Alignment shift 5e

Alignment shift 5e DEFAULT

D&D 5E Alignment Shifts: Players and Group

The character is fairly unique. It has quite a backstory as well. I've typed up a shortened version of it below.

I asked him his character motivations for this last night and his response:

I just kinda started doing it and it kinda evolved. Here is a list of things that is motivating his collection, and personality.

-at first the group did not want me to do it, I had to talk them into it. The 16 year old kid that they know is younger than them is bossing the group around. It is the "I do it because you told me no.".

-now that I am doing it my undead nature is taking over. I like the dead parts. They look yummy.

-they are like toys to be played with.

-I am a spellcaster, and spellcasters collect things for spell components, and I am a spellcaster, so I need spell components.

-trophies. She is an 11 year old that killed a minotaur. Holy s**t! I am calyx the all powerful! Their dead parts are my badges. I was never important, but maybe I can prove to someone I am important, or at least should be feared.

-something to prove, I came from a worthless orphanage, my master needs my help.

-I am curious, about what things look like on the inside.

-it is fun to dress up like other things in their skin, but Leuceus won't let me do it because I he is no fun. But if I keep it for later I can wear it when he is not around.

-I hate Gamir, I want to make him hurt bad. I am going to kill him and bind his soul to my servitude. But I want to slowly peel the skin from his bones. I want his ribs. I want cloak of his skin. A helm of his dumb skull. I want to eat his still beating heart.

Click to expand...

Here's his background if anyone's interested. It's quite interesting.
Born to a noble elven mother and human father. Their love forbade by her father. Mother died at childbirth living only long enough to name the child. The child's father never knowing of the pregnancy. The infant was thought to be stillborn, found hours later to actually be alive. After the mothers passing, the infant was left at a nearby orphanage. Those running orphanage were frantic thinking the infant near death. It was cold to the touch, clammy skin. Drawing breath so infrequently, eyes never blinking. Never crying from hunger.

Over the years, the child was thought to be quite odd and was treated as a freak by the other orphans. She would quite often sequester herself down in the basement of the orphanage, playing alone. One day while playing alone, a large centipede came crawling through the basement. Frightened, the child screamed and through her outstretched arm a bolt of white frost flew. Freezing and killing the centipede in it's tracks. It became her trophy. She would spend her days and nights in the basement freezing just about anything she could find.

She began sneaking out of the orphanage during the day, going farther and farther away each time. Hoping to get caught and scolded, which never happened. It seemed nobody ever noticed she was gone. During one of her ventures wandering through town, she came across a fountain. Remembering what her cold magic did to water, she froze the fountain. Passersby were so impressed they through her some coin. After a few days of performing this trick, some town guard interrupted looking for a permit to perform. Not having one, she knew she was in trouble.

From the crowd, a dragonman stepped forward speaking up for the girl. Convinced the guard she was his apprentice that she had no idea a permit was needed. Gave the guard half the coin she had earned and was on their way. Here she found her mentor.

He taught her the ways, but never getting emotionally close to her. He was cold, calculating. She later learned he had built quite gambling debt. He started receiving threats against his life if he didn't pay up. Being her teacher, she wanted to help. Searching for jobs was fruitless. Nobody wanted to hire an 11 year old girl. She quickly decided to raise a little money for herself by freezing the fountain again. Went out and quantities of clothing. Cut her hair short, layered the clothing and adopted the name Calyx. Now appearing as a 16 year old boy, Calyx found no trouble finding a job. Was hired to help guard a caravan with several others...and this is where she/he joined the party.

I've allowed him a lot of freedom because of the backstory. He's essentially building a necromancer. There are a few spells I've let him pull in from a 5e style Thule campaign and from a couple other classes not normally available to Sorcerers so he can build the character he wants. A few tweaks here and there to abilities because of the stillborn nature of the child. It was on the brink of death, something touched her soul and forever changed her. Some minor undead traits because of this.

But an alignment was never really chosen. After several conversations, he wants to see if the party takes up the mantle to teach him wrong from right of they'll let him/her go off and do her own thing. Having been ignored entirely at the orphanage and having a cold and calculating mentor, she never really learned the do's and do not's. And this is where this threads discussion stemmed from.[/sblock]



When you create a character for D&D, you’ll need to choose an alignment. This article explains the nine different D&D alignments, plus examples of well-known characters that fit each alignment.

The nine Dungeons and Dragons alignments are:

  • Lawful Good
  • Neutral Good
  • Chaotic Good
  • Lawful Neutral
  • Neutral
  • Chaotic Neutral
  • Lawful Evil
  • Neutral Evil
  • Chaotic Evil

Read on for more about each D&D alignment, example characters for each one, and how to choose an alignment for your character. 

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Dungeons and dragons alignments tabaxi

What are alignments used for?

Your alignment guides how your character acts and responds to situations. It’s not a super-restrictive set of rules that you must always follow. No-one follows their own rules all the time, right?

Alignments are a helpful guide for how your character generally acts and behaves. It can help you to roleplay your character in a way that feels authentic and true to who they are. 

How do the alignments work?

The alignments are usually two words long. Let’s take the example of Lawful Good. 

The first part of the alignment, ‘Lawful’ describes that alignment’s ethics. The ethics section of the alignment indicates that character’s perspective on society as a whole. Do they respect authority or rebel against it? Do they like order and hierarchy or prefer individuality and freedom?

The second part of the alignment, ‘Good’, describes that alignment’s morals. Will they trample on others to get what they want, or do they want to help others? Will they hurt people for fun or will they protect them at all costs?

The alignment chart

The nine alignments exist on a chart. Ethics (Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic) on one axis, and morals (Good, Neutral and Evil) on the other axis. 

Lawful GoodNeutral GoodChaotic Good
Lawful NeutralNeutralChaotic Neutral
Lawful EvilNeutral EvilChaotic Evil

Lawful vs Chaotic

There are three positions on the ethics axis – Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic. 


A Lawful character follows the rules, respects hierarchy and believes in power given by society. Lawful characters believe in honour, following traditions and being trustworthy. They have faith in societal rules because they are how you create a functioning society where everyone acts in the way you expect. 

While they may sound noble, Lawful characters can be inflexible and blindly follow the rules even if they make no sense. They can harshly judge others that don’t follow the same rules and place their loyalty to the system above their loyalty to friends and family. 


Sitting in the middle of the ethical axis, Neutral characters do not feel compelled to follow every rule and societal belief, nor do they feel the need to disrupt and rebel against everything. A Neutral character follows the rules that align with their own agenda, that are convenient to them, or they think are necessary. 

Neutral characters will usually follow the rules because they generally lead to a better outcome for them. However, they can break the rules if they believe the benefits to them outweigh the risks.

Characters with a Neutral alignment may see themselves as superior to Lawful and Chaotic aligned characters because in not taking sides, they are the only alignment with true freedom to decide. 


Chaotic aligned characters aren’t random in their actions. Instead, they are simply the opposite side of the ethics spectrum to Lawful characters. Chaotic aligned characters live by their own rules instead of the rules society has decreed. They believe that is the only way an individual is truly free and can live up to their full potential. 

Chaotic characters dislike and distrust authority, don’t like following orders, and live life on their own terms. They can be flexible and adaptable and do what fits the situation and their own agenda. 

Characters with a Chaotic alignment may rebel against rules to try to bring about change or simply to create anarchy. They may take actions with a complete disregard for the consequences. 

Good vs Evil

The moral axis has three positions – Good, Neutral and Evil. 


Good characters care about others and act in ways that help and benefit them. They protect the innocent, defend the weak, and go out of their way to help other people. 


Characters aligned with Evil will eliminate others, cause them harm and make them miserable. They do not feel remorse for their actions and will take down anyone, whether those people are innocent or not. 

