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What Does Alignment Mean in D&D?

what does alignment mean in dungeons and dragons

Before starting a game of D&D, you must first choose an alignment for your character. But, what exactly does alignment mean? The alignment of your character is your character’s morals and ethics and how they make their decisions in their life.

Simply put, it can mean good or evil, but there are also mixes of alignments. Some may be all good, all evil, somewhat evil, and the list goes on. Similar to the real world, we all have our own way of thinking and dealing with situations. This is where alignment comes into play.

Choosing an alignment for your character in Dungeons and Dragons is a necessity, but before you can choose, you must understand the ramifications of each type of alignment. So, let us take a look at the nine different types of alignments so that you can better understand what each one means to your character.

The Nine Alignments in Dungeons and Dragons

There are nine alignments in Dungeons and Dragons. Each of these alignment types shapes how your character responds to different situations. Think of an alignment as a set of guiding rules that you can reference when roleplaying as your D&D character.

The nine alignments in D&D are

  1. Lawful Good
  2. Neutral Good
  3. Chaotic Good
  4. Lawful Neutral
  5. Neutral
  6. Chaotic Neutral
  7. Lawful Evil
  8. Neutral Evil
  9. Chaotic Evil

You may notice that some of the alignments mentioned above have two terms – this is because they refer to two aspects of your character.

The first term refers to your characters ethical standing – do they follow the masses, or are they an anarchist?

The second term refers to your character’s moral ground. Does your character take advantage of others to get what they want? Or does your character treat others in a way that they would like to be treated?

How Does the Alignment Chart Work?

When determining the alignment of your character in D&D, it is helpful to reference the alignment chart. The alignment chart sets out the different alignment possibilities from the far left to the far right – and of course, the good old middle ground.

LAWFUL GOOD

NEUTRAL GOOD

CHAOTIC GOOD

LAWFUL NEUTRAL

NEUTRAL

CHAOTIC NEUTRAL

LAWFUL EVIL

NEUTRAL EVIL

CHAOTIC EVIL

Lawful Ethics

On the left side of the chart, we have the characters with legal ethics. This is a character who follows the rules and respects the established hierarchy of society.

This character is also one who firmly adheres to their beliefs and who values adherence to the rules above all else.

Lawful characters can be very judgmental, even though they are trustworthy.

Neutral Ethics

In the middle of the chart, we have characters with neutral ethics. This is the character who wavers between both sides of the ethical coin. This is also a character that generally follows the rules and acts lawfully, but if breaking the rules has a more beneficial outcome, they will do it.

Neutral characters are free to decide as they see fit, but this does create a sense of superiority that can make them unlikeable.

Chaotic Ethics

On the right side of the chart, we have characters with chaotic ethics. This is the character who best fits the term “anarchist”. This character does not follow the rules – they do what they want to when it suits them.

Chaotic characters are difficult, and they make choices just to go against convention even when the consequences of those choices can be devastating to everyone else.

Good Morals

On top of the chart, we have characters that have good morals. This is the character who will always choose to do what is best for others. This is the charitable character who would “give the shirt off their back.”

Good characters are always willing to go out of their way for others, but they will not hesitate to call out a friend for doing something they consider evil.

Neutral Morals

In the middle of the chart, we have characters with neutral morals. This is the character who will always choose diplomacy and the middle ground. This is the character who would rather not “rock the boat”.

Neutral characters can be frustrating in their diplomacy and indecisiveness, but they will always do what is in the best interest of those they love.

Few characters can remain truly neutral throughout their development – there always tends to be a preference toward good or evil.

Evil Morals

At the bottom of the chart, we have characters with evil morals. This is the character who is a psychopath. They are more than willing to make the masses suffer for their personal gain, and they do not think twice about causing the demise of anyone else.

Evil characters are a force to be reckoned with (both for those who follow them and for those who do not) because they have no true allegiance to anyone but themselves.

Examining the Nine Alignments

Let’s take a deep dive at all nine alignments in D&D along with examples of some of the most famous characters in history.

This Set of 25 Miniatures has a mix of Characters, great for an assortment of alignments

Imagination has no limit

Lawful Good

“I DO WHAT IS GOOD AND RIGHT.”

The lawful good character is the one who follows the rules for the greater good and believes in holding everyone to the same standard. This is a character who does not break the rules. They are easily angered and frustrated when people do not follow the rules or when they are selfish.

The lawful good character is rigid in their beliefs and will sacrifice themselves to save another. This character believes in following order, and that there are just consequences for breaking the rules. This is the archetypal crusader.

Examples of the lawful good character include:

  • Superman
  • Obi-Wan Kenobi
  • Hermione Granger
  • Eddard Stark
  • Yoda

Neutral Good

“I DO WHAT IS GOOD.”

