When you create a character for D&D, you’ll need to choose an alignment. This article explains the nine different D&D alignments, plus examples of well-known characters that fit each alignment.
The nine Dungeons and Dragons alignments are:
- Lawful Good
- Neutral Good
- Chaotic Good
- Lawful Neutral
- Chaotic Neutral
- Lawful Evil
- Neutral Evil
- Chaotic Evil
Read on for more about each D&D alignment, example characters for each one, and how to choose an alignment for your character.
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What are alignments used for?
Your alignment guides how your character acts and responds to situations. It’s not a super-restrictive set of rules that you must always follow. No-one follows their own rules all the time, right?
Alignments are a helpful guide for how your character generally acts and behaves. It can help you to roleplay your character in a way that feels authentic and true to who they are.
How do the alignments work?
The alignments are usually two words long. Let’s take the example of Lawful Good.
The first part of the alignment, ‘Lawful’ describes that alignment’s ethics. The ethics section of the alignment indicates that character’s perspective on society as a whole. Do they respect authority or rebel against it? Do they like order and hierarchy or prefer individuality and freedom?
The second part of the alignment, ‘Good’, describes that alignment’s morals. Will they trample on others to get what they want, or do they want to help others? Will they hurt people for fun or will they protect them at all costs?
The alignment chart
The nine alignments exist on a chart. Ethics (Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic) on one axis, and morals (Good, Neutral and Evil) on the other axis.
|Lawful Good||Neutral Good||Chaotic Good|
|Lawful Neutral||Neutral||Chaotic Neutral|
|Lawful Evil||Neutral Evil||Chaotic Evil|
Lawful vs Chaotic
There are three positions on the ethics axis – Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic.
A Lawful character follows the rules, respects hierarchy and believes in power given by society. Lawful characters believe in honour, following traditions and being trustworthy. They have faith in societal rules because they are how you create a functioning society where everyone acts in the way you expect.
While they may sound noble, Lawful characters can be inflexible and blindly follow the rules even if they make no sense. They can harshly judge others that don’t follow the same rules and place their loyalty to the system above their loyalty to friends and family.
Sitting in the middle of the ethical axis, Neutral characters do not feel compelled to follow every rule and societal belief, nor do they feel the need to disrupt and rebel against everything. A Neutral character follows the rules that align with their own agenda, that are convenient to them, or they think are necessary.
Neutral characters will usually follow the rules because they generally lead to a better outcome for them. However, they can break the rules if they believe the benefits to them outweigh the risks.
Characters with a Neutral alignment may see themselves as superior to Lawful and Chaotic aligned characters because in not taking sides, they are the only alignment with true freedom to decide.
Chaotic aligned characters aren’t random in their actions. Instead, they are simply the opposite side of the ethics spectrum to Lawful characters. Chaotic aligned characters live by their own rules instead of the rules society has decreed. They believe that is the only way an individual is truly free and can live up to their full potential.
Chaotic characters dislike and distrust authority, don’t like following orders, and live life on their own terms. They can be flexible and adaptable and do what fits the situation and their own agenda.
Characters with a Chaotic alignment may rebel against rules to try to bring about change or simply to create anarchy. They may take actions with a complete disregard for the consequences.
Good vs Evil
The moral axis has three positions – Good, Neutral and Evil.
Good characters care about others and act in ways that help and benefit them. They protect the innocent, defend the weak, and go out of their way to help other people.
Characters aligned with Evil will eliminate others, cause them harm and make them miserable. They do not feel remorse for their actions and will take down anyone, whether those people are innocent or not.
Characters may be aligned with Evil for many different reasons. For example, it could be because they follow an Evil deity, they work for an Evil master, or because they enjoy it.
Neutral characters are very much in the middle ground. They do not go to the same extent as Evil characters and harm the innocent, and likewise, they will not do as Good will and take actions that harm themselves to help others.
The actions of Neutral characters are driven by their loyalty to others and themselves. If an action is in their best interest or in the best interest of those to whom they are most loyal, they will take it.
While all characters may naturally change alignments through character development, it is especially common for Neutral characters to move to a Good or Evil alignment if the majority of their actions favour one moral alignment over the other.
Lawful Good character examples: Superman, Robocop, classic Paladins
Lawful Good characters always do the right thing as expected by society. They always follow the rules, tell the truth and help people out. They like order, trust and believe in people with social authority, and they aim to be an upstanding citizen.
Lawful Good characters believe in societal rules because they benefit everyone. If everyone followed their own rules there would be chaos and people may end up hurting each other.
