Opening my DMG to page 23, I find the following written:
"Alignment describes the broad ethos of thinking, reasoning creatures - those unintelligent sorts being placed in the neutral area because they are totally uncaring."I find it interesting that Gygax and his buddies, for reasons that completely escape me, felt that it would be a problem to use the ideologies invented by thinking, reasoning humans through all history - believing instead that it was better to drum up a simplistic sociological diagram to replace all that. It was the 1970s, however, and I wonder what obscure University of Chicago professor's baby was stolen in order to instigate this atrocity to human thought.
And what is described by 'unintelligent sorts'? Do we mean animals? Do we suggest that violent behavior in the quest of food is a neutral aspect? Was Jean Val Jean neutral? It sound more that, having no means to explain away the motivations of non-thinking creatures within our invented belief system, we have to put them somewhere, anywhere, that doesn't get in the way.
Let us continue:
"Note that alignment does not necessarily dictate religious persuasion, although many religious beliefs will dictate alignment."Lovely side-step there. Not all religious types of a particular religion are lawful, or chaotic, or good, or evil ... what people proport to believe does not dictate their actions. I believe that is the crux of the above statement. But since alignments are used to indicate class loyalties, or racial loyalties - as they are, let's face it, every monster is defined by its alignment - aren't we really saying that religion has no place in D&D? That the paladin isn't serving his or her god, but rather his or her social status ... so who cares what the god thinks?
Of course I'm wrong - every other thing said about alignment and religion clearly ignores the above quote ... further demonstrating that the authors are pulling this out of their ass. But then, I'm ignoring this little gem:
"As explained under ALIGNMENT LANGUAGES (q.v.) this aspect of alignment is not the major consideration."This is a whole section written on p.24, where it talks about languages existing between ideologically inclined individuals. It never does explain why religious practice and religious beliefs have nothing to do with one another, but it does describe one of the stupidest conceptions ever presented as part of the game. I strongly suggest the gentle reader take a glance - it is a lovely hodgepodge of discontinuous, vague, non-definitive suggestions for how people of similar alignment might communicate with each other. In terms of clarification, it is like listening to a New Jersey politician defend welfare. I have no idea what premise suggests that people who are mutually evil are able to communicate with each other ... I presume Hitler and Goebbels looked into each other's eyes and just knew.
"The overall behavior of the character (or creature) is delineated [represented accurately or precisely] by alignment, or, in the case of player characters, behavior determines actual alignment. Therefore, besides defining the general tendencies of creatures, it also groups creatures into mutually acceptable or at least non-hostile divisions."I love the English language. I really prefer when it is used well.
I could not resist inserting the accurate definition of the word 'delineated,' since it is clearly not the word that the Gygaxian crowd really meant. Each part of this description of alignment becomes increasingly more muddy as the two sentences go on - first character is precisely defined, then generally defined, and then, finally, acceptably general.
In other words, well, yes, the alignments kind of mean something, but don't take them too much to heart, as they are really just guidelines meant to encourage creatures to either join together or mindlessly kill each other.
Moreover, since we don't want to tell characters exactly how to behave, we'll employ the technique of letting them do whatever they want and defining them after the fact. Which works in every case except, of course, the paladin - the ever-present defining template on which are alignment-based debates hang. Understand, the only reason why a paladin's alignment had to be good was because it was perceived that the class was so powerful, no other means could be used to bind players who chose to play it. Nevermind that there is no precedent whatsoever, even in such writings as Le Morte d'Arthur or the Song of Roland, to suggest that knights behave anything like the description of a 'Good' alignment in the DMG. Once again, they pulled it right out of their ass.
Fact is, the paladin doesn't need the counterbalance to its supposed 'power.' I've played with non-limited paladins for years and have never noticed one yet that overbalanced a party.
If we are going to define players by what they do, and not restrict them before the fact, why have an alignment system at all? For simplicity? For the sheer pleasure of being able to label each other? My my my, this game was written in the 1970s.
Now watch as we qualify further what we've invented:
"This is not to say that groups of similarly aligned creatures cannot be opposed or even mortal enemies. Two nations, for example, with rulers of lawful good alignment can be at war. Bands of orcs can hate each other."Then what the fuck is this alignment thing good for? If it can be utterly ignored in terms of creatures' behavior towards one another, WHY DO WE NEED IT? How is this improving the game? How does it expand the game's potential in making it either fun or interactive? We've already said that the players don't behave according to alignments, that alignments are assigned according to their behavior - so please, why are we wasting out time?
"But the former would possibly [???] cease their war to oppose a massive invasion of orcs, just as the latter would make common cause against the lawful good men."Woah. Just let me hold onto my head a moment. What the fuck do you mean, 'possibly'? You mean they might not stop fighting each other to oppose a massive invasion? Would they stop fighting if it were only a mild invasion? Or would they keep fighting each other if the massive invasion weren't by orcs, but was brought on by a group of lawful good elves? And while we're considering that, would orcs NOT make common cause against a massive invasion brought on by chaotic evil troglodytes? I'm feeling like Rocco from Boondock Saints: "Fuckin'- What the fuckin'. Fuck. Who the fuck fucked this fucking... How did you two fucking fucks..."
Here's a thought. Let's just assume that sometimes creatures fight each other, and sometimes that's not convenient. Sometimes, its convenient to defend ourselves, and join together. Maybe it has absolutely nothing to do with what we believe.
The rest of the paragraph reads:
"Thus, alignment describes the world view of creatures and helps define what their actions, reactions and purposes might be. It likewise causes a player to choose an ethos which is appropriate to his or her profession, and alignment also aids players in the definition and role approach of their respective game personae. With the usefulness of alignment determined, definition of the divisions is necessary."The point was not made. Maybe Gygax thought the point was made, maybe it fitted some cog in his brain, but the point was decidedly left to die in the proverbial dust. Nothing is defined here. No purposes are there to aid anyone in their profession or otherwise. Usefulness was not determined.
The only successful result was the creation of untold numbers of meaningless, often passionately meaningless debates between D&D players, sometimes ending violently. The perpetration of an ideological system, which players were told they needed to adhere to, without any proper format or thought, meant that every one of those arguments began with trying to wedge actual ideologies into this mock system. I cannot begin to understand what has sustained its existence.
No, I don't play with alignments.