Characters may be aligned with Evil for many different reasons. For example, it could be because they follow an Evil deity, they work for an Evil master, or because they enjoy it. 


Neutral characters are very much in the middle ground. They do not go to the extremes of Evil characters and harm the innocent, and likewise, they will not go to the extremes of Good and take actions that harm themselves to help others. 

The actions of Neutral characters are driven by their loyalty to others and themselves. If an action is in their best interest or in the best interest of those to whom they are most loyal, they will take it. 

While all characters may naturally change alignments through character development, it is especially common for Neutral characters to move to a Good or Evil alignment if the majority of their actions favour one moral alignment over the other. 

Lawful Good

Lawful Good crusader miniature

Lawful Good character examples: Superman, Robocop, classic Paladins

Lawful Good characters always do the right thing as expected by society. They always follow the rules, tell the truth and help people out. They like order, trust and believe in people with social authority, and they aim to be an upstanding citizen.

Lawful Good characters believe in societal rules because they benefit everyone. If everyone followed their own rules there would be chaos and people may end up hurting each other. 

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Justice is really important to Lawful Good characters. If someone doesn’t follow the rules, they should be fairly judged by the system. They are angry when people get away with breaking the rules. 

They also believe that good behaviour and good deeds will be rewarded. 

A Lawful Good character holds themselves to the same standards that they hold everyone else. They very rarely, if ever, break the rules. If they do break the rules they will feel extremely uncomfortable doing so. 

Lawful Good characters do have some downsides. They can be irritatingly inflexible in their beliefs. They can come across as arrogant and self-righteous. They may fail to understand why an individual would pursue their own freedom and interests over the greater good. 

For a closer look at the Lawful Good alignment including how to roleplay it, usual traits, insults they might give, background ideas, and more check out my Lawful Good alignment article.

Neutral Good

Neutrasl Good alignment tabaxi miniature

Neutral Good character examples: Gandalf, Spiderman, Harry Potter

Neutral Good characters do their best to help others, but they do it because they want to, not because they have been told to by a person in authority or by society’s laws. 

While they will generally follow the rules and laws of society, they do so because they lead to good outcomes, rather than because they feel obligated to by authority figures and institutions. 

A Neutral Good person will break the rules if they are doing it for good reasons and they will feel confident and justified in their actions. 

One negative of Neutral Good characters is that they care about upholding Good more than abiding by any laws, so they can adopt Chaotic behaviour and be unpredictable if pushed.

For more detail on the Neutral Good alignment including roleplay ideas, typical traits and even insults to dish out, check out my Neutral Good alignment article.

Chaotic Good

Chaotic Good Tiefling miniature

Chaotic Good character examples: Robin Hood, Luna Lovegood, Mary Poppins

Chaotic Good characters do what their conscience tells them to for the greater good. They do not care about following society’s rules, they care about doing what’s right. 

A Chaotic Good character will speak up for and help, those who are being needlessly held back because of arbitrary rules and laws. They do not like seeing people being told what to do for nonsensical reasons. 

These people will rebel and break the rules to do what’s right and may even try to bring about societal change. 

Chaotic Good characters may appear strange to others because they do not abide by societal expectations to fit in. 

On the negative side, the actions of Chaotic Good characters can negatively affect other Good people. They may not care about the hard-earned success of Good people because their success was earned in the system that the Chaotic Good character disagrees with.

For a deeper dive into Chaotic Good, check out my Chaotic Good alignment article.

Lawful Neutral

Lawful neutral alignment miniature

Lawful Neutral character examples: Judge Dredd, Space Marines, Amanda Waller

A Lawful Neutral character behaves in a way that matches the organization, authority or tradition they follow. They live by this code and uphold it above all else, taking actions that are sometimes considered Good and sometimes considered Evil by others. 

The Lawful Neutral character does not care about what others think of their actions, they only care about their actions being correct according to their code. But they do not preach their code to others and try to convert them. 

Lawful Neutral characters like rules, order and organization. They follow these to the letter for their own sake. Moral decisions don’t come into the equation for them so even if they hurt others in carrying out their duty, they feel no guilt, remorse or anguish.

Because a Lawful Neutral character is so emotionless in following their own laws it is easy for them to appear Lawful Evil. 

The Lawful Neutral alignment can be bad when the character seeks to control others, eliminate anyone who is different and restrict all free will.

For a closer look at the Lawful Neutral alignment, check out my article.

True Neutral

True neutral druid miniature

True Neutral character examples: Lara Croft, Malcolm Reynolds, Rincewind

True Neutral (sometimes called Neutral Neutral) characters don’t like to take sides. They are pragmatic rather than emotional in their actions, choosing the response which makes the most sense for them in each situation. 

Neutral characters don’t believe in upholding the rules and laws of society, but nor do they feel the need to rebel against them. There will be times when a Neutral character has to make a choice between siding with Good or Evil, perhaps casting the deciding vote in a party. They will make a choice in these situations, usually siding with whichever causes them the least hassle, or they stand to gain the most from. 

A Neutral character may be preoccupied with their own agenda and simply have no interest in what’s happening around them, they may just be looking to see who can offer them the best deal, or simply doing what’s most convenient in any situation. 

On the negative side, True Neutral characters can come across as apathetic and indecisive. They can be frustrating to work with because they don’t want to commit to any side.

Take a closer look at True Neutral in my article.

Chaotic Neutral

chaotic neutral tabaxi rogue miniature

Chaotic Neutral character examples: Captain Jack Sparrow, Cat Woman, Guybrush Threepwood

Chaotic Neutral characters are free spirits. They do what they want but don’t seek to disrupt the usual norms and laws of society. 

These individuals don’t like being told what to do, following traditions, or being controlled. That said, they will not work to change these restrictions, instead, they will just try to avoid them in the first place. Their need to be free is the most important thing. 

Chaotic Neutral characters do what is most likely to ensure their freedom, protect their free will, and get them the outcome they want. That might be a Good action like helping someone, or an Evil action like failing to tell the truth. However, a Chaotic Good character is more likely to take a Good action than an Evil one because it usually results in a better outcome and an easy time of it for them.

Chaotic Neutral characters might be one step away from being caught for a misdeed in one moment, then redeem themselves with a good action in the next moment. They can easily slip into Chaotic Good or Chaotic Evil if they take too many Good or Evil actions in a row. 

Chaotic Neutral characters sometimes disrupt order just for the sake of it and leave others to sort it out. It makes them a frustrating ally to have in a D&D group!

For more about the Chaotic Neutral alignment, see my article.

Lawful Evil

Lawful evil alignment miniature

Lawful Evil character examples: Darth Vader, Lex Luther, Dolores Umbridge

Lawful Evil characters operate within a strict code of laws and traditions. Upholding these values and living by these is more important than anything, even the lives of others. They may not consider themselves to be Evil, they may believe what they are doing is right. 

These characters enforce their system of control through force. Anyone who doesn’t follow their code or acts out of line will face consequences. Lawful Evil characters feel no guilt or remorse for causing harm to others in this way. 

Characters with a Lawful Evil alignment may follow their own Evil moral code or be part of an ordered system following a leader. However, if their master stops adhering to the code, they may seek to overthrow them or find a replacement. 

Lawful Evil alignments are particularly bad because Evil combined with order and structure, often leads to very powerful Evil movements and society-wide regimes.

For a deeper look at Lawful Evil, check out my article.

Neutral Evil

Neutral Evil alignment miniature

Neutral Evil character examples: Jabba the Hutt, Bowser, Cruella de Vil

Neutral Evil characters are selfish. Their actions are driven by their own wants whether that’s power, greed, attention, or something else. They will follow laws if they happen to align with their ambitions, but they will not hesitate to break them if they don’t. 

