The Alignment Axis: Evil
December 6, 2013

The Alignment Axis: Evil

At last we come to this. The evil alignments. Often reserved for the antagonists of a story, there have been many times when players take up these dark affiliations and bring their darker natures to the game table, and as long as you get the approval of the Gamemaster, there is nothing wrong with that from time to time. Playing evil can be tricky, especially in a game where the players often take on the rolls of heroes and heroines, but when done well, it can be just as rewarding an experience as any game. So, with no further delay, let us look at what it means to be the three varying shades of evil.

Lawful Evil: This is what it means to be evil with honor. Many of my favorite villains from literature and cinema could easily be classified as lawful evil, as lawful evil is a respectable evil. The lawful evil villain may burn a village to the ground or beckon forth dark minions from the lower realms, but they also have honor. They hold their word as law and will respect an honorable foe. The villain who can admire his foes bravery and triumphs, even as these foes thwart the villains schemes, is lawful evil. Often, lawful evil is the cunning evil. The plotter. The one who plans every move hundreds of moves ahead or more. When I design major antagonists for my players, I often make the either the main villain evil or, at the very least, his right-hand agent whom the characters will face in battle. Doing so gives the players an enemy they can both respect and possibly even admire. Of all the evil alignments, lawful evil is often seen as the most understanding and relatable. In some ways, this is also what makes them the most scary.

Neutral Evil: Evil for the sake of evil is what some see this alignment as, but I feel that this distinction does not do it justice. Neutral evil, to me, is pure selfishness to the point of evil. This is someone who would gladly stab their neighbor, friend, or even sibling in the back in order to get what they want. This is a ruthless evil, one whose goals are all that matter to them and who will gladly sacrifice anything, even countless numbers of their own servants, in order to accomplish or attain that which they desire. Beware the neutral evil character, as they will often wear a smile on their face and proclaim good intentions, or whatever they think might get you to let your guard down.

Chaotic Evil: Last but not least by any means is the destructive evil. Chaotic evil, or diabolic evil as it is called in some games, is the alignment of wanton destruction and death. The only thing that matters to people like this is to cause as much pain and suffering as possible, as that is how they find joy and meaning in their existences. Often this alignment is given to monsters such as demons and rampaging dragons, but when it is had by an ordinary character, that is when you will find yourself truly appalled. Chaotic evil is the unsympathetic evil, the irredeemable evil, the sort of evil that even other evil characters will often agree needs to be stamped out of being for the sake of all that is. Chaotic evil is monstrous, and that is why it is most often belonging to monsters.

And this, at last, concludes our look at the alignment axis and the various alignments found within. More arguments are fought between player and player as well as player and Gamemaster over the definitions of alignment than any other subject in gaming, and I hope that my own understanding of what they mean and represent can help to shed some light on this very interesting topic of gaming. So, do you agree with my definitions? Do you disagree? If so, let me know. I am very curious as to what you all think these alignments mean.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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