Monday, 5 January 2009

[Alignment Breakdown VI] Neutral Good

These characters believe that a balance of forces is important, but that the concerns of law and chaos do not moderate the need for good. Since the universe is vast and contains many creatures striving for different goals, a determined pursuit of good will not upset the balance; it may even maintain it. If fostering good means supporting organized society, then that is what must be done. If good can only come about through the overthrow of existing social order, so be it. Social structure itself has no innate value to them. A baron who violates the orders of his king to destroy something he sees as evil is an example of a neutral good character.

- 2nd Edition Player's Handbook

As with True Neutral, Neutral Good is hobbled as an alignment by the weird Moorcockian/Weiss-Hickmanian 'balance' baggage. Rather than being about pursuit of 'good' objectives for their own sake, it turns into an attempt to "maintain the balance" in a "vast universe", and again we are forced to ask: Who thinks about reality in those terms, and why would Balance be the concern of an ordinary adventurer?

Neutral Good characters, I think, should be idealists (more idealist than the straight-as-an-arrow Lawful Good types) - people who have Dreams, who want to achieve Peace on Earth and Goodwill To All Mankind, and who will stop at nothing in the pursuit of What's Best. In a modern context they would be animal rights campaigners, peace activists, international volunteers and freedom fighters. In the medieval high fantasy settings typical of AD&D, they might be Knights Errant, undertaking quests for the betterment of mankind, peasant heroes standing up for the underclass, or wandering healers. The do-gooders and starry-eyed of whatever world in which the game is taking place.

Unlike True Neutral types, Neutral Good characters make natural adventurers, especially if reasons are contrived: Bob the Knight Errant goes on adventures to raise money which he can distrubute to the poor; Gwenda the Healer enters the dungeon to try to find artifacts to make her work more effective; Job the Cleric goes to the goblin lair to end their privations on the poor people in the valley.

Once again, I find myself wondering whether 'Neutral' is the best choice of term for the diametric system. The alignments make more sense when they are thought of as Lawful Good, Lawful and Lawful Evil; Good, Neutral and Evil; Chaotic Good, Chaotic and Chaotic Evil. Thus the idea about Balance can be left to the philosophers and the DM where it belongs, and characters can just have personal motivations, as we would expect them to. But such are the rules that were given.


  1. I think you've pretty well summed up how I've looked at Neutrality for a while now--that it should essentially be read as "Nil", and that the Neutral alignments are essentially distillations of whatever their pair represents: Law, Chaos, Good, Evil.

  2. To me, the distinction between Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic as the primary alignment has alwyas simply meant whether the character will work within the system, no matter how much they may disagree with it (Lawful), work against the system no matter what how much they may agree with it (Chaotic), or whether they just follow the system when it suits their needs (Neutral). By the same token, Good, Neutral and Evil subalignments simply mean if the characters work for the good of everyone (Good), the good of themselves (Evil), or whoever they feel like, depending on the situation (Neutral). Accordingly, to me, Lawful Evil would be the worst kind of character, because it's the kind who hides behind the law to help justify their personal gains. Chaotic Evil is simply someone who screws the system for personal benefit. And so on.

  3. sirlarkins: Yeah, distillations. They should be seen as the most extreme alignments actually - unfettered law, chaos, good and evil are much more dangerous than those that are tempered by something else.

    The Badger King: Lawful Evil is definitely the alignment of people like Hitler, Stalin and Chairman Mao. But we'll get to them shortly.