DnD 5E alignment chart explained

Navigating morality and philosophy with the 5E alignment chart.

© Dice Cove

Alignment in DnD is probably one of the more heavily argued parts of the game with most people saying it doesn’t even matter. In the end, it doesn’t actually matter that much, but it can reveal insight as to how a creature would act and respond to certain situations.

Order and morals

Alignment has two parts: Order, and Morals. Order contains Lawful, Neutral, and Chaotic, while Morals include Good, Neutral, and Evil. Together, you get a decent range of personality from Lawful Good, to Chaotic Evil.

OrderGood (G)Neutral (N)Evil (E)
Lawful (L)Lawful Good (LG)Lawful Neutral (LN)Lawful Evil (LE)
Neutral (N)Neutral Good (NG)True Neutral (NN)Neutral Evil (NE)
Chaotic (C)Chaotic Good (CG)Chaotic Neutral (CN)Chaotic Evil (CE)

A lot of people interpret these differently, but I’ll share my understanding starting with Order. In my eyes, Lawful doesn’t mean you have to follow the law, it just means you have standards, and you don’t let them falter (e.g. Burning down a village but refusing to kill any children would be Lawful). Though you may have a few standards that are loose, or even fall out, those do not qualify you for Lawful. Neutral to me is mostly being open to new things, but still having a few guidelines to keep you from making a deal with a devil without being ready for the consequences (e.g. Refusing to kill beasts, but making an exception when they destroy something of yours would be Neutral). And my definition of Chaotic means that you would have little to no issue breaking your own standards if you have any (Refusing to get into a prank war then changing your mind as soon as you see the perfect prank to pull would be Chaotic).

Misconceptions about Alignment

One of the biggest misconceptions about alignment is that it is a strict rule that must be followed at all times. However, alignment is more of a guideline for how a character may act in certain situations. It is entirely possible for a character’s actions to deviate from their alignment, and for their alignment to shift over time based on their actions and choices. It is important to remember that alignment is not the be-all and end-all of a character’s personality and should not restrict a player’s actions in-game.

How to choose an Alignment

Choosing an alignment can be difficult, but it ultimately comes down to how you want your character to act in different situations. Consider your character’s beliefs, values, and goals when selecting an alignment. You can also consider your character’s background and experiences to help inform their alignment. Don’t feel limited by the choices presented in the alignment table – it’s possible to create unique combinations of alignment, such as Lawful Evil or Chaotic Good. The most important thing is to choose an alignment that will make sense for your character and their motivations.

Alignment in Gameplay

While alignment may not be strictly necessary for gameplay, it can still have an impact on how characters interact with each other and with the world around them. For example, a character with a Good alignment may be more likely to help others, while a character with an Evil alignment may be more likely to prioritize their own self-interest. This can lead to interesting role-playing opportunities and can create conflict or cooperation between characters.

It’s worth noting that certain races and classes may have alignment tendencies, such as paladins being traditionally Lawful Good. However, it is ultimately up to the player to determine their character’s alignment, regardless of their class or race.

Now for Morals, I feel like Good isn’t just being a law abiding citizen which most people see it as. I see Good as striving to help others (e.g. Destroying a city to protect your race from extinction would be Good), While Neutral is more focused on forwarding your own goals, without any qualms about others (e.g. passing by a kidnapping because you aren’t the one being kidnapped would be neutral). Finally, Evil is focused on undermining others and helping yourself (e.g. Making others look bad just because it’s amusing would be Evil).

Though briefly, there are unaligned creatures that don’t have qualms about anything except death. These creatures mostly act to survive, and live. When they fight, it’s generally because they’re looking for a meal, defending their territory, or defending part of their pack, including themselves.

The flexibility of alignment

Now I understand that these examples create loads of grey area, but it does actually make sense to me. It also explains why a good creature might be a villain, or how an evil creature can be a hero. It’s always a problem when you get into arguments about alignment, but such issues can be solved when you take the time to remember, alignment can shift, and if you make enough choices to warrant a shift in alignment, you may want to do that. It also makes Lycanthropy and Vampirism a lot less frightening as you don’t need to fret over what your changed alignment means.

Final thoughts

In the end, alignment is just one aspect of character creation and should not be given too much weight. It can be a useful tool for guiding your character’s actions and motivations, but it should not be used to limit your character’s potential or restrict your gameplay experience. Instead, use alignment as a starting point for developing your character’s personality and beliefs, and let their experiences and choices shape their path in the game.