The neutral good character follows the rules but not so rigidly that they are not willing to break them if the greater good requires that they be broken. For the neutral good character, doing what is good will always be a priority even when it means making ethically questionable choices.

The neutral good character values the end over the means. These characters devote themselves to helping other people and generally progress to the chaotic or lawful end of the spectrum. This is the archetypal benefactor.

Examples of the Neutral good character include:

  • Gandalf
  • Harry Potter
  • Mahatma Gandhi
  • Jon Stark
  • Luke Skywalker

Chaotic Good

“I DO WHAT I THINK IS GOOD WHETHER IT’S RIGHT OR WRONG.”

The chaotic good character does what their own beliefs tell them to be for the greater good. The chaotic good character’s behavior is always dictated by what they believe to be the “right thing.” This type of character believes in logic and reasoning and does not follow a leader blindly.

The chaotic good character has good intentions, but they may use questionable means to get positive ends. This is a character with strong personal morals who usually takes on a fight that is far too big for them to win. This is the archetypal rebel.

Examples of the chaotic good character include:

  • Robin Hood
  • Chewbacca
  • Wolverine
  • Tywin Lannister
  • Aladdin

Lawful Neutral

“I FOLLOW THE LAW BECAUSE IT IS THE LAW.”

The lawful neutral character is the character who follows blindly doing what is expected of them by the ruling authority. A robotic soldier, the lawful and neutral character is dedicated to order and will do good and bad deeds to uphold that order.

The lawful neutral character is always focused on doing what the law dictates they do, and they cannot be swayed by right or wrong. This character is usually a member of a larger organization like a military group or professional organization. This is the archetypal judge.

Examples of the lawful neutral character include:

  • Jean Luc Piccard
  • James Bond
  • Dwight Schrute
  • C3PO
  • Stannis Baratheon

Neutral

“I DON’T KNOW.”

The neutral character is one who cannot be swayed by emotional pleas rather, they choose what is logical for them at the moment they make the decision. For the neutral character, everything is about convenience and benefit.

Neutral characters are frustrating and will always take the path of least resistance even if it is not the right option to take or the path that benefits the greater good. This is the character who frequently answers: “I don’t know.” This is the archetypal wild card.

Examples of the neutral character include:

  • Professor Snape
  • Jaqen H’ghar
  • Anubis
  • Doctor Manhattan
  • Sheldon Cooper

Chaotic Neutral

“I DO WHAT’S GOOD FOR ME.”

Chaotic neutral characters make decisions based on how the outcome of a situation will influence them. Chaotic neutral characters do not like to be dictated to, and while they are more likely to make good decisions rather than bad, they are not afraid of shaking things up a bit!

Chaotic neutral characters are all about self-preservation, but they can be antagonistic which makes them difficult to get along with. This is a character who values their freedom above all else. This is the archetypal free spirit.

Examples of the chaotic neutral good character include:

  • Jack Sparrow
  • Han Solo
  • Golem
  • Robert Baratheon
  • Deadpool

Lawful Evil

“I BELIEVE THAT LAW AND ORDER IS A WAY TO HELP ME CARRY OUT MY EVIL PLAN.”

The lawful evil character is one who abides by a designated set of rules, traditions, and laws. Everything that this character does is dictated by these rules and they are not afraid to use force and threats to get what they want.

The lawful evil character is evil with structure and this leaves no “wiggle room” for negotiation. This character believes in the power of the law, but the needs of the individual are irrelevant. This character is the archetypal dominator.

Examples of the lawful evil character include:

  • Darth Vader
  • Lord Petyr Baelish
  • Magneto
  • Predator
  • Lucius Malfoy

Neutral Evil

“I DO WHAT’S EVIL BECAUSE I CAN.”

Neutral evil characters do what they want to get what they want. Neutral evil characters cannot be governed by rules as they are willing to do ANYTHING to satisfy their own ambition – including breaking rules and breaking necks.

The neutral evil character will use anyone and anything to satisfy their greed and when that person or thing is no longer useful to them it will be cast aside. This is a character who is evil simply to be evil. This is the archetypal malefactor.

Examples of the neutral evil character include:

  • Loki
  • Lex Luthor
  • Emperor Palpatine
  • Tony Montana
  • Bane

Chaotic Evil

“I DO ANYTHING TO GET WHAT I WANT.”

A chaotic evil character has no qualms about breaking the law or doing what is wrong so long as they feel good and get what they want. Chaotic evil characters are loners with a penchant for destruction.

The Chaotic evil character is an untrusting and untrustworthy character who would destroy the world just to watch it burn. This is not a character most people would freely associate with. This is the archetypal destroyer.

