Beyond Good and Evil (Morality, Part Two)

good vibes only text[Editor’s note: For Part 1, see Friday’s post.]

Here’s what you missed on Glee my last blog post:

Last time, we began breaking down moral alignment and what it means to be Good, Evil, or just kind of in-the-middle. Today, I figured we could go even more in-depth and start playing mix-and-match. Can someone have a strong moral compass and still be bad? Can a character escape a society but still follow their code of ethics? The short answer is yes, but let’s find out why!

If there are three possibilities for each category (Good/Neutral/Evil and Lawful/Neutral/Chaotic), that makes nine basic alignments. I could write a dissertation on this (I have the time; we’re still in quarantine), but for the sake of your eyeballs, I’ll keep this brief.

Lawful Good, aka The White Knight: Follows a strict code of honor, almost to a fault. The “best boy.” The Three Musketeers, “all for one and one for all.” Always loyal, always tells the truth, always helps those in need and fights injustice (whatever “injustice” is considered to be the norm).
tl;dr – your typical knight in shining armor
Honor, compassion, truth
Prioritizes the group or higher power over the individual. What’s freedom?
Example: Superman (D.C. Comics)

Lawful Neutral, aka The Lemming:
As good as someone can be without taking a stand either way. Doesn’t commit crime, doesn’t do harm to others. Won’t be by your side during the rebellion, but won’t fight against you, either. (Keep in mind, “good” is considered whatever the standard is for that society.)
tl;dr – the shrug emoji ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Follows the rules, general do-gooder, would never go against the law
Not a free thinker, passive, controllable (their ideas can be swayed)
Example: most citizens in a society

Lawful Evil, aka The Villain:
Devout follower of their own moral compass–except their moral code is, well, bad. Driven to uphold or instate a system of laws, only those laws are the opposite of the society’s current ones. They truly believe their plan, though seen as “bad” by man, is actually the best path of action. Lawful Evil characters have their own moral no-no’s that might not match up with the societal standard, but they still have an internal code of ethics.
Side note, but these are my absolute favorite types of villains. When I’m watching a movie and almost start to root for the bad guy, it’s often that he’s Lawful Evil. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a Man with a Plan.
tl;dr: commits evil acts for “the greater good”
strong set of morals, respect for tradition and hierarchy, fighting for something bigger than themselves
they’re still evil, but they’re diabolical, which means they’re also smart :o)
Thanos (Marvel), who strove to wipe 50% of the universe’s population for genuinely what he believed to be the “greater good”

brown wooden blocks with number

Chaotic Good, aka The Robin Hood: Has a desire to do good, but might not go about it in a way that society deems “right.” Robin Hood steals from the rich (a crime in most societies), but instead of keeping it for himself, he gives it to the poor (and society deems charity a good deed). These guys value their freedom and kindness.
tl;dr – Peter Pan slicing off Captain Hook’s hand, but it’s okay because he was protecting some kids
free spirit, help those in need, still a “good” person and follows general “good” moral compass
rebellious, disorderly, doesn’t fit into societal expectation, believes hierarchy is detrimental to a society
Sonic the Hedgehog

Chaotic Neutral, aka The Loner: Won’t stick their necks out for strangers in need, unless there is some sort of physical reward involved (as doing “good” does not serve as its own reward). No respect or interest for tradition and order. Much more interested with playing by their own rules than doing “good” to benefit society as a whole. Enjoys their own freedom but not enough to fight for others’.  Dislikes hierarchy and authority, but not enough to lead a political rebellion over it.
tl;dr – Cartman from South Park saying, “Whatever, I do what I want”
Free-thinking, apathetic, lacking in compassion
rebellious, lacking in loyalty, unpredictable
Jafar from Aladdin

Chaotic Evil, aka Batshit Crazy:
The only thing this person likes more than their own freedom or being evil is complete and utter chaos. Those types of villains. They also serve as wildly unreliable narrators.
tl;dr – The Joker (D.C. Comics) or equally messed-up villains
lack of empathy, no moral code
strong dislike for law and order, always out for #1 (themselves), no moral compass, will harm others just for fun or their own personal gain
Edgar Allan Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado, where the protagonist gets revenge by chaining this guy to a wall and closing up the hole–laying it brick-by-brick–and leaving him there to die

I hope this serves as a helpful introduction for you, and an easy-to-reference guide should you want to use this during your character creation session!

If you really want to go down the rabbit hole with this (I know I have), TV Tropes has dozens of pages on moral alignments, subcategories, and tropes using different characters in various fandoms. It’s easy to get lost there, and I highly recommend it.

Until next time, players. Let the good dice roll! ⚀⚁⚂