Revised Original Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Oriental Adventures. Parangaricutiro campaign.
Alignment has always been a tricky subject in D&D. It should be no more than another opportunity for role-playing, another handicap to act through.
Since there already seems to be an interest in using spells such as ‘Know Alignment’, whatever that could mean, I have to define what alignment means within the game so that Greg, Simon and Pep have some basis for interpreting the result, or acting within the parameters. So here is my ruling.
Firstly, we must decouple alignment from religion. Everyone has the same basic religion. It is the pantheon based around the Celestial Bureaucracy, ruled by the Celestial Emperor. Dozens, if not hundreds, of other divine beings exist, all fitting into this supernatural framework. Everyone knows this to be a fact and even though they may worship different divine beings at different times, at no time can anyone be accused of worshipping the ‘wrong’ god. Overlaid on this framework is the older understanding of shamanic/animistic religion. This is root of all superstition, and the characters are free to adopt as much or as little of this as they like, perhaps reflecting the level of cultivation or simplicity of their upbringing.
Alignment, then, refers to moral outlook, and this is a matter of core philosophy.
To be Lawful means that one holds the views of Confucius to be paramount. Bonds between people, politeness, respect, honour, politics. A man is measured by how he fits into his society. These are the things that matter in life.
The Buddhists are Chaotic. Everything resides within the individual and it is through individual action that release from the torment of life is achieved. Buddhists will willingly challenge authority when they perceive an injustice.
Neutrality is the view of the Taoists. Everything is exactly as it is supposed to be. This should not be interpreted as a ‘get along to get along’ attitude as there is no where to get along to. Taoists (try to) take whatever comes their way and make the best of it. Questions that torment Confucians and Buddhists seem trivial, even laughable to the Taoist who believes that everything they worry about ultimately does not matter.
The classification of Good and Evil is a largely Western invention. Simple tags of respect for life, or love of country do not really seem to fit this setting. Instead, then, since these words appear in the rules and spells query them, here is my interpretation. Good and evil refer to one’s demeanor.
To be Good means to be optimistic. To see hope in defeat. To see opportunity in failure. To believe that things tend towards happy endings as a natural consequence. Good people can be seen as stupid, niaive, or deluded. They can also be seen as bold, confident, and cheerful.
To be Evil is to be pessimistic. To see selfish or unkind motives in others. To see the dark side of events around them. To believe that things tend naturally towards unhappy endings unless they take an action to make it otherwise. Evil people can be seen as cynical, distrustful or scheming. They can also be seen as careful, ruthless, decisive and clear-headed.
To be Neutral in this interpreation is to be without passion, without an emotional compass. Neutral characters in this dimension might be seen to range from those with some form of mental pathology (such as Asberger’s syndrome, or possibly a psychopath with no empathy), to someone who has a ‘balanced’ emotional view of life – whatever that might mean (and if someone claims that as an easy out then we’ll have to put it to the test).
Yes, this does mean that it is possible to get a Lawful Good monster that must be slaughtered, and a player character that is Chaotic Evil. The monster still gets slaughtered if it is necessary, and the character can still be friends with everyone and get along without it automatically resulting in party conflict. Sounds a bit more like real life.