. Despite Soul Calibur being essentially the embodiment of “Lawful good”, it’s just as dangerous to the world as the “Chaotic evil” Soul Edge… and, in the most recent game, it ends up being the true final boss, manipulating and corrupting it’s wielder to do it’s duty. When the wielder rebels, it fights the host for control of his body.

    Having good and evil take legitimate roll reversal can be absolutely genius if done right. The absolute good’s plan to bring order to the world (thus ending it) being thwarted by evil, which inadvertedly saves everyone. Pretty awesome when done right =3

    • doresh

      There really should be more “good” antagonists, like a sect of a good god who acts a little bit to fanatical…

    • Raziel Raven

       You, and everyone else here, should read ‘Villains by Necessity’.It’s a very good take on the ‘Good wins’ as bad ending, and a reminder that what is good and what is right isn’t always the same thing.

    • valar84

       That reminds me of the conflict between Law and Chaos in Michael Moorcock’s Multiverse (maybe you know this name: Elric of Melnibone, if you don’t, go read it NOW). If either side wins, humanity cannot survive, too much Law crystallizes the world, too much Chaos and nothing can exist, for everything is always changing. The really “good” side is Balance.

      In most settings, it is Chaos that plays the role of the “bad guy” and the gods of Law who are the ones least hostile to humans. But is is possible for the opposite to happen. I think it happened in a few stories, but in most of Moorcock’s work, Chaos is the predominant power and so it is the bad guy as it is pulling the world out of balance. IIRC, in one of the recent novels, Nazi Germany is presented as an incarnation of Law run amok, trying to destroy diversity and variety to have a world of one race, one nation.

    • Rakkrakk

      My first encounter with that concept were the Gothic games, in the shape of the three deities presented there:

      Innos, Beliar and Adanos. Innos is the god of Light, Life, Fire, Order and the creator of mankind. Beliar is the god of Darkness, Death, Chaos and creator of all Beasts(orcs, wolves, dragons, all of them). Innos and Beliar are at war all the time. Adanos is the god of Neutrality, Balance, Water and Ice, he is responsible for plant life, I believe, but could be wrong(It has been a while since I played Gothic).

      Ironically, it’s the conflict that keeps the world alive. Not the “balance of good and evil/law and chaos”. Adanos actually is the most dangerous of the three: If he thinks that the conflict went out of hand he just drowns all life involved in the conflict. ALL of it. Just to restore balance.

      Spoiler territory: The solution to the conflict was that the Nameless Hero(avatar of Innos and protagonist) and Xardas(avatar of Beliar and powerful ally of the protagonist) banished the gods’ influence along with all rune magic by exiling themselves in the (rather craptastic) game Gothic 3.

      And in yet another fit of irony it turns out that the three brothers were not the only forces allowing magic to work and thus the ancient crystal magic(and voodoo if you accept the existence of the abominable Risen 2), which wasn’t used because 1) it’s harder to learn(from a story perspective, gameplaywise it’s dirt-easy) and 2) not all that spectacular, (re)entered the picture.

  • zero_miles_per_hour

    Batman initially did kill Joker, he was brought back by popular demand.  Not that it matters, since Batman has set himself above the law, hence his lawfulness is a mere preference.
    Anyway, in Ancient Greece they believed that morals were good in a practical sense, and were basically rooted in honesty as opposed to selflessness.  So to them, alignment would be patent nonsense, it would be like having an alignment of self-destructive or weak-willed or stupid.  I tend to agree.

  • Bennett LaRue

    What can change the nature of a man?

  • Chris Confer

    I’m lucky in that I’ve never had alignment interfere with a campaign. I tend to play neutral or evil characters, but my friends typically play good or neutral characters; however, we try to develop the story enough that we get along, and with good reason. For instance: I’m currently playing a Neutral Evil inquisitor (we’re playing “Pathfinder”), traveling with a Lawful Neutral monk, a Chaotic Good rogue, and a Lawful Good fighter. While my character worships an evil goddess, she is not willing to blow her cover or commit random acts of evil, because it would interfere with her mission. She’s less of a villain and more of a brainwashed, PTSD-stricken minion (think River Tam, but evil), and a lot of the time she doesn’t understand why other people might be taken aback when she says or does something evil. She actually wants the party members to be her friends, and tries to impress them and make them like her, but she still has a mission to complete, so she tries to balance out these desires. She’s also the “child” of the group, looking at everything with a wide-eyed innocence that contrasts with her desire to commit brutal violence at the drop of a hat.
    Her prisoner dilemma (the second one, with the main villain) would result in her letting the guy live, but not before she has cut off his hands and maybe his tongue, because she WOULD still be letting him go, and the other party members didn’t specifically tell her she COULDN’T maim him to keep him from harming them.

  • Herman Cillo

    Hmm. My best alignment story…

    I only have a few I’ll talk about, the others are basically more arguments that happened in the group.

    1: I once watched a D&D Paladin break his oath and lose his powers by directly opposing one of his God’s servants to protect the soul of a little girl. (Well worth it.)

    2: I played a Warlock in 3.5 D&D who struggled to get to Chaotic Good from being Chaotic neutral, but never had the chance to complete the transition. (Long Story Short? I was young and a jerk who was playing with a group that were different enough in attitude from me to cause friction in the first place, and got booted from the group.)

    3: I watched another player actually stab an NPC while saying “I want his soul!” and ending up with that character becoming evil and leaving the campaign. (Same group as number 2, and the player was one that dropped out after a few months.)

    Alignment is a mixed bag to me. It’s good as a guideline, but bad because it becomes a crutch or a cudgel very easily.

    A worse problem is the disruptive and/or selfish player, which is something you could do another hour long Counter Monkey on.

  • Adrian Hill

    what i normally when a character dose something out of there alignment stuff is make them roll if they get something over 6 they can go though with it but if they get something under 6 so 5 or lower they can’t do it

  • Maxime Bruno

    I’ve ony played Neutral good, lawful good and lawful neutral characters in the past and I’ve actually had scenarios where I had no choice but to act out of context. I personally think alignments should be considered as a “general” disposition. This is how he normally would act. For example, you can have a character that is generally decent and will help others in need but who is just racist and will commit hate crimes against say… elves.

    I’ve had a game where my character had undergone a series of gruesome torture. At one point, he managed to free himself and went overkill on the guards. We’re talking about a guy who was so good he volunteered to take the torture to avoid getting his friends hurt. But in a situation like that, I just explained it as a brief moment os psychosis and actually roleplayed a guilt, horror and self-loathing for a few games.

    I’ve also had a character in BESM who had a strict “I don’t hit women” (In his stat flaws, he had an “Attack restriction”) policy who actually shot a woman’s arm because she was about to set off a nuke. Exceptions can always be done if roleplayed well. In this case, he did soemthing against his nature, but instead of going for the kill, he only injured her. I guess a good way to roleplay these exceptions is to have a good reason but also, you can make someone do something against his nature and go “Okay, I’ve done enough, no more”. It’s akin to a non-violent person defending himself but once the assailant is down, it ends there.

    When I play a paladin and stumble on a situation where a crime must be commited, instead of breaking away from the group, I do something different. I either act like “I’ll have no part in this” and let them do it but don’t help them or make him hold a bit of a grudge but make him reason that if he has to follow the group because the fulfillment of the mission is a greater good and he can’t do it alone etc…

    As for pure evil existing in real life, I guess this is arguable. Antisocial personality disorder is pretty much a permanent thing and is pretty much (very simplified) a complete lack of empathy. However, one can argue “Can we really bog down evil as just the lack of good?” Then again, some will say it’s a disorder and isn’t quite evil, but others will say “It’s only a disorder because poeple described it as such. Heck, there are pretty convincing arguments supportng that another personality disorder, Schizoid personality (which in a simplified form is pretty much not feeling the need for social contact), should not be a medical term or be treated in the first place because there’s nothing wrong with not being sociable and being content with it. There are religious arguments for good and evil, but I won’t get into that. I don’t want to start an argument. Good and evil are words that we use to generalize a set of sometimes vague behaviour. This is how I personally view alignments I guess.

  • Bajkopisarz

    Arguing ethics is a part of role playing, It’s not halting the game in my opinion to discuss it… Maybe I’m weird.

  • Andrew McMenamy

    It’s not paladins you have to worry about, it’s Avengers.  Fuck Avengers.  All the religion of a Paladin with the mentality of and Assassin.  That’s an ethical nightmare. 

    The funniest example of a morality change happend with a group of relatively new players in a 4th ed campaign. We are all mostly learning and all good friends, so we let a lot of stuff slide.  At some point early on, our warlock realized his character sucked and he really should rebuild it from scratch, but he didn’t want to lose the character out right.  The solution was that our DM decided to put him through hell (our friends character as essentially sexually assaulted by a local church of a town that viewed pain as the pinnacle of God).  After escaping the church, he not only suffered an alignment shift from neutral good to chaotic neutral, but also had his class pact altered.  He went from Star Pact, to Infernal Pact. In reality, it was mostly an excuse for him to rebuild his states into something much more useful, but in game it was great fun for him to role play.  In essence, we drove him near madness, and as a result he became much more unpredictable and fun.  In this case, the chaotic neutral made sense, he basically was insane after that.  It also gave the group a good laugh when we realized we’d managed to break the woobie :)

  • Tobias Verhulst

    First a small remark: this is not the prisoners dilemma (being a mathematician I had to point that out :-)).

    Now my opinion about the alignment stuff. Everyone can have their own way of dealing with this, but this is how I do it. First of, in my campaigns their always is absolute evil. Like Spoony said: if the PCs are fighting devils or demons, those are absolute evil. In my campaign orcs are as evil as those hell spawns, so the players don’t have a problem slaughtering them. That said, most of the time it’s best just not to have babies form them to slaughter. Of course from time to time the PCs will be fighting humans, in which case ethical problems are harder to avoid. With really evil villeins, like a necromantic sorceress raising an army of zombies to use for a genocide, the players will probably kill the villein, considering it capital punishment (something Batman should have done with the Joker long ago, by the way). Now, the alignments assigned to the characters we mostly ignore and the players decide for themselves how their characters would act. So each player constructs a set of ethics for his character. However, the GM then has to decide how NPCs see the PC’s actions. For example: a cleric might kill a villein but if the god of that cleric doesn’t approve capital punishment (GM’s decision) he might punish the PC. This might even be a starting point of more adventures, where the PC has to do something for penance or might even get into a fight with his order… So there is no ‘your character wouldn’t do this’ but rather ‘your god thus not approve and no longer grants you divine magic’.

  • Nicholas Patrick Hayes

     Also, looks like you’re taking the alignment system literally as written in the books. No-one says that you have to do that. Rule Two is what the GM says, goes.

    (Rule One is have fun, btw)

  • Eric Steele

    Something interesting to note (not being argumentative or anything). The original Final Fantasy did actually have a morale statistic. The way it works is that every round it performs a check to see whether or not it would run. The other thing it takes into account is the morale of the leader of the enemy group (i.e. whomever has the highest morale). The check follows a formula of basically enemy morale – character morale (determined by level) – random # and if this formula is less than zero then the enemy will run. Further, there was a lower level white magic spell called Fear (US NES Translation) which if it hit it would lower the morale by 40 points (From an original max of 255/256, i.e. even Chaos the final boss has a 1/256 chance of running from the off). There is a humorous youtube video in which a player used savestates to ensure Fear hit Chaos several times, causing him to run away, which the game interprets as the players winning. Interestingly through hacking if one allows the players to run away Chaos disappears from the map and the game becomes unwinnable. Anyway, just a humorous note on the first FF. Look for that video on youtube, or check out GameFAQs for a guide on FF1’s game mechanics, it’s an interesting read for FF fans/programmers/nerds.

  • Nicholas Zapetis

    I’ve noticed this point come up several times in the comments and thought I may be so bold as to make a clarification:

    The Title of the video is “The Prisoner Dilemma” where as the game theory situation is “The Prisoner’s Dilemma.”
    While it may seem like a casual drop of the ‘apostrophe s’ it grammatically changes the meaning.  “The Prisoner Dilemma” is a dilemma faced by players on the issue of a prisoner, “The Prisoner’s Dilemma” is a dilemma faced by a prisoner (who in the game theory situation, IS the player).

    And now that this post has been made, I’m sure the issue will NEVER come up again! :-p

  • Peter Larrivee

    Ohhhh boy… talking about Paladins and Thieves, have I got the perfect story.
    And there’s a twist! The Paladin… did wrong.
    It was the first campaign my friends and I had ever played. One of my buddies is a Gnome sorcerer, I’m playing the thiefy rogue, another guy is running since he’s got the actual DM experience (ish) and and then… there’s my buddy Joe who is playing the Paladin.
    The worst Paladin ever.
    In preparation for his role, he spent a lot of time reading the Paladin and Cleric books, I forget the title, but it’s one that portrays Paladins as holy warriors, almost to the point of extreme zealotry, like Spoony’s example with the Druid in town.
    But my buddy Joe… he sort of likes to pick and choose what’s convenient for him. So while his Paladin was supposed to be a zealot, he was also a dwarf, so he would routinely take part in some drunken revelry to some extent.
    Background is done. Now the story. We’ve just finished some adventure and are in a town to rest and resupply, and of course have a little fun. My character, the thief, put on his finest noble clothes and strolled into the noble’s bar to start pickpocketing the rich people. The Gnome, the Paladin, and our healer Cleric NPC were in another bar altogether.
    The Paladin walks into the bar. He turns on his ‘Detect Evil’ and spots one guy, in a corner, in a cloak, with some buddies playing cards, and goes to pick a fight with him.

    I can hear some of you facepalming already. It gets worse.
    He picks a fight with the guy, and they go take it outside. Surrounded by all the bar patrons as witnesses, and with the town guard almost certainly on the way already, the Paladin takes out his axe.
    To which, the evil guy replies “Hey, I thought this was gonna be a fair fight, what’s with the weapon?”
    To which the Paladin, Mr. Lawful Good, replies “You’re evil!” and caves the guy’s head in with a single hit. The crowd tactfully chooses this moment to vanish.

    Guards arrive, and with a dozen fully armored guys with Halberd’s, the Paladin does get the genius idea to surrender rather than litter the ground with more corpses. They book him for murder.

    So, my Rogue, who is TRUE NEUTRAL, comes back after a fruitful night of robbing the rich, and hears what happened. We start to discuss options, including dumping his tiny hairy ass, because the Paladin has been SUCH a prick. But, no, my character does generally try to do the right thing, even though he prefers underhanded tactics, dirty fighting, and outside the box solutions.

    And the DM rolls with it. I gather info about the guy who got axed, find out who his companions are, where they generally hole up, go break into their hideout, Batman my way around to find out enough info. They’re a group of smugglers or something. I then sneak out, and go rat on them to the town guard. This is breaking Rule 1 for any thief: No snitching, but that’s the benefit of being neutral.

    So I go back to the group, we get together, coach the Paladin so he can get through the trial without breaking his honor or getting the death penalty and basically get him set free, but exiled from the town forever.

    And as we’re walking out of the courthouse, my thief, a 120lb human, turns to the 200lb Dwarf paladin, and clocks him in the face with a sucker punch, full sneak attack while belting out “YOU IDIOT!”

    Then I beat his initiative and ran like fucking mad. Because he would have killed me. Even though I just Batmanned his ass out of trouble, and I’M THE LAWBREAKER!! BY TRADE!!

    He didn’t catch me, and they calmed him down enough so the next day we could continue adventuring, but that Dwarf got us into more trouble than my thief could even dream of. There’s a line between lawful good, and lawful stupid. He never really figured out where that line was.

  • Aiddon

     goddamn gameplay-story segregation. This is why my friends and I never take alignments seriously. Look at how many different alignments you see in your party with every Bioware game. Typically HK-47 and Bastila Shan would NEVER be in the same group. This is why I always say this: regardless of alignment you know that you MUST have these people in your group to succeed

  • Ash Baillie

    Actually what you could of done is just
    cast a magical barrier on the door after locking the orcs in and by
    the time the spell expires you would be long gone. But thats just me putting a little too much thought into the situation.

    Also I have never played D&D, I want to but I dont know anybody who does.

    • Jumpooleez

      Most wizards wouldn’t have a spell like that memorized.

    • Brad Eppes

      Even if there were such a spell that you could finely tune to create exactly the right kind of barrier for any length of time you could specify, the length of time necessary to resolve the dilemma would also starve them to death or , if you have another spell that keeps them fed indefinitely, (which also doesn’t exist, but lets say it did) you’d be consigning them to eternal imprisonment at birth. 

      The baby orc problem goes beyond the situation of immediate complicity. These babies will grow up and become evil or at the least will desire vengeance (and their mothers long before them) and seek means to screw you over. Throwing them behind a barrier for a few hours or even a few days or weeks, would do nothing to resolve the problem. Actually, the more common solution is to tie them up and leave a knife some distance away.

      But that’s not what bugs me about your response. What bugs me is how dismissive you’re being.

      Trust that there are a lot of people who play DnD who are as smart as you and at least a few that are smarter and we’ve been going back and forth over this for decades. As Spoony pointed out, the problem is usually that we spend too long debating and thinking about it when we should probably just accept that this is a game and we want to get on with playing it (and this is coming from someone who has killed many a game session in debate over alignments.)  

      And those decades of alignment debate are but a small subset of millenia of debate over morality and ethics. 

      I’m not criticizing you for thinking of the magic barrier. Thats a good starting point for considering alternate solutions. In this situation, you can do things other than just slaughter the women and children or leaving. You can confine them, you can try to send a message to allies to accost them, you can try to appeal to their better natures with mercy (to try to make the distinction to them that you were interested in stopping a problem and not exterminating a race but that kind of depends on how universally evil orcs are in your campaign.)

      Thats actually another facet Spoony didn’t get into, but one I’m sure he’s well aware of and just didn’t have time for today. The monster manual lists monster alignments as “Always” “Usually” and “Often”. And even the “Always” category has a few rare exceptions among a race of millions that defy the alignment tendencies. 

      Orcs are usually listed as “Usually Chaotic Evil” meaning that these babies really might turn out better than their parents were which just complicates things further.

      The “Always” category is usually reserved for races who are or are tied closely to, manifestations of pure alignment, i.e. demons, devils, angels, liches.

      Actually, out of all of those, I personally think liches are the worst. Liches choose to become what they are. They choose to be these horrible twisted creatures of death and destruction. But even then, there are some good liches, like the baelnorn, elven liches in the forgotten realms who seek lichdom as a means to be able to continue to protect and preserve their culture and community (because liches are immortal). Its always complicated. 

      But enough of that. I’ve vented. I await your thoughtful rebuttal if you wish.

  • doresh

    I always regarded alignments for humanoids as the typical alignment of a member of said race. Just because the monster manual says that “orcs are chaotic evil” doesn’t mean orcs are born chaotic evil or instantly turn chaotic evil once they hit puberty. It’s just that the orc society is typically chaotic evil. But that still leaves room for other alignments, like chaotic neutral (more civilized orcs who trade with other races) or neutral evil (orc leaders/shamans who have no time for this whole anarchy stuff).

    And animals should be the most likely to run away (unless cornered or trying
    to defend their kids), since even predators have no reason to fight
    against prey that’s obviously too tough or too much effort.

    I think that’s why D&D came up with these sorta-magical rage animals, like the bullette, the owlbear and all these dire critters.

  • Atmos_Duality

    Alignment is bullshit plain and simple.
    It’s a mind-control Feat all DMs get, and nothing more. Players who seriously get into character are more likely to keep to their character’s line of thinking even in the absence of Alignment. Munchkins and Roll-Players really don’t give a damn about Alignment anyway, and will only take it insofar as their class requirements demand.

    When you ignore moral dilemmas, it becomes a useless feature. When you invoke it in moral dilemmas, you essentially take the choice away from the player, and from what their CHARACTER might do instead.

    So either way, it’s useless.

    Codes of Honor and Ethics are relative to the beholder or the dominant civilization.
    “The winners write history. The winners make the laws.”

    So that rampaging Lawful Good Paladin might as well be a homicidal anarchist in the eyes of the creatures/civilization he is destroying. As for “undead/demons/etc” being unquestionably evil, well, yeah. It depends on the setting and the theme.

    If you define evil as an uncompromising desire to consume and grow at the expense of everything else, then it fits. It’s simply Natural Law (“Eat or be Eaten”) with an intelligent agenda, and a disregard for long-term consequences.

    My friend actually designed a Disgaea-like setting where demons, and “might makes right” existed, and factions/loyalty mattered more than alignment.

    In that, I can see how a different flavor of alignment might work, but the standard Law-Chaos Good-Evil is just worthless, and a source of endless, pointless controversy in tabletop gaming.

    • valar84

       I disagree that it’s all subjective. There are cases that you can argue, for instance, Spoony mentioned barbarians as Chaotic Neutral. I’m not sure that I agree, most barbarian tribes have tribal laws, and they tend to stick hard by those laws, because that’s the only thing keeping the community together in an harsh environment. Take them out of their environment, and they may not respect much other people’s laws, but their own laws and teachings they tend to respect. Barbarians who have lost their tribes and have become scavengers may be more Chaotic.

      As to Good and Evil, I think the reality is more selfless vs selfish. Good individuals tend to show empathy, even to strangers. Evil individuals couldn’t care less about others and their feelings, and sometimes may even be sadists (people like that who take pleasure from the suffering of their enemies DO exist). They do things for their own purposes, or the purpose of their tribe/pack/nation, and screw others, “they would have done the same if the roles were reversed”.

      Even in the context of a Lawful Good Paladin setting out to destroy another civilization because it is considered Evil, I think there is a difference. A LG Paladin would take no pleasure in the destruction, it is necessary, but they will try to reduce the amount of pain they cause. A LG Paladin faced with the dilemna of the baby orcs may decide that their deaths are necessary, but he will give them a good clean death, then treat their remains with respect. A LE warrior might bury them alive, leave them to carrion birds or mutilate their corpses. After a battle, the LG Paladin may take the time to bury or burn the remains of his opponents, he will grant a quick death to the wounded. The LE warrior will behead the dead, put their heads onto spikes and impale the bodies, they may crucify the survivors.

      In both cases, they are waging genocidal wars, but the way they do it shows whether they are good or evil. The good character will also tend to support such a campaign only if convinced it is the only way. They are the ones likely to advocate ending the wars if lost in the wilderness with an enemy, and forced to cooperate to survive, learning about them and their culture.

      Sure, the enemy will tend to hate those characters, but someone’s reputation and their real character may diverge.

      I would say that this example showcases more the lack of realism of “always chaotic evil” societies. Societies tend to be more complex than that, with members in them being good, some others being evil, and MOST being neutral. If you want to see an example in fiction, look at A Song of Ice and Fire (minor spoiler ahead). There are different noble Houses, and the people in the different houses differ from one another. In the house painted as the bad guys in the first novel, the Lannisters, the patriarch is at best between neutral and evil, he is cruel to those in his path and does anything he can to get power. For example, he leaves a tavern owner to die in a gibbet because she was powerless to stop someone from arresting his son earlier on. His armies plunder and ravage the lands of his enemies. His favorite knight is a monster who rapes and murders with reckless abandon, and he uses just that to his advantage.

      On the other hand, one of his sons is really a decent person, though much maligned. He does what is needed, but tries to limit hurting innocents. When he gets the command of a major city suffering from famine during a war, he does all he can to improve living conditions in it, things his sister and nephew cared not at all for. He doesn’t hesitate to offer his father’s favorite knight’s head on a plateau to another house, justice for what wrong he has caused them. In his chapters, the impression he leaves is that he would be quite happy to see him dead.

  • Olaf Randel

    Isn’t James Bond lawful neutral?
    “I’m just a professional doing a job.”
    “So am I”

    • ORCACommander

       i’d say neutral good. he believes in his cause and country but his methods are not legal or ethical in most cases

      • valar84

         Agree. He doesn’t follow the law when on his missions, and he has shown a willingness to ignore orders when it contradicts what he believes right. Which is why he is good, he is guided by his own more and ethical sense.

      • Raziel Raven

         I’m favoring Neutral Evil myself. I know, this’ll be something that people won’t like, but take a look at Bond. Every time he acts it’s either a) out of the orders of his superiors, or b) to enact some form of revenge. He has a moral code, but that moral code is basically selfish. He is more than willing to break the laws to get his work done. He’s more than willing to go against his own government to get his revenge. Oh, he rescues people, but only when doing so is part of his orders. Otherwise he’s more than willing to put the lives of innocent people at risk to get his mission done.

        • SamThePsycicClam

          I disagree he is generally a lawful neutral, “I have orders/beliefs, you are evil, you die.” On the occasions he does disobey orders (Licence to Kill, Die Another Day and The Living Daylights being the three best examples) he more strays into Chaotic Good he knows that something bad is happening or that the person he’s sent to kill doesn’t deserve to die (Pushkin and Kara), he knows the right thing to do is and he does it even if it goes against authority. That is the definition of Chaotic (possibly Neutral) Good.

        • SamThePsycicClam

          One more thing I would point out is that Bond has never killed an innocent person on purpose, you could argue that police may have died chasing him but while he has done things which may result in the death of an innocent they are actually designed to stop/slow pursuers and are never directly designed to kill. I’d say that’s what stops him becoming evil.

  • Alex Manslayer

    And that’s the reason why there is two things need to be a given for a DnD group for me to join:

    1. either good + neutral or evil + neutral
    2. alignments are guidelines and not carved in stone

  • banedon

    Alignment is something to guide you, not force you.  However, if someone keeps acting outside of their alignment then it should change. However, giving a level loss because of it is not realistic in most cases. Simply change the alignment and let any natural repercussions take place. I.e. Paladins & clerics start to lose or completely lose spell & turning ability, etc.
    Like most things in RPG’s alignments can be made to work for the enjoyment or everyone participating – or against.
    I prefer the former :).

  • valar84

    One of the alignment systems I like is the Stormbringer RPG system. Basically, players don’t choose their alignment, they get alignment points for how they act in the actual campaign. It being the world of Michael Moorcock, with Law and Chaos duking it out, the alignments are actually “Law”, “Chaos” and “Balance”.

    The more one character furthers the goals of one of these ideas, the more they get points in it. If they act against the interests of one of these, they lose points in it. If one’s “alignment” (they say “allegiance” instead) is 20 higher in one than in the two others, they are considered associated with it, and gain benefits (and disadvantages) from their allegiance to it. If they later on betray this allegiance and let their score in it fall below 20 above the others, then the allegiance is broken.

    I think that’s a nice, dynamic system, where you can do things counter to your allegiance sometimes, but they add up and you can see your character become grayer with time.

  • starscreamer

    As a person, who never played DnD nor any other tabletop games, I must say that I love these counter monkeys. But this one in particular is a very interesting topic and hypothetical situations. I never rolled a character so instead of thinking “what would my character would do?” I think “what would I do?” And honestly I don’t know what I do.

     But I would tell Spoony that I don’t think that these situations should be avoided. I think if I were role-playing, I’d want My DM to put the groups’ core values to the test. If you make the choices easy, then what is the point of even playing?
    Can we settle arguments by rolling the dice without fights?

  • SamThePsycicClam

    In one of the few games I’ve ever played I ran into one of these situations and we had a Paladin in our group, I was playing as a Chaotic Neutral character, if I’m remembering right I was playing as an Assassinesc character, a mercenary with a moral code in essence. In our situation there was a runtish survivor of an Orc group who had surrendered and I argued that we could not keep him alive and spare the time to take him to the nearest city, if we set him free he was dead anyway he has nowhere to go we could leave him tied up but we might as well give him a quick death.

  •üstenmacher/100002403583490 Lukas Küstenmacher

    I have no idea why DnD still hangs on to it’s alignment system, because it is so utterly horribly bad. And wrong. But worst of all it is useless. If you play without alignment nothing is lost. So just kick out the whole concept.
    Instead give your characters believes, quirks, traumas, faiths, taboos and everything else that gives them personality. It’s really not that difficult.
    This really shows one major flaw of DnD: There’s nothing on the character sheet to indicate any personality whatsoever. The underling game-system od DnD has absolutly nothing to encourage role-playing. That is a major f-ing oversight for a roleplaying game!
    And that is why everyone is clammering to alignment for a bit of guidance and personality.

