A new alignment chart

One of the most influential books in my life is The Principia Discordia. I read it thanks to gaming and unlike many read it before I read The Illuminatus! Trilogy, although that is as much an accident of availability as anything.

Like most people influenced by it I have a particular favorite section, The Curse of Greyface and the Introduction of Negativism. The core idea of the section just, that we could put order and disorder as well as creation and destruction on perpendicular axes and get four state, just grabbed me. As a diagram it looks like this:

For those who were around for Holmes or have read the Strategic Review issue with the five alignment chart you’ll realize they’re somewhat familiar.

I have used this chart in designing games, specifically a Mage: the Ascension game set in Berlin either in the mid-60s or the early 80s. I saw the four factions of MtAs in terms of this chart. The Traditions were disordered creation and the Technocracy was ordered creation. The Marauders were the brutal, chaotic destruction and the Nephandi, the cool ordered destruction. I liked the idea both because in casting the Technocracy as a whole as a force for good it changed the nature of the war somewhat. I also thought layering order/disorder and creation/destruction on top of Cold War Berlin had the potential for some exciting interactions. Sadly, this is another random campaign idea that didn’t come about.

It would be easy to map the chart to D&D alignments, especially the Holmes five section chart, with creation equal to good (the rest should be obvious). While easy I’d consider this a cop-out to a degree.

More interesting to me is layering this chart on top of something like James M.’s thoughts on the three tier alignment. Now we have both creative and destructive civilization set against both the rampaging destruction of demon inspired hordes (human and otherwise) as well as the beautiful, alien, and artistic fae. In fact, this chaotic creativity version of chaotic good would open the door to elves drawn more from fairy tales or games like Changeling than the bog standard Tolkien derivatives. In fact, the original D&D elf, with the ability to change classes every day, seems to fit this model more than the happy go lucky freedom fighter chaotic good of today.

Alignment is a place where the OSR can really make their mark much like the Indie scene has with ideas like humanity. Philosophical books serious, humorous, both, and neither abound and they aren’t always non-fiction (anyone think Starship Troopers isn’t a philosophy book?). Trying mining one for its core moral conflicts instead of just taking the alignments we’ve inherited. You’ll be surprised what you find.

3 thoughts on “A new alignment chart

  1. One of these days I'm going to post on the psychology of values and morality vs. D&D alignment. It may be surprising just how much of Gygax's AD&D dimensions is supported by large-scale, multi-national surveys of what people hold most important.

    A lot of the confusion over alignment in the game comes from a confusion between its metaphysical, moral, and political aspects. This is also something I'm hoping to sort out at some point.
    (verification word: evilca … get out of my head!)

  2. Two words: now following.

    Discordianism is a guiding principle in all that I do, in that I hold no guiding principles beyond temporary ones as needed by situation. I can't think of gaming of ANY type without seeing the Lady's five-fingered hand dipping in to shake it up a bit.

    Creative chaos is what role-playing is all ABOUT to me. And I totally think this makes at LEAST a good an alignment chart as any I've seen- and probably a good sight better, my religious beliefs aside. Good and Evil are weighty, tough words to chew on, especially for quick character generation. Create and Destroy hint at the depths of the matter with, I think, slightly less connotation- which isn't for every campaign or group, of course.

    Great post!

  3. I have a very old, scar-tissue-filled, faded Sacred Chao tattoo – about the size of a coaster – buried in with my newer, better work. Weird days.

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