They don’t believe that following laws and traditions makes anyone a better person. Instead, they use other people’s beliefs in codes and loyalty against them, using it as a tool to influence their behaviour. 

These characters make allegiances with others to further their own agenda but will quickly leave allies when they are no longer useful. 

Characters with a Neutral Evil alignment will hurt others if it furthers their agenda but they will not harm people for no particular reason. Unless their agenda is to spread evil for evil’s sake, in which case, they may harm others en masse. 

Above all else, Neutral Evil characters care about one thing and one thing only, themselves. 

Neutral Evil characters are particularly bad because they can carry out Evil for Evil’s sake, with no code to follow or rebel against. 

Check out the Neutral Evil alignment in detail in my article.

Chaotic Evil

Chaotic Evil alignment miniature

Chaotic Evil character examples: The Joker, Voldemort, Bellatrix Lestrange

Chaotic Evil characters care only for themselves with a complete disregard for all law and order and for the welfare and freedom of others. They harm others out of anger or just for fun. 

Characters aligned with Chaotic Evil usually operate alone because they do not work well with others. They can be controlled with force but only temporarily. As soon as they have a chance, they will take out the person controlling them. 

They may be driven by their desire to spread Chaos and Evil or because they enjoy it. They are unpredictable and freely express wild and intense emotions because they see no reason to control or suppress them. 

Chaotic Evil characters are the most Evil of all because they are out to destroy everything – order, tradition, life, freedom and choice. 

For more on the Chaotic Evil alignment, see my article.

What about the alignment of animals and creatures?

Animals and creatures who can’t take moral actions are thought of as unaligned. They are following their instincts to respond to the situation in front of them, rather than responding with an intellectual understanding of the societal rules and consequences for their decisions.

How to choose your alignment

Dungeons and dragons miniatures

Think about the type of character you want to play

Ask yourself questions about the type of character you want to play to figure out where they sit on the ethical and moral axis. 

Do you want to play someone who is inherently good or bad? How do they feel about authority and following orders and traditions? 

What is their main motivation and how far will they go in pursuit of it? Are they prepared to harm other people to get what they want?

Take an alignment test

Wizards of the Coast have an alignment test. You can answer the questions as yourself to see what your personal alignment is, or you can answer the questions as if your character is answering them. Then you’ll know what alignment to give your character. 

Find a character alignment chart for a show or film you love

To create a good, well-rounded character to roleplay, I find it helpful to base them on a character or person you know quite well. The better you know your character, the better you know how they will respond to a situation so you can roleplay them instinctively and help the session flow smoothly. 

Consider the alignments of your group

If the group you’re playing in has a mixture of Good and Evil characters it can be difficult to form allegiances in the party. 

A mixed group makes for an interesting campaign for a while, but eventually, the party will become divided and characters may need to leave to stay true to their alignment. 

Alternatively, character development could lead characters to change their alignment allowing them to work together as a party without moral issues. 

Conclusion – D&D Character alignments

Whichever you choose, remember that your character’s D&D alignment is only a guide and that it can change during a campaign as your character develops. It’s actually really interesting when this happens!

If you’re looking for a miniature for your D&D character take a look at Reaper Bones minis on Amazon like Sir Brannor, a human Crusader Captain, or Damien, a Hellborn Wizard tiefling.

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DnD 5e – Practical Guide to Alignment

Last Updated: August 25, 2021


Since its earliest editions, Dungeons and Dragons has included a system known as “Alignment”. This system provided a way to describe a creature’s moral outlook in extremely broad terms; general enough to get a broad idea of a creatures’ worldview but not detailed enough to provide specifics about their personality.

While Alignment originally featured just the law-chaos axis, the good-evil axis was introduced in the 1977 Dungeons and Dragons Basic Set, and Alignment has continued to work in basically the same way ever since with occasional changes in wording or mechanics. However, as the community has grown and the game has evolved, Alignment has become a weird, achaic holdover from previous editions which players view with increasing scepticism.

In this article, we’ll examine Aignment with a critical eye. We’ll explore the meaning behind the alignment system, the philosophical and moral implications, the mechanical aspects, what 5e’s alignment system does well, what it does poorly, and what we can do to make 5e’s alignment system useful without being stifling or problematic.

A Brief history

The original edition of Dungeons and Dragons (sometimes called “OD&D”) featured alignment in three flavors: lawful, neutral, and chaotic. In 1977 the Dungeons and Dragons Basic Set introduced the second axis: good, neutral, and evil.

The alignment system remained largely unchanged for a long time. 4th edition made the first significant change, rearranging the two-axis system into a one-axis system.

  • Lawful Good
  • Good
  • Neutral
  • Evil
  • Chaotic Evil

This was a confusing departure, doing away with both Lawful Evil and Chaotic Good alignments. 4th edition also removed the mechanical impacts of alignment, so this may have been done to simplify the alignment system. However, it unintentionally introduced the implication that lawfulness was somehow inherently good and chaoticness was somehow inherently evil.

With the release of 5th edition, Wizards of the Coast returned Alignment to the two-axis system. However, like 4th edition, 5th edition has largely done away with the mechanical implications of alignment (though there are some exceptions which we’ll discuss below).

What is Alignment?

Alignment is an extremely simple two-axis system used to describe a creatures’ general “moral attitude”. While this doesn’t portray the minutae of philosophy, it can be a quick shorthand to determine how a creature might behave. For example: a lawful-good creature will generally by just, kind, and orderly, while a chaotic evil creature will often be selfish and unpredictable.

Alignment is descibed using the creature’s positon on each of the two axes. A creature who is lawful and evil will be described as “Lawful-Evil”. A creature who is neutral and good will be described as “Neutral-Good”. A creature who is neutral on both axes is described simply as “Neutral”, though previous editions have used the term “True Neutral”.

Alignment doesn’t go into more detail than that, and to some degree it’s not intended to. Intelligent creatures are complex, and there’s no way to perfectly describe a creature’s philosophical outlook in a space small enough to fit on a character sheet.

While alignment is listed using discting steps (lawful, neutral, chaotic. good, neutral, evil.), a creature might lean in one direction or another. Alignment is somewhat clumsy in cases where a creature doesn’t fall neatly into one category, so an evil-leaning lawful-neutral character can be difficult to describe in the broad strokes used by the Alignment system.

Law and Chaos

The first axis of Alignment is the “Law vs. Chaos” axis.

Creatures which are “Lawful” tend to be orderly and organized. They often value rules and structure, and therefore value systems which support those ideals: laws, traditions, systems of honor, etc. At its best, being Lawful means honesty, trustworthiness, reliability, and stability. At its worst, being Lawful means being rigid, stagnant, judgemental, and tyranical.

Creatures which are “Chaotic” value freedom and flexibility. They value freedom of choice, individualism, and adaptability. At its best, being Chaotic means a readiness to accept change, to explore new ideas, and to explore new ideas. At its worst, being chaotic means being disorganized, unreliable, irresponsible, and sometimes even destructive.

Law and Chaos are intentionally separated from Good and Evil because being lawful or chaotic aren’t inherently good or bad qualities. There are plenty of stories about heroes who you might describe as chaotic, and there are plenty of stories about villains who you might describe as lawful.

Good and Evil

The second axis of Alignment is the “Good vs. Evil” axis.

Creatures which are “Good” tend to be altruistic, generous, and peaceful. Good characters often give of themselves to help others.

Creatures which are “Evil” tend to be selfish, greedy, and sometimes even malicious. While 5th edition doesn’t specifically say so, previous editions have stated that “implies hurting, oppressing, and killing others”. The exact published definition of “evil” has changed somewhat over the game’s history, but in general evil creatures are willing to harm others in order to get what they want.