    So I say kick the alignment system out and replace it with a much broader selection of traits, quirks, dislikes, flaws, virtues, believes and so on..

    Or just play a better system than DnD

    • Ken Broom

      DnD doesn’t give you any guidance to roleplay because that’s not its purpose. Its purpose is to provide your roleplaying experience with a set of agreeable rules that are usable to resolve issues such as martial conflicts, conversations, and whatever other thing you could possibly come across while roleplaying that require a random element. First and foremost it is a game, the purpose of which is to HAVE FUN, whether that be by fudging rules to make Roleplaying the central focus or running some chunky salsa slaughterfest who really cares so long as the participants are having fun. The purpose of not having traits, quirks, flaws, etc on your character sheet is because your sheet is there to act as a quick reference for your available skills, your inventory, and all of the complicated stuff that has nothing to do with roleplaying so that if you so choose you can focus on the roleplaying, wherein you DEVELOP your character’s list of traits. If it really bothers you that much type up another page that lists all of that stuff and staple it onto the back of your character sheet, there, now your sheet does mention those things.

  •üstenmacher/100002403583490 Lukas Küstenmacher

     “Can we settle arguments by rolling the dice without fights?”
    In DnD the answer is a clear “No”. The underling system of DnD is just to “fighty” – that is the major flaw of DnD. There is no satisfing system to resolve conflicts beween player (without them killing each outr)

    • Jayden Reynolds

      …Uh, who says that you can’t just decide with a roll of the dice? Have each player/side roll a die, whichever gets the higher roll wins the argument and that’s the decision they go with. Simple as that.

  • simon

    thankfully the prisoner dilemma has yet to cause me and my group problems yet. we dont really put many rules on alignment only that we dont allow both of the extremes (lawful good and chaotic evil) in one group because they would always be at each others throats they would never be able to find neutral grounds, and and paladins are always lawful what ever there god was, if they worshiped tiamat theyed be lawful evil of they worshiped the raven queen theyed be lawful neutral and so on but thinkfully none us have yet to make a charcter of extreme alignment and we have only had one paladin none of us really liked it so we agread to let me (a true neutral dragonborn) kill and eat him.

  • Ben Grady

    The way I DM alignments is they’re there as a base model, the very core, watered down, most vanilla form of role playing and character development possible. They’re there for people who don’t really feel like role playing too much and mostly want to play for violence. You can act against your alignment all you want, Ill just tell the player to change the alignment due to their actions. I don’t believe they were ever made to be barriers for your characters, so much as a foundation to build a character upon.

  • Bradley Armstrong

    I fully admit that I have far less experience playing tabletop games than you, and I’m relying on the word of others like you to learn how most people play a certain alignment, but I have a different picture of Chaotic Neutral than you do. When I think of Chaotic Evil, I think of Jack Sparrow, someone who uses unexpected means for self-interested ends, but shies away from being a murdering, pillaging bastard. Those PCs from that Thieves’ World story you told would also qualify in my mind, as they only resorted to gruesome tactics because Tempus beat them to it and fuck that guy.

    The Xaositects would technically fit the definition, but from what I can tell, Planescape goes by different rules and takes alignments to metaphysical extremes. Outside of Planescape, randomness for the sake of randomness is kind of a dumb attitude to take, in my opinion. It seems like something that a player would pick for out of character reasons, like he just wants to screw with the DM. I like to think of it as Chaotic Stupid.

    • Jayden Reynolds

      No, Jack Sparrow was most certainly not evil. He wasn’t a “rule the world” or “murder everyone in sight” kind of guy, he was a “get wasted and bed lusty pirate wenches” kind of guy. I’d say Chaotic Neutral – self-interested and uses completely unexpected means to escape bad situations, but definitely not a mass murdering fuck.

      The Joker from Batman is the definition of Chaotic Evil. Brilliant, insane, psychotic, murderous… that’s a good Chaotic Evil character. Someone whose goal is entirely to upset the established order and commit atrocities in either the name of self-interest (such as many Always Chaotic Evil races like Orcs [damn W40K, almost spelled it as Orks]), insanity or out of some misguided, delusional anarchist philosophy. He IS a mass murdering fuck, he is self-interested (his interests are killing people for fun in bizarre ways and annoying Batman), and he uses unexpected means to do everything he does.

      Chaotic Good is classically described as being like Robin Hood. Makes sense, really – break the law to do good, namely, steal from the rich to give to the poor. Chaotic Good is basically finding ways to help people without concern for petty or unjust laws.

      I’ve never actually played the tabletop, but I’ve read tons and I’ve heard my dad’s and various friends’ own Counter Monkey stories. Knowing myself, I would almost certainly do Neutral Good. Just maximize the amount of goodness and light in the world, do away with evil, and ignore or follow the law as I please.

  • Malcomb Bell

    :O but what if we argue for fun!!!! I’m just joking but I’m probably going to incorporate a different style of alignment system into the game I’m making. As for the chaotic neutral Personally I like that alignment because it allows me to make a balance character IE: someone that is not concerned with the laws of the races that instead chooses to keep the balance of good and evil.

  • Steven Williams

    My goooood, Spoony. Not to be offensive, but you talkkk sooo muuuuch. If your voice wasn’t amazing, this would be a pretty horrid video. But MAAAAN.

    • Wayne Davis

      At least he doesn’t come across as a vapid moronic valley girl, unlike you.

      • Jimmy Vestberg


      • Arsenal Of Megadeath


  • Matthew Forester

    If you want to start a shit-storm, use these four words when justifying your character’s actions:

    “For the greater good.”

    • ftidus12

      Hell, saying it in a Warhammer 40k game will do the same thing.

      • Jayden Reynolds

        Dude, saying anything to another race is grounds for the mass murder of you, all of your friends, coworkers, and probably the genocide of everyone on the planet you live on in W40K.

        How about W40K is a shitstorm and we nerds are the kind of people that enjoy watching trillions suffer?

        (massive W40K fan here :P)

        • Nicholas Zapetis

          To be fair, it really doesn’t take much to incite the genocide of an entire planet in W40K.  Tyranids and chaos will do it “Just ‘Cuz” and the Imperium and Space Marines will do it “Because they started it.”  It’s kind of like two children in the back seat of the car poking each other, except with genocide.

          Another one of the dark, Gothic realizations that the setting is famous for?

  • Matt Monroe

    A friend of mine and I were trying to get into this Pathfinder game with this guy from work, and we did this Paladin/Thief friendship thing. Do you think that may have been wrong, or is it sometimes acceptable for two different classes and character types to be friends, if given the right reason or circumstance?

    I wish I could find people who didn’t take the game so serious that they kicked me out because of school meh.

  • Andreas Andy Persson Fondell

    A friend gave me his 2 DM rules about alignment:

    “1) I never impose alignment on any character unless it’s absolutely needed (if you’re completely out of line) or if you ask me to.

    The reason for this is Star Trek. More specifically Star Trek captains, Vulcans and the Prime Directive. Every federation captain in every Star Trek series has been Lawful/Good but they have also broken the laws and rules of the Federation (the Prime Directive) because the situation forced them to, i.e. if a people that isn’t as technologically advanced as the Federation (and don’t know that they are not alone in the universe) are facing certain destruction, the Prime Directive prohibits any Federation officer/crew to intervene because it goes against the natural order of things. We all know that a captain won’t do this. They break the law but they do it for good. They are not considered to be evil because of this.

    Now for vulcans. Vulcans use logic and rationality. They weigh pros and cons and make their decision based on that. A vulcan is lawful/good and can still kill 10 people to save 1000. It does not make them evil.

    What I’m getting at is that a person’s decisions are not set in stone just because they have a certain alignment. It’s not black and white.

    2) If there’s an argument about alignment and the party members can’t decide amongst themselves what to do you will have a 15 minute break to discuss the situation.
    If you still haven’t agreed on an action, I will let the dice decide. I will roll twice. The first roll decides the validity of one side’s argument and the second roll decides the validity of the other side’s argument. Whichever roll is higher, that decision will be made. End of discussion.”

    I think these are some really good rules that every DM should use.

  • Justin Heffner

    Yep, definitely had alignment arguments. In fact, we had several game sessions that revolved around it happening in game. My favorite was when my character (neutral drow wild-magic sorcerer) with goals of becoming good, and my friends lawful evil wizard had a duel over it. The other characters in the group were a true neutral barbarian (low INT/CHA and easily influenced) and a true neutral druid. The campaign revolved around his wizard attempting to cause the party to fall and become evil, while my drow was trying to form them into a force for good. After the barbarian was driven to murder an innocent by the wizard, I decided to step in, and we had an epic battle over the soul of the group. I won the duel (thanks to a bit of timely healing from the druid, who the wizard was being a dick to earlier) and earned the wizard’s grudging respect. Eventually this caused him to selflessly endanger himself to save me from a deathtrap and got him converted to neutral.

  • kylekogar

    what my group did was we basically made everyone a mix of good and evil the only neutral person was the paladin (4e dnd with altered alignments) our cleric and archer i think are the only good ones and the mage and fighter were evil we didint have the argument because one our pcs had narcolepsy (fell asleep during combat and some events) and our fighter had split personality

  • Patryk Halaczkiewicz

    there have been games where the dm banned evil characters that I’ve been in, and there was one game where everyone had to be an evil alignment, but general rule of thumb for me and several of my friends who make quite good dms, you have to EARN the right to be Chaotic Evil

  • Mathew Tyers

    Thank you spoony,
    I’m getting back into dming and alot of your recent videos have given me a better view from a more experienced position.

  • Michael Buchheim

     Is Alignment the way character view themselves? Or some measure of objective judgment? Is your antagonist paladin “Lawful Good” because he thinks he acts for good in the boundaries of the law? Or because Fighting against nature gods and their unholy servants is Good no matter why you are doing it?
    Because Spoony seems to describe it once this way and once that way.

  • Ken Broom

    The way I view alignment it’s more of a way to get a general picture of your character’s views on self-importance (ie are they willing to sacrifice of themselves to give to others) and their views on authority and laws. Of course even in this heavily distilled and severely lacking explanation there are questions to be asked, that’s why the discussion on alignment has been going on for so many years. There really is no definitive answer. In some cases you could see it as being placed against an objective morality (most people will agree that drowning babies is a pretty damn evil thing to do) but in others it could be seen as how the character views themselves (as spoony stated with the paladin wanting to kill the “heretical” druid). The only way to be right in these situations is to just make sure they never ever come up.

  • Robert Riter

    The thing that always bothers me about Robin Hood being the Chaotic Good cliche, is that in the story, he was a law abiding man under the old King.  Which means he was Lawful Good before, and will be again.  Does the difference of Chaotic and Lawful change with the laws of the region you are in?

    • mobtank

      A lawful person is someone who has a personal set of rules that he/she does not break, no matter what.
      One of those rules might be to always follow the law of the city you are in, but it doesn’t have to be (in fact, neutral people, unless they are chaotic, are the ones that are most likely to follow the local laws of whatever town they are in, as they don’t care about good or evil)

      If a paladin travels to Cheliax (a lawful evil town where people worship Asmodius), the local laws are tyrannical and oppressive and in strict conflict with the paladin’s code of conduct.
      As such, he is being lawful good in his way of acting by sticking to his code and not following the clearly evil laws of the region.

      So yes, you could say that Robin Hood is a lawful good character, as he sticks to his morals even when the authority tells him to do otherwhise, but in the eyes of the people he helps his actions seem chaotic good as they (typically) can’t ask him about his motives for doing what he does.

  • RichardVie

    Alignments should be used as guidelines that leave wiggle room for different situations. Certainly they should add to a character, meaning they don’t have to follow your personal beliefs or nature. Which is why it’s a part of your character and requires creating a personality, backstory, and the whole shebang for such, to define that character’s alignment. This in turn makes the roleplaying more fun, if the DM allows for such. 

    Like for a Paladin, say a religious zealot of Pelor who gleefully massacres and lusts for the genocide of sun-fearing creatures. Outside of battle he could be perfectly amiable and if given enough reason or presented with the right logic, may forgo outright attacking a drow ambassador walking through the streets. His alignment, according to him, is Lawful Good. He does what his god asks and enjoys such, even if it may seem overly brutal and malicious to another paladin. He can be swayed to spare, though would require some penance or recompense from being withheld of his duty. Obviously to his enemies and even some of his more restrained allies, his battlefield mannerisms of reciting verses of holy scripture while brutalizing his targets is a traumatic experience to behold. However, he can end their lives more humanely, if requested or required. He is a character both loved and hated, though mostly hated, and especially abhorred, which he is occasionally remorseful of, if his actions are sufficiently amoral enough to disturb him once in his normal state of mind. Really, this character can be a valuable member of the team if played with restraint and not allowed to overbear or impose too much upon the other party members actions or opportunities. As a character example, Alexander Anderson of Hellsing exemplifies this in a certain light. Sure he’s a psychotic, fanatical murderer of heathens and supernatural evils alike, and rarely makes a distinction between the two, but he’s also a well-respected priest who loves and cares for children of the Catholic Church. He’s also capable of coexisting and conversing with normal Protestants walking along the street, even though it’s likely because he was specifically ordered NOT to slaughter the whole f***ing city of London, ’cause frankly I think he would have otherwise. So, while he’s certainly not a pleasant person to be around if you’re a supernatural/heathen/child molester, he’s otherwise a pious, law abiding man of the cloth.

    Essentially, Alignments should allow for a flexible mindset. Most people don’t act the same during battle or around sworn enemies/people they’ve a bad history with, depending on the situation. Others have certain circumstances they react differently to than they would otherwise. As said before, it should all enhance how you play your character and how you use your character. It can certainly add spice to a battle or negotiation. Alignments, if used right, are fun.

  • Beqa Khitiri

    Counter-Monkey is slowly becoming my favorite web show… And I’ve never role played in my life :D

    • aaron

      LOVE your avatar

  • Donald Frank

         I was involved in a similar situation in a game where I was playing a Paladin and the person running the game put me in, what I thought at the time, a “damned if I do and damned if I don’t” situation. After a long and difficult adventure my Paladin gained possession of a new born that, according to the information given by the person running the game, is going to grow up to be the unstoppable evil that will destroy the world. 

         The dilemma was no matter what I did I would lose my alignment and no longer be a Paladin. If I killed the baby that would be considered an evil act and if I let him live and he became the unstoppable evil that he was destined to be that also would be considered an act of evil. No matter the scenario that I was able to come up with it led to no loger being a Paladin due to alignment change. 

         So, I quit that game and now when I play a Paladin I play one that is for the greater good. If my Paladin needs to nuke a town to get one “Bad Guy” to save thousands or millions…. so be it.

         Now, as far as alignments changing depending on the region or situation your character is in, I have always found that just using common sense should keep your character from being harassed by local authorities or denizens, as well as, changing alignments from region to region. 

  • Kerbm001

    This reminds me of a time I was taking part in a Pathfinder campaign. Kingmaker to be exact. We did have a prisoner scenario of sorts. We had fought these bandits raiding the trading post we were staying at, killed their leader, and the rest surrendered. Now, we had thought of simply killing them, but one of our party members, a lawful good Cavalier, said they should face trial. So, we agreed, and set up a sort of fake trial for them, with me (the half fiend) as the judge.

    Now, this was essentially a fixed trial. We were planning on offing these guys anyway, and were only doing it to appease the Cavalier, who by the way had taken on the role as their defence. Over the course of the trial, the prosecution changed three times, and the defence managed to convince me to sentance them to community service, working at the trading post, in exchange for not brutally murdering them. I then fined the prosecution (all three of them) for somehow losing a trial fixed in their favour.

    While it did stop the campaign for a bit, it was fun to do. It ended up being one of the most memerable parts of the campaign. Sure, we could have killed them and then gotten back to exploring, but sometimes the prisoner scenario can result in some pretty funny stuff.

    • Emil Petrunov

      Was the Cavalier, by chance, named Phoenix Wright?

  • The Greatimp

    I haven’t read all of the many comments till now (this episode really hit a spot) and don’t know if it was already written somewhere but I have to nitpick calling it “prisoner dilemma”.
    Just because there’s already a really well known “prisoner dilemma” out there (out of game theory, see wikipedia or
    Like I said – nitpick – but perhaps useful if you’re really think about publishing these stories. At least for me this was an irritation.

    • Mike Brotzman

       I saw the title as a deliberate callback to the more traditional Prisoner’s Dilemma, not something that would be confusing. 

  • Yan-Alexandre

    Listening to this, it’s kind of a good thing alignment wasn’t prevalent in the Thieves’ world setting. Else that game would probably have suffered. I don’t recall personally encountering that dillema, mostly because my crew is pretty much hack’n’slash all the way but I do recall that one DM trying to screw me over because of alignment. But that was that one guy. Really depends on how “By the book” your group tends to be.

  • Mike Brotzman

    First I’ll admit to having not 

    • Ian Gardocki

      Well stated.

      However, D&D was not created as a “social story telling activity”.  It was created to add a name and face to a nameless, faceless infantry figurine from a wargame.  It does have offspring that are social story telling activities.  It also has offspring that are CCGs…


      • Mike Brotzman

        While the game aspect was clearly paramount, there did seem to be a good deal of story telling and character development that went beyond basic war gaming.  Of course my knowledge of super early D&D history is a bit hazy.

  • Jeremy Leight

    At the ten-minute mark, I mentally compare and contrast orcs to Daleks.  Both sentient, both hellbent on your destruction; though Daleks aren’t born (indoctrination is like an upload from a hivemind), orcs are indoctrinated.  And yet…isn’t it obvious, in this light, that they are both oversimplifications of real-life intelligent beings?

    You point at the book, and you realize the book is laying out the guidelines of that oversimplification for you.  As an oversimplification, you end up finding contradictions at the seams–the Newtonian physics equivalent of ethics.

    I’d say my trouble with the roleplaying concept is how that oversimplification alone lets you objectively justify social dominance when you can’t do that in the real world.  We have that oversimplification because the next-best choice is to present both the genetic disposition and upbringing of every single NPC worth having a conversation with to determine their moral druthers.  That’s more than a lot of role-players can handle or keep track of.

    Suppose you accept the alignment rule. Can there be exceptions to the alignment rule? Should there be? Maybe one should take a liberty or two from the book. But then…if there is one exception, why aren’t there many? In real life, this argument shares a tangent with wondering how a benevolent God can let children starve and rot of natural causes in Africa.

    My suggestion?  Accept that resident gods are hardening the hearts of everyone in the game universe, or don’t play.

  • Crystal

    I’d be the one to take the orc women and babies and try to raise the children as true neutral or good neutral as possible…

  • Jeremy Leight

    Another suggestion: I took a political survey once that placed me on the dimensions of ‘left/right’ (‘nobody left behind/right to what’s ours’) and pragmatic/idealistic.  I thought it described how I made decisions in a far more functional way than ‘good/evil’ ever could.  Also, I think my answers and my alignment could shift considerably over a period of months, not decades.  I guess that’s not a very fun system, though.

  • Илья Жиронкин

    Make love to me!!!

  • Edward

    Keep on the Borderlands, Spoonyone.   Kobold commandos and Orc babies.

  • Alec Mosier

    Obviously you sell them to slavers.

  • Francis Christofis

    i was watching this with my friend last night and i said to him
    i dare you to put us in a situation with the prisoner dilemma (as a joke for our dnd group)
    but i thought it would be an interesting way to see how people in our social group act in dnd games

  • Per-Stephan Pettersen

    I had that exact problem, with the orc women and babies. Before the GM had explained it fully we had already doused the room with lampoil and set it on fire… We all got dropped on alignment-level :p

  • Christian Demmler

    Guess the main problem is the very simplistic model that is alignments. It first of all assumes there is just one moral code for the entire world you’re playing, calling the extremes of that good and evil. This is convenient and easy in most cases, but it brings up the heathen vs paladin problem. I’d go for a different approach: 1. Primary moral code (specific religion, guild’s code etc.), 2. Sense of morality (how strongly they care about their primary moral code, which also conincides with intolerance towards different moral alignments), and (optionally), adherence to general/civil law. I think you could do a lot more with that sort of “alignment”. An extremely devilish character would in this case be something like “Satanist (however you want to call it), strongly moral, not caring about civil law at all.” Result in game: People will have to think about the different moral codes of the characters in their game, which is a lot more fun (and applies more to actual life) than talking about “chaotic good vs lawful good”.

  • Najim Ali

    what if you are in a situation, and youre alignment is good, say youre a paladin and decide to burn down a village and kill everyone and loot their stuff as well, (Random village) and eat them to why not. then say my god told me to do it.. if the character really belives its in the name of his god, isnt it within the bounds of what makes up my characters alignment.

    • mobtank

      You are right in a way, but the thing about paladins, especially in pathfinder (see the “Faiths of Purity” book) is that they typically don’t make up their own rules to follow.

      There are several good deities you can be a follower of as a paladin and each one gives you a different code of conduct to abide by.
      One includes “always defend love, never destroy works of art and beauty unless you got no choice, never assume anyone is beyond redemption when you meet him but be prepeared to fight him if he is”, and a few other things.
      Another one includes “Always defend the ones weaker then you, always uphold the law, always fight evil whenever it shows itself” etc.

      If a paladin violates his code of conduct the deity takes away his paladin powers untill he repents for his actions, so if he goes insane and thinks he has to burn down a village for no good reason, he would need to repent for his actions.

      There ARE codes of conduct that DO dictate that you murder, steal, rape and destroy, but those are the codes of anti-paladins, essentially chaotic evil people who serv evil gods the same way a paladin servs a good god (see “Faiths of Corruption”)
      A paladin can indeed fall and lose his powers and then at some later point become an anti-paladin (this is unusual though, most anti-paladins where evil people long before they became that), and it is equally possible for an anti-paladin to violate his gods commands, lose his status, turn his life around and become good eventually (he can even become a paladin at some point).

      Alignments are modular, not set in stone, and it’s the paladin’s code more then his alignment that dictates how he should act.

      • Ian Gardocki

         Wouldn’t someone who must “always defend those weaker than you” have to become a pacifist?

        If he overcomes someone in battle, aren’t they weaker than him?  Conversely, wouldn’t he always have to fight people that are stronger than him?  And I mean actually stronger, meaning he would lose his first fight and die…

        Side note: I actually like pathfinder’s paladin rules.  But they do need a bit of rewording.


        • mobtank

           “defend someone weaker” in this case means “if someone is being attacked/hurt by evil and is unable to defend himself it is your job to defend him”.

          Paladins are not forbidden to kill, as killing evil demons, devils, undead and sometimes people is a holy warriors job.
          They do have rules (different ones for each deity) for when to not kill, but the core reason for becoming a paladin is often very specifically “to fight the evil that other people can not defend themselves against”.

          If the situation calls for it, paladins can be every bit as brutal against enemies as they are nice towards the people they defend, simply because it’s necessary.
          They are first and foremost warriors who are the first line of defence against the tides of darkness, and they must have the strength to stand fast against the storm that fells ordinary people by the thousands.

          PS. It is indeed very possible to win a fight against a stronger opponent, strength is an advantage, not a guarantee for victory.

  • Najim Ali

    Or say your character is a mental case and shifts alignment… you save a damsel in distress one day as mr bob the thief and the next day kill random person as mr todd the thief

  • Najim Ali

    but not after your stuffed animal bought in the market which you belive has the voice of youre god told you to do it of course……

    • Patryk Halaczkiewicz

      there was a campaign I sat in on once that had this little girl in the Lawful Good god’s temple, and the doll she had was possessed, evil, and she was royal blood.  The party tried to get rid of it but she was always there with it, the doll also was more powerful than the party could hope to quietly get rid of it, and all they could do was try and tell the priests, but they didn’t believe it as they didn’t sense evil from it (apparently it had an on/off function in that regard, as long as it was still) oh and the girl knew it moved to, apparently it stopped assassins in the past

  • MechaVelma

    There’s a way to get around the Chaotic Neutral (Do whatever you want for whatever reason) cop-out. Tell the player upfront that if they are playing a Chaotic Neutral player that every 5-6 turns you, the DM, gets to decide what that player’s actions are, whatever they may be, or however detrimental that action may be to the group. 

    And make a 1D8 chart to help you. 1 to 4, the action is somewhere between slightly beneficial to the player and something that’s incredibly beneficial to the group and 5 to 8 the action is detrimental to the player alone or incredibly stupid that puts either players or the mission in immediate jeopardy.

    I agree with your points and I think using alignments as a guide while expecting players to explain action that may lie outside a character’s alignment is a great way to go.

    • Chris Valentine

       I’m not sure if I agree. I play a Chaotic Neutral character who was abducted at a young age and forced to fight in what amounted to a Gladiator ring for many years. She’s Chaotic Neutral because she’s been forced to kill for sport, even though she doesn’t always enjoy it. It has torn her apart, and it makes her see everything in a red-tinted light. I don’t agree with the DM choosing my actions every 5-6 turns because I play a tormented character. I can agree with that solution, but not for EVERY Chaotic Neutral character, only the ones who don’t feel like explaining their decisions.

      • MechaVelma

        Then turn in your sheet and leave the group.

        “I can’t afford to make exceptions. I mean once word leaks out that a DM has gone soft, people begin to disobey you and its nothing but
        work, work, work all the time.”

        • Ian Gardocki

          Wow.  If you were a DM at my table I probably would leave if you have that attitude.

          Begin Civil Discussion

          I agree with most of the “cop out” reason to ban CN (and your “solution” is definitely a ban, it gets your point across that you are unwilling to deal with something).  BUT, if you can justify something with a well written (or at least thought out) character background, AND it doesn’t interfere with the rest of the party, then go for it.

          CN as an excuse to do “whatever” does not have a place at most tables.  YMMV.

          End Civil Discussion

          Actually I lied there.  If the rest of your group happened to be made of worthwhile people, I probobly wouldnt just leave your table, More than likely I would smile and stay, and spend a few months hijacking your group.  Then I would either pass the mantle of DM off to someone more worthy, or say and have a good time.


          • MechaVelma

            Go ahead and throw a fit. Better yet, be snide towards me in-game. Your character will be smote and you wont be missed. Attention whores never are.

          • Matrim

            The dude had a point, your “solution” was silly and your reaction to a legitimate criticism was to be a jerk. CN doesn’t automatically make people erratic. If someone is playing chaotic-stupid, deal with it. It’s usually easy to deal with OOG, and it’s even easier to deal with in game (if someone burns down the orphanage for no reason, make sure they’re pursued and don’t escape). Otherwise, let people play their character.

          • MechaVelma

            It wasn’t “legitimate criticism”. It was crybaby bullshit:

            Chris V: I don’t care what you do to others, but.. but… my character should be an exception because of his background.

            Ian G: but.. but .. but I dont wanna be banned for acting like an ass

            The only ones who engage in that crap are the ones who, in this case, are looking to get away with doing whatever they want for whatever reason.

            Which is exactly what my solution ends and exactly why these clowns are so against it. They can’t deal with their character, which has an alignment that dictates a character is borderline out of their right mind, performing a legitimately random action truly out of their own and their character’s personal control. Why would someone be against that? Oh yeah. Because the player has no intention of playing their borderline insane character in a borderline insane manner.  

            I lose absolutely no sleep putting zero-tolerance limits like that on any rule ripe for player abuse. Two reasons:

            1. I’m not going to slow the action of a game asking every neutral character to defend every action they take.

            2. I’m not going to throw off the dynamic of a party half way through an adventure because someone wants to act “stupid”. Its always better to weed out that nonsense before a game begins. A simple limit like that puts enough sand in their vagina that I can identify the problem players before a game begins.