Justice is really important to Lawful Good characters. If someone doesn’t follow the rules, they should be fairly judged by the system. They are angry when people get away with breaking the rules.
They also believe that good behaviour and good deeds will be rewarded.
A Lawful Good character holds themselves to the same standards that they hold everyone else. They very rarely, if ever, break the rules. If they do break the rules they will feel very uncomfortable doing so.
Lawful Good characters do have some downsides. They can be irritatingly inflexible in their beliefs. They can come across as arrogant and self-righteous. They may fail to understand why an individual would pursue their own freedom and interests over the greater good.
For a closer look at the Lawful Good alignment including how to roleplay it, usual traits, insults they might give, background ideas, and more check out my Lawful Good alignment article.
Neutral Good character examples: Gandalf, Spiderman, Harry Potter
Neutral Good characters do their best to help others, but they do it because they want to, not because they have been told to by a person in authority or by society’s laws.
While they will generally follow the rules and laws of society, they do so because they lead to good outcomes, rather than because they feel obligated to by authority figures and institutions.
A Neutral Good person will break the rules if they are doing it for good reasons and they will feel confident and justified in their actions.
One negative of Neutral Good characters is that they care about upholding Good more than abiding by any laws, so they can adopt Chaotic behaviour and be unpredictable if pushed.
For more detail on the Neutral Good alignment including roleplay ideas, typical traits and even insults to dish out, check out my Neutral Good alignment article.
Chaotic Good character examples: Robin Hood, Luna Lovegood, Mary Poppins
Chaotic Good characters do what their conscience tells them to for the greater good. They do not care about following society’s rules, they care about doing what’s right.
A Chaotic Good character will speak up for and help, those who are being needlessly held back because of arbitrary rules and laws. They do not like seeing people being told what to do for nonsensical reasons.
These people will rebel and break the rules to do what’s right and may even try to bring about societal change.
Chaotic Good characters may appear strange to others because they do not abide by societal expectations to fit in.
On the negative side, the actions of Chaotic Good characters can negatively affect other Good people. They may not care about the hard-earned success of Good people because their success was earned in the system that the Chaotic Good character disagrees with.
For a deeper dive into Chaotic Good, check out my Chaotic Good alignment article.
Lawful Neutral character examples: Judge Dredd, Space Marines, Amanda Waller
A Lawful Neutral character behaves in a way that matches the organization, authority or tradition they follow. They live by this code and uphold it above all else, taking actions that are sometimes considered Good and sometimes considered Evil by others.
The Lawful Neutral character does not care about what others think of their actions, they only care about their actions being correct according to their code. But they do not preach their code to others and try to convert them.
Lawful Neutral characters like rules, order and organization. They follow these to the letter for their own sake. Moral decisions don’t come into the equation for them so even if they hurt others in carrying out their duty, they feel no guilt, remorse or anguish.
Because a Lawful Neutral character is so emotionless in following their own laws it is easy for them to appear Lawful Evil.
The Lawful Neutral alignment can be bad when the character seeks to control others, eliminate anyone who is different and restrict all free will.
For a closer look at the Lawful Neutral alignment, check out my article.
True Neutral character examples: Lara Croft, Malcolm Reynolds, Rincewind
True Neutral (sometimes called Neutral Neutral) characters don’t like to take sides. They are pragmatic rather than emotional in their actions, choosing the response which makes the most sense for them in each situation.
Neutral characters don’t believe in upholding the rules and laws of society, but nor do they feel the need to rebel against them. There will be times when a Neutral character has to make a choice between siding with Good or Evil, perhaps casting the deciding vote in a party. They will make a choice in these situations, usually siding with whichever causes them the least hassle, or they stand to gain the most from.
A Neutral character may be preoccupied with their own agenda and simply have no interest in what’s happening around them, they may just be looking to see who can offer them the best deal, or simply doing what’s most convenient in any situation.
On the negative side, True Neutral characters can come across as apathetic and indecisive. They can be frustrating to work with because they don’t want to commit to any side.
Take a closer look at True Neutral in my article.
Chaotic Neutral character examples: Captain Jack Sparrow, Cat Woman, Guybrush Threepwood
Chaotic Neutral characters are free spirits. They do what they want but don’t seek to disrupt the usual norms and laws of society.
These individuals don’t like being told what to do, following traditions, or being controlled. That said, they will not work to change these restrictions, instead, they will just try to avoid them in the first place. Their need to be free is the most important thing.
Chaotic Neutral characters do what is most likely to ensure their freedom, protect their free will, and get them the outcome they want. That might be a Good action like helping someone, or an Evil action like failing to tell the truth. However, a Chaotic Good character is more likely to take a Good action than an Evil one because it usually results in a better outcome and an easy time of it for them.