The good vs. evil axis is perhaps the heart of the controversy around Alignment. We’ll discuss this more below.

The Ten Alignments

The ten alignments are described below based on their descriptions in the 5th edition core rules with some elaboration based on previous editions. The Player’s Handbook contains brief descriptions of each of these alignments, but I also encourage you to read the Wikipedia entries and the entries below.

We’ll revisit alignments later in the article to expand on what we can do with these alignments.

Lawful Good creatures act how a “good person” is expected to act. They follow rules, respect legitimite authority, and treat others with kindness, honor, and respect.

Lawful Good has long been considered the alignment of idealistic heroes. Paladins were locked into lawful-good alignment until late in 3rd edition, and paladins have long been a beacon of moral certitude. However, characters who are lawful good are frequently seen as morally rigid and stubborn, so the alignment is often derided as “lawful stupid”.

Neutral Good creatures do their best to do what they consider “good”, but don’t cling to rules or stricture so much as Lawful Good creatures. A Neutral Good creature might still obey the law or society’s expectations most of the time, but they are not rigidly bound by them, and they view doing right thing as more valuable than obeying some strict doctrine.

Chaotic Good creatures do what they believe to be right with little regard for the opinions of others. They are guided by their own sense of good and evil rather than the prevailing opinions of society, and they do not feel bound by rules, laws, or other creatures’ expectations of behavior.

Lawful Neutral act in accordance with the law, tradition, or with some code of behavior. While this code can often be external (the law, a religious tradition, etc.), it can also be self-determined.

Neutral creatures do what seems like the best option in any given situation. These creatures might lack strong moral convictions, they might be indecisive, or they might simply be unoppinionated. Such creatures typically act based upon their momentary needs and desires rather than based on a moral philosophy.

Perhaps the hardest alignment to play, Neutral implies that a character either can’t, won’t, or hasn’t performed enough self-reflection to align themselves anywhere else within the Alignment system. In a party of characters who are usually not also Neutral (even if alignment is selected at random), it’s difficult to remain Neutral while your party is murder-hoboing or leading a divine crusade.

Chaotic Neutral creatures follow their whims, valuing their own freedom and self-interest above other concerns. Such creatures dislike being ordered to do things, and pay no regard for rules or other creatures’ expectations. And, while they are not always selfish to the point of harming others, they feel no compulsion to help other creatures in need.

Many new players fall into the trap of “Chaotic Neutral” as a universally permissive alignment. Innumerable adventurers have been made Chaotic Neutral as an excuse to murder, pillage, and rob their way through life. Remember: within the confines of the Alignment system, harming others for personal benefit (murder, robbery, etc.) is evil. There’s nothing wrong with playing an evil character, but let’s not lie to ourselves and pretend that “Stabby the Burgler-Arsonist” is Chaotic Neutral.

Lawful Evil creatures act within a code of behavior, but are otherwise self-centered. They are often tyrants, or would be if they could, seeking to use their code of behavior to advance their own interests.

Neutral Evil creatures are self-interested, and do whatever they can get away with to advance their own interestes. They might follow rules if it serves them, but they do not feel bound to do so. At the same time, they aren’t to unpredictable as Chaotic evil creatures.

Chaotic Evil creatures are motivated by arbitrary and often malicious whims. They are typically greedy and selfish, and are often violent. They give no thought to the wants or needs of other creatures, and pay no heed to rules or expectations. Such creatures will typically only bow to authority when threatened.

Chaotic Evil’s description has been weird since at least 3rd edition. 5e’s description starts with “creatures act with arbitrary violence”, which sounds a bit harsh. But compared to the 3rd edition entry, that’s pretty gentle. 3rd edition describes such creatures as “hot-tempered, vicious, arbitrarily violent, and unpredictable”, and goes on to describe other evil stuff like spreading evil and chaos.

Unaligned creatures (yes, “Unaligned” is an alignment) lack the mental capacity to make philosophical judgements, and therefore don’t have an alignment. Such creatures include beasts and unintelligent undead. While these creatures may still exibit alignment-like traits (squirrels dillignetly collect and bury good; dogs might act sympathetically toward a sad or injured humanoid), these behaviors are considered less about moral judgement than they are about conditioning, and unaligned creatures lack a capacity for self-reflection which would allow them to examine the moral implications of their thoughts and behaviors.

What is Wrong With Alignment?

Perhaps the largest controversy within the alignment system is the “good vs. evil” axis, which prevents a gross oversimplificiation of morality. The easiest way to expose the problem is simply to ask “who decided what is “good” and what is “evil”?”

Dungeons and Dragons has historically followed a simplistic good-evil philosophy which real-world people may find familiar: Greed is bad, generosity is good. Respecting others is good, treating others with disrepect is bad. Honoring commitments is good, breaking them is bad. Harming others for selfish interests is bad, protecting the vulnerable from exploitation is good.

But who decided that those things are good? The real world has a long history of philosophers, religions, and laws which have gradually steered humanity in various directions, and I’m nowhere near qualified to explore them in any serious level of detail.

But why do our real-world ideas of a good and evil apply to characters within our games? Those characters don’t have the same world history that we do, and it seems silly to assume that a fictional world with dragons and magic would somehow naturally evolve the same moral philosophy which you or I might consider familiar. Fictional worlds would necessarily have different views of good and evil, just as different real-world cultures have different views of good and evil, and societies at different points in their histories have different views of good and evil.

So, again I ask: “Who decided what is good and what is evil?” If you examine a game setting (your own or someone else’s), you can likely find an answer. In many settings, the same answer is the same: good and evil are often defined by the setting’s gods.

Settings like Forgotten Realms have polytheistic pantheons with deities who are often directly involved in the word, and access to those deities via magic or interplanar travel means that mortals can directly ask the gods to weigh in on what is good or evil. The DM, who is presumably portraying the gods in their own game, is therefore the ultimate arbiter of good and evil.

How to Use Alignment

The simplest answer is “don’t”. To some degree, Alignment is a relic of the 1970’s, and its difficulties and inherent philosophical problems can be frustrating, and it can feel as though there is little payoff for putting your character’s complex belief system into a neat box. It’s perfectly fine to play without alignment. Almost nothing in the game cares about creatures’ actual alignments, so there’s essentially no cost to doing so. But, assuming that you’re still open to the possibility of using Alignment, I’d like to lay out some concepts that may make alignment appealing.

Alignment is “The World”‘s Opinion

Alignment is not determined by the character; it is determined by the general views of “The World”. That doesn’t mean that everyone in the world gets a vote; it means that your characters alignment is based on the moral opinions of the world around them.

For example: Goofus lives in Puppyville, but hates puppies and scares them away from his house whenever he sees puppies. The people of Puppyville love puppies, and treating puppies with kindness and generosity is viewed as “good”. Therefore, within the moral opinions of Goofus’s world, he could be considered “evil” because he is doing something that the world sees as cruel or selfish.

By comparison, Gallant lives in Peanut Butter City, a city where things are made from magical peanut butter. Puppies love Peanut Butter City, but have a nasty habit of eating the buildings made of peanut butter, thereby rendering people homeless. Gallant makes his living by scaring puppies away from Peanut Butter City. Because he is protecting the vulnerable citizens, he could be considered “good”.

Goofus and Gallant are doing the same thing: scaring away puppies. Niether act is inherently good or evil, but based on context and the prevailing moral opinions of their world, we can measure a character on the alignment scales.

Alignment is Descriptive, not Prescriptive

Perhaps the best advice I’ve ever read on alignment is that Alignment is “descriptive”, not “prescriptive”. This means that alignment describes a creatures’ behavior, but it does not dictate their behavior.

For example: Gallant is Lawful Good. He is in all ways considered a great person, and he is widely respected. However, Gallant has a sweet tooth, and one day he has a weird moment and decides to steal a candy bar. Gallant will likely feel bad about it later, but he’s not magically incapable of non-good acts. If he were a player character, his Dungeon Matser should never say “Gallant would not do that because he is Lawful Good!” Instead, the Dungeon Master might ask “This seems like an unusual choice for Gallant”, and allow Gallant to contnue. If Gallant continues to deviate from his alignment, the Dungeon Master might change Gallant’s alignment to reflect his new normal.

Alignment Can Change

People can change, and characters are no exception. Innumerable stories feature good characters falling to evil or evil characters redeeming themselves. Player characters are not somehow exempt from this phenomenon. A character’s experiences over the course of a campaign might change their outlook on the world, so changing alignment over time can be a very interesting way to portray character growth beyond more mechanical stuff like gaining levels.

Reimagining Alignment

“Reimagining” may be an over-sell. “Re-label” may be more accurate. Simply by changing the terminology of the Alignment system, we can hit the original intent of the system while also removing some of the complicated moral philosophy stuff.

First, replace the chaos-law axis with dogmatic-pragmatic. Dogmatic characters adhere to a set of principals, while pragmatic characters behave according to what they think is practical in a given situation. This maintains the core concept, but removes the sometimes confusing association with actual law since a dogmatic character can still be opposed to the law of the land, local traditions, or other rules systems with which they disagree.

Second, replace the evil-good axis with selfish-selfless. Selfish characters act based on their own needs and desires, while selfless characters act based on the needs and desires of others. This removes the judgement that acting in your own self-interest in inherently “evil”, and breaks away from the implied morality written into the game. It also separates the notion of “evil” from the implied maliciousness and violence.

These two changes allow players to explore less-heroic personalities without the stamp of “evil” on their character sheet. A player could play a pragmatic-selfish character (the equivalent of chaotic evil) without being judged as an inherently murderous, violent monster.

A Third Axis

Adding a third axis can add additional nuance to the Alignment system without massively increasing the complexity. I propose adding a new “antisocial-prosocial” axis. This indicates how the creature behaves toward other people and toward society, which tells us a little bit more about how the creature applies their Alignment to the world around them.

Antisocial creatures are rough, hostile, standoffish, and generally unwilling to associate with society in a friendly way. At best they are impolite, demeaning, disrespectful, or insulting. At worst they are aggressive, pushy, or even violent.

Neutral creatures are often indifferent or ambivalent toward society and toward other creatures. They are not outwardly hostil unless provoked, but also are not immediately friendly or helpful.

Prosocial creatures are friendly, polite, and generally choose to participate in society. At best, a prosocial character is helpful, charming, and pleasant. At worst, a prosocial character is manipulative or conniving.

Some examples: A lawful-good-antisocial character (or selfless-dogmatic-antisocial) might run a charity or a hospital or some other broadly kind service while in-person they constantly make demeaning remarks to those around them. A chaotic-evil-social character (or selfish-pragmatic-social) might make their living as a thief, but they’re charming to speak to and they always offer directions and to local tourists.

You might reasonably think “that doesn’t feel like a meaningful addition to my game”, and honestly you’re probably right. Alignment is already an extremely minor part of the game, and adding more stuff to it isn’t necessarily an improvement. Use what works for your group.


Alignment is at the same time complicated but overly simple, confusing yet a helpful abstraction, and overly-rigid yet flexible enough to be useful. It’s a strange beast. You don’t need to use it, so if it’s a problem it’s totally fine to do away with it. But at the same time, taking a moment to fit a creature into an alignment may be helpful to convey basic information about a creature’s moral standing.

Other References

Alignment in Dungeons and Dragons 5e


A typical creature in the game world has an alignment, which broadly describes its moral and personal attitudes. Alignment is a combination of two factors: one identifies morality (good, evil, or neutral), and the other describes attitudes toward society and order (lawful, chaotic, or neutral). Thus, nine distinct alignments define the possible combinations.

These brief summaries of the nine alignments describe the typical behavior of a creature with that alignment. Individuals might vary significantly from that typical behavior, and few people are perfectly and consistently faithful to the precepts of their alignment.

Lawful good (LG) creatures can be counted on to do the right thing as expected by society. Gold dragons, paladins, and most dwarves are lawful good.

Neutral good (NG) folk do the best they can to help others according to their needs. Many celestials, some cloud giants, and most gnomes are neutral good.

Chaotic good (CG) creatures act as their conscience directs, with little regard for what others expect. Copper dragons, many elves, and unicorns are chaotic good.

Lawful neutral (LN) individuals act in accordance with law, tradition, or personal codes. Many monks and some wizards are lawful neutral.

Neutral (N) is the alignment of those who prefer to steer clear of moral questions and don't take sides, doing what seems best at the time. Lizardfolk, most druids, and many humans are neutral.

Chaotic neutral (CN) creatures follow their whims, holding their personal freedom above all else. Many barbarians and rogues, and some bards, are chaotic neutral.

Lawful evil (LE) creatures methodically take what they want, within the limits of a code of tradition, loyalty, or order. Devils, blue dragons, and hobgoblins are lawful evil.

Neutral evil (NE) is the alignment of those who do whatever they can get away with, without compassion or qualms. Many drow, some cloud giants, and goblins are neutral evil.

Chaotic evil (CE) creatures act with arbitrary violence, spurred by their greed, hatred, or bloodlust. Demons, red dragons, and orcs are chaotic evil.

Alignment in the Multiverse

For many thinking creatures, alignment is a moral choice. Humans, dwarves, elves, and other humanoid races can choose whether to follow the paths of good or evil, law or chaos. According to myth, the good-aligned gods who created these races gave them free will to choose their moral paths, knowing that good without free will is slavery.

The evil deities who created other races, though, made those races to serve them. Those races have strong inborn tendencies that match the nature of their gods. Most orcs share the violent, savage nature of the orc gods, and are thus inclined toward evil. Even if an orc chooses a good alignment, it struggles against its innate tendencies for its entire life. (Even half-orcs feel the lingering pull of the orc god's influence.)

Alignment is an essential part of the nature of celestials and fiends. A devil does not choose to be lawful evil, and it doesn't tend toward lawful evil, but rather it is lawful evil in its essence. If it somehow ceased to be lawful evil, it would cease to be a devil.

Most creatures that lack the capacity for rational thought do not have alignments - they are unaligned. Such a creature is incapable of making a moral or ethical choice and acts according to its bestial nature. Sharks are savage predators, for example, but they are not evil; they have no alignment.


5e alignment shift

Are there official guidelines for a DM to change the alignment of a player's character?

The Deck of Many Things (DMG, 162) Balance card says

Your mind suffers a wrenching alteration, causing your alignment to change.

This essentially swaps alignment. LE becomes CG, for example. In the Blood Hunter's case, CN would become LN. This card is intended for huge changes in play style that majorly affect the game. Switching from one end of the spectrum to another is a much larger change than switching from neutral to good.

On PHB page 122, there is a small section on alignment that says

For many thinking creatures, alignment is a moral choice. Humans, dwarves, elves, and other humanoid races can choose whether to follow the paths of good or evil, law or chaos.

And explains that the good deities who created such races intentionally gave them free will.

An article of Unearthed Arcana from 2015 called Variant Rules also explains that

Alignment is meant to serve only as a quick summary of a character, not a rigid definitions. It's a starting point, but elements such as flaws and bonds paint a much more detailed picture of a character's identity.

From this we can conclude that alignment is not rigid and can be changed, but that this change should be the choice of the PC, not the DM since they have the free will to make that moral choice. That being said, as the DM, you could suggest an alignment change, or advise them that they are playing more CG than CN (once you know their intentions).

There are very few mechanical effects of an alignment change, but here are all that I can find. I won't give a description of it, but I will provide the page number to see for yourself.

Robe of the Archmagi DMG, 194

Talisman of Pure Good/Ultimate Evil DMG, 207

Sentient Artifacts: In some cases, only characters of the same alignment of the artifact are able to attune with it. DMG, starting 214

Death: When a character dies, they go to the plane of the deity they worship if applicable. If not, they go to the plane that corresponds with their alignment. So Arborea (CG) or Limbo (CN) for the Blood Hunter.

Should We Have Alignment in D\u0026D?

Alignment Tracking

The alignment system in Dungeons and Dragons is difficult to use because there are no definite game rules covering alignment. Vital to any alignment system are rules to govern alignment shifts. Normally, it is left to the DM to decide if a player portrays his character's alignment correctly. If the player's roleplaying is found lacking, then the DM must use his own judgment, and the few guidelines given in the rulebooks, to decide if an alignment shift is appropriate. There are no game mechanics to fall back on.

In this system, both the ethical (law-chaos) and moral (good-evil) components of alignment are given a score on a scale of 0 to 100. The number 50 represents neutrality on both axes. Scores of 100 indicate a maximum of law and good, while scores of 0 indicate a maximum of chaos and evil. Thus, a thoroughly chaotic good character would have an ethics score of 0 and a morality score of 100. Conversely, a diabolically lawful evil character would have a 100 in ethics and a 0 in morality. In this respect, the system is much like the alignment tracking system found in the Neverwinter Nights computer game by Bioware.

Ethics and Morality

L+G+91-100True Lawful or True Good
LG81-90Lawful or Good
L(N)G(N)71-80Lawful or Good with Neutral tendencies
-C-E66-70Non-Chaotic or Non-Evil
N(L)N(G)56-65Neutral with Lawful or Good tendencies
NN45-55True Neutral
N(C)N(E)35-44Neutral with Chaotic or Evil tendencies
-L-G30-34Non-Lawful or Non-Good
C(N)E(N)20-29Chaotic or Evil with Neutral tendencies
CE10-19Chaotic or Evil
C+E+0-9True Chaotic or True Evil

The table above shows the score ranges that correspond to the various alignments. Lawful ranges from 71 to 100, chaotic ranges from 0 to 29. Neutral with respect to law and chaos ranges from 35 to 65. Good ranges from 71 to 100, evil from 0 to 29, and neutral with respect to good and evil from 35 to 65.

Starting scores for new characters are shown in the table below.

Alignment ComponentStarting MoralityAlignment ComponentStarting Ethics

Score ranges from 30 to 34 and 66 to 70 are transition areas. In these areas, the alignment of the character is in question. The DM should use these areas to simulate a character who is in danger of an alignment shift. For example, a lawful good cleric allows his morality score to decrease to 70. He may find that he can no longer cast his highest level spells or he may experience nightmares involving excommunication. At this point, the character is not lawful good or lawful neutral, he is somewhere in between. All that can be said is that he is "non-evil."

The Alignment Check

The DM determines when a character's action has alignment ramifications. For each action that the DM wishes to assess, do the following:

1. Determine the ethical and/or moral nature of the act. An act can be chaotic, evil, good, lawful, or an appropriate combination of an ethical and moral alignment (such as "lawful and good" or "chaotic and good").

2. Assign a strength (or severity) of the act on a scale of 1 to 5. A strength of 1 indicates a significant, but minor act. A strength of 2 should be assigned for a significant act common to the alignment. A significant, major act should be given a 3. An extreme act should be assigned a 4 while only the strongest of extreme acts should be given a 5. Most of the time, the DM should not assign a strength above 3. If the DM needs guidelines in assigning these strength scores to different alignment acts, consult the Sins and Signs of Weakness sections of each alignment description. Since these lists are given in order of severity, they provide good guidelines for alignment infractions.

3. Multiply the strength by -1 for an evil or chaotic act. Therefore, lawful or good acts are rated from +1 to +5 while chaotic or evil acts are rated from -1 to -5.

4. Have the player roll an "alignment check." The player rolls d100 and applies the positive (for lawful or good acts) or negative (for chaotic or evil acts) strength of the action. Note the result.

5. If the act was lawful or good, and the alignment check result is higher than the character's current alignment score, add the strength of the act to the character's alignment score. If the act was chaotic or evil, and the alignment check is lower than the character's current alignment score, add the strength of the act to the character's alignment score (remember, this strength is negative, so the alignment score will decrease). If the alignment check result is exactly the character's alignment score, there is no change.

Some examples may clarify.

Example #1 - A paladin performs an act that the DM considers chaotic. The DM assigns a strength score of 1 (indicating a significant, but minor act of chaos). Since this act is chaotic, the strength becomes -1 (per step 3, above). The paladin's ethics score is 79. The player rolls d100 and gets a 52. The strength is applied to this roll bringing the result down to 51. Since this result is less than the character's ethics score (of 79), the DM orders the player to subtract 1 from the paladins ethics score. The paladin now has an ethics score of 78. She's still lawful, for now.

Example #2 - This same paladin later performs a great act of heroism, risking her life to save hundreds of innocents. The DM determines that this act merits an alignment check. He determines that this was a major act of goodness and assigns a strength of 3. The player rolls d100 and adds 3 to the roll. The total result is 98. Since the paladin's morality score is 84, her morality is increased by 3 for a new total of 87.

Example #3 - A few days later, our paladin commits a minor act of evil (strength of 1). The player rolls d100 and gets a 93. The adjusted roll becomes 92. Since this roll is above the paladin's morality score of 87, the paladin does not lose a point of morality. Had the player rolled a 13, he would have been forced to subtract one from his character's morality (since he rolled below 87). The DM could, of course, declare that the character loses her paladinhood regardless of the alignment check, since the act committed was evil.

Example #4 - The paladin commits a significant act of goodness. The DM gives the act a strength of 2. The player rolls the dice and gets an adjusted result of 37. The player adds no points to his paladin's morality score, since his result was not greater than the paladin's morality score (which is 87).

Moral Support

This system is designed to make it increasingly harder to become more lawful, chaotic, good, or evil. The higher (or lower) your score, the harder it is to make the actions in keeping with your alignment count towards your alignment score. To become more good, you must beat your morality score when you make alignment checks for good acts. To become more evil, you must roll less than your morality score when you make alignment checks for evil acts. It is very easy to slip (with either an act of goodness or an act of cruelty) and start moving towards neutrality. This system makes it challenging to continue following an extreme alignment. Likewise, it is hard to remain neutral if the character consistently engages in behavior favoring one alignment over the other.

Bringing a "score" into the alignment system gives players an incentive to play alignment correctly. The DM calls for alignment checks, but a roll determines the results. This makes the job of the DM easier by giving alignment change an air of objectivity. Players are more likely to accept the results of a failed roll than the arbitrary judgment of a DM. Of course, even with this system, the DM ALWAYS retains the right to adjust a character's alignment. The DM may determine that a single act changes a character's alignment and force an alignment change.

The DM should remember to call for alignment checks when a player plays an alignment correctly. If alignment checks are called for only when a transgression occurs, all characters will eventually be forced to shift alignment. The DM should also call for alignment checks only for significant acts. A paladin who squashes an innocent bug is not risking his immortal soul by committing an evil act.

Expanded Alignment Chart (Courtesy of Lady Aleena)

Given the alignment tracking system introduced in this section, an expanded alignment chart may look something like the chart shown below. This chart came from Lady Aleena and the chart on that site allows you to mouse-over each block to read the alignment in plain language, displays much better on phones, and has a link to an *.svg image.

