29
\$\begingroup\$

In the various Dungeons & Dragons games, and a limited set of other RPGs, there is the concept of "alignment," which is the ethical and moral disposition of a character.

We have a fair number of questions on the site, but some get closed for asking if so-and-so is compatible with a given alignment, to wit:

But there are other alignment questions that are fine. What kinds of alignment questions are on topic for the site?

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ Added link here to alignment tag wiki. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Feb 10 '15 at 14:28
25
\$\begingroup\$

Only specific kinds of alignment questions are on topic.

There are a variety of kinds of alignment questions, some of which can be constructively handled by our site and some that can not. There's not really a need for special rules for alignment questions; these are covered by the usual close rules (too broad, opinion based, etc.) but it can be hard to see how these apply in certain cases.

Note that some "is this good or what" alignment questions on the site have not been closed - but they have been identified as XY questions and answered outside their frame. Like Good alignment on characters facing a vampire's top voted answer leads off with explaining what "Always X" really means, and a good answer to the first linked example in the question explains "one act doesn't change your alignment."

The trouble with alignment questions is that the alignment rules for the most part are deliberately vague about what exactly is good, evil, lawful, or chaotic - they provide a brief description but then leave it to you to fill in your own RL moral code in most circumstances. And people's moral codes are not good topics in the Stack Exchange format. You'll note that even the religion sites (Christianity.SE, Mi Yodeya) have had to resort to saying "you have to cite the specific viewpoint of a denomination/acknowledged authority" to avoid this problem.

The Good Kind

So it's appropriate and on topic to ask alignment questions that are:

  1. Mechanical - how does changing alignments work, etc.
  2. Social - people in my group don't like me playing an evil character, etc.

The Bad Kind

But the kind of question that is always "primarily opinion-based" is "what alignment is act X/situation X/character X/society X?" Except for the couple very narrow exceptions (e.g. in D&D 3.5e, casting an evil descriptor spell is explicitly defined as an evil act) this is basically asking "what is your philosophy of life," which is not a good topic and is impossible to answer even using Good Subjective, Bad Subjective - you can say "I ruled that as evil in my game" and that's experience, but it's unhelpful and irrelevant. The SE format is not intended for or appropriate to topics that basically just become popularity voting on completely subjective opinions.

The right answer to all of these questions ends up being the same, which is to turn the specific question into a process question of "how do you figure this out yourself," and a review of all these questions on the site shows that the meaningful answers all end up composed of one or more of these points:

  1. Alignment is subjective and it's a DM call
  2. Alignment should be descriptive and not prescriptive
  3. One act usually shouldn't change your alignment, depending on the system there may be optional rules that have been introduced to model alignment shift (here's Pathfinder's)
  4. Here's a bunch of descriptions of good and evil and lawful and chaotic stuff from the core rules and various splatbooks you can use to guide your decision
  5. Various general warnings about social issues (it's debatable, it can cause player dissent, chaotic and/or evil and/or lawful good characters could make the other players frustrated, etc.)
  6. Alignment is a dumb horrible system

But in the end it's the same answer for all of them. Just point them here. We should close these and change the tag wiki for alignment to say "Alignment debates over what alignment a person, act, or society should be are off topic."

\$\endgroup\$
  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 I completely agree. We are not in a position to give useful answers to individual campaigns' alignment questions. \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Feb 6 '15 at 21:06
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ One of the problems with alignment vagueness is that the descriptions are usually not of mutually exclusive characteristics, which means we can have multiple answers on alignment judgement questions each asserting different alignments, and they'll all be correct based on their own citations. That's kinda awful for our voting system. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Feb 6 '15 at 22:58
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Also as a useful research note, philosophy is also completely uninterested in them. (At least it was a few years ago when I tried to formulate the question appropriate for philosophy.se) \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Feb 7 '15 at 0:49
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ @BrianBallsun-Stanton Philosophy.SE is uninterested in them, being about philosophy rather than a source of philosophy or a place where philosophy is done. Philosophy as a discipline is somewhat more interested in discussing the moral nature of various actions, but usually not in a 3X3 grid of nonsensical alignments. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Feb 10 '15 at 8:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk: this is now bookmarked ForMyFutureRef thanks to KRyan and yourself alerting me to the traps that lie in responses regarding alignment in the process of crafting a recent answer. Thanks to you both. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 7 '15 at 19:49
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Interesting. I've never found alignment to be pitched as subjective. I know there are fringe events that are questionable, but I feel like alignments are designed 'vaguely' so that they didn't have to write out what should be obvious. Any situation where RL morality is involved is wrong because it's about the game world. \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Oct 28 '16 at 12:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ After referring back here a few times in the wake of rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/151610 , I'm thinking that your Good example #2 isn't actually about alignment at all. It seems like the complaining player either has a problematic behavior to point to (in which case it's My Guy Syndrome they're complaining about), or they don't (in which case what ARE they objecting to?). \$\endgroup\$ – sevenbrokenbricks Jul 12 at 7:36

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .