William Estep

My journey to retire and sail. Writing, reading, technology, programming, photography, coffee, equality, sailing, and the oxford comma.

Roll Your Characters

Category: Writing
Tags: d&dalignments

I learned about Dungeons and Dragons in High School. What a great concept, a simple, rules based approach to creativity. Roll playing heros and wizards; perfect for an active imagination. I never could afford the books when I was younger. On a nostalgic whim, I found copies of the original AD&D books on ebay and finally got my own copy of the Players Handbook, the Dungeon Masters Guide, and the Monster Manual.

Still in the ’80s, just out of high school, I remember taking a trip to Lake Geneva, when I was briefly stationed in Great Lakes, IL. I don’t remember what the store was called, but we visited a small hobby store that sold war gaming supplies and miniatures. I still have those miniatures somewhere.

I was reading the 1st edition Players Handbook the other evening and ran across the Alignment section. The original AD&D books introduced me to the concept of Alignment. Not a new concept in role playing games, but I was a kid, and it was a new concept to me. For those unfamiliar, here are the basics:

  • Chaotic Evil: This alignment represents chaos and individuality. “Laws and order, kindness, and good deeds are disdained. Life has no value.” (1, p. 33)
  • Chaotic Good: These characters value life and individualism.
  • Chaotic Neutral: Neither good nor evil can prevail, the Chaotic Neutral values randomness and disorder.
  • Lawful Evil: With strict regard for laws and order, these characters have no regard for life or truth.
  • Lawful Good: Respect for laws and order above all else. “Certain freedoms must, of course, be sacrificed in order to bring order.” (1, p. 33)
  • Lawful Neutral: Rules and regulations are all important. Order maintains the balance between good and evil.
  • Neutral Evil: This is a hard one to define, the book says it all: “The neutral evil creature views law and chaos as unnecessary considerations, for pure evil is all-in-all. Either might be used, but both are disdained as foolish clutter useless in eventually bringing maximum evilness to the world.” (1, p. 33)
  • Neutral Good: Bringing the best to the world through a balance of freedom and regulation.
  • True Neutral: At the center of good an evil, chaos and order, the True Neutral is at the center of the wheel.

The original alignments boil complex concepts of motivation and interaction down to a straight forward spectrum of ideals and philosophies.


Chaotic Good Chaotic Neutral Chaotic Evil
Chaotic Neutral True Neutral Neutral Evil
Lawful Good Lawful Neutral Lawful Evil

When I was growing up, I felt like a chaotic good character. Truth is, I was very naive about everything. I had no understanding of, or even a knowledge of the world outside of my little backwoods community in southern Missouri. Now I feel more true neutral. I’ve been around and know the world is much bigger and more complicated then I thought as a kid from the Midwest. I have a better understanding, though still limited, that people are a spectrum of motivations and needs. Also, I’m lazy and prefer a path with little resistance.

This all came up because I was stuck trying to plot a story I’ve been working on. Turns out I didn’t really understand the motives of the two main characters. I thought I did. At least I thought I understood one of the main characters pretty well. But I was still stuck. Then I saw my AD&D books sitting on the shelf, and thought it might be helpful to generate character sheets for the main players in the story. Turns out it was helpful. Boiling the characters down do the basic motivations and skills, helps me better judge how they will act in various situations.

Time to get back to the story.


1 Gygax, Gary. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Players Handbook. TSR Games, 1978.

© William Estep