On Alignment Part 1: The Evil Alignments

The PHB describes Evil as “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.” Source d20srd.

Lets evaluate two scenarios

Scenario 1: A character kicks open a door and sees before him a man with his two sons shearing a sheep. The character proceeds to draw his sword and slays the three of them.

Evil right?

Scenario 2: A character kicks open a door and sees three goblins wielding knives and a dire rat. The character proceeds to draw his sword and slays the three of them, probably kills the rat too.

Typical adventurer right?

There is virtually no distinction between these two scenarios, except that goblins are ‘monsters’ and are usually neutral evil. There is a chance that the goblins in scenario 2 were good or at least not evil, there is also a chance that the man and his sons in scenario 1 were evil. There are a few methods of knowing for sure, but most characters won’t be 100% sure of another creature’s alignment when they make the decision to attack or fight.

Many DMs prohibit players from playing evil aligned characters because they “aren’t heroic” or because they will “disrupt” the game. The thing is that evil is no better or worse than good, it is simply another way to go about life. In fact evil is perhaps better because an evil alignment gives players far more options when confronted with a situation. The wondrous thing about evil is that it can be deceptive, emulate good, even help others from time to time in order to infiltrate or otherwise enable itself to do more harm in the future. Good simply doesn’t have the degree of freedom to be evil that evil has to be good. That being said an evil character can kill monsters, rescue the princess, and save the kingdom; he doesn’t do so out of a sense of altruism, but rather because doing so grants him greater power, greater access to the king, and the capacity to benefit himself.

Evil characters do not, by definition, have to spread evil or death. They may kill when doing so is convenient, but if killing is not convenient as is the case in an adventuring party, polite society, or any other case imaginable. Evil characters simply have more options, they may do as they wish but are in no way compelled to do so.

One of the most maligned alignments is that of Chaotic Evil. It seems that in the past many players have used a chaotic evil alignment as a reason to be “wacky” and make poor choices that directly harm other player’s characters and diminish the fun of the game. This is just poor playing of the alignment and when asked why his character pushed the sorcerer off of the edge of a cliff the player often responds “its what my guy would do, he’s chaotic evil.”

According to Complete Scoundrel, Vin Diesel’s character Riddick in the movie Pitch Black is chaotic evil. Riddick only kills 1 human in the movie, the mercenary Johns who asked him to kill the young girl who through the course of the movie had come to idolize Riddick. Riddick agrees to help everyone get to the shuttle to escape, on the condition that they keep up with him; the chaotic evil character isn’t a psychotic killer, and will even help you survive provided you can keep pace. In Chronicles of Riddick, he makes a similar offer to those wishing to escape the prison planet Crematoria (such a terrible name, but thats not the purpose of this article), as long as they could move at his pace. Riddick though broke his own rule (a chaotic trait) in order to go back for Kyra, the young girl whom he had refused to kill in the first movie.

In the movie Taken Liam Neeson’s character Bryan Mills ruthlessly tortures and kills numerous people in an effort to rescue his daughter from sex traffickers. At one point he shoots a completely innocent woman simply because her husband is somewhat involved, he then threatens to kill her and her children unless her husband will tell him the information he wants. Throughout the film he shows a complete disregard for the law and the rights of others, chaotic evil for sure.

Bender from Futurama is another example of a chaotic evil character. He is larcenous and routinely shows disregard for the happiness of others, but he is not outright murderous. Bender is a great friend to Fry and although completely self centered realizes that sometimes the best interest of others is in his own best interest, its no less evil to be generous in order to be selfish than it is to be selfish to start.

I prefer the evil alignments. I DM far more often than I play so I end up playing numerous evil characters. My favorite antagonists though are genuinely good, but still oppose the PCs actions, that forces some moral choices as they have to thwart good in order to do good. I also enjoy lawful evil villains because they are more difficult to stop due to the fact that they are often justified under the law of the land and attacking them is an illegal act and may draw the ire of the powers that be.

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~ by katallos on October 6, 2009.

One Response to “On Alignment Part 1: The Evil Alignments”

  1. […] learns you are CE they stop trusting you all together. Katallos wrote two very good articles about Chaotic Evil and True Neutral alignments respectively.  I highly recommend it as a must read for all players […]

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