Eberron in Houston
This is for any questions regarding “How do I act within my alignment?”. Within every alignment there is a range of personalities and beliefs, no one should feel chaotic evil can ONLY be played this way, or lawful good ONLY that way.
Good: A good character intentionally puts his own quality of existence at risk with the express purpose of improving the quality of another’s existence.
Neutral: A neutral character does not feel driven to help others, or at least not to risk themselves in doing so, but has some compunctions about hurting others.
Evil: An evil character will worsen the quality of another’s existence with little to no regard for that fact, despite an awareness of their actions.
Lawful: A lawful character behaves regularly and according to a code of conduct, which may be philosophical, social, moral or a mix of these or other elements.
Neutral: A neutral character has a code they hold loosely, or a way they prefer to behave, but they might compromise on this point when it suits them to do so.
Chaotic: A chaotic character has no particular regard for regularity or discipline, has no particular code of conduct, and may even hold such in poor taste.
Lawful Evil, “The Corrupt”
A lawful evil character believes it’s important to live life a particular way, and is either totally unconcerned with the harm that code causes or actively enamored of it. A person of this kind truly, genuinely believes in duty and discipline. But the discipline he upholds brings harm to others, and the duty he lives by is antithetical to the continued happiness of the world. This can come down to an overarching view of how the world should be, or it can be nothing more than personal discipline, but he follows it of his own will, ignoring or refusing to admit its negative consequences for others. The knight-errant who fights a kind and just lord over a petty slight to his honor is probably lawful evil, much like the monk who persecutes others over any difference in dogma. So is the priest whose dogmatic attitude keeps subversive elements out of the church, or the hero whose nationalism drives him to merciless defense of his country.
Lawful Neutral, “The Fettered”
A lawful neutral character knows that their life is built on personal discipline. Wherever this discipline comes from, whatever its implications for the larger world, the lawful neutral character knows that straying from it is tantamount to betraying himself. While he may go against his wants and desires, betraying his impulses, he regards them as distractions from the person his devotion allows him to be. This can make him an unbreakable pillar of self-confidence, but it can also create a selfish, rigid, unhappy person. The judge who deals law with a unflinching sense of impartiality and the druid who devotes everything to the land can be lawful neutral. So can the pacifist who doesn’t help others because his oaths of asceticism are absolute, or the priest too devoted to self-cultivation to notice the world crumbling around him.
Lawful Good, “The Idealist”
A lawful good character sees morality as a defined set of right actions which improve or defend others and wrong actions which do the opposite, and seeks to live according to what is right. While a code of ethics might fetter his capacity to do good, it can serve as a bulwark in dark times, steer him away from the good intentions leading to Hell, and force him to seek better options when none are acceptable. On the other hand, it can make him rigid and inflexible, even foolish. The knight-errant with an uncompromising sense of honor and the pacifist who would rather die than harm another living creature are probably lawful good. So is the judge who can’t let off a justified criminal for fear of precedent, or the hero who won’t retreat from a hopeless position because he refuses darkness another inch of land while he yet lives.
Neutral Evil, “The Spiteful”
A neutral evil character is a genuinely nasty person, who has no compunctions about hurting others and justifies it with a code of behavior when it suits him. This is not to say he regards his code of behavior as anything less than genuine, or is simply playing at belief in it. Rather, he is perfectly willing to deviate from it when that code is inconvenient, allowing him both flexibility and something to stand by when he needs it. But both his code and his deviations from it drive him to hurt others, and this often takes the form of naked malevolence and cruelty. The priest who twists dogma to attack his enemies and the warlord who kills prisoners with no useful information could be neutral evil. So could the warrior who discards his impeccable honor to fight cruelly and savagely when absolutely needed, or the druid who ignores slights against the natural order from her close friends.
True Neutral, “The Unaligned”
A true neutral character is bound by neither strong behavioral convictions nor a deep preoccupation with personal freedom, neither morally bankrupt nor driven to righteousness. They are in some ways disciplined and cruel, and in other ways self-indulgent and benevolent. In most cases, they simply have no strong beliefs regarding any of these things, but rarely they take the position that these are not fundamentally contradictory ways to live. Most shy away from extreme behaviors, doing their best to look out for themselves, helping the people they like, and occasionally impeding those they don’t. Most are content not thinking about themselves or the state of the world. When they break from this mold, they don’t usually stay true neutral for long, but those that do become the reluctant heroes and cautious champions of legend.
Neutral Good, “The Benevolent”
A neutral good character believes in a set of moral values, and that while firm adherence to those values is important, so is the wherewithal to do the right thing when it’s clearly outside of them. While this flexibility can come from weakness, an inability to stand without a code or hold to it entirely, it can also rise from self-awareness, a faith in the deeper meaning of a rule, or acknowledgement that something good is not necessarily perfect. Such compromise can lead to ineffectiveness, but it can also lead to the path of wisdom. The judge who gives a justified criminal a lighter sentence, or the benevolent mage who acts only rarely for fear others will come to rely on her, might be neutral good. So might the pacifist who weakens her message by killing a dictator or a vigilante holding others to a different code than himself.
Chaotic Evil, “The Monster”
A chaotic evil character believes he is totally free. He has no moral compunctions to manipulate him, and no code to adhere to. If he hates someone, he finds a way to hurt them. If he wants something, he finds a way to take it. This doesn’t make him impulsive or reckless, because he can still prioritize his goals and decide what is important to him. In his own eyes, he is truly in control of his own life. Usually, however, he is ruled by his impulses, incapable of going against his desires, and his own freedom has become a cage of sorts. He is an animal in this sense, if a cunning animal, guided only by harmful wants. A warlord who conquers and slaughters simply because he wants to, a knight-errant who terrorizes the countryside, a warrior who lives to spill the blood of the mighty and a hero driven only by the opportunity for violence and glory are likely chaotic evil.
Chaotic Neutral, “The Unfettered”
A chaotic neutral character is interested in himself, for the most part. He has no particular need for a code of behavior and likely finds the idea of tying himself down in that fashion abhorrent. His desires guide him, but those desires are not by necessity bestial and uncomplicated, and their expression can be just as complex and thoughtful as any discipline or ideals. The best way to be oneself, in his mind, is to be oneself. This attitude risks solipsistic and selfish behavior, and without mindfulness it can degenerate into impulsivity. Still, there is something to be said for knowing what you want. The mage who experiments and travels ceaselessly to satisfy his curiosity and the warrior who pushes himself to become the best of his kind may be chaotic neutral. So could the warlord who loses a clear victory to his impulses or the vigilante who worsens a local situation by not taking his actions seriously.
Chaotic Good, “The Pragmatist”
A chaotic good character thinks the right thing to do in any situation is the one that feels right, not the one dictated to you by a code or a set of beliefs. If your beliefs get in the way of doing the right thing, he says, then you shouldn’t have them. He believes that morality is not so simple that you can define it in any situation, much less every situation. Because of this, he is uniquely flexible in his ability to help others. But with no guiding principles, he can fail to account for the scale of its consequences or implications. A hero who discards his own honor to defeat the forces of darkness or a vigilante that devotes his entire life to punishing the wicked could be chaotic good. So could a knight-errant who steals from the rich and gives to the poor and inadvertently drives up taxes, or a mage that ensures year after year of good harvests despite the overwhelming toll on the land.