          • Matrim

             I’m sorry, but if anyone is engaging in “crybaby bullshit” it’s you. Chris laid out a valid reason for having a CN character that doesn’t involved wack “confusion” hyjinks, Ian simple put out his opinion that he thinks your DM style would be to the detriment of the game and would either leave or try to get the group to agree to a new DM. Your response to both was basically to dismiss them with little more than “my game, my rules, nya nya nya!”

            If you have an asshole in your game, deal with the asshole. It’s not that fucking hard. If a player is causing problems because they are CN, your stupid rule isn’t going to stop them. They’ll either pick a different alignment and still be an asshole (in which case you have solved nothing), or they’ll go ahead and allow your stupid rule to ruin the experience for the other players (in which case you’ve only succeeded in making things worse). If someone is being an asshole, talk to them. If they will not stop being an asshole, kick them out.

            If you have to impose bullshit houserules that make no logical sense because you don’t want to deal with your players, that’s your business; but when people (rightly) tell you that it’s stupid because it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, don’t go throwing a hissy fit.

            Chaotic neurtral does not equal insane. If you can’t understand that, there’s no point in discussing the issue. But if you’re so concerned about slowing down the action to justify alignment stuff, why not houserule that all PCs have to be TN. Sure, it’s every bit as arbitrary and stupid as your rule, but at least it doesn’t automatically inflict a character with a mental disorder for no good reason. Your “solution” does nothing to add depth to the game, it stiffles creativity, it wouldn’t solve the problem of assholes being assholes, and would actually make the game less enjoyable for everyone if implemented (with the possible exception of said asshole who has just gleefully fucked the party with his randomness).

  • Dark Master

    I’ve run into a bit of a problem with a Chaotic Neutral character who likes to take loot he probably isn’t entitled to, or takes other party member’s things if they’re better then his current equipment.  Interestingly, our good aligned party members and follower NPCs actually hated him more then the slimy and vengeful Chaotic Evil guy that was in the party. 

    Actually, the Chaotic Evil guy and the bumbling cleric where the only guys who actually like the guy who just takes your stuff.  However, that might have to do with him not actually taking anything from those guys.  I was kinda hoping for that to bite him in the ass, for trusting the evil guy over the good ones, but the evil guy got forced out of the party by a Paladin follower that we picked up while the party was split.

  • Sam Lewis

    Great work as always Spoony. Personally I handle it a few ways. 1) no penalty for an alignments shift (fair enough, right?). 2) Most (not all) Humanoid or common speaking creatures can shift alignment. 3) Explain to the group at the beginning of the campaign that evil is truely evil, let them understand that its a simplification for the sake of fantasy. I dont like just dropping alignments, especially since so many spells are ment to affect creatures or people of certain alignment. it’s also a good general code, and a good guidebook for the DM should he have to take over the character for awhile.

  • Michael Isselhardt

    I’m the DM for our Pathfinder game and I actually presented the group with a similar dilemma, totally on the fly actually. They were in a bandit camp and they had fought to the leader and his bodyguards. After they killed the bodyguards, the leader threw down his sword and surrendered. They group made him tell them all the information they needed for their quest when our fighter finally ended the discussion by saying he was going to kill him. He and another member were Chaotic Neutral, one was Chaotic Good, and another was Lawful Good. I asked if everyone was ok with this action and they all agreed on it. I turned to the lawful good character and said, “You’re character is deemed Lawful Good. Are you sure that you are ok with this?” After a bit of discussion from the party, he promised not to retaliate against his party, since they restrained him while the fighter killed the bandit leader. I ended up presenting another choice to the party where they could accept the help from a Lawful Evil character, to stop a Chaotic Evil character. The entire party accepted. I made sure to double check with the Lawful Good character, and after he assured me of his decision, I had to inform him that he would have to shift his alignment. There was a bit of heated discussion from the beginning portion with the bandits, but luckily we never got into an argument about any of it. It merely came down to letting the characters play it out as they wished and letting them know when their characters would start to change on certain things.

  • familyghost

     I have a very flexible stance on Alignment (I DM mostly 4e) and don’t enforce any heavy penalties on my players when it comes to changing alignments.  In fact I mostly use it as a tool and summary of the character to the point that if I feel the alignment is not in line with the character anymore I will talk with the player about changing their alignment and setting up chances and role play options for they want to do it. 

    In fact I just recently had a friend got from “Evil” to “Unaligned” in my main campaign.  He was playing a Drow Warlock who had escaped his parents (murdering them) and fled to a well known school for adventurers.  From their he kept up a mostly evil attitude until most recently when he started handing out money to resurrect to fallen adventurers he didn’t even know.  He did several other things altruistically as well and I spoke with him about it.  He agreed he couldn’t play him as evil and I set up his reasons for changing in our few month long break.  Not very hard to set up really.

  • Garrett Dulyea

    I like to think of alignment more as a tag that others will judge them by than a guideline that they have to follow.  I do agree with forcible alignment changes if they repeatedly act against their listed alignment, from this perspective – let’s take the baby orc killer scenario as an example.   Say a good character eventually caves and agrees that these orcs will clearly grow up to be murderous barbarians.  They can justify this to themselves, but if you have enough consecutive scenarios where the character justifies doing evil things for good reasons to themselves, their moral center will corrode more and more until they don’t see anything wrong with burning down a village to kill an evil NPC, and at that point, you could easily consider them neutral (or even evil) even if the character still thinks of themselves as altruistic.

  • NIzsEN

    could you by any chance make it so i could download thise in mp3? i would love to be able to listen to this at work:)

  • Robbi

    “I am Justice!” *stab* = Punisher route, pretty much :P

    OT: I dunno if this is similar… but I vividly remember a mission from Fallout 3 where you’re sent to root out this nest of “vampires”, and the two ‘basic’ responses (ie- good karma route & bad karma route) are either kill them all since one of theirs went kill-crazy and murdered several people in the town up to this point – and for generally been a bunch of creepy bastards – or to join them and basically tell the town that sent you to screw off and die. However, if you play your cards right, there is a third option… (and a spoiler, but the game’s like five plus years old by now, so meh)
    With some skillful talking (and enough points in your Speech skill, I think), you can convince the vamps to protect the town – since they Really Aren’t That Evil – and in return the town gives the vamp wannabes what they want. Personally, I think that’s actually the best route, since both sides win. As Kirk said: “I don’t believe in the ‘no-win’ scenario” :3

  • Vortemeer

    Alignment.  I have seen alignment ruin friendships.  My opinion on the whole matter is that alignment should come into play in the behavior of paladins and clerics.  All other classes should have no alignment and just play normal people that aren’t defined by one of nine attitudes towards morality.  Because as we all know, there are only nine ways of living your life. This is one of the few things I like about 4th ed.  There’s basically good, evil, neutral and very little variation therein.

    The clusterfuck I bore witness to occurred when me and my friends played a friendly game of D&D.  The neutral good wizard let a bad guy die by not helping him.  Boom!  Instant demotion to true neutral.  It was even worse because both player and DM knew the rules inside and out and the whole thing turned into a spectacular display in which they both passed the bar exam for rules lawyering.

  • GIIA

    I come from a background of playing penn and paper rpg’s for years without anything like aligments.

    All the good things spoony list’s with Aligments i recognise from my days playing, but instead of having it set in rules or even written on the character sheet how a characters outlook on the world is, or how they act, its all in how a person roleplay their character, no need for a ruleset for that.
    And i dont recognise any of the bad, never have had any discussion like that naturally.

    So personally i dont see the necessity for having having aligment like in Dungeons and Dragons, but guess its a tradition.

    But i must say, what seems to be the biggest problem and probably the main reason for all the discussions about Aligment is that its very subjective, the so called ‘evil’ orc probably dont think of himself as evil, nor his son when dad brings home fresh human meat to feed the tribe with.

    • Matrim

       “So personally i dont see the necessity for having having aligment like in Dungeons and Dragons, but guess its a tradition.”

      In D&D it’s because alignment isn’t just flavor, it’s a game mechanic. Some classes (notably the paladin and clerics) rely on it for some of their abilities. The “smite evil” ability is one of the paladin’s most important class features.

  • kshade

    I’d say, keep alignment out of the game world, it’s not that hard. Spells like detect evil don’t pick up alignment but evil deeds instead, as in, a character who is technically lawful evil but hasn’t really done much bad won’t register. Or throw it out altogether since it’s a plot breaker.

    Same with class names. He wants to be an assassin but the class that would fit isn’t called that? Guess what, nobody goes around and says “Hello, my name is Baldrick, I’m a neutral good fighter!”. Doesn’t matter what’s on your character sheet, call yourself what you want IG.

  • kshade

    Also, best way to deal with alignments: Do what the DM says. And if you’re the DM do what you want and tell players that they can deal with it and try something different for a change or play a character that doesn’t really deal with alignment much (like classes).

    PS: “Mostly Chaotic Evil” to me means that most specimen of that race are, but they do have a choice. It’s mostly a help for the DM. So keep the alignment argument out of the prisoner discussion, unless there’s a character who can literally detect evil.

  • Przemek Gnyp

    You are in my way sir, you are lawful good.

  • Garrett Danger Platner

    My DM would allow us to do whatever, but if we did anything drastically different he would shift our alignment. Example: Our neutral Cleric slaughtered children to his neutral god. Our Cleric then became Chaotic Evil.

  • AM

    I created a situation similar to the prisoner dilemma in a Old White Wolf game I ran once.

    The PCs were playing OWoD Mages, and had come across a young teen Marauder who had turned the Anime and JRPGs he enjoyed as a child into his own personal reality.  For those who don’t know, a Marauder in OWoD is a mage who unconsciously forces their vision of reality on the world around them.  They are often considered wildly insane, and are declared by the book to be hopeless irredeemable.  While my Marauder was not intentionally destructive (he saw himself as a typical JRPG hero), his realities often caused significant collateral damage to the areas around him.

    While caught up in the Marauder’s world, the PCs eventually came across a Technocracy team who were hunting the Marauder.  Technocracy are basically a collection of technocratic mages who try to force reality to adhere to the laws of science and nature.  The Technocracy threatened the PCs to assist in killing the Marauder, else they would turn their resources against the PCs. 

    It is at this point where my group splintered.  Two PCs who were more familiar with the OWoD meta decided it was best to kill the Marauder, because they believed (as the books state) he was irredeemable, and that the Technocracy was too dangerous to slight.  Two other PCs (those new to OWoD) sympathized with the Marauder, claimimg he wasn’t too different from themselves, and would not be bullied into murdering a child who might just need some guidance by some mysterious organization.

    The argument lasted for at least two hours, with neither side willing to give ground.  Eventually, the group began secretly conspiring with me on how they were going to either protect or assassinate the Marauder.  At the end of the story, the PCs had become so disillusioned with each other that all party cohesion vanished and the campaign ended shortly afterwards.

  • Ian Gardocki

    I can’t believe this video is so long…

    I only see 1 problem that was highlighted in this video.

    You are sitting at a table where you haven’t already defined how the players and DM want to play.

    The Orc problem has nothing to do with the orcs, or non combatants, or morality.  It has to do with people at the table not already knowing the players and DMs expectations of each other.  I would actually go so far as to say that even HAVING that problem come up in a game, where the DM and players aren’t prepared to tackle it, is a HUGE failing in the part of the DM for putting it there.  Bad DM, no cookie.

    The alignment problem is the EXACT same problem.  The people around the table haven’t established what they want alignment to mean.  Is it word for word out of the book?  Is is a contract of belief with your (in game) god?  Does it change with you during the game?

    If you don’t know what your table mates expect out of the game, how can you even play the same game as them?

    Here is a handy set of questions I just made with the “rules” you need to agree on as a table before anything else starts.

    1. Everyone is here to have fun right?  If not, why are you here?  Are you OK with giving up some things as a player to allow the others at the table to have fun?  (I have never heard of anyone asking this, but I actually had a player at my table who was there to write a report on “D&D”)

    2. What kind of world do we want to play in? (May skip this if you already have a system in mind)  You probably also want to establish a tone too.  Is this a Gothic horror?  Is this a cutesy anime world?  This helps to shape the next parts.

    3. What topics are off limits?  Most tables have some easy decisions, like rape, slavery or graphic mutilation.  Other topics should be on this list too.  Check your table, you may be surprised.

    4. What game system are we playing? (Surprised this is so far down the list?  Isn’t this where we always start?  Seeing the problem with starting here yet?)  Are we playing straight from the rulebook or are we house-ruling anything.  Note that this is where you ask whether you are using alignments, and how they will apply.

    5. What power levels are acceptable in the party?  Are we playing anything goes?  Are we letting the dice rule character creation?  Are we letting “Steve” re-roll his character for the 4th time because he cant get a score higher than 11?  Are we telling “Bob” he needs to re-roll his ridiculous character because he happened to get all 18s?

    6. What are the non game-play table rules?  Do we have a strict start time?  Do we allow table talk?  Off topic discussions during lulls?  ANY communications between players with out DM observation?  IS everything we say in game?  Can i wander off?  What are the penalties for breaking these rules.

    Now, some of you may look at that and say “That is a HUGE list of stuff! I don’t want to do all that!  I just want to play!”.  To those people I’ll let you in on a little secret.  Every one of the players and DM ALREADY DECIDED ON THE ANSWERS.  If you don’t discuss this stuff, you WILL run into problems.  At the very least you wont be having as much fun as you could be.  I’m not sure what the worst case scenario is, maybe annihilation of all life int he universe?  Destruction of the Space-time continuum would probably be just as bad though.  Seriously though, letting these hang can and does ruin friendships.


  • akisohida

    I know people always blame t he Paladin but that can sometime be fun. My friend who got me into D&D is vocal that a Paladin does not have to be ‘lawful anal’. We had fun when he get to play in a campaign once; I had a Neutral Good Rogue with skills in slight of hand, and a huge dex and cha. He was a pacifist in a way; He would prefer to talk people out of fighting because he wanted to be the words best thief, and to quote a book ‘A really good thief should not have to kill’. He COULD kill, and not be sad, but he tried not too (made for fun combat).
    Anyways, part of the party dynamic was how the Paladin insisted I could stop stealing since we were making money adventuring, but I liked to keep in practice. He never turned me in, because I always targeted rich people, who had money to spare, never poor people, but he’d try to find my ill-gotten gains and return them. My devil-may-care attitude also rubbed him the wrong way.

    Then again, this probably worked because he looked at my rogue, asked about his personality, and decided to make a foil for my antics. :)

    • Amber

       Your friend’s paladin sounds rather fun to been around.  So does your rogue.

  • Amber

    One of my favorite characters was an adventurer named Shawnia in a DRPG, meaning diceless role playing.  We used point system when actually battling people be PC or NPC.  If Shawnia had an alignment it would be neutral good.  She didn’t always follow the law, but she did what she felt was for the greater good. 

     Though we didn’t have alignments, we still got into situations that asked us  what our moral codes.  Such as the party having amnesia and waking up on an island.  The group, with except of shawnia and lacilind, killed a village of people.  They had no chance with this group.  Shawnia didn’t agree with it but she also didn’t stop them.  She did though kill an uncle without warning.  Ironicly, she got away with it which is hard to do in this game. 

    I think having an alignment is great as a guide.  It helps flesh out a character.  In the end, the player needs to be able to role play freely how their character. 

  • Jack Power

    I had a friend in college, where I started roleplaying, who was the ultimate white knight.  No matter what game he played, no matter what class he played, he was a paladin, and acted like a paladin – which was annoying when playing alignment-less games like Shadowrun.  He was a lot of fun to tweak, though – In a RIFTS campaign, he played an Atlantean cyberknight, and another character in the party secretly embezzled party funds to hire a Sunaj assassin to kill him.  He never found out.  

  • Rupert3434

    I love these DnD videos. I’ve had them playing while I work on the next session in my 3.5 campaign. Just since you were asking about it, I kind of borrowed a neat alignment system for my tabletop games from the Neverwinter Nights adaptation of DnD ad it seems to serve me pretty well. 

    Basically each alignment gets one number value for their alignment on each axis (Good and Law are 100, Evil and Chaos are 0, and Neutral is 45-55 but starts at 50). Anytime a player acts in a way that seems to me to be out of their alignment, I nudge the numbers further from their spots (so a good character killing an enemy who has surrendered would get moved 4 points towards evil, so from 100 to 96). If they ever do anything that just seems completely counter to their alignment however, I abandon the number system and ask the player to justify their actions within their alignment or face an alignment change. I normally don’t ever have to do this though, since in general my players tend to behave within reasonable bounds of their alignments, and don’t tend to exploit the alignment system for the sake of getting power.

    If they were to change alignments, I wouldn’t do the level loss thing just out of personal preference, but like I said I haven’t run into may issues, especially since the number system tends to allow for a variety of shades within alignment (IE If a paladin has a few breaks and does some questionable things, like destroying an evil wizard in the heat of battle instead of returning him to the city guards for justice, they’ll still be Lawful Good, just 90/90 Lawful/Good instead of 100/100). I kind of like it because, really, even though we may have our intentions, we all make mistakes sometimes and we don’t always go crazy or stop being the way we are because of them. A lot of us just accept we made a mistake and move on. It gets more complicated with bigger shifts or more outrageous actions, but that’s why I like mixing the number system with some creative flexibility. In a different style of campaign, it could also be neat to have characters who were willing role-play any alignment loss as a kind of lingering regret, though that might only work with a really willing party in a very heavily alignment focused campaign setting.

  • Robert Alford

    Yeah, I’m playing my first paladin and my group hasn’t had this issue.
    The reason for this is that our NG sorcerer has made compromises between
    our LG cleric and I, and our CG wizard and rogue. Most recently, he
    teleported some men to a church of his godess, and said that they would
    be considered atoned for their sins and released from their curse after 3
    years and 3 days of service. When we couldn’t transport prisoners they were either executed by a LG sword (essentially a king in and of itself), or we stripped them to their underwear and sent them to the nearest temple of the LG god.

    There are ways to reconcile these kinds of differences so long as the
    players decide that the conclusion is more important than their
    argument. It certainly helps that none of us were neutral on the
    good/evil axis, and we don’t allow evil in our gaming group, because we
    want to play gallant heroes, not thugs and murderers. We have all seen
    that kind of situation where the game falls apart, and have heard horror
    stories of paladins.

    I’ve been a fan for years, and I love these videos. Keep up the good
    work. Also, I was designing the gods for my home-brewed world when your
    Adventureland video came out, and so Tandem the Spoony basically became a
    god on my world. I was wondering; one, if you were cool with that; and
    two, if you could release more information about that character. He
    sounds like a really fun character, and so few people play bards that I
    would love to hear about your experiences as a bard.

  • Bryan Gardner

    I’ve never played in a game where alignment problems really come into play with the GM, but I did get a character killed once.  One of the group members was a “true neutral character.  We completed out mission and went to get our reward, and there was some argument.  I think my character decided to help with the next quest, but the True Neutral bard refused, and rather than let me stay to help he attacked and killed me because I went against his balance as a true neutral character. Needles to say this was my first and last session with these guys.

  • Dark_Xzeon

    This is a fantastic video Spoony, I feel like it would be a perfect starting point in like a philosophy class or human psychology group. You are one of my fave reviewers ever, never stop making videos, Counter Monkey and your movie/game reviews are both so good.

    I want to see how the Ultima series ends so badly.

    Good work as always Spoony.

  • Malidictus

    I find that the easiest way to handle morally-charged situations is for the GM to not be cynical and turn the situation around too many times. I suppose it robs a game of some of its depth when you know that if you strive to do good, good things will happen to you (or at the very least, bad things won’t happen to you because of it), but to me personally, it’s also a comforting feeling.

    The truth of the matter is that we play these games to experience something we can’t find in real life, and the sad part of that truth is that not everyone who fancies himself a hero and a good person really has the stones to be one in actual practice. It’s one thing to tax a person’s acting and roleplaying skill, but when you pose an actual, meaningful, real moral dilemma with an uncertain solution, you just put people in a situation that they couldn’t always work their way out of in real life.

    Let me put it another way. Say you have a fighter. You don’t penalise that character’s fighting skill if the player at the helm can’t benchpress 200 points. Or say you have a wizard. You don’t penalise that character because the player playing it has lousy memory. In much the same way, I don’t feel it’s right to put a “lawful good” character in a morally ambiguous situation and then penalise him because the player couldn’t figure out what’s the morally superior option in an engineered no-win situation.

    Call it babying if you will, but I find it’s much more satisfying to know that if you do good to people, you will get good in return and if you do bad to people, you generally WON’T get good in return but you’ll have benefited in another way by doing evil.

    If I were to come up with a solution to that particular prisoner problem and I wanted to be VERY simplistic, here’s what I’d do: I’d say that sparing the guards and the babies and the women later on causes a friendly but small group of orcs to suddenly show up and help the players in a tough fight, partially as thanks and partially for showing them not all humans are evil. Contrariwise, I’d say murdering the babies would have the unfortunate result of having a group of orcs attack the players as they’re fighting an already tough fight because other orcs found the massacre and were horrified and swore revenge.

    Again, yes, it’s simplistic, but there’s beauty in simplicity sometimes.

  • Raymond

    see the part of good and evil is relative and how “bad” guys actually believe they are doing the RIGHT thing is what makes Assassin’s Creed series so amazing. Conviction. To the point it makes even Altair and Ezio doubt what they have been doing. And that’s key right there. That laws and principles, no matter how dogmatic they are, sometimes deserve a second look. Furthermore, sometimes you actually believe in the idea of the Templars; Peace through Power. I love the game but I would lean towards the Templars.

    now batman and joker thing… sigh. see batman is superhero and i respect him and his standing to show that JUSTICE should not be tainted. HOWEVER, being a superhero sometimes means SACRIFICE. SELF-SACRIFICE. This includes one’s own value sometimes. The FACT that an unwavering hero lowers himself to humility to the level of rest of populations to PREVENT mass murderers like Joker- THAT makes him a TRUE hero. So sometimes i really think BATMAN should kill Joker. If he doesn’t kill him, JUST SO THAT he can remain pure or to keep justice, he is basically “LETTING” Joker to kill others (because Batman isn’t stupid and KNOWS that Joker will get away time after time). It’s almost like if you saw a spike on the road that you had POWER to remove it. But no you left it there, knowing there would be cars passing it. And a school bus gets a flat tire, and crashes into a building and entire kids inside bus is dead. Technically it’s not your FAULT since it’s not your spike, but any DECENT RIGHTEOUS person (as low as they maybe out there) should be SOMEWHAT guilty and RESPONSIBLE because he/she didn’t do his/her parts to PREVENT it.

    And if you are garbage, you wouldn’t even feel a small tingle of sympathy. :)

    • Matrim

       Eh…it depends on Batman’s motivations (which vary from writer to writer). The interpretation I favor is that Batman doesn’t kill because he doesn’t believe he has the right to decide who lives and who dies. It’s less an issue of purity and more an issue of morality. He simply doesn’t feel he has that right.

      Now, as I said, this varies from writer to writer, certainly some versions of Batman are concerned with their personal purity (not wanting to become like the monsters he fights), others are simply uncompromising.

      I guess it boils down to what you think is wrong or right. Is it wrong to murder someone, even if they are a horrible person who will probably kill people later down the line? Some would say yes, some would say no. Personally I’d say no. If you killed him in the defense of someone’s life, fine. But if you capture him, and he’s helpless, I don’t think it would be right to murder him. I would understand if someone did, I may even agree that it was the smart choice, but it would not be the just or the moral choice. This is all hypothetical, of course, the only time I’ve ever been in a position to kill someone it was when they were actively trying to harm me. I might think differently if I captured a mass murderer and had the opportunity to end them. I don’t think I would, but I can’t be sure. As I see it, it is immoral to take a human life in cold blood.

      • ocelotish

        The problem there is that you are inherently valuing the life (singular) of that “villain” over the lives (plural) of the innocent.

        I agree with you to a point, people should have second chances, they can change, etc. However, if you’re dealing with the Joker, we (and Batman) know he’s going to escape. We know once that happens, people are going to die. If he kills one person you could argue that we’re weighing a life against a life, and who are we to decide which is more valuable. However, once we’re sure he’s going to kill two or more people, we’re deciding his life is worth more than those two people’s lives (be they good, bad, or indifferent). And let’s be honest here, he’s going to kill more than one person. Even if everyone were 100% innocent: babies, children, etc., one life lost is still a lesser evil than two lives lost. (Now of course irl, could I pull the trigger? I don’t know.)

        • Matrim

           No, it’s not an issue of value whatsoever. It’s a question of right. If I have the opportunity to steal a bar of lead or a bar of gold, it makes no difference as to which is more valuable, I don’t have the right to steal it.

          And I don’t necessarily think some people should have second chances, if we’re discussing the Joker I feel he’s used up all his chances. That still doesn’t give me the right to murder him if I have him bound and gagged in the back of my car. I don’t have the right to commit murder any more than he does.

          • ocelotish

            I think you’re misjudging your “rights” with what is “right.” You do not have the right to kill him, but it is right for him to die rather than killing two innocent people.

            It’s like seeing that those two bars were going to be stolen, and choosing to put on in a charity box rather than let it be stolen and used for immoral purposes. You don’t have the right to steal that gold bar, but it would be better for the world if that gold bar ended up in the charity box. You don’t have the right to take it, but right was done (or at least more than if you had never taken it).

          • Matrim

             No, I’m not misjudging. Batman does not have the right, and thus it is not right to commit murder. I’m not arguing cost/benefit here. It would absolutely benefit Gotham to murder the clown, but that still doesn’t make it the right thing to do. Whether or not you “donate the gold to charity” is aside the point, you’re still a thief. Batman doesn’t steal the gold, he stops the gold from being stolen to the best of his ability.

          • ocelotish

            No, you still don’t get it. It is breaking the law, but it is doing “good.” It’s the robin hood instead of the police officer.

            You’re confusing the “lawful” with the “good.” Lawful says prevent breaking the law, is all about rights, etc. “Good” is about making the most good for the most people.

            What Batman is doing boils down to trying to talk down a criminal with hostages. It’s great if you can do it successfully so that none of the hostages are injured, but if just two hostages die from your inaction, you’re valuing the criminal’s life above the hostages. Even cops (who could be called lawful good) would shoot a criminal before letting an innocent citizen come to harm.

          • Matrim

            No, I get it, but you’re still conflating “most benefit” with “good.” Working from the position that “murder is wrong,” well…MURDER IS WRONG. We’re not talking about shooting someone who’s holding hostages, we’re talking about having someone completely at your mercy and making the rational decision to end their life. If someone is firing a gun at you, and you shoot them dead, that’s not murder. If you have a prisoner that you decide to kill because it’s what’s best for you/society/etc. you are committing murder. And if you believe murder to be wrong, you are being evil when you commit it.

            And, for the record, “good” is not the “most ‘good’ for the most people.” If you had a god that protected, nurtured, and rained endless benefits down upon a society in return for raping a prisoner from a neighboring tribe to death once a year in a tribute ceremony, by almost any standard it would not be “good” despite the great and substantial benefits bestowed upon society for it.

          • MechaVelma

            Murder is only defined as unlawful killing. What makes any specific act of killing unlawful is defined by the regional government.

          • Matrim

             Yes, I know. And in the context of the conversation, murder is wrong. If Batman captures the Joker, the Joker is not an immediate threat. If Batman, having the Joker at his mercy then kills the Joker, he has committed a murder.

            I’m not arguing that killing someone lawfully cannot be wrong, of course it can. What I’m arguing is the converse, that committing murder is not good.

            If you want to break it down to the base argument, killing a person you have rendered helpless is wrong, that’s fine. The term “murder” was being used to expedite conversation. If that’s the best you have to contribute, one wonders why you would bother.

          • ocelotish

            Yeah, I would boil down the “good” element as “the most good for the most people.” As in, Robin Hood would be chaotic good; he clearly breaks the law, but for the good of everyone. We could get into nitpicking after that, but at the heart of it, yes, good is the most good for the most people. This also makes for some great possibilities of villains as ‘good’ characters which is pretty powerful and is something I would think would be desirable in game that is supposed to appeal to adults.

