Sunday, August 5, 2018

He's Good-Bad But He's Not Evil

A few days ago, Atherne was the latest to bring up the ever-popular topic of D&D alignments, linking a couple of tests, one from the rights-holders themselves and one from Buzzfeed.

It's always fun doing those. I tend to come out fairly consistently as either Neutral, Chaotic Neutral or Chaotic Good. It depends a lot on how game-oriented the tests are. The further away from the ruleset the questions travel, the more good or chaotic I tend to become.

Questions that stick very tightly to the concept of role-playing games, as the Wizards of the Coast ones do, tend to be flat, emotionless and arid so it's hardly surprising they draw a more neutral, less involved response. I much preferred the Buzzfeed test, whose questions felt much more human and immediate.

The results varied quite significantly. WOTC judged me to be True Neutral, which I feel reflects my lack of emotional involvement with their static, abstract scenarios rather than telling you much about me. Buzzfeed rated me Chaotic Good, exactly where I'd like to see myself, so naturally I favor their methodology.

This kind of labelling underpins most MMORPGs. I've been choosing between "good" and "evil" ever since I made my first character in EverQuest, a wood-elf ranger who died, minutes later, falling, from the treetop walkways of Kelethin, city of a thousand elf and safety puns.

Very few MMOs go much further than that simple binary and even then it rarely means what it says. For most, "evil" means something like "moody emo goth" while "good" means "football captain and homecoming queen" (probably not the same person, although it is 2018...).

The ongoing moral panic over the pre-Battle for Azeroth trailers and cinematics over at World of Warcraft has also turned something of a spotlight on alignment, with many Horde players waking up to the fact that they've been Evil all these years and never knew it. Reactions have been...variable.

It occured to me, reading the comment thread at Massively:OP (rarely a good idea) that maybe what we need are some new alignments. Or, I should say, some new names for the old ones. Human nature doesn't change but language and culture does.

I tried to think of things players born long (long) after Gary Gygax might recognize and free-associate with and I took five minutes to come up with the list below. It's a weighty topic. It deserved that degree of in-depth analysis. This is what I've got:

Lawful Good = Control Freak

Neutral Good = Neurotypical

Chaotic Good = SJW

Lawful Neutral = Normie

(True) Neutral = Chilled

Chaotic Neutral = Edgy

Lawful Evil = Asshat

Neutral Evil = Cold

Chaotic Evil = Psycho

If you think you can do better, the comments are down there. Or maybe  you'd like to use this as a springboard for a Blaugust topic. Don't thank me, thank Atherne. She started it!

*Author's note. Yes, I have used that title before but it was in 2011 and no-one remembers, ok?


  1. You were doing your usual admirable deep thinking, then whammo! Your list of the "new" good and evils is pretty funny, actually. I am the last person on the planet to be a control freak, though.

    Also, the comments on Massively and on the World of Warcraft forums are just out of control. I can't imagine Blizzard thought this sort of response would be possible. They thought they were just stirring up an old fashioned faction war, right? Not in this angry world, oh no.

    I'm always struck by the fact that Everquest 2 just plain says choose if you want to be Good or Evil. Most games try play around that, but they always have one side be sort of light and fluffy and idealistic, while the other is moody and beating their chest in angst all the time.

    1. I think Control Freak is one of the weaker entries in that list. I was hoping someone might suggest something better. It gets the Lawful part but I'm not sure it covers Good. I do think of Paladins as control freaks, though. Most Paladins I've grouped with over the years certainly were. And Pallies are the epitome of Lawful Good.

      There's a serious post waiting to be written about alignment although I'm probably not going to be the one to write it. There's a lot of stuff that goes on in these games that doesn't bear close examination. It's fascinating to see WoW players balking at the stuff in lead-up to BfA, which is pretty much par for the course behavior in MMOs. Genocide, torture, canibalism, you name it and some faction's doing it, often a faction that player-characters belong to or try to curry favor with.

      I have some serious issues with The Inquest in GW2, for example. They appear to be amoral sociopaths played for laughs which isn't working for me...

  2. For Lawful Good...Reverently Compassionate.

  3. According to a very in-depth quiz I took once (no memory of the source), I'm lawful neutral IRL, which seems about accurate. However, I'm trying to improve myself to lawful good or neutral good someday, and when it comes to actually role-playing, I tend to lean towards chaotic good. I find it liberating.

    Of your links, Wizards again pegged me as lawful neutral, while Buzzfeed says I'm neutral good.

    I've never been a fan of factions in MMOs to begin with, and I think making one simply good and one simply evil is very lazy writing, and quite boring. It's better to give both sides pros and cons. Alternatively players should be given choices that allow them to buck the trend of their faction. SWTOR does this well. The Empire may be an evil faction overall, but your Imperial character can still try to be a good person, and trying to balance your own conscience against the dictates of cruel masters is a lot of what makes that game so compelling, IMO.

    I think the outrage from the WoW community is based on the fact the Horde has not generally been presented as an evil faction. In my view the Horde/Alliance conflict is better viewed as lawful versus chaotic, to get back to the D&D view of things, and the story is much more interesting when it follows that line. Making all Horde players complicit in atrocities whilst turning the Alliance into perfect boy scouts is going to leave a bitter taste in a lot of people's mouths, not to mention how painfully simplistic a story it is.

    I did a lengthy post musing on this a few years back:

    1. That's an incredible article. You should re-post it to help people get a more reasoned viewpoint. It is needed about now.

    2. Order vs Chaos is a far more interesting and creative set-up than Good vs Evil, in my opinion. Warhammer got that spot on.

  4. Strangely I couldn't remember having done this kind of test before despite being a D&D nut for decades. I got Lawful Neutral on the Wiz one, makes sense I guess to me. Other than SWTOR, and EQ2 as you mentioned, I can't think of much in the way of formal alignment systems in MMORPGs, in direct contrast to CRPGs like Mass Effect or the many D&D derived games. I liked the alignment system in SWTOR even if it was crude and mostly conversation options were limited to 3 (good, bad, neutral-ish).
    Oh I suppose we should also mention Dungeons & Dragons Online in this conversation, alignment in that game meant more mechanically than it does in say Neverwinter - in DDO weapons can have aligned damage (e.g. extra damage against chaotic opponents) and wielding them if your own alignment is too close to what they're designed to combat is painful to your character.

    1. I'd be curious to see some Venn Diagrams of Alignment, Faction, Race and Class for certain MMOs. EverQuest, where I started, didn't make you choose directly between Good and Evil the way EQ2 did but it made you choose a race, each of which could be either Good, Evil or Neutral. Some races could be more than one, depending on thier class. Some classes could only be one alignment. It was complicated.

      Plenty of MMOs have or had differnet classes for different alignments, some of which were analogs and some unique. DAOC had three Realms that were hard-coded as enemies with no possibility of any grey areas - until they made a PvE co-operative server. Fallen Earth has, I think, six factions but no alignments (and everyone's the same race). Warhammer had Order and Chaos, again with no option to mix and match. Vanguard had a plethora of races and classes but no alignments or class restrictions at all so far as I remember. GW2 is the same, except with fewer races.

      There are a lot of ways to do it. I prefer to have some restrictions and red lines rather than allowing anyone to be whatever they like. Makes it more involving in my opionion. Over the years the demand from players to play with friends regardless of other considerations has tended to be the driver for developers, which is one of the many changes that, I feel, has led to a slow drift towards disengagement among many. The current WoW emotion storm wouldn't be happening in a more modern MMO because the groundwork wouldn't have been done beforehand by making players make choices between in-game and out-of-game relationships.


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