Link to Expanded Alignment Chart by Lady Aleena

Ethics Score

Link to Expanded Alignment Chart by Lady Aleena


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Alignment (Dungeons & Dragons)

Categorization of ethical and moral perspective of creatures in the Dungeons & Dragons universe

In the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) fantasyrole-playing game, alignment is a categorization of the ethical and moral perspective of player characters, non-player characters, and creatures.

Most versions of the game feature a system in which players make two choices for characters. One is the character's views on "law" versus "chaos", the other on "good" versus "evil". The two axes allow for nine alignments in combination.[1][2] According to Ian Livingstone, alignment is "often criticized as being arbitrary and unreal, but... it works if played well and provides a useful structural framework on which not only characters but governments and worlds can be moulded."[1]


D&D co-creator Gary Gygax credited the inspiration for the alignment system to the fantasy stories of Michael Moorcock and Poul Anderson.[3][4]

The original version of D&D allowed players to choose among three alignments when creating a character: lawful, implying honor and respect for society's rules; chaotic, implying rebelliousness and individualism; and neutral, seeking a balance between the extremes.[5]

The 1977 release of the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set introduced a second axis of good, implying altruism and respect for life, versus evil, implying selfishness and no respect for life. As with the law-versus-chaos axis, a neutral position exists between the extremes. Characters and creatures could be lawful and evil at the same time (such as a tyrant), or chaotic but good (such as Robin Hood).[6]

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D), released between 1977 and 1979, continued the two-axis system.[7] The 1981 version of the Basic Set went back to the earlier one-axis alignment system.[8]

AD&D 2nd Edition, released in 1988, retained the two-axis system. In that edition, a character who performs too many actions outside their alignment can find their alignment changed, and is penalized by losing experience points, making it harder to reach the next level.[9]D&D 3rd Edition, released in 2000, kept the same alignment system.[10]

D&D 4th Edition, released in 2008, reduced the number of alignments to five: lawful good, good, evil, chaotic evil, and unaligned.[11] In that edition, "good" replaced neutral good and did not encompass chaotic good; "evil" replaced neutral evil and did not encompass lawful evil; "unaligned" replaced true neutral and did not encompass lawful neutral and chaotic neutral.[12]

D&D 5th Edition, released in 2014, returned to the previous schema of nine alignments, and included a tenth option of "unaligned" for creatures that operate on instinct, not moral decision-making.[13]


Richard Bartle's Designing Virtual Worlds noted that alignment is a way to categorize players' characters, along with gender, race, character class, and sometimes nationality. Alignment was designed to help define role-playing, a character's alignment being seen as their outlook on life. A player decides how a character should behave in assigning an alignment, and should then play the character in accordance with that alignment.[14]

A character's alignment can change. If a lawful neutral character consistently performs good acts, when neutral or evil actions were possible, the character's alignment will shift to lawful good. In games, the Dungeon Master (referee) decides when alignment violations occur, as it is subjective and often frowned upon, if not outright disallowed.[14]

Characters acting as a party should have compatible alignments; a party with both good and evil characters may turn against itself.[15]Bill Slavicsek and Richard Baker's Dungeon Master for Dummies noted that a party of good or neutral characters works better as the motivations for adventures are easier, the group dynamics are smoother, and the "heroic aspects of D&D shine through in ways that just don't happen when players play evil characters".[15]


Law versus chaos[edit]

The law versus chaos axis in D&D predates good versus evil in the game rules.

Originally the law/chaos axis was defined as the distinction between "the belief that everything should follow an order, and that obeying rules is the natural way of life", as opposed to "the belief that life is random, and that chance and luck rule the world".[8] According to the early rulebook, lawful characters are driven to protect the interest of the group above the interest of the individual and would strive to be honest and to obey just and fair laws. Chaotic creatures and individuals embraced the individual above the group and viewed laws and honesty as unimportant. At that time, the rulebook specified that "chaotic behavior is usually the same as behavior that could be called 'evil'".[8] Neutral creatures and characters believe in the importance of both groups and individuals, and felt that law and chaos are both important. They believe in maintaining the balance between law and chaos and were often motivated by self-interest.[8]

The third edition D&D rules define "law" and "chaos" as follows:[10]

  • Law implies honor, trustworthiness, obedience to authority, and reliability. On the downside, lawfulness can include closed-mindedness, reactionary adherence to tradition, judgmentalness, and a lack of adaptability. Those who consciously promote lawfulness say that only lawful behavior creates a society in which people can depend on each other and make the right decisions in full confidence that others will act as they should.
  • Chaos implies freedom, adaptability, and flexibility. On the downside, chaos can include recklessness, resentment toward legitimate authority, arbitrary actions, and irresponsibility. Those who promote chaotic behavior say that only unfettered personal freedom allows people to express themselves fully and lets society benefit from the potential that its individuals have within them.
  • Someone who is neutral with respect to law and chaos has a normal respect for authority and feels neither a compulsion to follow rules nor a compulsion to rebel. They are honest but can be tempted into lying or deceiving others if it suits them.

Good versus evil[edit]

The conflict of good versus evil is a common motif in D&D and other fantasy fiction.[16] Although player characters can adventure for personal gain rather than from altruistic motives, it is generally assumed that the player characters will be opposed to evil and will tend to fight evil creatures.

The third edition D&D rules define "good" and "evil" as follows:[10]

  • Good implies altruism, respect for life, and a concern for the dignity of sentient beings. Good characters make personal sacrifices to help others.
  • Evil implies harming, oppressing, and killing others. Some evil creatures simply have no compassion for others and kill without qualms if doing so is convenient or if it can be set up. Others actively pursue evil, killing for sport or out of duty to some malevolent deity or master.
  • People who are neutral with respect to good and evil have compunctions against killing the innocent but lack the commitment to make sacrifices to protect or help others. Neutral people are committed to others by personal relationships.

Within the game, Paladins, altruistic heroes, and creatures such as angels are considered good. Villains and violent criminals are considered evil, as are inherently evil creatures such as demons and most undead.[10] Animals are considered neutral even when they attack innocents, because they act on natural instinct and lack the intelligence to make moral decisions;[10] in the fifth edition, this is expressed by labeling such beasts as "unaligned".[13] According to Greg Littmann, the predetermined assignment of an alignment to monsters means that they are good or evil by nature.[16] Nevertheless, the rules do allow for individual variances, permitting "a red dragon looking to defect to the side of good"—even though Littmann acknowledges the rarity of such situations.[16]

Although good characters can be defined as having a respect for others, Littmann notes that this does not necessarily extend to the treatment of evil creatures—"a party of good characters will chop and char a tribe of orcs to so much smoking hamburger without the slightest hesitation or regrets".[16]


The nine alignments can be shown in a grid, as follows:

Lawful good[edit]

A lawful good character typically acts with compassion and always with honor and a sense of duty. However, lawful good characters will often regret taking any action they fear would violate their code, even if they recognize such action as being good. Such characters include gold dragons, righteous knights, paladins, and most dwarves.[13][17]

Neutral good[edit]

A neutral good character typically acts altruistically, without regard for or against lawful precepts such as rules or tradition. A neutral good character has no problems with cooperating with lawful officials, but does not feel beholden to them. In the event that doing the right thing requires the bending or breaking of rules, they do not suffer the same inner conflict that a lawful good character would. Examples of this alignment include many celestials, some cloud giants, and most gnomes.[10][17]

Chaotic good[edit]

A chaotic good character does what is necessary to bring about change for the better, disdains bureaucratic organizations that get in the way of social improvement, and places a high value on personal freedom, not only for oneself, but for others as well. Chaotic good characters usually intend to do the right thing, but their methods are generally disorganized and often out of sync with the rest of society. Examples of this alignment include copper dragons, many elves, and unicorns.[10][17]

Lawful neutral[edit]