            If it happened exactly as you described, yes that seems wrong. However, is it better or worse than not doing it and having the entire food supply wiped out by flood, along with 10 innocent people? There you’re getting a death toll of probably 20+ a year for the sake of the one. It’s a really interesting question, and there’s not single right answer to it. Whether you choose A or B comes down to more liberal or conservative rather than good or evil. Is torturing an outsider worth the safety of our people? You can say it’s morally wrong to torture and kill said outsider and you’d be right. You can also say that it’s wrong to let 20 innocent people die for the sake of the one and you’d still be right.If you don’t define “good” as the most good for the most people, how do you define it? Oh, and nothing about anything legal vs. illegal because we know that’s a separate axis.PS – It’s a big assumption that murder is never and can never be good. Generally speaking, yes it’s wrong; however, there are certain assassinations/attempts at assassination that would have been ‘good.’

          • Matrim

             Generally an assassination is done against someone who is neither helpless, nor incapable of harm.

            The argument of “most good” depends on a lot of things. First you have to decide on what is good. Secondly, you have to decide how much “good” it takes to outweigh the “bad.” Third, you have do determine how many people it takes to balance the scales. It’s a sliding scale with a lot of variables. I would argue that there are certain acts that are never good under any circumstances. You more or less dismissed the “harm an outsider” scenario by stating it’s a matter of opinion. What if it wasn’t an outsider? There are any number of truly sick thought experiments that can be brought into play. What if a group sadistic people took your family hostage and informed you that if you raped one of your family members to death, everyone left alive would be set free? Otherwise you’d all die. Would horribly killing a member of your own family be “good” simply because the majority would emerge unscathed? Or would the act be so repugnant as to render any benefit meaningless?

            As for what I would call “good,” if it causes significant “bad” no matter how much “good” is the end result, I would not call it good. Most actions are neither significantly good or bad. Most major actions result in some degree of both. I don’t call any action that results in 51% good, 49% bad “good.” If something is obviously beneficial, with no significant ill effects (and we can quibble about what is “significant” for hours, but you get the general idea), I’ll call it good. If it’s not, I might still call it “right,” but I shan’t call it “good.”

          • ocelotish

            You can ponder over the particulars as much as you like, but I’m not going to get into where the line is.

            I think “right” refers more to the lawful side again, are you allowed to do it; “good” is about the effects. Sometimes there is “slightly more good” vs. “slightly less good.”

            Also, “good” as an alignment doesn’t mean completely infallible and open to personal judgement. We’re just talking a very basic definition. What is the guiding principle?

            You really haven’t answered what “good” is. Don’t dance around the question.

            For me it’s clear. Lawful – are you allowed to do x, or does it infringe on the rights of others? Good – something that most benefits the most people. A good action might be a euthanasia instead of a horrible death. It’s not always going to be “right” but it might be seen as “good.” It can still be “wrong” as in, the family or patient might not have wanted it, but it could still be seen by the flawed character as “good.” I can also see good as “protect life at all costs” but again, very flawed. See same situation the opposite way where the character refuses to put someone out of their misery.

    • MechaVelma

      What does it matter if Batman kills the Joker or not? Its a comic book.. they’d just bring his pasty white ass back to life regardless.

      They used to say “Only Bucky stays dead”. How many times have they brought him back now? Four? Five?

  • The Fallen One

    You know all this alignment talk got me to thinking about designing a Tabletop RPG, I fixed this sorta idea with a nature and nurture value, a mass change from nurture in comparison to nature, sanity slippage

  • Dottor Venena

    My friend and i are planning to start a new campaign entirely based around having extremely conflicting personalities in the group, to see what will come out of it. It started when one day i said i wanted to play as a chaotic evil witch as my next character, so she decided to go as a fanatical paladin just to put these two characters together in a group.
    Until now i have played a chaotic neutral rogue and i guess i did choose this alignment because i could justify pretty much any action. You might call it a cop-out but then i wouldn’t be able to choose an alignment because his behaviour is all over the place and he doesn’t really have a motivation or purpose. In this sense i prefer the 4e system, so you’re entitled to choose “unaligned” if you don’t think your character is strongly inclined either way. 

  • Nathan Zebart Mendonca

    The Game my friends and I ran for a while had 1 guy who went through…I think 7 characters because his characters were often EVIL, when the crossed the line we killed them not even bothering to argue, the best example was one of his characters wanted to test a new power a different character had…so he kidnapped a hobo and when told to get rid of him he brutally murdered him…I have to say if you are playing with friends then build the party in such a way that the party will not in fact split fun fact about this…Im the groups Paladin I can be the most brutal and pragmatic in the group because of my Lawful good alignment, the best quote was “we kill them and move on, we have a much large problem than them to deal with”

  • Aron Marczylo

    Personally I’ve never had a issue with Alignment. Like you said it’s best with the extreme situation that things can be forgiven. I only have a problem if a paladin is walking down the road and burning downing houses that don’t open for him but not in the case of Orc babies.

    Again I’ve never really ran into any issues. The only time I did was when the group were fighting Wererats and when the leader died the others surrendered. Basically the guy was an extremeist and convinced the others to start a war with the surface and one of the characters wanted ot kill the rest, but the others said for him to leave them, he agreed and there wererats caused no harm.

    In fact when ever they come across them, they are reminded that allowing those to leave alive made them respect the group and no plans for revenge. Eitherway, I have seen threads where they argue over it though.

  • Alex Jordan

    I was listening to this again, and I remembered something. This situation is very similar to the situation towards the end of Persona 4 (the scene in the hospital). It’s funny how a dramatic character moment is so similar to a fictional argument that can break a D&D group apart.

  • Dan Schuett

    Funniest discussion about alignment was in my first D&D game, me and a bunch of other first timers were playing and one of the guys had rolled a LG Dwarf Cleric.  So the first thing he decides to do is try and pick-pocket somebody the conversation went as follows

    DM: Um your character wouldn’t really do that.
    LG: What do you mean?
    DM: Well you’re lawful good which means you’re a good guy and you uphold the law, you generally wouldn’t steal from people.
    LG: Aww so I can’t steal?
    DM: Well you can but you’re going to lose favour with your god (Moradin I think), you’re going to lose your magic.
    LG: Well that blows, but I’m using loot to further my work in my god’s name so wouldn’t he be ok with that?
    DM: Not really he, he just doesn’t work like that he’s very strict.
    LG: Well are there any Dwarven gods that would be ok with stealing?
    DM: Not in any of the books I’ve read.
    LG: Ok so say I steal from this guy what would I have to do to get my magic back?
    DM: Well you’d have to attone either by making a donation to the church or completing a quest.
    LG: Ok then I’ll just rob this guy and then deal with it later.

    Sadly he failed to pick the pocket, got caught, beaten, and imprisoned by the guards, and had half his money taken as a fine.

    This same character later bound and decapitated one of mine (my fourth with that group) because I was playing a kind of prankster illusionist and he didn’t find it funny.  Yeah he didn’t stay lawful good for long; in fact by the end of the campaign the DM had adjusted his alignment so much to better line up with how he played his character that he was now Chaotic Evil.

  • James Miller

    A DM could always interrupt an argument and make the decision for the players. For example: “The orcs (pregnant women included) notice you all are distracted and attack!”

    Another thought I had was how about a third axis? Mild on one end and extreme on the other. Like, when you go for a drive somewhere do you drive like an old grandma or fasterest and the furiouser? Most people are somewhere in between.

    Just my two cents.

  • Thomas Madigosky


  • Joseph Reddaway

    In my group I play a C. Neutral Bard. The way i play him is that he just wants to Play music and get paid. He really isn’t into adventuring but he likes the money and rewards.  

  • Joseph Reddaway

    In this same campaign we have a true neutral rouge that has been acting very evil. In my opinion, true neutral is the most cop-out choice, because you don’t care for either good, evil, law, chaos. Your just there doing what ever you want. The rouge in our party is doing alot of evil stuff. I’m actually surprise our DM has not made him change alignment yet. We just ran into the prisoner dilemma last session. We captured the leader of the Kobold raiding parties that had been plaguing a small city for months. He was koed in the fight, but not killed. Our ranger and rouge then got in an argument about what to do. When we made camp, that night the Kobold died from having his throat slit. We all know it was the rouge but we can’t prove it. Our Lawful good Monk has been waiting for him to slip up because he is also Half Vampire for some reason. So basically we have an alignment battle and my C. Neutral Bard is stuck in the middle of it.

  • John J. Gillick

    I was running a game for a while, 

  • Al Kusanagi

    The best solution is to have NPCs or henchmen with the group, that way the players can leave them to babysit the captives until they’ve got time to deal with it. After that, it’s out of their hands and if the henchmen kill them, that becomes a story hook unto itself.

    • Matrim

       That works sometimes, but I wouldn’t say it’s the best solution. Generally, if you have NPCs tagging along you either end up running an campaign-long escort mission because NPCs are squishy; or if they’re powerful enough to handle the stuff the party is going up against you end up with DMPCs, which can lead to a whole host of annoyances.

  • Tom Badguy

    This video should be played to all the players and DMs before they start a game. Like a tutorial.

  • Vaughan MacDonald

    That Batman and Joker metaphor was my exact thoughts after beating Arkham Assylum. Why not just kill the fucking Joker? Think of all the lives that’d be saved.

    • ert3

       At the end of the day its batman’s alignment that prevents that, Lawful Good doesn’t murder and batman is no renegade.

      he refuses to carry instant kill weapons and even then he is about bringing people to justice rather than eliminating evil.

      killing the joker would make him maybe chaotic good, or maybe neutral good. Maybe something his alternate universe dad would do in the old DCU (see flashpoint not all of it sucked)

      • Matrim

         Except for when Batman isn’t LG…bringing alignment into Batman’s actions is a difficult thing to do, his actions vary wildly depending on who’s writing him and the situation. Sometimes he’s LG, sometimes he’s decidedly LN, sometimes he’s CN/CG. He’s rarely evil, I’d go so far as to say almost never, but there are few alignments that couldn’t be applied to him at one time or another.

    • doresh

      Short answer: The Joker is easily the most popular and recognizable DC villain of all time. Killing him for good would create a huge void that’d be hard to fill.

      Long answer: Batman just doesn’t kill. He doesn’t want to become like the villains he faces. It’s also a question who’s responsible for Joker’s numerous escapes: He himself or the incompetent staff at Arkham Asylum? I mean I don’t think there’s not a single way of escape Joker didn’t use at least twice in all those years. They should really be better prepared.

    • MechaVelma

      Watch the Batman animated movie “Under the Red Hood”. Its the best reasoning for why Batman wont kill Joker.

      • mattanus

        good shit.

  • Vaughan MacDonald

    I chose Lawful Neutral for my character because he’s a monk and I figured he’d look to his teachings or beliefs for moral guidance and not get his panties in a bunch over things that don’t directly affect him. And from the way the Pathfinder rule books explains it, it was perfect for me and how I play.

  • Dawn Michaels

     Considering that the nature of this video struck something of a chord with me, since I have recently remembered a particular event in one of my older sessions I played in, I decided to share something of it.  Of course, any story worth telling has some degree of background information required.  The game was a fairly high-powered 3.5 session, with a fairly new (and far too permissive) GM which I think may have been Gestalt.  The party consisted of a Half-Fae sorceress (yours truly), a paladin of some race or another, a wizard who completely stole my planned PrCs that I’d discussed with the GM, and a cleric who loved him some Divine Metamagics.  Then there was a fifth character who was introduced later, self-described as a necromancer with a “different moral system”, none of which we actually came to see, given the result this character’s actions had on the game.

    Further description into my sorceress is as follows: during one part of the campaign, she grew tired of all those crazy adventurers she found herself traveling with and left them because, well, some of them were jerks and the GM had proposed an idea for a hook involving her getting kidnapped and used as a reagent (bled to death into a spring) in a ritual in which to taint a dryad’s grove along with a delightful pile of NPCs who hadn’t survived.  So after the rescue, she was the only one who prayed for the souls of those dead in such a traumatic matter, and saw to burying them herself, to the chagrin of the paladin and cleric (both good), who didn’t care in the least because they were NPCs.

    We were doing typical heroics: fighting baddies, taking all their stuff, and solving puzzles when we started fighting devils.  Cool, I thought, as I hadn’t before been in a 3.5 game that actually reached the point of fighting devils on an even standing.  Plus, there was a good amount of fun loot to be had, although the Helm of Opposite Alignment was something odd to find in a random trove.  But it was all good ’til we came to some succubi.  At this point, the cleric and wizard realized that succubi had good components for crafting so started harvesting from the dead and, if I remember correctly, the living.  Hell, they took a succubi prisoner for this very reason. Then the necromancer came into the game.  To the best of my knowledge, the party had captured a castle or fortress or some sort of large stone fortification in the countryside and the cleric (through Leadership) was forming a trading organization from it, it was weird.  But either way, before embarking on an adventure we were all standing in front of it waiting on the necromancer, before they arrived with the Succubus… turned Deva through the HoOA which was forced onto her while she was bound helplessly… and someone prevented from teleporting I know that there was a reason because I pointed out that she could just do that at-will even bound to the GM behind the scenes.

    The result of which was a two-week argument on alignment, as myself and others felt that using the HoOA on a sapient being which is the embodiment of their very alignment and has no choice into their alignment is an evil act.  The other half disagreed, as Succubi are evil so it doesn’t matter what you do to them and anyway it was okay because the Deva liked it better that way and it totally isn’t in the enchantment of the helm to do that.  Nevermind the mechanics of devils turning into deva because their alignment changed being something terribly convoluted and stupid, it was great that the entire party was party to this through the other characters (the cleric had been in on it, out-of-character, I believe) deciding such a thing was undeserving of mention.  It would have been less of an argument if they had kept the tone civil, instead of declaring that anyone who disagreed with them was an idiot and needed to just shut up about it.

    In the aftermath, the necromancer self-retconned himself out of the game, and made a wizard who traveled around in a Colossal golem that served as an APC and, for lack of a better term, mecha (pulverizing combat encounters single-handed, whilst the character had the casting of a full wizard), and who had a sapient golem follower.  For free.  The game did not last for very long.

    • ert3

       cool story bro

  • ert3

    My 2cents, Alignments strengthen the role playing. It can make you feel the weight of certain decisions.

    well you want to hall off and kill this bard who is taking your team mates down a rabbit hole rather than just helping. well a lawfull good paladin should be better than that.

  • Kiril Milkov Lambrev

    my two cents, alignments are player knowledge and good and evil are character knowledge, that is how I solved this with my group

  • bizz

    I say! I agree with spoony.

    and Good video I am not a D&D player but your story are good!

  • Courtney Campbell

    Are you aware that the Prisoner Dilemma is a real thing in psychology?

  • Matrim

    Yeah, alignment is a sticky wicket. In general I try to treat alignment as a loose guide rather than a hard rule. Essentially the only time I make things really difficult is if there’s an alignment power based character (pally, Hellknight, cleric, etc), and then I only hold them accountable to their codes. If they can reasonably justify an act with their alignment, I’ll usually let them slide…maybe require them to seek atonement, but I almost never would strip them of their powers or alignment (I’ve never had a player go so far out of alignment that it was necessary). I’ve never had anyone pull the “orcs are evil, it says so in the book” line of reasoning with me, but I would essentially tell them to get bent. Alignments for non-planar races are based on societies, not individuals. Hell, even outsiders who supposedly represent embodiments of their alignment aren’t bound by them as angels are capable of falling (otherwise there’d be no Erinyes). In game I almost never will discuss alignments, I address things in terms of codes of ethics rather than states of being. It’s a more subjective approach. It’s possible for two paladins to be diametrically opposed in goal and action despite their identical alignments.

  • Christopher Miles

    SO made my own little comic for this. Hope you like it.

  • SpoonyBard

    I have thought about the extent of “how lawful” or so someone could be. 
    I made up a scale, but it’s far from perfect.  I feel that it could
    help a person get a better sense on how to role-play their alignment.

    Of course, I thought of this scale in a sense similar to the color
    spectrum, flowing from one extreme to another with a gentle blend in

    LG, NG, CG, CN, N, LN, LE, NE, CE.

    But picking one could still be hard to figure out HOW extreme LG or CE
    or otherwise one decides to act.  I kind of feel that there are
    different degrees of alignment beyond this.  With my addiction with math
    and multiples of three, I assigned a numerical value of 10 to Good,
    Neutral, and Evil.

    1, 2, 3, 4 – LG  5, 6 – NG  7, 8, 9, 10 – CG

    11, 12, 13, 14 – CN  15, 16 – N  17, 18, 19, 20 – LN

    21, 22, 23, 24 – LE  25, 26 – NE  27, 28, 29, 30 – CE

    Using this scale has made it slightly easier to role-play, but is by no means definite or reliable.

    Like being a 1° LG character is the stereotypical paladin type with no
    room for compromise.  While being a 4° LG character could be just as for
    upholding the law as the paladin, but is more conflicted or lenient. 
    While there will STILL be an argument (4° could be thought of as NG), I
    feel that it would help you keep the flow of staying in character.

    And yes, I agree that alignment is just a guideline.  Any character
    could potentially behave out of alignment due to character flaw,
    mistake, or to further a goal (but conflicted or torn).

  • SpoonyBard

    *accidental repost*

  • Lisa Bennett

    I disagree that no one is pure evil. There is pure evil… but I don’t think I’d want to spend time with the person who wanted to pretend to really be that. (Thinking of a horrific snuff film I came across once). There is serious fucking evil. Just wanted to point that out in the “you’re player wouldn’t do that” aspect. Someone’s player might.

    • Lisa Bennett

      Ever seen The Maxx? No one wants to think about what’s going in some god-ridden alley at 3am. God knows who doing God knows what. Best not to think about it.

  • Michael Morris

    Personally, I like alignments, but not as hard and fast rules. And actually one of my favorite characters was Chaotic Neutral barbarian, but he wasn’t psycho. He actually had a strong personal moral code. Mind you, that code was very simple and mostly came down to believing very strongly in freedom to the point where he would fight to the death in order to ensure the freedom of others. Generally speaking, he was a pretty nice guy, fiercely loyal and protective… however there were a few times where he’d do things like not only snap a prisoner’s neck (evil priestess who’d held him completely immobile for an entire battle) but twisted it off, and another time where he actually initiated diplomatic relations with a group of illithids to defeat a group of aboleth. Long story. Come to think of it… he did also kind of help wipe out the spawning pools for some Kuotoa… and the rest of their city… Okay, he had his moments, but in all fairness, he was a part of a pirate crew. And he did make some blindingly stupid but ultimately very effective moves from time to time. I’m… really not helping my case. Still! That diplomacy with the illithids made the final battle infinitely easier. Squads of mind flayers using coordinated mind blasts to paralyze -your- enemies can really break a fight with an enemy champion. 

  • Kirby Greene

    The DM has no place to say what a character would and wouldn’t do.  It’s VERY SIMPLE!  Play your character as you imagine they would behave.  Alignment is secondary and subject to change.  Also, IT’S JUST A GAME.  Getting this serious into it is bordering on obsession rather then hobby.  Last thing, this argument is very poorly expressed.  He constantly repeats himself and beats a dead horse (so to speak)  This video could have been fifty minutes shorter and much clearer. 

    Law/Chaos = Ethical Alignment   Good/Evil= Moral Alignment

    If something has to do with ethics, it’s either law or chaos or somewhere in between (gray zone of action vs. intent)  If it has to go with Morals, it’s good vs. evil or again, in between. 

    If a character takes actions that place them in a more chaotic bracket then lawful then their alignment is in a position to change from lawful towards chaotic.  The DM does not have power to tell a player what their character will or wont do.  They let the players make decisions and shift the game accordingly.  The player made the character.  That is their business. 

    Another thing to consider.  In your gaming world, are good and evil merely philosophical concepts (like in our real world)?  Or are Good and Evil elemental forces that shape the universe?  In the former, the paladin he mentioned is well within his right to murder the pagen druid and destroy the temple of his god even though the druid committed no crime.  But in the latter situation (elemental forces) the Paladin would recognize that killing the druid would be a crime as the druid is harming nobody even if his church doctrine demanded that pagan druids were unclean.  In this situation, the Paladin should pay attention to the Druid, maybe even talk to him and inform him that he shouldn’t press his luck, but he would not kill the druid, because it would be murder and that is an Evil Act in a universal sense. 

    Spoony makes great points, he knows his stuff, but he really needs to solidify his position and make his argument in a more concise and understandable format. 

    1)Topic 2)state the argument 3)give examples 4) state personal view 5)conclude

    Alignments are a fluid tool to help describe the ethical and moral tendencies of a character’s personality.  They are not cookie cutter frames of behavior.  It is also not worth arguing over.

    There is only ONE rule in Dungeons and Dragons.  Have Fun.  The rest are guidelines.  Get your friends together, build a story, have a great time, snack and joke.  Nothing in the game is worth arguing about. 

    Friendly discussion however is encouraged, because learning from each other is awesome.  But the only win condition in D&D and any RPG is… Have Fun.  Even if your character dies horribly, if you had fun; you win the game.

  • Bertrand Reyna-Brainerd

    Anyone know if Spoony is planning to record the campaign he’s running?

    • Dan Schuett

      God I hope so.

  • Zaccary St-Pierre

    That’s part of the reason i like the humanity system in vampire. It causes a gradual loss of alignment that is character/story based. Every action that goes against your current level causes a virtue check where you either feel remorse for your actions and retain your humanity or lack remorse and lose humanity. Your character faces little penalty in a game mechanics sense(unless you go to zero humanity and become a gibbering psychopath, but
    unless you’re 10 years old and rockin’ out rpg sessions while upping your KDR in
    Modern Warfare 3 you should be pretty safe) , but every action affects the PC on a story based level . Ultimately, the subject of alignment depends on the maturity of the group and the nature of the campaign: if you want to be a munchkin and crunch numbers…whatever, get your kicks, but if you want to run a serious character alignment can be a wonderful guide to track your character progression. I do agree that it’s a sticky subject, but in the end the story should always come first, and the rules were invented to help storytelling and not to hinder it. Love your videos Spoony, you’re making me nostalgic :3

  • William Pell

    Ultimately it’s going to be up to the GM to decide whether orcs’ evil is in their blood, a result of their upbringing, or something in between.  Know your players, know your campaign; there is no single answer.

  • Alexander Wood

    Reminds me of the Alliance in Firefly– they’re antagonists, but mostly just cops enforcing the law in a lawless sector of space.

  • Michael Richard

    I wanted to relate a story on how I lost several friends because of an alignment issue. My DM was someone that liked to not only challenge your fighting prowess but challenge you as a character. My character was Chaotic Neutral. He was a wizard that grew up wanting the most powerful artifacts because in his mind have the most powerful artifacts was better than having all the gold in the world and you would be almost immortal because of your artifacts.
    My group knew this. I had actually killed the Paladin of the group because he took a magical item that my character didn’t think he should have (the player was tired of the paladin and wanted this kind of conflict to end him).
    Well the DM wanted to put me to the test at the end of the campaign. He set up a trap at the end boss that captured my group but I was not in it because I was trailing behind in the group.
    Seeing that i was not in the trap and I could foil the plans the boss offered me gold and any of the magic items I wanted. He had a very impressive collection but to him they were just a collection and he wanted to rule the land not have shiny trinkets. The catch was that I had to sacrifice the group. The Cleric in the group assured the boss that I would choose them. The “leader” of our group stated that he would help me find better items than the ones the boss offered.
    In my characters eyes, waiting to find items that might not exist was not something he wanted to do. So I sacrificed the rest of the group and took the items. The other players were so shocked about this that one of them actually punched me for killing his character.
    I was shocked they had this reaction. Yes i know I killed their characters in cold blood and thats a HORRIBLE thing to do but I was playing my character. (though I must admit that even the DM was shocked I did that) But I had done many horrible things in the group to obtain magical items that it should not have been a shock to them that in this situation I would do the same thing considering I had already murdered a group member before this. This actually stopped me from playing DnD for a very long time because I got the reputation of just randomly killing characters for the pure joy of killing characters.

  • Sasha Red

    I have to say the lack of an alignment system is one reason I really like Shadowrun

  • Emil Karlsson

    The Lawful-Chaotic alignment can be a nice tool, since it’s based on whether a character is in fact abiding the law of the land. The Good-Evil alignment though, is based on how the character as well as the player views morality. I approve of fact-based alignments, but not of morality-based ones. No-one can argue that someone who steals when stealing is explicitly forbidden according to the law isn’t breaking said law (you can argue that there’s no proof of the theft, but that’s a different issue). But anyone can argue that according to their own or their character’s morality, an action that is perceived by most to be evil is good and vice versa. In my opinion it’s better to make an alignment spectrum of schools of thought rather than of objective morality. Objective morality is just boring and unrealistic (There’s a reason the orcs in Spoony’s story don’t say “I’m evil and you should kill me” and that’s because according to their morality, their actions are righteous).

  • Al Coholic

    This is a think tank for the most part.

    Players that are worth knowing will attempt to work with the DM to justify their interractions to find a solution that pleases both parties.  This has to work both ways of course.  The DM should try to work some as well with the players to find an agreement.  It’s entirely possible for a bad DM to equally derail the party by stonewalling a decision.

    Players who want to start shit will do it eventually anyways.  Alignment usually just gives a convenient way to do so.

    Several interesting ways of handling this dilemma as a paladin involve doing some of the same things that you do at work.  I.E. The swear jar.  Only here, it’s the “Pittance” jar.

    Did the thief just poison his daggers in plain sight of the paladin?  10x level gold, into the jar.

    Fighter just threw sand into an ogre’s eyes?  Pay up, partner.

    Cleric just raised a skeletal warrior as a suicide scout?  Oh, you bet that’s adding some jink to the jar.

    At the end of the day, you have some slightly less wealthier adventurers, but the needy go a little less hungry. More importantly it stops all the goddamn arguing and it keeps the paladin from going all righteous with this idea.  If they oppose, they’re easily shut down with “What. You’re arguing AGAINST a tithing fund to the poor?” Shuts them straight up, unless they’re spoiling for a fight anyways.

    • Atmos_Duality

      This would end with a shanghaied paladin, and perhaps a few alignment shifts if enacted on my players.

  • Josh West

    ahh, that’s not what “The Prisoners dilemma” usually refers too.

  • Jacob Cameron Krogstad

    just a bit of a story about a time when i got into a bit of an argument with my dm about alignment.(spoiler-the dm won)
    i was playing a LG monk, and my party and i were in the middle of a swamp but not so far that i couldn’t walk back to town with “ease”. something that deeply disturbed my character happened and i wanted to head back to town but the party refused. so i decided that i would head back with or without them. this of course led to some problems. i had only walked maybe 60-80ft. away and suddenly a woman emerges from the swamp and she is chained to a large rock that is sinking and she asks me to set her free. i tell her to just wait a moment as my party is not far and i would get help… but they arn’t there.
    now here is where i made a couple of mistakes as a player. my mind tells me that i cannot logically lift this big ass rock that is half covered in quicksand, not without drowning anyway. the other thing is that my dm has this rule that i wasn’t aware of completely (not sure if it is a rule found in the book) that because my hands are magical they are capable of breaking the chains quite easily.
    but my dm also made a mistake, sort of. he gave me an excellent reason to disbelieve her innocence. when i tried to leave to find help she obviously uses a bards song to compel me to help her… which what kind of good sane woman would sing in that situation? it was like in the middle of me talking to her too.
    so bottom line was i really did not trust this woman and i really didn’t think there was anything i could do to help her. but before i could think of anything, she drowns herself. making my monk a very sad panda :(
    so after my monk meditates on the situation for a while he decides he disbelieves most of what happened. mostly because after she drowned i turned around and my party was right there and they seemed to be standing still but moving in a constant circle around me.
    but as it turnes out my dm and i decide that i simply made a mistake when i wrote LG on my sheet and it should’ve been LN.