Chaotic Neutral characters might be one step away from being caught for a misdeed in one moment, then redeem themselves with a good action in the next moment. They can easily slip into Chaotic Good or Chaotic Evil if they take too many Good or Evil actions in a row.
Chaotic Neutral characters sometimes disrupt order just for the sake of it and leave others to sort it out. It makes them a frustrating ally to have in a D&D group!
For more about the Chaotic Neutral alignment, see my article.
Lawful Evil character examples: Darth Vader, Lex Luther, Dolores Umbridge
Lawful Evil characters operate within a strict code of laws and traditions. Upholding these values and living by these is more important than anything, even the lives of others. They may not consider themselves to be Evil, they may believe what they are doing is right.
These characters enforce their system of control through force. Anyone who doesn’t follow their code or acts out of line will face consequences. Lawful Evil characters feel no guilt or remorse for causing harm to others in this way.
Characters with a Lawful Evil alignment may follow their own Evil moral code or be part of an ordered system following a leader. However, if their master stops adhering to the code, they may seek to overthrow them or find a replacement.
Lawful Evil alignments are particularly bad because Evil combined with order and structure, often leads to very powerful Evil movements and society-wide regimes.
For a deeper look at Lawful Evil, check out my article.
Neutral Evil character examples: Jabba the Hutt, Bowser, Cruella de Vil
Neutral Evil characters are selfish. Their actions are driven by their own wants whether that’s power, greed, attention, or something else. They will follow laws if they happen to align with their ambitions, but they will not hesitate to break them if they don’t.
They don’t believe that following laws and traditions makes anyone a better person. Instead, they use other people’s beliefs in codes and loyalty against them, using it as a tool to influence their behaviour.
These characters make allegiances with others to further their own agenda but will quickly leave allies when they are no longer useful.
Characters with a Neutral Evil alignment will hurt others if it furthers their agenda but they will not harm people for no particular reason. Unless their agenda is to spread evil for evil’s sake, in which case, they may harm others en masse.
Above all else, Neutral Evil characters care about one thing and one thing only, themselves.
Neutral Evil characters are particularly bad because they can carry out Evil for Evil’s sake, with no code to follow or rebel against.
Check out the Neutral Evil alignment in detail in my article.
Chaotic Evil character examples: The Joker, Voldemort, Bellatrix Lestrange
Chaotic Evil characters care only for themselves with a complete disregard for all law and order and for the welfare and freedom of others. They harm others out of anger or just for fun.
Characters aligned with Chaotic Evil usually operate alone because they do not work well with others. They can be controlled with force but only temporarily. As soon as they have a chance, they will take out the person controlling them.
They may be driven by their desire to spread Chaos and Evil or because they enjoy it. They are unpredictable and freely express wild and intense emotions because they see no reason to control or suppress them.
Chaotic Evil characters are the most Evil of all because they are out to destroy everything – order, tradition, life, freedom and choice.
For more on the Chaotic Evil alignment, see my article.
What about the alignment of animals and creatures?
Animals and creatures who can’t take moral actions are thought of as unaligned. They are following their instincts to respond to the situation in front of them, rather than responding with an intellectual understanding of the societal rules and consequences for their decisions.
How to choose your alignment
Think about the type of character you want to play
Ask yourself questions about the type of character you want to play to figure out where they sit on the ethical and moral axis.
Do you want to play someone who is inherently good or bad? How do they feel about authority and following orders and traditions?
What is their main motivation and how far will they go in pursuit of it? Are they prepared to harm other people to get what they want?
Take an alignment test
Wizards of the Coast have an alignment test. You can answer the questions as yourself to see what your personal alignment is, or you can answer the questions as if your character is answering them. Then you’ll know what alignment to give your character.
Find a character alignment chart for a show or film you love
To create a good, well-rounded character to roleplay, I find it helpful to base them on a character or person you know quite well. The better you know your character, the better you know how they will respond to a situation so you can roleplay them instinctively and help the session flow smoothly.
Consider the alignments of your group
If the group you’re playing in has a mixture of Good and Evil characters it can be difficult to form allegiances in the party.
A mixed group makes for an interesting campaign for a while, but eventually, the party will become divided and characters may need to leave to stay true to their alignment.
Alternatively, character development could lead characters to change their alignment allowing them to work together as a party without moral issues.
Conclusion – D&D Character alignments
Whichever you choose, remember that your character’s D&D alignment is only a guide and that it can change during a campaign as your character develops. It’s actually really interesting when this happens!
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