A lawful neutral character typically believes strongly in lawful concepts such as honor, order, rules, and tradition, but often follows a personal code in addition to, or even in preference to, one set down by a benevolent authority. Examples of this alignment include a soldier who always follows orders, a judge or enforcer who adheres mercilessly to the letter of the law, a disciplined monk, and some wizards.[10][17]

True neutral[edit]

A neutral character (also called "true neutral") is neutral on both axes and tends not to feel strongly towards any alignment, or actively seeks their balance. Druids frequently follow this dedication to balance and, under Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules, were required to be this alignment. In an example given in the 2nd Edition Player's Handbook, a typical druid might fight against a band of marauding gnolls, only to switch sides to save the gnolls' clan from being totally exterminated. Examples of this alignment include lizardfolk, most druids, and many humans.[9][10][17]

Chaotic neutral[edit]

A chaotic neutral character is an individualist who follows their own heart and generally shirks rules and traditions. Although chaotic neutral characters promote the ideals of freedom, it is their own freedom that comes first; good and evil come second to their need to be free. Examples of this alignment include many barbarians and rogues, and some bards.[10][17]

Lawful evil[edit]

A lawful evil character sees a well-ordered system as being easier to exploit than to necessarily follow. Examples of this alignment include tyrants, devils, corrupt officials, undiscriminating mercenary types who have a strict code of conduct, blue dragons, and hobgoblins.[10][17]

Neutral evil[edit]

A neutral evil character is typically selfish and has no qualms about turning on allies-of-the-moment, and usually makes allies primarily to further their own goals. A neutral evil character has no compunctions about harming others to get what they want, but neither will they go out of their way to cause carnage or mayhem when they see no direct benefit for themselves. Another valid interpretation of neutral evil holds up evil as an ideal, doing evil for evil's sake and trying to spread its influence. Examples of the first type are an assassin who has little regard for formal laws but does not needlessly kill, a henchman who plots behind their superior's back, or a mercenary who readily switches sides if made a better offer. An example of the second type would be a masked killer who strikes only for the sake of causing fear and distrust in the community. Examples of this alignment include many drow, some cloud giants, and yugoloths.[10][17]

Chaotic evil[edit]

A chaotic evil character tends to have no respect for rules, other people's lives, or anything but their own desires, which are typically selfish and cruel. They set a high value on personal freedom, but do not have much regard for the lives or freedom of other people. Chaotic evil characters do not work well in groups because they resent being given orders and usually do not behave themselves unless there is no alternative. Examples of this alignment include higher forms of undead (such as liches), violent killers who strike for pleasure rather than profit, demons, red dragons, and orcs.[10][17]


Creatures not sapient enough to make decisions based on moral choices, but operating purely on instinct, are described as "unaligned".[17] Sharks are savage predators, for example, but they are not evil: they have no alignment.[17] The use of "unaligned" for creatures was introduced in the 4th edition, and retained in 5th edition.[13]


The D&D alignment system is occasionally referenced as a system of moral classification in other contexts.[18]Salon television critic Heather Havrilesky, while reviewing the HBO television series True Blood, analyzed the program's characters in terms of D&D alignments and identified protagonist Sookie Stackhouse as chaotic good, her vampire boyfriend Bill Compton as lawful neutral, Eric Northman as lawful evil, and Lafayette Reynolds as chaotic neutral.[19] In "Hostiles and Calamities", the 11th episode of season 7 of The Walking Dead television series, the character Eugene Porter makes a reference to the D&D alignment system when describing himself as "...not good. I’m not lawful, neutral, or chaotic."[20] The alignment chart Internet meme humorously categorizes various items—often characters from works of pop culture—in a three-by-three grid.[21][22]

The system has also been used in research into how people create virtual avatars in the digital world. For example, the computer role-playing game Neverwinter Nights 2 inherits the D&D alignment system and researchers have used the NW2 avatar creation process to show that American undergraduate students tend to select avatars that are similar to their own moral values.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ abLivingstone, Ian (1982). Dicing with Dragons: An Introduction to Role-playing Games (2nd ed.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 79. ISBN .
  2. ^Fine, Gary Alan (2002). Shared Fantasy: Role Playing Games as Social Worlds (Paperback ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 17. ISBN . Retrieved 2017-02-06.
  3. ^Calisuri and Corvar (2000-05-30). "Gary Gygax – Creator of Dungeons & Dragons". Retrieved 2015-03-05.
  4. ^Knode, Mordicai; Callahan, Tim (2013-06-17). "Advanced Readings in D&D: Poul Anderson". Retrieved 2017-02-19.
  5. ^Gary Gygax; Dave Arneson (1974). Dungeons & Dragons, Volume 1: Men and Magic. Tactical Studies Rules. p. 9.
  6. ^Pulsipher, Lewis (Oct–Nov 1991). "An Introduction to Dungeons & Dragons, Part V". White Dwarf. Games Workshop (27): 14.
  7. ^Gygax, Gary (1978). Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Players Handbook. Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: TSR Hobbies. p. 33. ISBN .
  8. ^ abcdGygax, Gary; Arneson, Dave; Moldvay, Tom (1981). Dungeons & Dragons: Basic Rulebook (4th ed.). Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: TSR Hobbies. p. 11. ISBN .
  9. ^ abCook, David "Zed" (1989). Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 2nd Edition, Player's Handbook (2nd ed.). Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: TSR. pp. 46–49. ISBN .
  10. ^ abcdefghijklm
  11. ^Heinsoo, Rob; Collins, Andy; Wyatt, James (2008). Player's Handbook (4th ed.). Renton, Washington: Wizards of the Coast. pp. 19–20. ISBN .
  12. ^Cogburn, Jon; Silcox, Mark (2012). Dungeons and Dragons and Philosophy: Raiding the Temple of Wisdom. Chicago: Open Court Publishing. pp. 30–32, 35. ISBN .
  13. ^ abcdMearls, Mike; Crawford, Jeremy (2014). Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual (9th ed.). Renton, Washington: Wizards of the Coast. ISBN .
  14. ^ abBartle, Richard A. (2004). Designing Virtual Worlds. Indianapolis, Indiana: New Riders. pp. 257–260. ISBN .
  15. ^ abSlavicsek, Bill; Baker, Richard (2006). Dungeon Master For Dummies. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley. p. 43. ISBN . Retrieved 2017-02-06.
  16. ^ abcdLittman, Greg (2014). "Sympathy for the Devils: Free Will and Dungeons & Dragons". In Robichaud, Christopher (ed.). Dungeons and Dragons and Philosophy: Read and Gain Advantage on All Wisdom Checks. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 7–22. ISBN .
  17. ^ abcdefghijk"Basic Rules for Dungeons & Dragons"(PDF). Dungeons & Dragons. Wizards of the Coast. 2018-09-19. p. 36. Retrieved 2020-06-11.
  18. ^Studio 260 (2016-05-12). "The Chart That Explains Everyone". WNYC. Retrieved 2016-06-22.
  19. ^Havrilesky, Heather (2009-06-14). "I Like to Watch". Salon. Retrieved 2015-03-05.
  20. ^Handlen, Zack (2017-02-26). "The Walking Dead digs into Eugene's psyche, which is fine if you're into that". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2017-02-27.
  21. ^Jay Hathaway (2018-02-23). "Alignment chart memes are back—and better than ever". The Daily Dot. Retrieved 2018-12-04.
  22. ^DoubleBond (2009-09-11). "Alignment Charts". Know Your Meme. Retrieved 2018-12-04.
  23. ^Ewell, Patrick J.; Guadagno, Rosanna E.; Jones, Matthew; Dunn, Robert Andrew (July 2016). "Good Person or Bad Character? Personality Predictors of Morality and Ethics in Avatar Selection for Video Game Play". Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. 19 (7): 435–440. doi:10.1089/cyber.2015.0207.

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