Posted on Leave a comment

Stuck in the Middle With You: Neutral Alignments

Stuck in the Middle With You:

Neutral Alignments


Neutral characters do not care about law or chaos.  True Neutral characters favor none of the alignment components over the other.  Some will do what they think is a good idea at the time while others will work toward maintaining a balance between Law and Chaos or Good and Evil.

In today’s Critical Hit to the Blog, I’m going to look at the three Neutral alignments (True Neutral, Neutral Good, and Neutral Evil) and gives some tips for players and DMs on how to play or play against that alignment.

 

True Neutral

Swiss Army Symbol
They're neutral, but still have knives. And tasty cheese.

 

True Neutral characters are undecided.  They don’t favor one side of any particular alignment axis over the other, though they do tend to think that good is better than evil, but don’t have a commitment to upholding good over evil.  These are the characters that do what they think is a good idea.  Going back to out “old lady crossing the street” metaphor, the True Neutral character is most likely going to abstain completely and let the old lady make her own way across the street.

For the player, there are two main philosophies when it comes to playing a TN character.  The first way is that they are unmotivated by moral quandaries and simply do what they think is a good idea.  If they have a friend who is going a’ questing, they might tag along.  Not because they feel the compunction to or that they’re worried about their friend, but maybe they’re bored and a quest seem like it would be fun.

The other main philosophy is that the TN character can commit themselves to the idea of neutrality.  They advocate that the ideas of good and evil and law and order are extremes that are best to be avoided.  I’ve seen this role-played as pacifism, but not for the sake of good, but for the avoidance of damage to the character.  He focused on high armor class, he took the Improved Shield Bash feat, and took the -4 penalty on attack rolls to do non-lethal damage.  His basic role was to occupy one enemy while the rest of the party turned the rest into mulch.

For the DM, True Neutral characters can be hard to role-play against.  The normal motivations of a heroic character, like good over evil or rescuing the distressed damsel, aren’t going to have the same kind of push for the character that a Lawful or Good character would have.  One thing you can try is to make whatever you situation is strike close to home for the TN character.  They may not value good over evil necessarily, but if something becomes personal, the TN character may value vengeance over everything else.  This becomes a matter that goes above right and wrong, good and evil.  When the character realizes they can’t take on the Evil Warlord/Sorcerer/Crime Boss, they decide to get help in the form of the PCs.

 

Neutral Good

Spider-Man
Does good because doing good is good.

Neutral Good characters are devoted to helping others.  They work toward helping the greatest number of people they can, without bias for or against the order or the realm.  These are the people who help the old lady across the street when she’s ready to cross, regardless of what the sign says.  The NG character isn’t stupid, though.  They won’t walk out into traffic because the little old lady says she’s ready to go.

As a player, Neutral Good is for a character that wants to excel as helping other people.  NG deities often have Protection or Healing in their portfolios, so Clerics of those deities tend to focus on those aspects of the deity.  In role-playing situations, the NG character will champion a course of action, whether that’s combat-related or diplomatic relations, which will help the greatest number of people and then will try to find a way to include those not covered by the plan and help them as well.

As a DM, the name of the game here is to play against the NG character’s course of trying to help the most people.  A hostage situation is the first thing to come to mind.  The NG character will want to help as many of the hostages as possible, so they will want to give into the hostage taker’s demands, no matter how preposterous.  Lawful characters will want to handle the matter according to the letter of the law and Chaotic characters may want to just charge right in with crossbows blazing.  The Neutral Good character may try to get everyone on the same page so that none of the hostages are harmed.

 

Neutral Evil

Cute puppy
Here's a cute puppy to distract you from the evil.

Neutral Evil characters are evil without variation and without honor.  These characters will do whatever they can and they have no remorse for any of the evil things that they do.  These people would steal the old lady’s wallet and then shove her into traffic while they run away.

For a player, this character is a stone cold killer with no compunctions.  Some NE characters will perform evil deeds strictly to be evil.  This character could make quite a bit of money as a hired killer or thug, but they are perfectly happy to cause mayhem and kill for free.  The NE character may belong to a secret society, such as an assassin’s guild.

For a DM, it’s obvious this character isn’t really going to fit into your standard adventuring party.  To role-play with a NE character, you might want to set up a solo adventure and have the goal be an assassination, but have the character need to interact with intermediates in order to get the information they need to do the deed.  They may end up killing all of their contacts along the way, but they will make their way to their target eventually.  That allows you to role-play as the guild leader giving the kill order and all of the contacts, as well as the target.

Neutral Evil characters also work really well as NPCs, especially assassins or serial killers.  They can cause the party to be upset through their actions, making Lawful characters itch just that much more for capturing them.

So there you have the Neutral alignments.  Plenty of role-playing opportunities there.  Next week, I’ll be covering my favorite alignments, Chaotic.

Until next time, be awesome to each other and good gaming.

Will.

Posted on Leave a comment

Playing by the Rules: Lawful Alignments

Playing by the Rules: Lawful Alignment

 

Alignment

Alignment is the personal and philosophical positions of your character.  Some classes have specific alignment restrictions, such as Barbarians must be Chaotic and Monks must be Lawful.  The Paladin is probably the most obvious example, as all Paladins must be Lawful Good.  Devils (Baatezu) are always Lawful Evil and Demons (Tanar’ri) are always Chaotic Evil.

But what do these alignments mean for both players and DMs?  In today’s Critical Hit to the Blog, I’ll be looking at the three Lawful alignments and different interpretations of them for players and Dungeon Masters.

First off, let’s look at the five pieces of alignment: Good, Evil, Law, Chaos, and Neutrality.