  • FDean1

    I’d argue the everyone does what they think is right. There are people who do bad things purely out of greed or lust for power. The Party in 1984 would be a good example.

  • Edward Jay Harington

    Just wanted to say, at least in third edition, alignment changes are still in…but it’s more that you lose class features and can’t gain levels in specific classes until you gain an acceptable alignment again.

    (On a side note, I personally think that codes of conduct for classes and typical behaviours of monsters have more merit than hard-ruled alignments. They allow more storytelling flexibility while still employing useful guidelines for motivations.)

  • andrewsdragon

     Hi just wanted to add a story. So me and a few friends where playing D and D and we where fighting thou a dungeon and it was in a tower we got to the top of the tower and the antagonist was there and he refused to fight. he was talking with us and talking with us and trying to settle a way where we would let him go freely and finally the chaotic-evil person of the group say ed you know what fuck this im ending this right now right here and grabbed him by the shirt and lunged himself outside the window with the ultimant bad guy but killing himself to. and everyone stooped and starred at the guy and said why in the hell did you do that his response was “it’s what my character would do. and he was right but that started an augment and that’s how that campaign ended. so it was fun and a funny ending with the hero that gave his life to save the world ya ta ya ta ya ta. 

  • Tim

    I wasn’t aware that in older editions of dnd you could actually lose levels from changing alignment (it makes items like the helmet that makes you evil a lot more dangerous, huh?)

    When I run games (not that often, usually as filler or fun, than serious campaigns) I ignore alignments and tell the players that whatever their alignment might be, I want to know it, and they need to have a reason to work together with the party. A chaotic evil rogue in the party does not have free pass to steal from the party and get away with it, and so on. Or, to phrase it another way: If you’re going to be a dick, be a dick to not the party members.

    As a player, however, I was in a custom campaign setting set around the Renaissance era with an upside down map of the real world serving as the world map, countries were renamed, etc. We dropped the whole upside down map thing and renaming of some countries later just because it got annoying to keep track of such little things. It was a low magic setting, with technology available (such as muskets, and in some rare instances steam powered things, gunpowder, etc). The DM did not allow anyone to start as a full caster class (nor multiclass into becoming one) so instead of running a psion (because I had finally managed to talk him into letting psionics into his games) I wound up running a chaotic good soul knife, with the intention of using the soul bow prestige class later (mind bullets and running up walls and so on). Through the course of the campaign, my character’s alignment shifted from it’s starting area of chaotic good, to neutral good, to lawful good, and then back to neutral good.

    Now, the reason I mention this is because it wasn’t imposed as some kind of penalty or used to keep me from making decisions that had to be made, but rather to show that the way we use alignment is as a gauge of what a character is usually doing and why. My character’s actions had trends, and he would act lawful when it was time to, blow things up (including the sewers of one city), and even commit regicide (twice, actually, for Ireland and France). Now, taken out of context, he sounds more like a psychotic super villain than a hero, but in each of these circumstances he was doing something for either the greater good or the good of the citizens of that area. The world was being invaded by an apparently never ending horde of undead streaming out of the negative energy plane at the direction of the tainted god of death (yes, the taint mechanic from rokugan).

    Even though his actions varied, this character was always consistent on one thing: He was doing or trying to do good. He was compassionate towards others, and would share what he could spare (which was usually quite a bit, because I made wise investments for items). At one point he even sacrificed his ability to craft things so that, come time to fight nerull, the party would have a fighting chance (and, considering how much he used his craft (weaponsmith) skill and how, every place they would visit he would learn things, this wasn’t just some throw away price to pay). Hell, that event is what changed him to lawful good.

    So, I just wanted to share a bit, and say: Alignments seem to work best when they are a compass, rather than shackles. Alignments don’t have to define the man, the man can define his alignment (especially if they have a high wisdom and knowledge: religion, which is as close to philosophy as dnd has for skills).

  • Svetoslav Savov

    easyest way to resolve The Prisoner Dilemma is to let the prisiers go
    reasons good and evil
    good reasons – it is ageist all moral laws to kill prisoners. so if you can not get them in town better to let them go. if they try to kill you again you will defend yourself and then kill them
    evil reason – let them live to hate you, let them revenge you one day. and even if they find you one day it will be off the time line (and over all off this campine)
    all in all you can let them go and make everyone agree :>

  • Shauna

    Point of interest: there is something that’s actually known as The Prisoner’s Dilemma, but it has nothing to do with deciding what to do with prisoners. The scenario is used to illustrate the interactions between “altruistic” and “selfish” individuals. If two people are arrested and separated, if they act altruistically (not selling out the other) they only benefit if the other acts altruistically as well. If the other decides not to “co-operate” then the altruistic individual is boned. The point is that some social interactions involve reciprocal altruism. (The idea is trading present aid for future aid–if the original recipient decides not to reciprocate later, then the helper got screwed.) In reciprocal altruism, the outcome of one’s behaviour is based on the behaviour of the other, but it’s impossible to know what the other’s behaviour will be. Not commenting on Spoony’s review at all, just thought I’d throw some knowledge out there.

  • malestrithe

    Honestly, I never had to deal with the alignment problems at all. My DM would tell me that we are playing a certain game in a certain way and we run with it. I remember playing a game set in Dark Sun we were playing evil supposedly, but it really felt like we were enforcing the law more than being downright evil.

    Then I realized that it was probably the group of people I was with because these people ended up playing themselves in this situation and that’s it. 

    When I was given a chance to play a paladin, I tended to pick things that are easier to play in a party of adventurers. For my chosen deity, I never picked things like rulership, or kinship, the law, the city, beasts, balance, or anything that would come in conflict with the party. I tended to pick things like Strength, Poetry, Metalwork, Nature, or Vegetation. 

    The time I played the Paladin of a vegetation god was fun. I was the defacto healer for the party because I had knowledge of herbal medicines, which made me really tolerated by everyone else. I would spread stories to the party and people in the taverns of the dangers that existed in the wilderness and why its best to stay in the city. 

    To that end, I would encourage dangerous animals to relocate next to the city because it reinforced the notion that wilderness is dangerous, but at the same time I never got mad at people that killed said animals because all I cared about was keeping wilderness roughly intact. Because of my particular god dictates, I had no problems with the party and their adventures because they understood the wilderness as much as I did. 

    As for Planescape, I never played because it it was never my thing. I had some of the books and I wanted to play it in some cases, I really did, but I never got a group that was mature enough to handle it. 
    Alignment comes in play whenever I played Ravenloft a lot more often than in other settings. While in other settings you can play the prisoners dilemma, it generally does not work in Ravenloft. You can generally assume that everyone in Ravenloft deserves to be there for being evil fuckers, but even then, you are forced into a powers check on occasion if you are not careful. 

  • smelru

    In the Joker’s case I’d say permanently crippling them in some way and then having them imprisoned would be the best balance between keeping your hands clean while at the same time preventing ye olde villaine making a comeback.

  • Kevin Campbell

    I’ll chime in as well to tell you that you’re misusing the Prisoner’s Dilemma, not as a “haha, I’m so smart”, but because the actual Prisoner’s Dilemma can be a useful tool for roleplaying as well.

    Firstly, let me state that what you’re mentioning is closer to the Stanford Prisoner Experiment, but only slightly. I’ll also state that the Prisoner’s Dilemma is not a topic in psychology as someone mentioned (though it is related). The Prisoner’s Dilemma is a game theory concept.

    In the Prisoner’s Dilemma you have a situation where two players will choose not to work together, despite the fact that cooperation would be beneficial to both of them. The reason they will refuse to work together and will instead conspire against one another is because if both players are following game theory, the most advantageous solution to their problem would be, paradoxically, at odds with what they want.

    There are several game theory thought experiments around this line, and the Prisoner’s Dilemma is the most famous. Here’s a very simple rundown of the experiment:

    Two criminals are brought in for questioning by the police. Both are questioned by the police separately, in separate rooms, etc.

    The police them each of them that the maximum sentence for their crime is 10 years. However, if they rat out their friend the rat will get a reduced sentence of 5 years, and the person they fingered as a culprit will gain a higher, 15 year sentence. If neither rats the other out they will both go free.

    Now, logically you would think that both sides would chose not to rat the other out, but consider this… That would mean you would be trusting a criminal, a fellow criminal who, for all you know, may consider you as untrustworthy as you are considering him untrustworthy. He may think that all criminals will rat him out in the end for a reduced sentence, and if you don’t rat him out you’re possible sentence will be triple what his will be. So, if you’re both perfect game theorists, statistically (in a situation where you cannot guess what the other party will pick), ratting him out (and he you) is the best solution. Despite the fact that now both of you will face 15 years prison time, the exact opposite of what both of you desire.

    Look up game theory, it actually has a bevy of interesting ethical dilemmas juxtaposed against mathematics and logic.

    • Deborah

      Close but not quite. They’ll both get a reduced sentence, not the maximum. If both rat, they both get five years. If neither rats, they both go free. If one rats and the other doesn’t, the rat gets one year and the nonrat gets ten. Of course, the numbers themselves don’t actually matter. What matters is that they’re both trying to minimize their own sentance while not trusting each other. So yeah, you got most of it right, but mutual ratting is supposed to give a reduced sentence, otherwise there’s no incentive.

  • Richard Myrick

    Man I absolutely love Counter Monkey. I have been in to RPGs my whole life but I never really understood much about DND. It’s great to watch your videos and get an idea what it’s like to play DND RPGs. Awesome stuff!!

  • Scott Earle

    “Fuck the paladin” my new fav quote

  • iceman13c

    See I only do neutral chaotic if i’m a Changeling thief but only because i see changelings as creatures that hates the world because he is a half doppleganger and human but not out of hatred but out of spite of his own looks. The neutral part would be because he needs the stuff he steals or the money people hire them to steal. Its only logical to me at least 

  • Jake Roberts

    chaotic evil is the most evil.  It is like being a demon.  Wouldn’t you kill baby demons?  If not, you’re insane.

    • Matrim

       I could argue with you about CE being the “most evil” for days…but I’m not going to. However, I will argue that, in the context of D&D, evil creatures can be redeemed. Thus, killing a baby (even a demon baby) is still an immoral act.

      • Rakkrakk

        Yes, they can, but only of their own volition. And it’s rare. Fall-from-Grace from PlaneScape Torment? One in ten billion.

        • Matrim

          Maybe in Planescape (though I doubt it), but the odds change with the campaign. And that fact that it’s rare doesn’t give you carte blache to be murdering babies.

          • Rakkrakk

            It does. They are born evil and only on a *very* slim chance *may* change, and most of the time only to another kind of evil during adulthood.

          • Matrim

            You also realize that simply “being evil” isn’t a license for a paladin to murder you. The fact that evil creatures, even demons, have the ability to become good (no matter how slim) indicates that they are not bound by their nature. If the demon starts doing evil things, then you kill it. Otherwise you’re just committing murder.

          • Rakkrakk

            Oh, if you’re a paladin, seeing a demon(good , neutral or evil) is, depending on your scriptures, enough reason to demand that it is begone and, if it does not comply, kill it. Usually just to kill it.

            Unless of course it’s possessing an innocent, then the demon is to be banished without the innocent dying if possible.

            I was talking in general. Aside from True Neutrals and some Lawful Neutrals, characters will usually just kill the demons, whatever age. Because they are demons. THey are evil. And since they are demons, they are chaotic evil. Meaning: They’ll wreck your shit if you don’t wreck theirs first.

          • Fueldrop

            The whole black-and-white morality is an innate part of D&D and Pathfinder, with ‘objective’ good and evil as real forces in the universe. Of course this is a holdover from ye olde dungeon crawling days, when the monsters were labeled evil and the heroes good so you felt justified breaking into their homes, killing them, and taking their stuff.

            The system was not originally designed for covering the complexities of real world morality.

            However, I’d suggest that in the case of Demons, Vampires and a couple of other species kill on sight is a perfectly valid philosophy, since Demons are in the standard setting the living embodiment of murder, rage, destruction and other fun things. Also, according to a couple of the sourcebooks I’ve viewed Demons don’t have babies and are spawned fully formed and bloodthirsty from the plane itself.

  • Aaron Pinsoneault

    We have a guy who is such a terrible roleplayer, that he can actually play true neutral. We decided he could start true neutral, and we would determine his alignment from his actions, and he came out true neutral. And he always uses a greatsword, no matter what, so we have just come to call all of his characters “Dave” with a greatsword.  Right now we’ve made him try to play a paladin so that he might roleplay. So far, he’s pissed off a paladin to the point of getting decked by said paladin, and has lost around 300 roleplaying XP

  • spectervonbaren

    I disagree on the idea that no one ever considers themselves evil in real life. I think there are in fact people that know they’re evil but the problem is that they just don’t care that they’re evil because they’re only interested in their selves. A lot of true evil in the world seems to me to come about mostly due to an idea of only looking out for #1.

  •ötkö-Latvala/100002159487074 Pötkö Latvala

    Its pretty easy with full-fledged villains and warriors surrendering, just mutilate them, stab them in their eyes, or cut their hands off, a group of prisoners you blind one and “disarm” the other, literally. Thus you spared their lives, but made sure they can never hurt others again, or plot anything evil against you (and yes, cauterize the wounds so they wont bleed to death). And when letting those enemies go, threaten to kill them the next time you see them in the false location you “slip” from your mouth, and tell them to run before your generosity runs out. Then head out to your real location, having the hunter/scout of your group to make sure nobody is tailing you. purchase a mouth gag for your group’s paladin the next town over, and you’re all set. Problem solved.

    • Matrim

       Yeah, ’cause that’s totally not psychopathic at all…

  • MjolnirOfAsgard

    I have to mention that the movie The Gamers 2: Dorkness Rising, is a very good (and funny) of what Spoony is saying in this video.

  • William “BooRat” Blackshire

    Soooo, should GIJoe actually kill Cobra Commander?
    I couldn’t kill children or women but the guards I could kill or just hobble them!  That way they can’t fallow you and by the time they are healed up you’ll be loooooooong gone!  I’m above killing kids but not above crippling one of their parents in front of them! XD

    • Heather Boster

      But what about the pregnant orc women? If they are pregnant and caring for children, who’s going to protect them? Have you ever tried to sword fight while pregnant? It’s not easy. I think the point is that this issue is very complicated, and it’s all about the players and the DM to make it work.

      • William “BooRat” Blackshire

        Nope as a male I don’t have that problem but as their guards aren’t dead just crippled they still got guards and who else would attack them?  Also aren’t Orcs a little bit tougher than humans!?(humans don’t have natural defiance like tusk or claws)  You’d be amazed by how strong and how much damaged a cornered mother animal can be!

  • Strelnikov

    Question: if you are in the “orc baby dilemma” can you as a single player, opt out and let the rest of the group kill them? Or does the group all have to agree?

    [Not a RPG player, but curious.] 

    • contextual_entity

      That’s the general “In Character” solution for most circumstances. To follow on the Orc babies example, 3 of the group want to kill them and 2 don’t, so those two agree to go check the corridor and make sure there are no more Orcs around and return to find that the Orcs have died of a mysterious ailment that looks oddly like knife wounds.

      Not the most elegant solution but it keeps the game moving.

      • spectervonbaren

         Hahahaha! This just made my day.

    • Martin Spange

      Imagine that you are standing in the situation together with some people you know.
      Could you, as a person, opt out and allow those you are with to kill them?
      The answer is the same.

      But yes if the rest of the allow you not take a stand (by not asking for your opinion) you could totally go “I will go along whatever you guys chose to do”.
      It won’t really solve the problem through, or absolve you of moral judgment either way.

  • Deborah

    My brother told me about a true neutral character he once played, where the way he portrayed his neutrality was that for every good act he performed, he had to do something evil. At one point, this led to a situation where the other characters were fighting something and needed his help, but he had already done his good deed for the day and had to do something evil, so he sat down, made some popcorn, and just watched as his companions got their asses kicked.

    Personally, I allow arguments for genetic alignment only in cases of elementals and outsiders. If the plane a creature comes from is a particular alignment, then that creature has no choice but to be that alignment. Devils are from Hell, and Hell itself is evil, so devils are evil and can never not be evil barring cases of powerful magic. The primary plane has no alignment, so creatures from this plane can be any alignment. If you capture an orc baby and raise it to be good, then it’ll be good. I disapprove of rules-lawyering, and simply pointing at the manual and saying “Orcs are evil, so there” will be punished.

  • Heather Boster

    So when I was in middle school I played D&D with my step-dad and his friends. During the first adventure I played a chaotic neutral fighter that had been created for me since I’d never made a character and never played before. We came across a nest very early on with a mother owlbear protecting her nest. Now she attacked us first, and before we knew that there was a baby, so we killed her. When our DM mentioned that there was a baby owlbear in the nest one of the others (who’s alignment I can’t remember) tried to stomp on it and kill it. I protested, because it was a baby, and I was told that my character wouldn’t do that. I protested that my character would never kill a baby, because a baby is completely defenseless. My step-dad pulled me aside and explained that chaotic neutral characters wouldn’t care about that.

    I was not happy, and the next week I rolled up a neutral good character, but I have not forgiven my step-dad for telling me that I had to rip the head off of a baby animal because I’m chaotic neutral and that’s what we do. Now I realize that if I had made the protest ‘killing the defenseless is an evil act, and I’m not evil I’m neutral’ I might have gotten to keep that character.

    On the up side, the DM was really cool about it, and he let me insert my character directly into the place of the old one since we had just started playing that night. He let me keep the owlbear, and I ended up being almost a ranger by the end.  

  • Patrick Wilson

    It was my first game of D&D 3.5. We were several weeks in, trying to keep a civil war from erupting between elves and centaurs on an island nation. All had not gone well thanks to a mysterious villain, and the two armies met on the field of battle. The centaurs were essentially trying to protect their ancestral homelands, the elves commander viewed them as non-persons worthy of extermination. Our good-to-neutral group quickly sided with the centaurs, but were unable to be part of the main fight with them as we were trying to fight off the true antagonist of the war. The centaur’s noble leader was killed by the elves general. Our group wasn’t pleased.
    Our lawful neutral paladin decided she was going to march up to this commander of a massive army and attempt to beat him with her fists as a form of justice. My and another character had to physically restrain her, and the player felt that her paladin would try to harm our characters as well, to get to the general. Essentially, a fist-fight broke out in-game. We dropped that campaign a while later, and our next batch of characters seem to fit together much better. Oh, and the player who had the paladin? This time, she’s playing a Lawful EVIL monk, essentially an assassin to boot.

  • John Hurley

    i have come across a situation very similar to this one, in second life there is this star wars themed community we roleplay in and being star wars of course we have jedi and sith and all that, the argument comes up in that people will all the time be trying to fight or attack the sith and their huge empires because they figure “oh well they’re the sith, by definition they are evil for this setting”

    the sith themselves however (or at least the people playing these particular sith) do not at all seem evil, in fact they come up for a number of compelling arguments for how not only the sith are NOT evil but the jedi in fact ARE and the sith almost never do any of these things they were well known to do throughout the history of the setting and have done in canon, the sith are not fighting each other or arguing to try and gain more power, they dont torture people or kill them needlessly and they arent enslaving people

    the jedi on the other hand are doing all these things which by some definitions either are evil or dont fit the setting, they will abandon people in their hour of need (often on their very doorsteps), they will attack the sith needlessly and so on.

    so essentially we have this scenario in which we dont really have anyone who is bad OR good because the sith never engage in the evil practices they did in the books and movies and the jedi, in trying to be GOOD are being the evil ones.

    similar situation with the hutts and various criminals in that they never rob people, rob banks, have anyone assassinated and so on and they dont really sell drugs (or spice as is the case) since it isnt really illegal anymore, there are no police who are trying to stop them and all the criminal factions more or less get along (strangely enough)

    which in itself isnt BAD per se but this means the story doesnt really go anywhere or ever get started, every now and then you NEED someone to be the bad guys or the antagonists and someone to be opposing those guys for whatever reason and it just doesnt work out here

  • Kimani White

    Dude, you’re pretty naive when it comes to real world evil. There are a lot of evil people who don’t like to think of themselves as such and there are some who know they’re evil and just don’t care. I’ve met some and personally know a few. Believe it or not, deliberately evil people actually exist. In our culture they’re generally given clinical sounding names like psychopath or malignant narcissists. The worst of them are sadistic monsters who like making people suffer just for kicks. They only differ in how they go about doing it.

    • Joshua Wartooth

      He addressed that in that people like that are considered insane or mentally unsound.

      • Matrim

         It should be noted that you can be an amoral murderer without being insane…just sayin’

        • Rakkrakk

          Well, DUH, that wasn’t the point.

  • Allaiyah Weyn

    I always play true neutral or neutral good & tend not to attack unless attacked first. Single player RPG games would certainly be more interesting if they all had morality checks.

    I’m all for the DM changing your alliance based on your actions.

    One argument I can see against alignment is that in the real world, you wouldn’t even party with people who weren’t the same alignment as you; jocks, nerds, goths, preppies, bankers, hobos, conservatives, & liberals walking hand in hand without constant bickering, can you see it?

  • Xrosstalk

    I saw the one comment about if it’s in the book says CE then they are evil. Course the nature vs. nurture arguement comes in. However to be fair if you go strictly by the rule book they are specifying ADULT Orc’s; or there would be an entry in the Monsters Manual for Baby Orcs, and/or Pregnant Women Orcs with said alignments and descriptions of how they react. This would actually kill all said “prisoner” arguements, just have the developer put in how said race reacts in a prisoner situation and all permeatations and age ranges of each monster/race that has them. Course then you take all imagination out of the game heh. 

  • Raye Merici

    I’m not a big fan of Alignment, I like to play neutral when I do though. Just sorta something where my character will help if it benefits them, they aren’t in if for the glory and the fame usually just the treasure.

  • K B

    The prisoner’s dilemma is you and someone else being locked in separate cells. Pigs come in and press you to confess to your crime and the other guy’s part in it. Depending on whether neither of you, one of you, or both of you confess you get no punishment, the plea bargain deal, or a maximum punishment.

    The positive aspect of having an alignment system is it gets players and dms thinking about the motivations and worldviews of characters so they’re better fleshed out. The downside to the system is it makes folks conception of motivations rigid. In real life man has software to go with the hardware of his hand: a grasping tool with little default use, capable of adding any other tool unto itself. So men add the use of the things they manipulate, from spoons to armies to computers to currencies. A man’s grasp of what he thinks belongs to him, from nobles who see work as beneath them to junkies who take methadone in an ER as their due, is shaped by what he has possessed in his life and what he has lost. Just as we take our possessions for granted, rulers even using other men as tools, so we take possessions we’re denied, like an ugly woman who’s never known a man, as what we deserve. At the introduction of any decision our first choice routes a new path of neural connections in our mind. Thereafter, every time we’re presented with the same choice (whether to steal cookies from the jar when no one’s looking or not) the choice we made in the past is the first option which comes to mind because it is already written in our minds.

    Things that bother me about DnD’s alignment system most-of-all are
    1) It defines “good” as self-sacrifice, the philosophy of death as Ayn Rand named it, and “evil” as selfishness.
    2) It disallows alternate moral standards. For example, “good” and “evil” can be defined by utilitarian terms, whether an act causes pleasure or pain, creation or destruction. In some bible translations God himself, who’s supposed to be omnibenevolent, is said to work evil when he destroys cities or otherwise visits misfortune upon people. Likewise, sin literally means “missing the mark” which doesn’t necessitate the sinner attempt a goal different from God’s. Earlier conceptions of evil identify weaknesses such as cowardice and ineptitude as evil traits. Strength was defined as a virtue so the mighty were inherently good and those they oppress were being put in their proper place in the natural order.

    On a slightly different subject, it’s interesting if you read folklore, the change in morality you’ll see when a religion becomes popular or the people are united under one rule. In tales like the one from Java where the sun’s tricked into eating his children, there is no external arbiter; there is only a battle of wits between two entities and the winner is demonstrably the preferable template the people are to emulate. By contrast, after southeast asian isles came under an muslim king, the folklore changes to tales where submission is supernaturally rewarded, fenceposts animating to defend a man who won’t defend himself against the king’s men b/c self-defense would be wrong. The shared feature of karma and heaven is each promises it is the nature of existence to reward or punish a man according to his benevolence towards his fellow man and life so he needn’t compete for supremacy against other men like the tricksters in earlier folklore. To some degree these beliefs serve as a coping mechanism to defeated peoples to accept their yoke as a good lot.

    A common moral relativism is the concept of “the mandate of heaven”. Is rebellion against the ruler just? Depends on if the rebels win. Both in Europe, the middle east, and asia victory or defeat was supposed to be a sign of God/heaven’s dis/approval. Such an evaluation treats war as a trial by combat: the guilty will fall and the virtuous win. More cynical in modern times we say, “history is written by the winners” yet still demonize the German people and Confederates while excusing the murders and rapes committed by the Red and Union Armies.

    Tieflings demonstrate DnD has changed so now those born from evil stock can be good. Thanks Drizzt Do’Urden. 

  • Alexander Wood

    If you want to really burn a Chaotic Neutral character, MAKE them act insanely, even when it would be REALLY inconvenient.

  • Jacob Behnke

    I must say, this was very well thought-out.  I remember in my first major D&D game I played a paladin who talked like Arnold Schwarzenegger, and I ended up getting dragged into an alignment debate that actually didn’t involve me.  Y’see, in the session before I arrived, the PCs had dealt with a pack of werewolves and were trying to debate killing a pair of werewolf babies.  The whole nature vs. nurture, the whole shebang.  It had apparently dragged the game down so much that one player, whose character was a Chaotic Neutral kobold sorcerer, decided he’d had enough, and knifed the baby werewolves while the others were arguing.  And fortunately, unlike the kinds of Chaotic Neutrals Spoony describes, he gave his reason for doing so: the argument was taking too long and if something wasn’t done they’d be there until the werewolf kids were grown up.  The other players/characters were furious that this player/character went behind their back and did this, and while he did get slapped closer to evil for it, the character was already pretty amoral (in the fight with the werewolves before the debate started he deliberately let himself contract lycanthropy, and collected the ears of his slain enemies to wear around his neck).

    My paladin came on the scene in the next session, and everyone was still kind of sore at the kobold for the werewolf incident, when we were sent by the local queen to investigate a pair of griffins who’d been attacking a small village.  Again, an alignment argument sprang up as some of the players wanted to reason with the griffons, who’d already killed and eaten the majority of the townsfolk.  When they asked my paladin to get involved, I basically said, “Really?  We’re debating whether these hostile griffins may be saved, when they are clearly unable and uninterested in talking?  Less talk, more stabby!”  The griffons ended up fighting to the death and the DM told us in the aftermath there wasn’t any way we could have saved the griffons.  They’d developed a taste for human flesh and didn’t give two screeches whether they were good or evil.  They were just hungry.  The arguing players were placated by saving the griffon’s sole surviving egg, which was presented to the queen to raise as she saw fit.

    After that, my paladin sort of acted as the voice of reason when alignment debates surfaced.  I’d agreed that the kobold going behind everyone’s back to kill the werewolves was a dick move, but it was just that, a dick move, and he wasn’t gonna do it again since everyone was gonna keep an eye on him now.  Most of the enemies we faced further down the line were a lot more willing to fight to the death, like my paladin’s succubus nemesis and her half-fiend fire giant kids, so the prisoner debate effectively stopped coming up.

    I agree with Spoony that the best way to solve the Prisoner Dilemma is to not put characters in that kind of situation to begin with.  It can be done well if it happens once or twice, but if it’s happening every time you raid an orc encampment, you’ve got a problem.  There are other plots and moral quandaries besides the Prisoner Dilemma.  USE ‘EM!

