Alternate terms: motivation, allegiance
Alignment in Dungeons & DragonsEdit
Alignment in the original D&D sprang from the desire to assign a trait that would describe a character's metaphysical allegiance. Moorcock's Eternal Champion series described an eternal conflict between Law and Chaos. The taint of the One Ring in the The Lord of the Rings and the struggle between goodness and sin in the Arthurian saga are also concepts in literature that anticipate alignment.
The original D&D alignments were Chaotic, Neutral, and Lawful. Chaotic characters were highly individualistic, even evil. Lawful characters promoted order, and generally promoted those values seen by their society as good. Neutral characters existed somewhat in the middle, mainly looking out for themselves but sometimes helping those to whom they felt sympathy.
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons added a second axis, Good and Evil. Good characters promoted the welfare of others, while Evil characters served their own selfish purposes even at the expense of others. With the second axis, there were now nine alignments: Lawful Good, Neutral Good, Chaotic Good, Lawful Neutral, Neutral, Chaotic Neutral, Chaotic Evil, Neutral Evil, and Lawful Evil.
Alignments dictated the effects of many spells, and described the general outlook of certain kinds of creatures. For instance, demon (D&D)|demons]] were always CE (Chaotic Evil).
Dungeons & Dragons Third Edition kept the nine elements while softening what alignments meant to player characters. For instance, shifts in alignment became much more permissible, and some allowances were made for humans and other characters to act inconsistently with their alignment at times.
The fourth edition dispensed with Lawful Evil and Chaotic Good as being inaccessible concepts, dismantled the nine alignment system, and de-emphasized the mechanical and physical effects of alignment. Instead, alignment is simply divided into Good and Evil, with the additional qualifiers of Lawful Good and Chaotic Evil to respect the forces of order and purely destructive forces, respectively. Most characters are simply Unaligned.
Alignment in Palladium Role-Playing GameEdit
Palladium, an early D&D imitator, took a different approach to alignments. Instead of strong, even straight-jacketed concepts, Palladium divided alignments into Good, Selfish, and Evil alignments. Kevin Siembieda described "neutral" alignments as meaningless and self-defeating. The Good alignments are Principled (works within the system), and Scrupulous (tries to work within the system, but may break a few goals with sufficient cause). The Selfish alignments are Unprincipled (a basically good person who lacks a strong moral commitment and may act selfishly) and Anarchist (a fairly chaotic person who does not believe that moral laws apply to them). The Evil alignments range from Miscreant (a selfish, even violent sociopath) to Diabolic (evil for its own sake, probably a sign of insanity in a human) to Aberrant (a character with principles, but who is driven by their goals to disregard the rights of others). Characters frequently deviate in some respects from the classic description of their alignment, and characters might change alignments over time. Ordinary humans do not possess true supernatural Evil; supernatural Evil and Good are traits of demons, angels, gods and the like, and mortal creatures develop a supernatural aura only by gaining power from such entities.
Alignment in Villains and VigilantesEdit
Motivation in DC HeroesEdit
DC Heroes offered an example of an alignment system for super heroes. Heroes had Motivations for fighting crime such as Upholding the Good, Responsibility of Power, Thrill of Adventure, and Seeking Justice. A villain might be a Thrill Seeker, Nihilist, Mercenary, Psychopath, or motivated by Power Lust.
Heroes and Villains in Marvel Super HeroesEdit
Marvel Super Heroes effectively had two alignments: Hero and Villain. Heroes earned Karma by doing good deeds, while Villains earned Karma by carrying out their plans against society.
In the original edition, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay had five alignments, ranging from Lawful to Good to Neutral to Evil to Chaotic. The revised edition discarded the concept, although the theme of Order versus Chaos is still an important part of the setting.
Corruption and taintEdit
Rather than an alignment system, some games measure a character's moral condition along a track. Examples include: