Lawful-Chaotic and other values I don’t believe in

(I’ve been trying to write up some thoughts about the “alignment” that came out of Dungeons and Dragons — lawful good, chaotic evil, etc. I haven’t been able to get anywhere with it. But just today I found the below in my “uncommitted changes” report. I don’t remember writing it but it captures some thoughts I’ve had about the system.)

In the Dungeons and Dragons “alignment” scheme, are “lawful” and “chaotic” values, or are they more like personality types? Is a chaotic character someone who values chaos in the world? Or is it more like someone who IS chaotic, someone disorganized, unpredictable, messy, “random.” I feel like it’s the latter. Someone who’s lawful good can be in a party with someone who’s chaotic good because the good part is the core; of the other side each can say, their values are good, it’s just how they get to them; it’s just their disposition. It’s.

You’re good because you’re good. You’re chaotic good because it’s cool and you don’t give a damn.

In AD&D second edition, the Paladin, or holy knight, has to be lawful good. What does that mean? I feel like the literature presents him as someone who inclines to the values of law and good. But if the lawful alignment is really about personality type? Then the paladin must be someone who is uptight, righteous, predictable, boring. You can’t make the rank unless your rectitude is obnoxious. You lecture the other initiates. You memorize the verses that tell you what to do. You love the hierarchy.

The ranger only needs to be good. I’ve sometimes thought I’d like to be the paladin. One wants what one can’t. But I want to be the ranger. The ranger is the poet, the ranger is the wild man. The ranger has too much love for the human world and shares it with the beasts of the wood; the world has too little love for the ranger; the ranger is a vegetarian except for people.

When we think of ourselves as D&D characters, we think of some variation of good. If we’re doctrinaire, we pretend we think we’re neutral. If we’re contrarian, we pretend we think we’re evil. But we think we’re good. We think the people we deal with are good. If we’re humanists, we think the people we don’t deal with are good, too. In D&D, though, there are whole societies where most people are evil. Goblins? Orcs? Neutral evil. They have tribes and cities and kingdoms where just about everyone is evil. There are evil gods who are worshipped in temples built by evil followers in cities devoted to evil commerce.

I want to think an evil society is impossible. Society is built from altruism, fellow-feeling, empathy. Good evolves. D&D is subversive because it says, our society could be Neutral Evil — people care only for themselves and think of each other as figures of disdain.

That good is superfluous. That a society of hate can thrive, through –

How much do we have to see to think it’s us?

Do we smile and love those we secretly hate?

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