  • Sean Philyaw

    While I do agree that the alignment system is the fulcrum on which many arguments have hinged in my days as a DM, I think having it there as a color in the palette for the portrait of the character’s life.  However, it is not the only factor that should determine the actions of a character.  It should serve a guide, like a compass, showing you the general direction towards a particular goal.  A lawful good paladin who serves in an army will be part of, or at least witness to, some fairly heinous acts that are associated with medieval warfare.  Commonly the spoils of war in ancient times until the middle medieval period were women of the defeated.  What makes the paladin still lawful good in those circumstances would be not taking part in such practices himself, and perhaps mentioning his moral disagreement with them.  And assassins are ‘never good’.  That is not to say an assassin can’t champion a noble and just cause, but when the point of your life is to take money for the brutal and often time convenient death of a living being who is more than likely helpless at the moment of their demise.  A good example of a ‘good’ assassin is the Operative from Serenity, and he knows he is not good, he views himself as a necessary evil.  Altair is also not a good person, maybe lawful neutral ((follows the code of assassins, disciplined life style, etc etc)), but his cause is good, not the man.

  • Scott

    mmm. Sounds like they should be raised by the palidin into.. ORC PALIDINS

  • Kyle Rybski

    My main thought is that I don’t understand the vilification of ‘argument’.

    • Flipsta Flippy

      People don’t much like arguing because in a D&D simulation, many player characters are very dead set in their ways because they’re in control of their characters, and like anyone with absolute control, they don’t want to relinquish any of it. An argument is basically a struggle of power on who controls your character in a weird way…

      • Kyle Rybski

        So, I guess when Spoony says ‘don’t argue’ he means more specifically ‘don’t argue about how each other’s characters should be played’. I’m on-board if that’s the case, because of course that’s each player’s own damn business.

  • volbla

    Not as much an argument about alignments as about terminology.

    I never liked that lawful was called lawful, because it seems to me like it doens’t imply abiding the law per se. I guess i can’t do better than quote the player’s handbook: “‘Law’ implies honor, trustworthiness, obedience to authority, honor traditions, and judge those who fall short of their duties. On the downside, lawfulness can include closemindedness, reactionary adherence to tradition, judgementalness, and a lack of adaptability.”

    When it comes to lawful evil i think anyone who does things more methodical, planned out and organized, or maybe even has some sort of standards or code of honor qualifies. The oppressive dictator is a good example. There’s a great image in the 3.5 DMG where armies of demons and devils fight. The devils form ranks and clearly has a chain of command, while the demons just gather in a large mass and act individually. I think maybe “organized” and “individual” might be better descriptions than “lawful” and “chaotic”, only those sound less cool saying them. They’re not perfect either.

    When it comes to assassins, i thought that was only people who kill for no other reason than money, and they’d kill whoever for it. As long as someone is employing them they don’t give a fuck who has to die for it, just give me my money. That is evil, and that’s the definition of assassin i know. Thing is you can call yourself a certain profession regardless of what class you play. You could be a rogue or a fighter and still call yourself an assassin; still do the work of an assassin, employ yourself as you imagine an assassin. Classes to me are in most cases just game rules and not in-game tangibles (at least the core classes i know in 3.5). I can’t imagine an official dictionary distinction between fighters and warriors in the game, just a noticable difference between the elite and the mundane.

  • Mark

    This kind of reminded me of what happened playing the Legend of the Five Rings RPG (Japanese/Asian fantasy sort of setting).  Doesn’t necessarily have the standard alignment system that DnD does but there are issues about honor and different groups having different outlooks about things.  It was towards the beginning of our first session and this guard was leading from town to his lord’s castle that we were supposed to be going to, and he leads us into an ambush where him and a bunch of bandits attack us.  The bandits were defeated, but after that the guard surrendered, and no one was sure what to do.  Some of us wanted to kill him, and we probably would have been justified in it, but some people wanted to take him back to his lord (since we were going there anyways) and let him deal with it.  Ultimately, we decided because of his treachery he would have to die, but since he did surrender we had some mercy and let him commit seppuku, so he was able to die with honor and we returned his sword to his lord to indicate his honorable death rather than just taking it.

  • Ian Dowd

    i would cast magic on the pregnant orcs and manipulate the babies to my own personal mutated shock troops muhahahahahahahahahaha

  • JennXbox
  • Mavros St. John

         This reminds me about the time my character almost lost his Cleric status, slitting up the party for a moment of the campaign:
     After sailing on a ship, we reached an island that we were told held a temple that contained a potion of “Everlasting Life”. Upon reaching the Temple, I discover that it was of the God of Death, Nerull, which my cleric was under at the time. I kept telling my party that this was a BAD idea, going into a temple of death, and trying to find it’s greatest bane.
     After going through a swarm of Zombies, we reached a bridge that had a swinging pendulum that we couldn’t pass under. I was, by all meaning of the word, forced, to use my Signet to hold the pendulum still as the rest of the party moved under it. As I did that, Nerull came to me on the wind, and told me that if I was to stay with him, I was to prevent any of the Party from going into the final chamber of the dungeon. He/She (never really sure about the gender) told me that if I were to follow, and I was disendowed (not sure if that’s the right word, but I digress…) from being a Cleric.
     I put down the signet, and tell them at for me to let them go was a suicide for them, and a death sentence for me. I was, again, forced to let them pass under the pendulum, but I didn’t cross myself. I basically waited in the first chamber, a new army of zombies under my command after a battle with them, alone. I sat there for a month of REAL TIME out of the game as I watched half of the party get slaughtered, and I pleaded with Nerull to get them out.
     After a battle with a Bone Dragon, they were done, and wanted out. They were brought out of the Temple, where I was waiting for them, and I, quite literally, almost killed the party member that had forced me to let them pass, dropping them to 1 HP, and then not healing him for the next battle; normal revenge as the one and only Cleric of the team. Let’s just say, he got the message, but I still felt resentment to his character for the next full month of playing the campaign. I didn’t even get to keep my Zombies, because the Monk on the team had an aura that killed Zombies on sight. I was sad of a bit, but then I rescued the party in that temple, and they DID thank me for it, which was okay with me.
          That is my story, of how I almost my Cleric abilities, and how I got no experience for a solid month of playing the game.

  • Nathaniel Adams

    I hate when this happens, but when its done right its some great role-playing. I was a cleric of a lawful good god and i worked in a prison that was under a riot. The other players were outsiders hired to squash the riot. There was a point when we realized that the true reason for the riot was that the upper staff of the prison were doing strange experiments on the prisoner and they had been capturing innocent people from nearby villages. My cleric, who had been a desk clerk, had no idea that this had been going on and he started to try and save the people, but our knight was so blinded by duty that he just kept killing every prisoner we came across. At one point my cleric was so mad at this knight that we were mere seconds from all out fighting I think i actually threatened to start the fight if he killed one more innocent. Me and this guy were at each others throats, but the thing was the second we were done we were high five’in and congratulating each other on great role playing. The best thing though was that this was the first time i had played with these guys and i didn’t really even know this guy yet. Me and him knew what we were doing was in game only but the looks on the rest of the groups faces were priceless.

  • Chris Lauderdale

    What the hell sort of raiding party or bandit hideout has women and children around anyway?? That would be like an army base having a day care center in it!

    If they have a family, it’s in a different area.

    • Alex Bermann

      This is true for the army, because we live in a world of globalization where distance is not that much of a matter. In medieval settings, however, there are very ig problems to transport Gold and goods over big distances. A robber or soldier just does not have the time to travel to the next city, buy ome food and bring that food to his family – with the immense speed of a mule because horses are beyond their paygrade.
      A soldier or robber in a well organized and payd army would be in the strange situation that he had enough money but no way to make use of it. This is why armies attracted merchants, craftspeople and whorse – who also want to spend time with their families and want them close enough to make sure they have enough to eat.
      This actually is very benefitial for the leader since it is a huge boost of morale if you protect your loved ones.

  • Alex Bermann

    I really dislike how the rules deal with the alignment-system. In itself, the system ist a handy way of creating the personality of your character and it is a way to sort devine spellcasting.
    However, morality is much more complicated and a purely utilitaristic “good” can be “evil” if you think like Kant does. The System I like to play does not use Alignments but if you play a Cleric, there is a certain Code you must follow. If you fail to do so, you can no longer cast devine spells until you made your amends. There are twelve “good” Gods who have sort of an Alliance and their Codes contradict each other hard.
    Of course, there are dilemmas and there can and will be arguments what is the “Good” solution but it stays In Game because there are these contraditory teachings.

  • Chris Lauderdale

     First rule of gaming: When you stop having fun, stop playing. PERIOD.

    That is my first and cardinal rule of gaming. A corollary is that to keep having fun you may need to change the game.

  • David

    I find that lawful good characters tend to be far more dogmatic about evil and are far more likely to just slaughter the orcs.  Neutral and chaotic characters tend to be more understanding of the situations of those inclined to the orcish lifestyle and show mercy.  I hate Paladins, they tend to be extremely unforgiving because of their religious nature. We tend to refer to lawful good as ‘lawful stupid’.

  • Micky Winther Ronnenberg

    I think my DM have found a good way of dealing with Alignments. We were in a dilemma where we couldn’t kill a evil guy, without killing 4 kids at the same time. One from my team, that is all good, said: “I want to attack him”. Many of us said: “Isnt that evil?”. And He just said: “Its for the greater good”. And then our DM said: “If anyone attack him, they will go caotic good”.

    We do not define our actions from our alignment, we define our alignment from our aktions.

  • Mathew McCrillis

    I’m kind of wondering how many scenarios are there where you aren’t clearing rooms with AOE spells or explosives?  If there’s nobody to take prisoner, there isn’t going to be a problem.

  • Nick Foster

    I have this joke I like to share that isn’t really all that funny, “Lawful Good is the worst kind of evil.” But seriously, I’ve had more players of LG characters run adventures into the ground than any evil characters. Maybe ’cause I’ve had more LG characters in-party than any evil characters, but that only counts for so much, right?

    I hear you about Planescape and the Blood War. For me, the Blood War really made the entire setting. I read about it for years before I ever got to play in an actual Planescape game, and when I did… no Blood War. Such a disappointment. :(

    Myself, though? I prefer to run characters of Good alignments, and then adjust as play progresses. In the last 4e game I played in, I started with a Good high elf wizard, and gradually shifted more and more toward a very cynical “Unaligned” as I distanced myself from the so-called “good” rest of the party (“shoot and loot” -type rangers).

    If the game had continued long enough, I might have written “Evil” on my wizard and given the character sheet over to the GM to feature as an antagonist to the party. *snerk* I would’ve had no problem rolling up a new character, but my wizard? Hated their guts.

  • Zedith Starr

    There was a game I was in where the Lawful Good character was far more chaotic (and evil) than the Chaotic Neutral characters were. ._.’

    We try to avoid treating Chaotic Neutral as if it’s “Chaotic Stupid.” There’s many ways to handle it, but we usually try to avoid the ways that derail games. ;)

  • Rachel Adelson

    Dude, I’ve never even played D&D and I want to play with you as DM.

  • Jesper Bengtson

    I have played lots of RPGs, but never DnD (except computer games like Baldur’s Gate that is based on its rules). Alignment has always irked me for the very reason you portray — there is no such thing as absolute good and absolute evil, and the fact that such a thing does exist in the universe just makes that part of it boring and bland. Shades of gray are what makes life interesting.

    At the end of the day, we’re playing to have fun, and trying to solve the meaning of life and answer the unanswerable questions of the universe is not fun. At the very least, it has no place for a gaming session. It can be discussed elsewhere and to much greater effect than which permutation of these six words your character has on a sheet.

    What I think is important to remember is that you are playing a character — not a sheet of paper guided by weird geometric shapes in plastic with numbers on them. When we played, the DM (or GM) rolled all dice hidden from the players. A player could have a feeling how well a vital roll went, but he would never see what was on the dice. For us, seeing what number is on a dice was as silly an argument as saying ‘my character is lawful yadayadda’. Who except a madman would make such a statement?

    I miss my role-playing days, and it would be great to get a group going….. but it’s sooo much a matter of time. I’m sure I could find people, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. There are so many things that I enjoy doing. I’d love to have a session with you Spoony; I’d do my darndest not to be the r-tard stranger that you wouldn’t want to play with.

    At any rate. Peace, and please keep the videos rolling.

  • Jesper Bengtson

    This post was posted by mistake, feel free to delete it. (not the one bellow, just this one :)).

  • Noah Rothermund

    Lol, detect evil on babies! jk. : D

  • Luke_Duke

    Spoony mentioned a few exemplars the alignment categories.  I believe he said that Darth Vader is the perfect example of Lawful Evil, Judge Dredd is the perfect Lawful Neutral and Robin Hood is the perfect Chaotic Good.  Please forgive me, since I’ve never done any role-playing in my life, but does anybody have any examples of who would be the perfect exemplars of the other alignment classes?

    • Adam Brown

      I like to think of them all like this:
      Neutral Good – Like Zorro, who fights for the law, but his idealistic version of it. Maybe even the Three Musketeers, they fight to purify the law, but must break it to do so.
      True Neutral – This can be taken two ways, either they strive to uphold balance, or they don’t care. The first would be someone like the monk that teaches Aang in the Avatar: TLA, how to go into the avatar state at will, and the second is someone like Han Solo.
      Chaotic Neutral – They represent pure, unbridled chaos. Heathe Ledger’s Joker fits perfectly here, no respect for the law, no matter how bad or good the law may be.
      Neutral Evil – Think selfish brat who often see profit in screwing people over. In this sense, someone like Mystique fits pretty well. Or perhaps someone like a Crossroads demon.
      Chaotic Evil – Loot, pillage, burn. No respect for law or life. For comical purposes, you can say Trogdor is chaotic evil, but this one you can probably define well enough on your own. Galactus is pretty chaotic evil.

      Hope that helps!

      • Luke_Duke

         It does.  Thanks!

        So, would it be fair to say something like this….

        1.) Lawful Good (Worf) – they act with compassion and always have a sense of honor and duty
        2.) Neutral Good (Batman) – they are guided by their own conscious and often act benevolently, but have no problem breaking the law if they think it’s necessary.
        3.) Chaotic Good (Robin Hood) – they want to do the right thing but are often at odds with what society says is good.
        4.) Lawful Neutral (Judge Dredd) – they have a moral compass, but that comes second to mercilessly enforcing the law, whether the law is good or evil.
        5.) True Neutral (Han Solo) – someone who is more than willing to play on all sides in order to suit himself.
        6.) Chaotic Neutral (Ledger’s Joker) – someone who is simply unreliable in every way, shape and form.  An agent of chaos.
        7.) Lawful Evil (Darth Vader) – they see a well-ordered society of laws as easy to exploit for their own benefit.
        8.) Neutral Evil (Mystique) – they view everything in terms of short-term self-interest and will do anything that helps their immediate situation even if it harms them in the long-term.
        9.) Chaotic Evil (Buffalo Bill from “The Silence of the Lambs”) – they are selfish, cruel and have no respect for rules or other people’s lives.  They only care about their own desires.

        • Dan Schuett

          Those are pretty fair descriptions.  Another way to look at Chaotic Neutral is Q from Star Trek.  The ultimate free spirit they do what they want, when they please, needing no better reason than they can. 

        • Jeffery Krit
  • James

    I have got to say, I love these counter monkey posts. I listen to them while I play LoL and makes everything better. Please, please, please more! 

  • Dan Schuett

    If you’re interested in starting an alignment argument before the game even starts (I do not recommend it), roll up a Lawful Neutral Thief/Rogue.  I brought one of those to a game and we spent half the session arguing over whether a Thief can be Lawful.  Now I had rolled up a typical thief (pick locks, disarm traps, pick pockets, etc.) so I can understand their confusion, but I kept going back to the Players Handbook and pointing out that Rogue in 3rd Edition doesn’t have any alignment restrictions, and trying to get things moving.  They just kept going on about how I’m a Rogue and I steal, and break in to places, and poison people, etc.  I finally accepted they wouldn’t let up and after 2 hours I said, “Look let’s just start the game I swear it will make sense immediately, and if it doesn’t I’ll sit this one out and roll up another character for next week.”

    We finally got things going and when the rest of the party met up with my character he introduced himself as a theif catcher.  I’d based him off of one of my favourite characters from the Wheel of Time Jullin Sandar (think I spelled that right) who utilized many of the skills of a thief to catch them.  After my character’s introduction I asked the others, “So can we shut up now about the Lawful Rogue?”  They just kinda looked down and said, “Well you could have said something.”

    • Das_Bass

      should have said “I’m not that kind of thief”   

  • Zelkiiro

    My D&D party’s solution: Got a prisoner? Turn ‘em into a party member!

    • Das_Bass

      or  make them fight for you ( and stab them in the back at night like the thief I am  and blame it on his tribe for being a traitor!) =D and not feeling bad about it since like Spoony said, us C/N are crazy and love it! 

  • OgdruJahad

    “Because nobody considers themselves evil.”

    The Joker. Well, sort of. Depends what version you’re going for. Ledger’s Joker? There’s some ambiguity there, he thinks living without rules is the way to go, but he’s not necessarily evil. He just acts evil in accordance with that philosophy.

    But Mark Hamill’s Joker? He’s evil, he knows it, and he’s totally fine with that.

    • Michael Wells

       He also said no Sane person. Joker is not Sane.

      • OgdruJahad

        Fair point. Though if I recall the argument has been raised a few times in the comics that Joker isn’t so much ‘insane’ as he is ‘super-sane’.

  • ih8modok

    The problem seems a bit misworded in your video… It seems like you’re not having so much an issue with alignments themselves, but with players who don’t allow themselves a degree of separation between OOC and IC. 

    I’ve had plenty of alignment fights in DnD that have ended sometimes horribly, but with both players able to keep their characters actions separate from their feelings about the other player. 

  • Rob van der Sloot

    I’m currently playing a Lawful Good Paladin in a D&D campaign who is basically a zealot. It is like playing borderline evil, where there are often arguments with the other party members, and it is hilarious. We enjoy having discussions about moral dilemmas, because it creates wonderful roleplaying. My Paladin will destroy evil without mercy and at all costs, because my paladin believes that is the right thing to do.

  • Myusollo

    In my very first D&D game, I took over my roommate’s half-orc samurai (weird, I know) when he went abroad for a semester.  We came across a bunch of sleeping gnolls in a fort, and everyone else (including a paladin) wanted to slaughter them in their sleep.  I objected, saying that it was dishonorable and unfair.  So the party solved the issue by having one other character debate with mine on the issue in the hallway while everybody else went inside while I wasn’t looking and killed everybody.  So I guess the lesson is . . . to avoid alignment problems, use misdirection?

  • Derpy Hooves

    I tend to play Lawful Good characters, but you know where this whole alignment thing bites me in the ass? When all the other players in my group – who are all neutral or evil – start doing morally shady stuff, and my DM starts feeding me excuses as to why my lawful good character would be okay with, for example, burning down a village, or breaking into a tomb. Like “oh, but your character would see it as a necessary action for the greater good!” or some shit, just because I was going against the group by saying “actually, my character wouldn’t do that – you go ahead with the mission, because my character WOULD NOT do that.” I’ve actually had to change alignments before because apparently it’s a bad thing to stick to the character that you yourself created. My current character used to – and should still be, considering that the character is a city guardsman – be lawful good, but I had to change that to neutral good just to get my DM and fellow players off my back. They kept arguing that I was being too inflexible, but no – my character was lawful, and was in an occupation where they should be respecting the law. So the alignment thing pisses me off, too. 

    • Mary-Melissa Wilzewski

       I’ve never GMed beyond a single one-shot, so I’m no judge, but as a player I’m tempted to say “keep everyone of close alignment” unless you have players experienced with each other. By “close” I mean remove one axis – Players can be Lawful, Neutral, or Chaotic, but only Good or Neutral, not Evil; conversely, Remove Law or Chaos. That way everyone can find SOME common ground (Except Neutrals, who unless they’re balance-freaks can be generally reasoned with).

      I recently started a Tabletop with a new group, three of which (GM and 2 players) have played before. While alignments aren’t part of the system we’re using (BESM 3ed), I explicitly created a true-neutral child character that could evolve to match the group alignment.

      The “group alignment” thing never really happened, we’re still working sometimes to keep the party together, but it’s rarely over alignment. ^-^ (Except when the Ninja killed someone without asking us first… That caused problems…)

      • Derpy Hooves

        Yeah, I’ve found that that’s the smart thing to do. In our group, we keep making the stupid mistake of creating our characters completely independently, with no thought to how they’d work as a team. Our first campaign we ended up with loads of magic characters (I was a bard, my sister was playing as a Warlock, etc), and our second campaign, since our DM just said that we couldn’t choose the same race or class as our last character, we ended up all going for melee characters. And of course we’d all be wildly different alignments. Oddly enough, our DM would only complain of this AFTER it became a problem, which makes me think – surely he should tell us that we needed some balance instead of just drawing up the sheets and complaining at us later? Our last game, which was a one-shot with new characters, was pretty evenly balanced for us (although we still forgot to bring a healer – that was pretty stupid of us), and alignment was never a problem because almost all of us were “unaligned” (I knew in my mind that I was playing a Chaotic Neutral character – I dunno what everyone else was). So yeah, checking alignments first is always a good plan.

        • Mary-Melissa Wilzewski

           Yeah, that drives me nuts. I’m the kind of person who always makes my character last in a group, and specifically find out what’s “missing” ability-wise, as well as developing a “hook” to keep my character in the party. In our current came, the ninja became pretty much unplayable after the a fore mentioned killing, so the player made a new “scientist” character. Five games later, the ninja is back, because the player couldn’t justify keeping the scientist in the group (the character was too absorbed in his own studies, not conflict with other players). Everyone in the group is great player wise, and everyone is a great player, but by playing the characters honestly sometimes the group ends up splintering. Then DM-ex-machina to bring us back together. Fortunately, those typically involve combat, so it’s not like anyone complains… lol

  • jason

    can you be a half vampire in d&d?

  • Shishi

    17:55 lmao

  • T.j Mc

    I’m with you a lot on alignment that it’s a good guideline, but the problem I have with the system is the in-game mechanics around it. Like you said, no one is going to come up to you and ask you your alignment, so what the hell is “Sense Evil”? How does that make sense?
    I always, as a WoD player in general, preferred White Wolf’s way of doing it as a sliding scale of morality which really exemplifies how well you act in society and related to people, so it’s not so much good to evil, but saint to sinner.
    Also, what the hell is with 4th Ed. alignment? They took out Lawful Evil? But that’s the coolest alignment. Sigh.

    • Mary-Melissa Wilzewski

       I often question “Sense Alignment” spells, and after this I’m going to ask the GM to define what it’s measuring – Intention or Sum of Action (And in the later, what’s the measure?)

      For anything Planescape, I’d imagine it would be Sum of Action (True Alignment Planes). But for anything else, it does need defining… (And half the “Evil” people drop to Neutral… lol)

  • Anne

    I was part of a short-lived Planescape game that actually managed to have a paladin and a LE tiefling evoker (mine) who got along well enough. 

    Part of it was that another player and I, coming in a session or two later than the rest, were the only characters from Sigil and not tunneljacked from the Forgotten Realms.  Part of it was that my character was sent along as a guide/assistant in doing something for someone/something that could get them home and put my character in a great deal of misery if it didn’t go well.  And it probably helped that I didn’t advertise the Evil aspect of the alignment – I don’t think the paladin (or the player) realized that the helpful and lawful tiefling was evil until he happened to look over when using Detect Evil on something else, and then I think he just decided to just sit on that piece of information as long as I wasn’t screwing them over or murdering kittens in front of him.

  • Jonathan Pandaman Ågren

    Hi, I have a question about alignments, and I was hoping that maybe one of you wonderfully knowledgeable commenters might be able to clear it up for me.

    Now after seeing this video, it’s obvious that there’s a lot of room to move within each alignment. But I was rather troubled when I heard Spoony bash chaotic neutral characters, since I have only made one character in DnD, who I thought was simply wonderful, and who was, in fact, chaotic neutral.
    In short, it was a character that strived for good, but would not let anyone stand in his way. For example, if someone with a good alignment stood directly in the way of him saving the world or whatever, he would kill this person. My DM told me that a good person would not kill good people, so I pushed him down to neutral, since I definitely didn’t see him to be evil, as all he wanted to do was rid evil from the world. (Or whatever)Now while he would kill good people if in a certain situation, he wouldn’t burn towns or kill people for no reason, everything he did was for a good cause (according to him, at least), and he didn’t do it out of greed or powerlust or anything. So the Neutral part stood for his questionable morality, and the chaotic part stood for his direct, physical way of doing things.My question is: Am I in the wrong, is he not chaotic neutral? If so, which alignment would he be?

    • Zach

      No, in my experience as a DM, I would say he WAS chaotic good. Just because he kills other Good characters, it’s the chaotic part, and as long as it was for a good reason, or what he felt was a good reason (since he’s chaotic, these can be wildly different), he would still be Chaotic Good. But hey, different strokes for different blokes, some people just see alignment differently.

      • Jonathan Pandaman Ågren

        Yeah, in these parts you often have to be considered to be very good to fall within the good alignment. But your perspective makes more sense in a way.

        • Edmund Christopher Scrivens

          I’d be in agreement with Zach on this one. Generally I will only judge the alignments of characters when they’ve gotten into the full swing of things. Unless yours was doing as has been exemplified, I would maintain that he’d be in the upper corners of CG, where things get a bit crazy.

          As for Chaotic Neutral, I’ve been fortunate enough to have people give reasonable explanations for why they are thus, funnily enough, two of them being assassins (I run a mix of 1st and 2nd ed, so assassins are just a standard sub-class of thief). One other is an exiled Drow who’s a Vhaeraunite (sp?), so it works with that background and the last is a transmuter, essentially goes hand in hand with the class. Luckily they’ve all given reasoned the alignments and have avoided overt acts of randomness. 
          Personally any worries you might have I’d say you don’t need to have. I’d also have words with the DM because they shouldn’t dictate your alignment unless there are specific rule stipulations saying otherwise (i.e. paladins must be lawful good)

    • Trent Boyer

       The problem is not that your character was chaotic neutral, you probably role played it very well from the way you described him.  The problem that Spoony has and that I tend to have is that people take chaotic neutral too far and play it as chaotic randumb.  What i mean by this is that they use their alignment not to try to follow any sort of personal code like you do, they hide behind their alignment as a shield to allow them to do whatever they want.  For example, saving a group of children from a burning building only to rob them blind or try to extort money from the parents.  People try to use chaotic neutral to excuse behavior like ” I shit on the kings lap while he talks cause i totally made my stealth roll guys.”  when played right chaotic neutral is great just like any other alignment, when played wrong its terrible just like any other alignment played poorly.

      What I’m trying to say is your alignment doesn’t define how your character acts, your actions define your alignment.

      • Jonathan Pandaman Ågren

        Thanks for the reply. Yeah I understood what his problem was with them, but when he started explaining what the chaotic neutral people were like in planescape I started to doubt if I’d understood the alignments correctly.

  • Mary-Melissa Wilzewski

    I actually like the D&D Law-Chaos/Good-Evil/Neutrality alignment system – at least as a descriptor. I usually place people between

  • Paul Minogue

    These videos are fantastic. I’ve never played around a table, but have played all the Baldur’s Gate games, KOTOR, NWN etc so I can follow all the terminology at least.

    One thing has been really puzzling me though – how private are your actions in a real table game? When you talk about the Paladin catching the Thief stealing, is this theft visible to everyone? If you want to play a Thief but disguise yourself as a Fighter, can others not see you stealing and disarming traps or how does that work? Sorry for the noobish questions but this aspect is hard for me to grasp!

    • Mary-Melissa Wilzewski

      The term here is “Metagaming,” and it is a hard situation. Generally, there needs to be a difference between what you, the player, knows, and what your character knows. Metagaming, or using information the player knows but the character doesn’t, is usually viewed as cheating. It’s hard NOT to metagame, of course, and you know you’re in a good group when you watch people bang their heads against the table as they make their characters walk into what is an obvious (from the players perspective) trap.

