Saturday, December 03, 2016

Do the alignment shuffle

"The Meaning of Law and Chaos in Dungeons & Dragons And Their Relationships to Good and Evil" first appeared in issue #6 of The Strategic Review, the predecessor to Dragon magazine, but I first encountered it in the first Best of Dragon.



This essay is part of Uncle Gary's efforts to formulate alignment as a key component to his unique cosmic vision for the game.  Personally, I'm not that into the Gygaxian system of Outer Planes.  And I've never taken alignment that seriously in my games as anything other than 1) a simple system for knowing whether the PCs can trust an NPC or monster and 2) a way of indicating which side someone would fight on when Ragnarok happens. 

But I find this chart from "The Meaning of Law and Chaos" to be a fascinating artifact from a transitional stage in Gygax's theory.  You can see Gygax moving from the intermediary five-fold system to his final nine-fold alignment plan right here in this chart.  But that's not what I find interesting today.  


What's intriguing here is the monsters that are in the wrong places.  With Good at the top of the chart, Evil at the bottom, Law to the left and Chaos to the right, some monsters appear in a different spot than one would expect from the alignment listed in their entry in the original Monster Manual.  To make it more obvious how the nine-fold system maps onto this diagram, I've added red lines subdividing it into 9 boxes.  


Under this scheme, the upper left box is Lawful Good and the bottom right box is Chaotic Evil.  Here's a comprehensive list of monsters whose position on this chart is at variance with the official listing in the MM.

Some Silver Dragons might be Neutral Good instead of Lawful Good
Some Hobbits/halflings might be Lawful Neutral instead of Lawful Good
Pegasi are Neutral Good instead of CG
Gnomes are definitely Neutral Good instead of "neutral to lawful good"
Bronze Dragons are Neutral Good instead of LG
Platinum Dragons (plural!) are Chaotic Good instead of LG
Sprites are Chaotic Good instead of N(G)
Rocs are Neutral Good instead of Neutral (smart enough to have a non-neutral alignment?)
Ents (treants) are Lawful Neutral instead of CG
Unicorns are also Lawful Neutral instead of CG
Dwarves are Lawful Neutral instead of LG
Mummies are Lawful Neutral not LE
Ogre Magi are Lawful Neutral not LE
Kobolds can be Lawful Neutral not LE
Werewolves are Lawful Neutral not Chaotic Evil (!)
Liches are Lawful Neutral or True Neutral (!!)
Centaurs are all True Neutral rather than neutral to chaotic good
Djinni are Chaotic Neutral or True Neutral, rather than Chaotic Good
White Dragons are Neutral rather than Chaotic Evil 
Assassins are True Neutral to Neutral Evil, rather than any evil alignment
Copper Dragons are Chaotic Neutral rather than CG
Hippogriffs are Chaotic Neutral rather than True Neutral
Brass Dragons are Chaotic Neutral rather than CG with N tendecies
Weretigers are Chaotic Neutral rather than N
Wyverns are Chaotic Neutral rather than neutral (evil)
Efreeti are Chaotic Neutral rather than neutral with LE tendencies
Gnolls are Lawful Evil rather than CE
Minotaurs are Lawful Evil rather than CE
Vampires are Lawful Evil rather than CE
Black Dragons are Neutral Evil rather than CE
Ogres are Neutral Evil rather than CE
Wererats are Neutral Evil rather than LE
Beholders are Neutral Evil rather than LE
Orcs are Chaotic Evil rather than LE
Green Dragons are Chaotic Evil rather than LE
Blue Dragons are Chaotic Evil rather than LE
Giants (no subtypes specified) are all over the map.  They can be any Good, True Neutral, or Chaotic Evil.

Some of the implications here are rather minor.  Making orcs chaotic evil doesn't change much, for instance.  But a few items above are pretty darn interesting, particular in the LN and CN sections.  Unicorns and treants as Lawful Neutrals certainly cast the fairy woods in a different light.  Perhaps LN mummies, ogre mages, werewolves, and kobolds are misunderstood by common folk.  Meanwhile gnolls, minotaurs, and vampires punch the clock at Lawful Evil, Incorporated.  And neutral assassins suggest that paid murder can just be a regular job.  Neutral Liches!

The lesson I take aware here is that a simple alignment change can lead one to reconsider the place a creature has in your campaign world.