Examples of the chaotic evil character include:

  • The Joker
  • Darth Maul
  • Ramsay Bolton
  • Carnage
  • Red Skull

What Is the Evilest Alignment?

Of all of the alignments in Dungeons and Dragons, the one to fear the most is the neutral evil character.

A neutral evil character is willing to do anything to benefit themselves, they will align themselves with anyone if it advances their position. This character will simply do what they want when they want regardless of the fallout. This is a character that is thoroughly unpredictable and cannot be trusted by anyone – they are selfish to the core.

Some also argue that the chaotic evil alignment is the evilest because most chaotic evil characters are psychopaths who do what they want and what they want is to spread death, destruction, and evil. Unlike the neutral evil character, the chaotic evil character is paranoid – they do not trust authority, they do not follow the rules, and they always choose what is wrong.

Comparing these two alignments, it is really a matter of how you look at it. You can choose the unpredictable character who is only out for themselves and who will do anything to satisfy their needs or the paranoid character bent on destruction who will do anything for misery. Whichever way you choose, you are stuck with a whole lot of evildoing and a person that cannot be trusted.

What Is the Most Common Moral Alignment?

This classic starter set of miniatures has a good mix of characters good for many alignments

The most common moral alignment in Dungeons and Dragons is the Chaotic Good character. The character that has good morals but who is willing to break the rules to do what they deem to be the “right thing.”

What Is the Rarest Alignment?

The rarest alignment in Dungeons and Dragons is the Chaotic Evil character. The character that is out for themselves and only themselves. The character who does not work well with others and who will not be controlled by anything or anyone.

Choosing Your Alignment

There are different methods of choosing your character alignment

Take a Quiz

There are many online quizzes that you can take to help you to decide which character alignment suits you best. This is a good option if you want someone else to do the thinking for you.

Talk to Your Group

Playing with a group? Talk with your group members about the group dynamics. To form a solid group, you want to have a group of characters that share similarities. That does not mean that everyone in your group has to be of the exact same alignment, but there is going to be a certain amount of discord if your characters fall all over the spectrum.

Think About Your Favorite Characters

Whether you are a movie lover or a book reader, anime lover, or graphic novel fan, every main character falls into one of the nine alignments. They may not fit flawlessly, but they do fit.

If you are not quite sure where to settle for your character, try thinking of some of your favorite characters like in the examples above.

Be Yourself Or the Antithesis of Yourself

Create a character that is based on yourself and you will know exactly how to roleplay them. Or you could go to the other extreme and choose a character who is everything that you are not!

Remember, It’s Not About Unquestionable Alignment

When you choose an alignment for your character it is important to remember that your alignment is a guide and not a rigid mold. Just like you, your character is sometimes going to do things or say things that are out of character for their alignment and that is okay!

Do you always follow every rule? Do you always do what is right for the greater good? Or do you sometimes break the rules or prioritize your needs and wants?

Many players further categorize each of the alignments to include more specificity. Using this system, the nine alignments become twenty-five alignments. This system includes the original nine alignments and adds social good, rebel good, lawful moral, social moral, neutral moral, rebel moral, chaotic moral, social neutral, rebel neutral, lawful impure, social impure, neutral impure, rebel impure, chaotic impure, social evil, and rebel evil.

The newer alignments added to the twenty-five-alignment system represent midpoints between the original nine alignments.

LAWFUL GOOD

SOCIAL GOOD

NEUTRAL GOOD

REBEL GOOD

CHAOTIC GOOD

LAWFUL MORAL

SOCIAL MORAL

NEUTRAL MORAL

REBEL MORAL

CHAOTIC MORAL

LAWFUL NEUTRAL

SOCIAL NEUTRAL

TRUE NEUTRAL

REBEL NEUTRAL

CHAOTIC NEUTRAL

LAWFUL IMPURE

SOCIAL IMPURE

NEUTRAL IMPURE

REBEL IMPURE

CHAOTIC IMPURE

LAWFUL EVIL

SOCIAL EVIL

NEUTRAL EVIL

REBEL EVIL

CHAOTIC EVIL

Alignments May Change Over Time

It is also worth noting that as your character progresses, their alignment may change through experience. As your character develops, for example, they may go from lawful neutral to lawful good. The same goes for other neutral character alignments too.

Final Thoughts

Choosing your characters alignment is one of the first steps in creating your D&D character. Your character’s morals and ethics will play a big role on their fate during your adventure. Remember, looks aren’t everything.

Although your character may have an evil appearance, they can be morally good and lawful. On the complete opposite end, you can have a character that looks noble and heroic, but deep down can be the most evil character alive.

In the end, your character is what you make of them. Give them life, morals, and ethics, and you will soon find yourself immersed in this awesome fantasy game.

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