      Best example, and one of my favorite gaming stories. My college Games Club had a drop in D&D session. One of the DMs was going as a player, and we walked into a trap the current DM had discussed with him (Neither until that moment realized the player knew about this particular the trap out of everything they’d respectively planned and discussed).
      The player-DM was a wizard, and it was a magic-based trap, so he rolled a Knowledge (Magic) to see if he’d have had a chance to have read about it. The current-DM judged he had a good enough roll to know touching the throne in the room would set off the trap, and with relief the Wizard explained to the group what was wrong.
      And just then, this tiny girl playing a thief pips up apologetically: “I just failed my will save. As he’s saying this, I go for the shinies…”

      So, to answer your question, if the players are playing RIGHT and in character, what happens “on the table” shouldn’t affect how the characters until they learn of it in-game. Failing that, you can talk with the GM and ask of certain things that you are trying to hide from the group in-game can be done privately. It’s hard to do THAT without being obvious, but again with a good group they’ll understand this is to advance the story and the game. Without a good group, though, you’re boned.

      • Paul Minogue

        Perfect explanation! I actually thought that at first but the stories are just told so well from the view of Spoony and his friends’ characters that I thought I was wrong.

  • arthurjclarkson

    Really easy ways to solve this through RP, first is having a group leader with a veto. Secondly is having a competitant DM who knows what the group can handle and removes a situation from arising. It stupid to put a situation like that to a group if you know they cant handle it or are too varied. Or they have a pre agreed solution to it. 

  • arthurjclarkson

    I think the main thing is the DM shouldnt be drawn into a debate on the rules, at all. Masking a challenge to the rules with philisophy doesnt change the nature of what their doing, trying to change the rules in their favour. It is ultimately a game, if you apply that philisophical realism to class and alignment, then why not damage ? Being stabbed through the chest and still got 20 HP so your fine, I think no! One hit kill from now on if its over a certain damage etc etc. Adventuring is deemed illegal due to its essentially cultural theft from other races. Etc etc.

    Line has to be drawn in the sand that the game is the way the game is, for a good reason. Its not open to debate on the rules under whatever guise. If the DM says no… then its a no. Alot of these issues can be solved by a DM handling them before they turn into huge arguments.

  • Devin Parker

    It was precisely because I’ve had disagreements with a lot of my fellow gamers about Alignment that I was reluctant at first to watch this video. I enjoy your videos, Spoony, and you seem like a guy I’d enjoy gaming with, so I was admittedly reluctant to discover that you were diametrically opposed to me on the subject of alignment.

    Fortunately for me, it sounds like we mostly agree. I generally like the Alignment system (especially as presented in 3.5), and I’ve tended to like it more than many people I’ve gamed with. There were, of course, one or two points where I would be strongly tempted to get drawn into an argument as you describe (generally arguments that rely on a relativistic viewpoint are ones that push my buttons), but I’ll respect your wishes and leave them be.

    I was nodding enthusiastically in agreement on several of your points. I have run the game with fellow students in college who, with a single exception, opted to play Chaotic Neutral characters simply because they didn’t want to have to wrangle with the moral implications of anything they did. *So* lame.

    And while I’ve dealt with the Prisoner Dilemma and the Paladin needing to do what he considered to be righteous, I have had far more problems in the past with the PC who was Evil then I ever did with any Paladin or Cleric. I don’t necessarily have a problem with someone who wants to play an Evil character so long as they don’t play Chaotic Stupid. Specifically, I’ve had players in my game who decided that, because another PC in the party told them not to do something evil or even just gave them a dirty look, they were going to assassinate that PC. Or they decided to punch a town guard in the face because “that’s my alignment!” I don’t have much mercy for Chaotic Stupid characters anymore.

    Gaius Baltar (Chaotic Evil), Arvin Sloane (Lawful Evil) and Jayne Cobb (Neutral Evil) are, to my mind, wonderful examples of playable Evil characters who work with the party, for the most part, and I try to point this out to my players. But at the same time, I tell such people that I’m not going to protect them from the consequences of their own actions.

    Finally, while I totally agree that an alignment debate can completely derail a game, it can also provide some of the best in-game drama. Two protagonists clashing over their conflicting moral decisions is a hallmark of good entertainment – it happens in TV shows and movies all the time. So long as you can convince your players that all such clashes need to remain in-character and in-game, I think it’s fantastic.

  • MechaVelma

    “Chaotic neurtral does not equal insane. If you can’t understand that, there’s no point in discussing the issue.”

    In other words, you can’t defend the issue. My rule doesn’t stifle creativity. It stiffles apathy. Not my problem if you too self-centered to tell the difference.

    • 13secondspastmidnight

      Who are you talking to? I’m actually not sure, because I’m having some browser issues but it looks like you’re commenting directly on the vid. Where’s the quote from? because I really would like to say a few things to the person who wrote it (insert evil laugh here).   

      • MechaVelma

        Sorry for the confusion. I was trying to reply to someone named Matrim regarding a post I made on 3/11/12 in which I posted my fix to the Chaotic Neutral problem that Spoony described.

        The post generated a couple replies from crybabies who I’ve never met, probably never will meet in my lifetime and most likely will never have the displeasure of having any of them play in any game I run, where they begged me to allow exceptions to my rule for their characters.

        • 13secondspastmidnight

          Ah. No problem. I thought it was most likely a reply to someone, but it sounded like you were quoting an excerpt from a rant commenting on the video directly, and I was rather mystified by someone directing something at Spoony that was so inherently at odds with what he’d said in the vid.

          However, I do have one thing to say about people complaining about how anyone chooses to run their game: it’s your game … End of argument. Scanning the comments I’ve come across more than one person complaining about someone else’s game and I just can’t understand the reasoning whatsoever.

          • MechaVelma

            Its because some people are so self-important that they can’t see that they aren’t as valuable to others as they are to themselves. This vanity extends to the characters they bring into any game. They honestly believe they can’t be replaced and that DMs should be clamoring to have them join their adventures.

            Which is why I took such joy to rip into them and told each one to hand in their character sheet.

          • Matrim

             Wow, hypocrisy much? It sounds more like you think your campaign is so precious that you can’t have characters in it unless you control what they do.

            And as for your “can’t defend the issue” crack. I already did defend the issue, and your response was essentially “Nuh-uh! Nya-nya-nya!” Chaotic neutral has absolutely no bearing on a person’s soundness of thought. Essentially afflicting all chaotic-neutral characters with what amounts to a confusion spell is akin to making all true neutral character be completely unable to make a decision, it’s stupid and makes no sense. Alignment is already an oversimplified mechanic, but you take it to a ridiculous level by basically turning it into the single most defining trait of the character. And if you take active pleasure in co-opting your players characters and punishing people for playing something you don’t like, well, frankly I’m shocked that you have any players at all. I suspect it’s probably due to a lack of alternatives. Because there are very few people I’ve met over the course of my gaming life who would tolerate such stupidity from a DM if they had a viable alternative.

  • dont

    I’d argue that zombies are not evil but instead chaotic neutral. Because all that supposedly matters to them is sustaining their own life through eating (be it human flesh or perhaps even animal flesh). By definition they have no will and so cannot be evil because “evil” is something deliberate, isn’t it? If you served them food on a platter I don’t think they’d necessarily opt for killing you.

    • Danniel Gregory Boltinsky

      I though the undead are always Lawful, since they have no will of their own with which to act chaotically. They are bound to be lawful in respect to their creator, even if he commands them to do something chaotic, they are being lawful by obeying him.

  • 13secondspastmidnight

    “And I know as soon as I put this video up you’re all going to start arguing alignments and it’s never gonna stop…”

    … okay, you bought this on yourself now hehehe (insert evil laugh here). Your begging has gone unheaded Spoony!

    “Asassins for a religion.” … THAT IS THE WORST IDEA EVER! In reality terms, not gaming terms.

    There are only two acts that humans can commit that I consider truly evil, without interpretation, relativity or excuse: torture for no purpose beyond the act itself; and rape. Both are just pleasure in someone else’s pain or just violating someone to give yourself pleasure with no thought of the cost to them. No justification. None. Evil act. End of story. I do not consider anyone fundamentally evil, considering their multi-faceted nature, but there are absolutely evil acts.

    Now that said. Alignments.

    I agree with Spoony.

    D&D’s a game with certain rules. Accept it and move on or compromise realistically.

    I’ll say this once: the only philosophy on life that should exist in D&D is existentialism (hehe). Good and evil are settings that you play on or move between. 


    • DominusOfTheMegadeus

      Wait wait wait…

      You’re saying there’s never a good reason for torture? I’m not gonna say torture is pure good, but come on, sometimes you gotta go gray to get the job done.

      • Cutler Fortner

         I think you’re missing the “no purpose beyond the act itself” part; 13secondspastmidnight isn’t talking about torture to get necessary information, but for pure sadism. Basically, anyone who has ever thought along the lines of “500 channels and nothing on them, guess I’ll have to make my own entertainment. Now where’d I put my blowtorch, I’m gonna get me some late-night joggers!” is probably pretty evil.

      • Jim Thorpe

        torture doesn’t work. people will say anything to stop from being tortured, because being tortured really sucks. it’s morally wrong, sure, but more importantly (from your perspective) it never produces accurate information.

  • Klarden

    Loved how the same philosophical topics behind the usual alignment arguments were “discussed” in KOTOR II – the sith lords. In SW terms, not D&D ones, obviously

  • Adam Doran

    If i ever roleplayed then i could imagine being a chaotic neutral thief who was a nobleman but was framed for a crime i didn’t commit and throne in jail to rot but then manage to escape and decides to become a theif and to “take back everything the world has stolen from me”

  • Scott

    i got into pathfinder recently with a few friends. Im a Neutral Good Rogue.. Not a theif.. A Treasure hunter. XD

  • Sebastian Proaño

    Currently I’m playing as a Deva Paladin, so Lawful Good is for me…

    It’s funny because all the rest of my party is chaotic (neutral to good) so it’s really interesting to be the only by-the-book hero in a group of antiheroes.

    Have to admit that I’ve always played (and liked) more dubious characters, those more interested in pursuit their own goals and doing the right thing is only a collateral effect, because… yeah, who wants to be the goody-good, boy-scout, take your vitamins and say your prayers nice guy, right? Why be Superman when you can be Batman?

    The thing is that, for me, it was more challenging play as a Lawful Good than other alignment, because I wanted to see if I could play it as something other than the stick in the mud, borderline fascist jerk or the wide-eyed naive hero.

    Also, Neutrals and Chaotics have a lot more room of action, they can bend rules or totally break them, thinking about the moral rammifications as a Paladin adds a lot of complexity to the game… to me at least…

    So far it’s been tons of fun, it creates a cool dynamic with the rest of he party and I got to play and write about a type of character that it’s not my usual.

    And, hell, it’s great to be Superman/Captain America/Samurai Jack/Ned Stark every once in a while.

  • Simoneer

    One of the most redundant Spoony videos of all time. Actually, one of very few redundant Spoony videos.

  • Jared

    As of when i am writing this comment, my party has not really argued about alignment and what not. Though in truth we did have a moment were my one friend put manacles on my other friends character, cause he tried to kill a sentient being and my one friends character would not stand for that. It actually ended up were there characters did fight. Nothing really happened, we were at the same time being attacked by a huge monster and i had to pull my friend with the ethics over a cliff into a river to survive and he ended up drowning. He then helped co-DM for a while and then came back as a character who put everything into bluff and could basicly tell anyone what to do, though i got out of this by stating that my character was fine with dieing lol. Anyway due to this high bluff rank my friend who had fought my other friend before ended up fighting each other again and making a moment were me, the DM and most of the rest of the group thought it to be funny as all hell.

    Anyway the video was very informative and i am glad to have more insight into what alignment’s do and are.

  • Devyn Sha-ken Kennedy

    I can agree with the arguments. I’d say it happens with my friend a lot though. However, we do it and enjoy. Also, much like Spoony said, we come to an agreement and move on. I  also do agree that alignment is more of a guide line then a set in stone thing. After all, no matter how good someone is, someone goes out and slaughters your entire colony, then that person is gonna die. Even if they surrender.

  • Blaine Bigler

    Arguments make sense, I think Alignment is kind of necessary to remind some people that they are controlling a real character, and that they can’t just be a dick for the laughs.

    With that said, I like True Neutral simply because I can say “This is what my character believes, this is what he/she wants to uphold, (In my current character’s case, protection) and he/she is liable to do something lawful, chaotic, good or evil, depending on the circumstance.”

    I’d say that removing alignments in general would only work for people who actually are into creating a character with a concrete backstory, personality, motivation, etc. Otherwise you end up with a whole party of people that want to do what they want when they want, because for some reason it’s fun to kill some imaginary NPC and laugh about it.

    • Nathan Jacob Caudill

      yeah, well said.

      the thing is, when it comes to what my characters do, i always have them think that this is the real world and how people would view you if you did this.

      i also have 2 different campaigns going on, one for the heroes one for the villains to prevent character conflicts and such.

  • Aschthebloody

    3 Inches Of Blood – Destroy The Orcs
    this song suddenly came to mind and is most likely what i’d do

  • Nathan Jacob Caudill

    This is the reason why i made the following creatures common townsfolk in my campaign: Goblins, Hobgoblins, Trolls, Orcs, Kobolds, Ogres, Minotaurs, Drow, pretty much anything that if you would take an infant of that kind of race and raise them right, then you can turn them from savage creatures into peaceful hard working townsfolk. :3

    oh and Rahkshas too.

  • Nathan Jacob Caudill

    This is the main reason why i have the following races to be common in towns and civilized areas: Ogres, Trolls, Orcs, Goblins, Hobgoblins, Minotaurs, Kobolds, Drow, pretty much any sort of race with intelligence where if you were to take an infant of any of those races, you can turn them from savage barbarians and things like that into hard working and friendly townsfolk :3

    oh and Rakshasa too.

    • Nathan Jacob Caudill

      whoops, sorry about that

  • Arthur Benjamin Carter

    So, like around the 24:20 mark, does he say both Devils and Demons are Lawful Evil? Or that Demons are both Lawful Evil and Chaotic Evil?

    • illidan4ever

      No. One is Lawful Evil and the other Chaotic Evil.

  • Alfred Pratt

    I recall a thief I was playing once. I don’t recall his name but he is by far the most fun character I ever played in Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. On paper I had him labeled Chaotic Good. As we played, however, he evolved into something completely different. Thankfully my DM was easygoing toward alignment and didn’t really restrict me. The funny part is, at the end of the campaign, we couldn’t really determine WHAT alignment best suited him.
    To describe. Firstly, he was obsessed with being a thief. He lived for the art, be it lockpicking, pickpocketing, burglary, climbing, stealth, whatever. He lived to do all the things thieves are known for doing and if he wasn’t doing one of these, at least once a day, he would start to become extremely depressed and antsy and tended to become a danger to himself. He just wanted to commit some good honest thiefy-ness. I ended up just deciding he had a need to constantly prove himself. This led to him having a hatred of rivals. Any other thief he would automatically take a dislikeing to and immediately set about a plan to get them set up and arrested, or, if that wasn’t possibe, simply bump them off. Other than rivals, he just plain didn’t take to people well.
    However, to keep his worth to the party, it was decided that when he did like somebody, it was a friend for life and he would remain devotedly loyal. What’s more, in general, he tried to do the good guy thing. He generally followed the group and would take jobs to vanquish evil.
    As a result, I finally just labeled him Neutral Evil. There’s more to him, but he is a definite example of a character who really didn’t follow any of the alignments. Not even the Chaotic Neutral because he DID have clear patterns toward right and wrong, they just crisscrossed each other regularly.

    • illidan4ever

      Neutral Evil does fit, because he does not wish to disturb balance, but everything he does has a motive, including why he’s so loyal. It could even be Lawful Evil, where the Law is what he wants.

  • Mankoi

    What’s a Paladin?

  • nunyo bizness

    This is why I wouldn’t really want to play a combat-focused character. I haven’t played pen and paper rpgs so I dunno if this is an option, but isn’t there something like bardic lore? Why not racial lore? I’d see if there was a way to enter into a blood pact with the survivors for sparing their lives (if it was something they’d honor). Orcs have culture too, right? There’s got to be a way to use it in your favor. Heck, maybe they’d owe their lives to you forever should you call on them because their lives are now yours and they are indebted to you for allowing them to live.

  • Jim Thorpe

    Death to Ability Scores (And alignments)

    • Jim Thorpe

      seriously if i’m DMing D&D i just houserule it that alignment is how you view yourself, and you could be wrong about yourself in the greater context of the world, because people often are, and I just get rid of mechanical effects of alignment. It’s too much of a crick in my dick to worry about.

      • Jim Thorpe

        “detect alignment” just gets changed to “detect intent” and the players, on a successful roll, determine if the dude is harboring hostile or dishonest intentions towards the party or the party’s allies. boom. done.

      • Jim Thorpe

        planescape’s a different story, and would use platonic ideals of alignments (which conflict with the players’ perception of their own alignments maybe, which is interesting!), but i’ve never run planescape games outside of Sigil, so…

  • Jim Thorpe

    No DM should ever say “your character wouldn’t do that.” I’m not there to play your characters for you. That’s insane!

  • Nick Rivest

    Doing the right thing is not the easy way. Yes, you take them back to town. You raise the kids yourself, because as a good person you give them the oportunity. If at 5 years of age they’re obviously genetically evil, well, cut out some hearts. Pregnant women…. I got nothing for that. Adult Orc – evil. But baby…. But doing the right, as the Jedi say, is not always the easy path. Yes, you take them back to town to face trial, even if the town is two days away. You break their fucking hands and knees and carry them if you’re afraid they’ll try to run. With Orcs though is it’s been established that they’re NOT black and white evil, and certainly not genetically. Thank you Manny Arrows Keep. They might still be JERKS. Basically think the Klingons They’re still kinda jerks. But they’re not bad people.

  • Nicholas Alexander

    I really agree with the nuance, and I play a paladin. It makes sense that a smart paladin might think, hey, these people are going to attack us. Or that, hey, surrender as they do, it’s a dishonest surrender. He could get pissed and disagree, or feel really, REALLY bad about it, but understand that it’s necessary. Good>law, I think. But yeah, I really agree with this! Solves a lot of problems. Thanks spoony!

    • Nicholas Alexander

      in fact, it might even be good for character development. A character who does something that is against his alignment could TOTALLY mentally screw with him, and make for some interesting internal conflicts. The most human characters are the ones who aren’t blindly certain in their morality. Particularly it might be interesting for paladins…

  • Nicholas Alexander

    This is actually really brilliant, and I’m glad you brought it up. I play a paladin, and when I tell people that, no one wants to play with me – exactly for that reason. But, I really like the idea of alignment as a general kind of idea. It makes MUCH more interesting characters. It’s VERY human for a character to have a believe system and not totally, blindly subscribe to it. In fact, I think it makes for very interesting paladins. A paladin who would say, I don’t agree with this, but, I understand it’s necessary, could be extremely tormented by this. And it could make for some really cool story arcs in a character. Whenever I’d play paladin, I gave my character a decent intelligence score just for this reason – so that he can reflect on his own morality, and give it some perspective. So yeah – this is awesome, and I’m going to use it!

  • Lars Caccamo

    The reason why arguments regarding alignment seem go nowhere is because people don’t understand how to reason from first principles (a = a, if ‘a’ is ‘a’ then ‘a’ cannot be ‘b’, truth is in facts not names), it’s a joke for anyone to take their own opinion seriously if they have never dedicated any time to rigorously studying a particular subject (ethics and critical thinking in this case) and utterly insulting to the people who have. The entire alignment system in role-playing games is incredibly naive and unrealistic at its core, far too vague and subjective. This means
    it’s impossible for either side to address each other’s arguments and thus facilitate any kind of rational debate.

  • Patrick Allen

    The alignment system is more of a guideline than actual rules.

    • Patrick Allen


  • alvaro oyarte

    woah! that was a long video & a very interesting theme that you would discuss but you shouldn’t but yeah the Alignment should be a moral guide not a rule-set with level dropping & stuff

    also that’s not the first question, is the third, the first is “Doctor Who?” & the second is “Why the f**k Doctor? he never practice any medical thing in the show XD” but yeah the “what’s absolute evil/good”

  • Malicious Insect


  • Jegsimmons

    On the assassin part, assassin can be defined as someone who kill targets for either good, neutral, or bad parties, they can be all three.
    and they can either bee mercs, crazy, or lawful, or have their own agenda.
    so in reality, assassins can be in any alignment based on who and why they kill.

    personally i pick chaotic neautral because im just getting into it and it lets me define my character how he/she wants to act it various situations. it really depends.
    cop out, yeah, but then again….whatever.

  • asshole mcbunns

    the cowardly leader : kill him outright … he made alot of people die for his cause, and now he is being lame, kill him, … like samurai? would kill themselves if their subordinates lost.

    most helpless: let them go, you are being just… if they turn you in, or be hostile at you, they are not being just … justice is on your side, justice will help you out automatically …. …you gotta have faith in that justice is on your side, and it will help you. … this is sage advice, its said something like this in the tao te ching :) :)

  • Alex Stockwell

    “The Joker blew up my girlfriend, I’m dropping the motherfucker!”

  • Thomas Atchley

    You know Spoony, with all that mention of “it’s always the Paladin” that’s probably why in 4th edition they changed it so Paladins could be any alignment depending on what god they follow. Probably one of the better bits of 4th ed. Although if you think that goes against how a Paladin should be, well I guess you can enjoy it constantly instigating arguments of how to deal with these situations you’re presenting.

  • Jonesy89CFPD

    I have to agree with you on this one; it really does baffle me how people can view alignment in so limiting a fashion. I just created a Lawful Good Inquisitor for Pathfinder, but while he does hold firmly to the code of his faith and the notion of Good, he is one of the most horrifying characters I have run across in my short stint in RPGs who embodies the darkest side of that particular alignment. This is a guy who got sold on the idea that in order to tip the scales in the favor of Good in the event of Armageddon, it is required of him and his fellow inquisitors to try to diminish if not obliterate the forces of Neutral so that there will be fewer Neutral people in the end times who will either swing to the side of Evil or just stand by and let Evil win (very much a Bush kind of mentality), even if it means playing incredibly dirty pool to do it, including but not limited to lying, stealing, and murdering, and believes in it so much that he killed his own father in furtherance of a conspiracy to discredit the remainder of the church of Aroden and all other Neutral gods, framing the deceased leaders for being in league with the fucking devil himself in order to drive people to the side of Good; should they go Evil, though, then it’s open season on them.

  • Totem of Low Bap

    Idk, the prisoner dilemma was always an easy one for me.

    step 1.
    Suggest the group rests a night and leaves a guard on the prisoners.

    step 2.
    Take a break for 15 minutes or (ideally) for a day/week/’till next time.

    step 3.
    Set up an encounter with a monster that is relatively easy for the group to kill,
    but set it up for the 3rd guard post (between 02:00 and 04:00 at night).

    step 4.
    Have the monster butcher the prisoners in one round, while the guard alerts the group.

    step 5.
    You just got rid of the prisoner dilemma, and you also have a deep-in-the-night surprise encounter.

  • Roger Gonzalez

    I think Dr.Doom considers himself evil…..but only because he knows every one else thinks he’s evil and doesn’t really care either way.

  • Evan Taber

    Hey uh, would like to say about Paladins: I played a Paladin in DnD before who A: wasn’t a Zealous butt face and B: Didn’t just go “I’m good, you’re evil so KABLAM”. He was understanding that not every person in the world believed or acted like he would and NEVER killed unless they attacked first or it was defending the innocent.

    You can complain about Paladins, but know They aren’t all bad :)

    And that there’s more than one way to play one (I’m looking at you, Stubborn killjoy Paladins…..)

  • BHGOzzy

    I’m currently playing a Paladin of Iomedae in the campaign I’m in. Oh but it gets more complicated than JUST a Paladin. The guy’s a PRINCE of his nation, so he’s even MORE restricted in what he can do because his actions have serious consequences. Then there’s the situation where he lost his fiancee` at a young age (He was betrothed to a foreign princess at age 14), which prompted him to seek a path of vengeance and take up the mantle of a Paladin of Justice to help bring the murderer of his fiancee` to justice. (This is a Pathfinder game by the by)

    He’s messed up in the head and considers his job a suicide mission, but still accepted the mantle of Paladin and follows his Order’s laws to the best of his abilities. He’s more on the Good side of things than the Lawful, because he’ll attempt to FIX a problem and prevent it from happening again rather than just mete` out harsh punishments for every infraction. If a man steals bread to feed his family, my Paladin would help the man find a job, possibly with the baker he wronged, so that he CAN feed his family and the Baker doesn’t get robbed again. He protects the downtrodden, the innocent and upholds the spirit of the law rather than the letter of it. There was even one point where his hands where tied but he still hinted to the rest of the group that THEY weren’t as tied up as he was metaphorically, and that if THEY acted, then he’d be “forced” to help them. He WANTED to do the right thing but his crown and his oath would’ve prevented it.

    The guy has also done some pretty insane things simply because he doesn’t care if he lives or dies (like beating an Orcish Warchief in personal combat who was at least two levels above him) and will happily charge into combat to aid his friends and companions. Sometimes the Paladin can be a damn interesting character, it’s all about what motivates someone to do what they do.

    Oh, and he’s in love with the female thief of the party :D

  • Alex Dunn

    Generally, the biggest argument I ever had about alignment was with a player who was a Lawful Evil Drow Monk. Shit got bad.

    At one point, these guards were arresting these kids for a crime they didn’t commit. We realized it, but the guards didn’t. Her character, having realized the kids were telling the truth about their innocence, decided that these guards were breaking the law and that she wanted to talk to the kids because we needed to hunt down the people who committed the evil and kill them. Thusly, she went to punch the guards. Being a Monk, she must remain lawful. We all pretty much immediately went,
    “Umm, that’s not Lawful.” We argued for like a half an hour with her until she finally agreed not to attack them, but she felt until the very end that she would’ve been within her right as an Evil character to attack them.

    I argued with her a lot, but that was just for picking an Evil character. She would always be like, “I’m playing in alignment!” and I would be like, “Yeah, and you chose to be an evil character who ACTIVELY doesn’t do what we want! That’s just annoying and you chose it, so I’m annoyed!” It got bad.

  • Wes McLean

    Mage: Why didn’t you speak up more? We just killed a bunch of orc children. You’re clearly not happy, why didn’t you stick up for your morals?
    Paladin: Everyone else in the party wanted to do it. What was I going to do, turn against my friends and allies? You are wrong, but the world is a better place for your existence. I don’t need to police your actions. You’re not why I took up the sword against evil.


    Thief: Why don’t you have a problem when I steal things?
    Paladin: I’m an empowered avenger of a divine force beyond your comprehension. Why would I waste my time on a cutpurse? There are rapists, murderers and tyrants out there.

    Just two ways to solve traditional paladin dilemmas. I frequently play paladins, and rarely have those kinds of arguments. I have, however, argued with DMs that have a problem with me not “portraying my alignment” , but unfortunately pragmatism and utilitarianism don’t easily fall within the given scale.

  • Andrew Hussey

    One COULD concievably, if looking at the worry of them giving posision and “letting them go” satisfies find some way to knock them unconscious for a long enough period to leave. Leave a cage with a length of rope that will burn through in about a day as the release (though you’d have to have someone with the skills to build a cage that would hold them, if I remember there’s a wizard spell called forcecage, there’s a Permanency spell, surely it wouldn’t be tough to work out (if there’s no such thing) an “extention” spell that makes the cage last 10 minutes per level and flash out.

    Down side here is those spells aren’t little spells, I think you need to be 10 or 11 in level to know them. Frankly, I’ve found that if an argument with more voting one way it should be an unspoken from the beginning, majority rules in such cases…a democratic approach. If it’s completely even I’ve seen parties start making roles in either int/cha whichever is higher each time an argument is made and best out of 5 has had success in convincing the characters through the sheer force of the argument in terms of INT, and the sheer force of their charismatic will (bards would have a hell of an advantage here with their diplomacy skills). But then I’ve only seen that approach once, it worked but the group was generally reasonable, they wouldn’t kill each other or break up the group over that.