 

Good

Good characters have a respect for life and they make sacrifices to help others.  They help the poor and underprivileged.  These are the people that help old ladies across the street.

 

Evil

Evil characters have no respect for life, no compassion, and no qualms about using whatever means necessary to accomplish their goals.  They kidnap, torture, extort, and kill.  These people would help the old lady halfway across the street, steal her purse, push her down and laugh as she gets run over.

 

Lawful

Lawful characters uphold law and order and can imply honor and reliability.  They follow the laws and rules of society and promote these regulations.  These people would help the old lady across the street, but only when the crossing signal says “Walk.”

 

Chaotic

Chaotic characters are all about freedom and flexibility from the rules.  They rebel against the rules and flaunt their freedom to those within the system.  They might or might not help the old lady across the street.  If they do, it will be against the signal and possibly through moving traffic.

 

Neutrality

Neutral characters are against the other four alignments.  While they may respect the law or the shelter that is providing food for the hungry, they feel no compulsion to help or harm the homeless and no reason to rebel against authority.  Neutral characters most likely wouldn’t help the old lady across the street but they wouldn’t do anything against her, either.

Now that we have some ground rules about alignment, let’s look at the Lawful alignments.

 

Lawful Good

A Lawful Good person is a crusader.  They act like a good person is supposed to while combining that with a commitment to fight evil.  As I said earlier, the Paladin is the exemplar of Lawful Good.  They are kind and generous while still being able to go out and face evil head on.

As a player, Lawful good can be a good alignment to play if you want to play an honorable character that is also compassionate.  Because Lawful Good characters tend to belong to organizations, the player can have a place of like-minded characters to bond with and learn from.  The tough part about it can be making sure you stick by your own code of conduct to accomplish your goals.  Lawful Good characters generally belong to an organization, whether that’s political or religious, that upholds the ideals of being Lawful and Good and to veer away from those ideals can bring punishment or excommunication and if you’re a Paladin, it can cause the loss of your Paladin abilities until you can atone for your misdeeds.  This, however, can lead to excellent role-playing opportunities.  If you have to travel to a certain place to receive your atonement, whether that involves the atonement spell or not, explaining why you lose your abilities or why you’re being punished can bring forth a piece of character back story that the other characters can play off of.  For a Lawful Good Character, Charisma is a good ability score to focus on.  They are usually outgoing and interact with a lot of people, so a high Charisma score can make that easier.

As a DM, when a player has the Lawful Good alignment, you know they have a code they have to stick to.  Something you can do to foster role-playing is to put that character into a situation that goes against their code.  This makes the LG character have to reassess how to handle a particular encounter while remaining true to their ideals.  This may be using Diplomacy against a little girl that is possessed by a particularly powerful evil entity.  Or a serial killer is sending notes to the police through a series of criminals, where instead of locking those criminals up, the LG character must make use of these criminals to try to track down the killer.

One thing I’ve always liked the thought of is a Lawful Good character, especially a Paladin, coming up with a “hit list.”  The LG character makes notes of who he has had to compromise with to uphold the greater good and then, when that particular evil has been vanquished, he revisits these people and offers them a choice: redemption or punishment.  Again, good role-playing opportunities abound in these situations, not only between the LG character and their target, but also between the LG character and their group.

 

Lawful Neutral

A Lawful Neutral character is honorable and trustworthy without becoming a zealot like the Lawful Good character can be.  LN characters are about order and organization without being required to heed the calls of the needy or being swayed by the calls of evil.

As a player, a Lawful Neutral character is focused on order and maintaining that order.  While this character doesn’t saddle up to go fight evil, they detest chaos and will put a stop to that with the means available to them.  This could be an incursion by demons or it could be a particularly chaotic protest by the masses.  Like the Lawful Good character, the LN character belongs to an organization and that organization has determined that the best society is an ordered society and they will do what they need to in order to preserve that order.  For a Lawful Neutral character, Wisdom is a good ability to focus on.  They make a lot of intuitive, on-the-fly decisions about what is best for order and the organization.

As a DM, a Lawful Neutral character could be put into situations where, like the Lawful Good character, the code and beliefs of the LN character are called into question.  If the LN character is in a situation where they have no contract with their home organization, such as being stuck in a dungeon or having been sent on a mission far from home, then this character may attempt to create rules so that they can have some sort of order to enforce.  How does the rest of the group, which may include some Neutral or Chaotic character, deal with this?

 

Lawful Evil

A Lawful Evil character is out to get whatever they can get but only within the rules of their own code or the regulations of the organization they work for without regards for whom they hurt.

As a player, a Lawful Evil character has to be devious and manipulative because they must work within the organization to get what they want.  LE characters are always plotting and planning, looking for weakness, and trying to exploit them by any means necessary…as long as the order remains.  For a Lawful Evil character, Intelligence is a good ability to focus on.  They need that Intelligence for making solid, long-term plans and knowing when to use they knowledge they’ve accumulated to their best advantage.

As a DM, just like the other Lawful alignments, the Lawful Evil character needs to have the organization in order to function at their best.  Now, the normal idea would be to somehow pair up a Lawful Evil character with a Paladin and that can be a really good role-playing opportunity.  But what if you put the Lawful Evil character in charge of a group of Chaotic Evil characters?  Or any Chaotic alignment for that matter.  Or a group of Lawful Evil characters from different organizations.  Who’s in charge?  Why are they in charge?  Who is deciding how they perform their task?  If combat occurs, who determines tactics?

 

So, those are the Lawful alignments.  There are plenty of awesome role-playing opportunities with the Lawful characters, if they’re played well and played against well.  That’s it for this week.  Next week, I’ll be taking a look at the Neutral alignments.

Until then, be awesome to each other and good gaming.

Will.