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Alignment Guidelines

Alignment is not so much what the world thinks of you but your motivations for your actions.  A character who acts lawful good to the townsfolk but has ulterior motives (like trying to sway opinion to allow him to take over as mayor) is probably lawful neutral or evil.  Lawful neutral characters who change rules to fit the situation and forces others to do what he wants is really either chaotic neutral or neutral evil.  Generally you should keep a record of transgressions and if a player tallies 10 in any one direction (good - evil - law - chaos) within a short time frame then force an alignment change, as the player is obviously playing a different alignment to the one he is supposed to be playing. 

It is possible for players to show two different alignments, one towards friends and colleagues and the other toward the world.  When this happens, the one shown to the world is the dominate alignment and the one that is on the character sheet.  (A player who is generous to his friends but lies and cheats others probably has an evil alignment.)  Most often when this happens, it is due to a player trying to "act" as something they cannot.  Some players allow their own prejudices and predications to shine through on every character that they play.  When a situation like this occurs, be sure to pay close attention to alignment restrictions as the player will undoubtedly have arguments ready for why they are able to take their chosen actions.

Players should not know exactly where they stand on alignment unless it becomes important for game play.  Often, players will try to shift their alignment one way or the other.  This can only be done through game play and if you tell a character that they have become an undesired alignment, they will often become angry and try to force the desired alignment shift.  Unfortunately, when some players are told they have an alignment different than the one they desire, they become difficult to handle and take extreme alignment changes.  A Dungeon Master should never allow such changes (even if it means removing the offended player from the gaming table for several adventures).  Alignment may only shift one step at a time (i.e.  Chaotic Neutral to Chaotic Good, Chaotic Evil, or Neutral).  Only magic may shift an alignment more than one step at a time.  I have included this handy diagram for reference, Alignment shifts along the lines:

Special Note:  If you perceive Lawful Good to be the epitome of goodness and Chaotic evil as the epitome of evil, then the diagram becomes one large shade of gray.  Looking at Lawful Neutral as the epitome of law and Chaotic Neutral as the epitome of chaos has the same effect.  Most characters will fall between the lines in the "gray area" of the diagram.  Approximate alignment when this happens.
 
Lawful
 
Good
Neutral
 
Evil
 
Chaotic

ALIGNMENT

A character's or creature's general moral and personal attitudes are represented by its alignment: lawful good, neutral good, chaotic good, lawful neutral, neutral, chaotic neutral, lawful evil, neutral evil, and chaotic evil.

Good vs. Evil

Good characters and creatures protect innocent life. Evil characters and creatures debase or destroy innocent life, whether for fun or profit.

"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 hurting, oppressing, and killing others. Some evil creatures simply have no compassion for others and kill without qualms if doing so is convenient. Others actively pursue evil, killing for sport or out of duty to some evil 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. A neutral person may sacrifice himself to protect his family or even his homeland, but he would not do so for strangers who are not related to him.

Animals and other creatures incapable of moral action are neutral rather than good or evil.

Law and Chaos

Lawful characters tell the truth, keep their word, respect authority, honor tradition, and judge those who fall short of their duties. Chaotic characters follow their consciences, resent being told what to do, favor new ideas over tradition, and do what they promise if they feel like it.

"Law" implies honor, trustworthiness, obedience to authority, and reliability. On the downside, lawfulness can include close-mindedness, reactionary adherence to tradition, and a lack of adaptability.

"Chaos" implies freedom, adaptability, and flexibility. On the downside, chaos can include recklessness, resentment toward legitimate authority, arbitrary actions, and irresponsibility.

People who are neutral with respect to law and chaos have a normal respect for authority and feel neither a compulsion to obey nor to rebel. They are honest, but can be tempted into lying or deceiving others.

Animals and other creatures incapable of moral action are neutral.

Lawful Good

Neutral Good

Chaotic Good

Lawful Neutral

Neutral

Chaotic Neutral

Lawful Evil

Neutral Evil

Chaotic Evil


Mine is not the only way to view alignment.  Here is a three part method.
I have an Alignment Test available for those who want to have a whack at it.
Wizards of the Coast have placed an Alignment Test online.  Check it out.

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