    Hell, you could even just say “alright, this is getting idiotic, you all engage in rock paper scissors in two’s, the winner does so with the other winner and so on…whoever comes out on top, their decision will be instituded due to his arguments overcoming the other. *shrug* random ideas…probably wouldn’t solve it all, but it worked well in the group I saw use it.

  • Nathan Jacob Caudill

    i teared up from your story. i imagined your character pretty much with tears in his eyes by the end, burdened heavily with guilt from taking her life trying to drown out the emotions with a good bottle of whiskey.

    that is the sign of a true hero :,)

  • Nagneto Lives

    I would think in the right kind of group this would be a very memorable encounter, especially if it came to inter party combat.

  • Kevin Kelly

    so i playedmy first RPG tonight and i have to say after watching a few of your videos i actually used a few things that you thought me in your videos and i just wanted to say thank you beacuse the people I played with were impressed so yeah thanks a lot. i love your vids keep up the good work man

  • Jayodi

    So, here’s my alignment adventure, and the reason I refuse to play with paladins. Ever.:
    A couple of months ago, I finished a campaign run by my buddy. My party has a CG bard, a NN druid, a CN rogue, a LG paladin, a CG fighter, and then me, a neutral evil wizard. Of course, I keep my alignment secret, to the point where I managed to convince the DM to give me a cloak of conceal alignment, because the Paladin is clearly starting to get suspicious, and eventually he’s going to try using Detect Evil around me. The only thing that’s managed to hide it, prior to that, was I agreed with him a couple sessions prior to that one about not killing a group of sorcerors who surrendered, because they belonged to the same secret society bent on world domination as I. They “mysteriously escaped” the same night. Now, the campaign is D&D 3.X, and it has a few homebrew rules – namely, I have a spell that’s essentially a more effective, scaling Mirror Image spell given to me by my God. This spell creates copies of me, and enemies have to pass a will check when I use it. If they fail, not only do they believe that the copies are real, but the copies can actually hurt them. Experience is divided up based on who contributed most to the fight. So, as would be expected, I level up considerably faster than the rest of the party. By the end of the campaign, I’m about 30 levels higher than anyone else. Of course, this presents a wonderful opportunity for the DM – he makes ME his final boss. Now, there have been hints throughout the game that I’m NE. My character takes pleasure in killing, thirsts for power, and doesn’t really pay much heed to the law/chaos binary. And, you know, spent the entire campaign lying through his teeth in order to get ahead.

    Now, the Paladin has been a jerk the whole way through the campaign. His backstory was that it was his destiny to fight some supreme evil that threatened the world, so right off the bat, he’s an egotist(and a Luke Skywalker clone). Plus, the guy who plays him is a jerk to begin with, hating spellcasters, so he makes a point to voice his biases through his character. He’s turned the rogue in to the authorities four times for stealing, harassed everyone for not worshipping his God, and he even killed off the fighter for a quip about it (citing blasphemy) By the end of the campaign, the rest of the group is fed up with him, so, at the point of the grand reveal, the druid and the rogue defect to my side, and we wipe him. The guy who played the Paladin won’t play any campaigns with me, the DM, or the guy who played the rogue ever again.

  • Priscilla Kennedy-Pike

    train the babys as pets, kill everything else

    • Rakkrakk

      Pets? Orcs a fucking sentient.

  • Haakon Løtveit

    I think that it might be interesting to look at clerics from two different lawful good deities from Greyhawk and how they would handle the Prisoner Dilemma:

    Pholtus: They are evil, and their very existence is an insult to Pholtus! Smite to the head!

    Heironeus: Killing women and children? People who have surrendered? ARE YOU INSANE?

    And yeah, I can totally see the Heironean defending the Orcish women to the death. Because it’s what’s right to do. And if it costs him his life, then so be it. It’s just the price you pay for doing the right thing.

    I can also totally see the Pholtian killing his allied priest, the women the children, and then burning them while singing about what a glorious deed he’s done.

    I can’t quite see the roles reversed, but a Pholtian doesn’t HAVE to kill them of course. (A Cleric of Heironeus cannot kill women, children and prisoners and expect to not be hit for his hp + 11 lightning damage though. That’s in the Player’s Handbook even. You would at that point violate all the three main clauses of the church.)

  • KOstantinos Piou ELeftheriadis

    i had this happen to me..and i went like…have you ever seen goku was sent to weak earth planet to destroy when he grows up..and he ended up the protector super sayan…lol..
    i won the argument :-|

  • Robocon2

    I’ve been designing a system of alignment based on a character’s actions. A karma system, but both sides have perks and penalties associated with both of them.

  • Ilja Hietamies

    This kind of thing can be avoided by having a consept of sin in the game. Because that’s what it is, u act agaisnt ur aligment ~ therefore u do sin.
    But sin to what? Ur aligment? No, pick a deity who’s morales fit to characters own aligment and when u act against ur character, u do sin to ur god. And the god is the judge for u

  • Yuri PRIME

    I always used to treat Alignment as kind of reputation. When group was out doing their adventures, etc. and were absolutly free to change alignments however they wish, without ANY kind of punishment. But! When they became more and more famous and recognized, higher with levels, etc. And did a lot of evil shit, the next time they came back to town guards were waiting for them saying “We won’t let you in… We don’t want the types like you in our city…” What you gonna do? Fight them? Nope. You’re done. that’s the punishment for doing stupid shit, killing everyone just like that and switching Alignments too easily. Now on the scale of lawfull and chaotic, they had their rep too. If chaotic, they weren’t trusted, if lawfull, they were treated more like Mafia. You can’t enter Neverwinter anymore, but when you find yourself in some cutthroat city of crime? You got a rep there and people all of a sudden respect you.

  • Shitatsu Kotsuouji

    Alignments aren’t that bad, if it’s seen as a loose direction to go. (After all, you have just the nine extreme-positions)

  • David Baer

    While watching this video and talking with my roleplaying friend, I was struck with an idea for my next campaign:

    I will have every player choose 2 alignments. The first is how their character has chosen to live their life and how they will act on a day-to-day basis. The second represents their reaction to extreme situations, such as the threat of imminent death. For example, a paladin who believes he must live to fight another day, sacrificing the moment for a lifetime of good can have neutral or even evil as his secondary, while another paladin may have the same dedication underneath as he does on the surface and will gladly give his life if it is required of him, trusting another to carry on his work.

    With this system, it could actually be fun to enforce alignment more strictly, since it’s still within the player’s decision. That’s what I consider to be the bright side of alignment: it encourages players to make a plan and stick to it. By forcing them to respect their character’s wishes even when it’s tough, it makes the character more tangible, like they exist in their own right separate from the player.

    There are two approaches to every broken system: either try to replace it, or try to fix it. I’m a fixer sort of GM, most of my campaigns feature house-rules, sometimes significantly altering the flow of the game.

  • Sabine Vecchio

    Recently, we had our own prisoner dilemma in the game I’m in. We had a goblin who we hadn’t killed in combat and we were trying to get information out of him. After it was clear he wouldn’t say anything, a few of our group decided to torture him. Probably the worst thing they could have done, horrifying the rest of the party (and players) AND ensuring that the goblin would not speak to us at all. After that we argued with what to do with him (especially since for a while before that we had had a goblin, Pip, who we had sort of adopted as a part of our party… which was weird and endearing, and he helped fill the gap of us needing a rouge/thief). I can’t actually remember what we did with him, but I THINK we let him go. Of course, he ran and got the half-dragon who was the big-bad for the first part of our campaign, but that got us reunited with Pip in the most epic way possible so it was kind of an upside…? We’re kind of going through a sort of campaign where even the “bad guys” aren’t bad, and there’s a bigger bad guy behind it all.

  • Chuster M. Merino

    Player: What if we raise these orcs and then use them as suicide-bombers, Spoony?
    Spoony: Ahm… check your morality and see if you can do that according to your question.
    Player: Mmm… Lawful Good.
    Spoony: Of course you can´t!. You´re a paladin!
    Player: … What´s a paladin?

  • Cooper Crump

    In my opinion, the premises that Paladins have to be “Lawful Good” is kind of… Unfitting? Hear me out on this. A priest that dedicates his life to the worship of his respected deity, one that is understanding and slow to anger, is Lawful Good.

    A cleric armed with enough weapons to bring down a Sentinel hell-bent on purging the world of anything even remotely evil, one that is not afraid to wade through hundreds of bodies, isn’t what I’d personally consider “Lawful Good”. Sure, they’re doing their job in the name of their deity, but you’d have to have slight chaotic tendencies to just activate a killswitch the second you hear ‘evil’.

    Might just be the Paladin’s I’ve played with though…

  • josh martyn

    easy way to kill the orcs LG character just says “I AM THE LAW” and kills them before they say anything else.

  • SanCheck

    I want to say the last time I played in something that had an alignment I was a chaotic neutral cleric, because she followed a trickster god. I don’t really like the alignment system, I think that is why I like Cthulhu.

  • Anthony William Faria

    I personally prefer the alignment/morality system you get from Dragon Age Origins the best. There is none. Granted I don’t like plays doing whatever whenever for no good reason (as Spoony mentioned with Chaotic Neutral), but since I tend to play with friends I trust them not to do that and it is just personally a pet peeve of mine to be put under a label, be given or docked points for acting a certain way etc.

    In the end each person and character looks at a situation differently, they have different outlook on it, they have different values, priorities and motivations for what they do and I personally do not like trying to lump such open issues into categories. In fact I personally like such philosophical questioning, even in d&d as long as players know not to let it turn into a giant argument.

    But to be perfectly honest, the group I’m currently in actually pokes fun at alignment conflicts and benefits from it. For example I was a Chaotic Evil Barbarian/Fighter Orc. Another person was a Lawful Good Cleric, the first thing we did when meeting was fight. Our characters have fought countless times in the adventure, but we are on the same quest and work together because in the end we share a common goal and we honestly took our alignment clash and turned it into more of a rivalry which has provided us with many amusing situations and tales to tell. So really, I’ve found it’s best to just not to deep into alignments and just have fun with it, like Spoony was largely saying in this video.

  • Christopher Stratton Smith

    I think pointing to the Monster Manual and merely saying “They’re evil!” is kinda stupid. I mean, I can understand being pragmatic and not wanting to leave enemies alive in order to prevent ambushes etc. but simply pointing at their alignment in a book is imho using meta-knowledge in the worst way.

  • Christopher Stratton Smith

    I’ve gotta say that while I’ve been watching Counter Monkey, Spoony has seemed like one of the best DMs I’ve seen/heard of. I love the fact that he doesn’t hold the PCs’ hands too much but still acts fairly. I also love how he sees valid points in every alignment. So many DMs I know just either reaaally frown upon anything that might stray away from good _or_ they quite explicitly endorse evil and just basic douchebaggery. Personally, I don’t believe in such as thing as good or evil but they’re useful tools for describing very basic levels of self-interest in RPGs.

  • vheugito2

    id raise the babies. :)

  • Justin MacFarlane

    this happened today with me except it was over paying a toll to a group of wolves led by a worg. one of our players wanted to fight straight away because he was roleplaying and thats when the bard who was trying to talk down the worg started to throw the retard insult and then the argument starts. that argument caused the DM to punish us by not giving us a choice by saying that the baddies got impatient and moved into attack position. which pissed off the bard i was really getting annoyed at the bard who was just being an ass to the roleplayer who then went off at the bard for continuosly calling him a retard

  • Braedon Grove

    It was my first time DMing a game of 3.5 and we almost lost our dwarf fighter to the prisoner debate before we even started the actual game. A warmup encounter where he wanted to keep an unconscious wolf as a pet and then the halfling jumped out of a nearby tree and stabbed it with a dagger. I lol’d so hard when he did it but holy crap was the other guy pissed.

  • Kit Balay

    I’ve got to disagree with the whole “Chaotic Neutral” thing.

    I know the AD&D PHB tells us that it’s the alignment of madmen, but honestly, it doesn’t have to be like that.

    Take Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly, for instance. At the beginning of the series he’s hardened and doesn’t particularly care about other people outside of his crew. He’s lost his faith, he’s on the run from the law and he’s only happy when people leave him alone – which is rare. The only people in the ‘verse he cares about are his crew – the people closest to him. Mal sees rules and regulations as being constraints and tries to run from them, and he’s got no problems kicking a helpless prisoner into a jet turbine if the prisoner is acting like a jerk or threatens him and his. Mal’s got a conscience and a sense of honor, but it’s all very personal and it doesn’t involve playing by another man’s set of rules. It’s only by the end of the movie that he’s willing to sacrifice for those who aren’t a part of his group, and die for what he believes in, which is freedom.

    What we see throughout the series and the movie is a transformation of a character from Chaotic Neutral to Chaotic Good.

  • Roberto Filho

    to me if i am role playing i would argue if a being can think on any level he or she or it is capable of good redemption evil or betrayl so we tell these orcs to grab the women and babys and goes somewere and not harm anyone but if we hear of orcs killing around the area we hunt them down and kill them

  • Zipper Dragon

    My DM (Old dm) BS’ed me. He changed my alignment because I saved my team mate, & I was Neutral evil. Heres what happened.
    We were on a mission to kill this homedude named Richker Blays. He was a lord. So he calls up a meeting because SOMEBODY (Me) burned down a hospital. So we attack him there & he is about to kill one of our squad. I protected her. The DM is like STOP!
    Me: What?
    DM: You saved Steph.
    Me: So?
    DM: Your Neutral evil.
    Me: I refer you to my previous question…So?
    DM: You’re character wouldn’t do that.
    Me: Umm yes he would.
    DM: He is evil, he wouldn’t risk his life to save anyone.
    Me: In game, my character is infactuated with Steph’s. Besides, she has a huge bluff, & barter skill, there by saving him money. Money is all my thief cares about. (Let the ‘not that kind of thief jokes begin.) Therefore, he would protect her.
    DM: I’m changing you Neutral good.
    Me: That’s bullshit! I have a good reason to save her.
    (So, idk, you guys tell me if I’m right or wrong.)

    • Tab

      Even if it was against your alignment to save her, to have a DM just decide on a single instance that you need an alignment change so drastic as to change to literally the exact opposite alignment on the grid, then it’s the DM abusing his power. Repeated offenses are necessary to change anyone’s alignment, and it had better be a lot of damn big offenses to warrant such a drastic change. That’s the kind of DM you should be walking out on.

    • jdreyfuss

      You acted purely out of self interest. You saved her for two reasons: because your character has a crush on her, and because your character sees her as useful. I didn’t hear any good reasons in there, like whether she deserved to die or whether the situation called for it. At best that’s true neutral and shouldn’t affect your alignment, but I’m inclined to say it fits with NE, since your character only saved her because he wanted her alive and not because he felt she deserved to live.

  • Zipper Dragon

    Palidan: Turn yourself in
    Theif: No
    Palidan: Yes.
    Theif: Can I ask you somthing?
    Palidan: What?
    Theif: What’s a palidan.
    Palidan: A high ranking knight, basicly. Now turn yourself in.
    Theif: No
    Palidan: Why not?
    Theif: I’m not that kind of theif.

    • Tab

      Thief: You’re in my way, Sir.

  • Tab

    There was a prestige class in third edition called The Avenger, which is a good version of the Assassin prestige class from the DMG. I’d recommend you check it out if the good assassin thing ever comes up in-game again, but you play 4E now anyway so that’d be kinda pointless. Maybe someone else here will find this useful, I dunno.

  • Zipper Dragon

    What’s a paladin?
    I would say he’s a buzzkill, but I’m not that kind of theif.

  • Zipper Dragon

    Most of my group as signs basicly saying ‘I wuz heer.’ Some carve a symbol into a wall, or leave stuff…My ex leaves a black rose. My theif…He’s not that kind of theif, He blows shit up.
    *Guy comes home to find his entire house blown up, & his chest sitting exactly where it was. He thanks the gods, & opens it, revealing it was empty, other than a bomb. My theif lets out his war cry as the guy plows up. Adding insult to injury, he loots the body.*

  • Mitch Gamburg

    What you do with assassins ( cause they are cool) is change their alignment! make them . . . i dunno . . . chaotic neutral. That would make sense. right . . . ?

  • Norman Stillwell

    Turn orcs into horses, ride them back into town, change them back to normal, turn them into the authorities.

  • Alice White

    I realize Spoony is not talking about the mathematical concept of the “Prisoner’s Dilemma” (which would be a situation of forced low Nash Equilibrium payoffs) since it was completely off topic; however, I do want to make the correction that a dilemma is not a number of ‘n’ choices that are difficult/problematic. It is specifically 2 choices and only two choices. No more, no less, and no connotation about whether they are difficult or easy, or morally gray. In the case of PCs and alignment, what you really have is multiple answers (at least 9, given that nine alignments exist) are possible. Just a friendly correction since I know Spoony likes to be as accurate as possible, and might appreciate it. Though, it can sometimes enter payoff tragedy when alignments clash.

  • TrueAmericanReject

    This is my Paladin defense for things like the baby orcs thing, if most of the group decide to kill them your character grimly and silently walks outside the door and turns his back to the scene, also mention when you hear the knife slitting a throwt or someone cry out or scream, say tears flow from your characters face and you pray for there souls. And that is my old paladin defense of remaining good, but also avoid killing the game.

  • Johnathon Jennings

    well I am not quite sure if its relevant for all versions but I like how pathfinder says your alignment doesn’t completely judge how you act

    • Daniel Tilson

      Base alignment on personality, not the other way around. This is how it should be in all games.

  • Daniel Tilson

    In all editions but 4th (so far) paladins were lawful good, and only lawful good. Any other alignment causes them to lose all powers, as does willfully allowing, or committing evil or dishonorable acts.

  • Daniel Tilson

    “Your character probably wouldn’t do that.”

    The DM should never step in this way, however, they should take note of how many evil vs good things and chaos vs law things that the character does, and force them to change the alignment on their character sheet accordingly.

    And if they start out good, and then alternate between good things and evil things? Make them neutral, and don’t let them change back unless they really work at being genuinely good.

  • kamrom dechu

    Fighting Demons is so much simpler. You can point to the book and say “It says right there: Not just Evil, but ALWAYS Evil! Always!”

  • kamrom dechu

    Those orphans had it coming.

  • kamrom dechu

    “Why did you burn down the orphanage?” “Seemed like a good idea at the time. I admit, it got a little out of hand.”

  • Daniel Tilson

    Just sayin… Orcs are listed as “Often Chaotic Evil.” Meaning they have the potential to be any alignment, but the majority of them will be evil as hell.

    So yea… The babies in the first example could be raised to be good if you could find a family for them. The adults could possibly become good or neutral given the chance.

  • dm3588

    Regarding your theory that chaotic evil means insane, I once played a CN barbarian for that very reason. Not because I wanted to be able to do anything I wanted, but because I wanted him to be legitimately, certifiably insane. He was on the good side of neutral and wouldn’t burn down an orphanage to get at a fleeing thief, but he might convince the orphans to drive the thief out by smashing the place up a little or by bribing the orphans with ice cream and puppies, or he might get distracted by a butterfly and forget about the thief entirely. During an interrogation, he might rough you up, he might give you a haircut, or he might decide that you have a really pretty mouth… Seriously, I can think of at least three occasions where my DM let me skip the Intimidation roll entirely because I threatened to get “seductive” on the (male) prisoners. I never actually laid a hand on any of them, but all three immediately gave me everything from the mastermind’s address to their mothers’ maiden names. He was a gentleman, though, and never raised a hand against a woman. Not even if that woman was a ruthless assassin hellbent on killing him right this minute. And of course, wearing clothing was entirely optional at any given time.

    • dm3588

      *chaotic NEUTRAL, not chaotic evil.

      • Daniel Tilson

        My barbarian was actually quite civilized… Most of the time…

        He was soft spoken, well groomed, reasonably handsome. He dressed appropriately in towns, took care of his weapons, and actually semi-scholarly… And then monsters showed up and he started foaming at the mouth and flew into a murderous rage.

        He was so much fun. Most assumed he was just another fighter who, for whatever reason, wore light armor instead of plate.

      • Rakkrakk

        Your barbarian was a lot, but he certainly wasn’t one-dimensional. :D

  • Furrama

    I’d take two younglings with me as hostages. I’d take care of them until I was ready to leave the area for good, then quietly return them to their mothers.

  • Otto Torrens

    He’d be neutral to chaotic good, he seeks revenge and punishment against people who wrong him, his country, or his organization. He goes about this (depending on the film/Bond) with various methods, from slow careful precision to busting down the door and shooting anything that moves. Look at The Living Daylights where, instead of killing the ‘KGB sniper’ he instead only destroys their gun, or he frees the man who turns out to be Mujahideen and asks their help not just for revenge but also cause it will help their people.

  • ArcturusV .

    You know, I’ve done the “Your character wouldn’t do that, Alignment” bit before as a DM. But I usually reserve that for when some Player ends up doing something like wearing the Helm of Opposite Alignment. Because, hell you’re Lawful Evil now, it’s a compulsion and you should reflect that rather than still being the Heroic Rebel and Vagabond without ties to anything, etc.

    But that’s really the exception that I bust that sort of thing out. And even then I don’t do it too often. Because… why would anyone have that sort of item? Only ever once in a blue moon. But sometimes it came up when you were cribbing things from a module like Keep on the Borderlands, etc. Oddly that sort of thing never went too badly with my players. Not a lot of kicking and screaming. Some grumbling but good natured grumbling.

    But mostly I try to downplay it. I mean it’s a roleplaying tool… but alignments in character just tend not to come up THAT much until you are dealing with cosmology, Hell, the Abyss, the Seven Heavens, etc, etc, etc. And by the time you got to the point where you’re feeling like kicking down the door to Hell, most people have an idea what they are alignment wise. They WANT to act that way because they want to be able to go call down the Wrath of Good against some Archdevil or Demon Lord, etc.

    I don’t know, it’s one of those things I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about Alignment. It’s something that has never been a problem in my groups though. I wonder why. Well, with the exception of Chaotic Neutrals because of the fact that alignment was (Back in the day when I first started really playing a lot in ADnD) literally defined as “Batshit insane, incapable of any rational thought” in every definition, every example of the alignment. And generally most I saw going Chaotic Neutral just wanted to play Chaotic Evil but not have Paladins hunting them down. I dunno. It’s weird. Not arguing, just stating my experiences, and why discussions like your video here are interesting to me. It’s a view on subjects I never really spent too much time thinking of, and making me wonder if I want to twist things for future games.

  • Brett

    My solution to the prisoner dilemma (particularly the orc scenario Spoony brings up) would be to try and think it over rationally. Going on assumptions and/or knowledge about orc culture, and thinking about it from the perspective of the captured orcs, what are REALLY the odds that letting them go would come back to bite us?

    The pregnant/nursing orc women probably aren’t getting very far, if they’re even in shape to stand up and walk. Would the orc bodyguards that surrendered abandon them for the sake of revenge, either on their own or with another orc party? Are orcs so evil that their culture would demand a pursuit of vengeance, even at the cost of future generations?

    If the answer is no, then these orcs will probably stay behind to look after the pregnant/nursing mothers, giving us plenty of time to leave the area and ensuring our trail goes cold before we can do anything.

    If the answer is yes, I would probably injure one of them when they surrendered-not fatally, but in a way to ensure that he was a deadweight to the other orc, meaning that if his buddy was foolish enough to seek vengeance on his own, he wouldn’t stand a chance. Furthermore, if they WOULD have abandoned the women and babies to find another war party, the odds of a single orc surviving long enough to locate another tribe are far less than if they had ventured out on the search together.

    The best that one orc can do is hunt and gather food for the women and children and his injured comrade, meaning that our trail goes cold long before they can do anything. And as long as they have that chance of survival, then my character would go with that as the best solution.

  • Zefram Mann

    I really get the impression a lot of people don’t really get the whole alignment thing. Good vs evil, as I read into it, is basically just supposed to be a measure of how much empathy you had, how much you generally cared for others. Lawful vs chaotic was just impulse-control. How willing you were to reign in or act on your instincts vs society’s expectations.

    Chaotic Neutral does not automatically mean Deadpool, people. It basically means the person has no regard for the law or societal norms, or generally what others thinks of him or how he acts, but cares for others well-being, just not necessarily more than his own.

    Just my opinion.

  • MisterMars

    i once played a one-time-only 3.5 game (I’d gone without an RPG for over a year, it was a mercy mission) in which the party – my CN human fighter, a CN part-dragon wizard, a CN halfling rogue, and a NG human cleric of Pelor.

    The second thing that happened in the campaign is that we were hired by the local conspiracy theorist to investigate the smoke coming from a nearby abandoned manor in the woods near the town. Also, a zombie had stumbled into town not long ago and knocked over the jobs board where she posted her ad – it didn’t hurt anyone, and just stood there as it was killed.

    So, my group investigated by, basically, knocking on the door. It was opened by a skeleton in mage robes. A Lich.

    Here’s the thing; this Lich had found a way to make his phylactery…his own corpse. He was a largely harmless researcher into the magical arts – even the zombies and skeletons that were around the place were old colleagues who volunteered their remains to his research.

    As the wizard and the Lich chatted about magic, my fighter and the rogue roamed the wine cellar (good vintages, completely abandoned) and the cleric sat there and bitched about letting this lich hang around. “They’re evil!”
    This was the protest of the character, not the player, by the way. The player was fine with it.

    So, my fighter made the suggestion that the cleric go outside if he objected to the sight of such abominations. I got roleplaying XP for it. That was cool.

    Don’t know how relevant it is, but I like that story.

  • Krolan

    Oh god. I’m gonna give an opinion on alignment…

    First: I
    disagree with the notion that neutral is “essentailly selfinterest”. No.
    Selfinterest is evil, “extreme selfinterest” is “extremely Evil”. If
    you kill a person to get his belongings it’s extemely evil, but if you
    do it because you need that money/stuff you’re still evil but not
    extreme. Essentially as soon as you let someone else suffer so you don’t
    have to suffer or can get into better circumstances it’s evil.

    Good fights Evil. Good kills or sentences death to evil or what it
    consideres evil. Evil kills good and neutral and evil. Though Chaotic
    evil is more likely to kill beings of all alignments than lawful or
    neutral evil.

    Third: I though really long and really hard about
    “Neutral/Neutral” and here i disagree with that “they don’t care”
    picture you present. No. They *might* not care. They are maybe even more
    likely to not care. But if a neutral being on the Good/evil axes wants
    something than it’s a thing called “peace”. Good does want peace too,
    but only for the good, accepting Neutral. In Goods opinion, Evil must
    perish for there to be peace. Good would never conclude that it needs
    Evil to even be considered Good or that what it calls Evil might not
    even be that but rather a part of the world which must be accepted.
    Neutral on the otherhand does neither want Evil nor Good to be Dead or
    wants both dead (because then there only remains neutral, the path which
    good follows). Neutral might agree that peace is more likely to occur
    if there’s only Good and Neutral instead of Neutral and Evil. Neutral
    would more likely prefer if Evil and Good would stop fighting each
    other, accept that their different and remain in their own circle of
    either good or evil people.
    Good’s answer to Evil killing off
    Good/Neutral is always doing the same. Which is pretty strange. Good
    never seems to try and find a different solution than to take revenge on
    Evil or wanting it to perish, since Evil mostly “starts the fight” and
    otherwise isn’t considered Evil. If Evil does nothing bad and Good would
    go after it regardless even Good itself would doubt itself to be good.

    I picture neutral not in the middle between Good and evil, but in the
    middle and to the side. Neutral is not necessarily defined by the
    existing Good and Evil. Neutral could be there even if Good and Evil was
    not, which cannot be said for either of the others. If Good perishes,
    Neutral becomes the new Good, if Evil perishes, Neutral becomes the new
    Evil (or let’s just call it “most evil in existance, since they are not
    Good and Evil is gone”).

    Neutral minus “l” and scrambled around amounts to “nature”. This has no significance though :P

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