Sunday, 29 January 2017

Alignments and Society.

What does a Chaotic Evil society look like?

It’s a question that gets a lot of mileage in Sisyphean Internet alignment debates -if you chuck a punch of CE Orcs and Goblinoids together, what the hell sort of society do they develop? In a society of individualistic violence, how does anything emerge? There’s an inbuilt assumption to that line of thought, and to human history generally, that we represent the model for Lawful Good and some Other is the stand in for the other alignments. Do a collective of Lawful Good individuals necessarily produce a Lawful Good society? (Hegel, had he lived beside Gygax, or had Gygax got the dice rolling in nineteenth century bourgeois Prussia, would certainly argue for that – Marx or Arendt might disagree…)

 Disclaimer: I am using the D&D by-the-book definitions of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ here. Plus don’t construe this as a moral judgement of individuals, or that I am talking societies out of context, or imposing teleogical modern morality. In D&D morality certain things are moral that we may disagree with in the twenty-first century West, such as murdering evil-doers.

For my own game world, I apply a vague alignment to most states, and here’s how I do it:


Lawful states are typified by constitutions, traditions, and formal roles:  Lawful governments govern by, with and under the dictates of law. At their best, they are just, consistent and stable. At their worst they are bureaucratic and conservative. Chaotic societies are individualistic; they prefer the natural assumption of power by charismatic or capable individuals. At their best, they are malleable and flexible. At their worst, they are despotic, unstable and well, chaotic.

Evil societies put no value on (demi)human life and are aggressive and expansionist – a Hobbesean war of all against all is the world they live in, and they will claw any advantage they can. Evil perform no action except through self-interest.

Good societies are altruistic, engaged and their leadership sees rule as a service. They actively suppress injustice and evil and work to better the lives of their subjects for the sake of it. They are generally much more equal.

Some examples:

Lawful EvilLawful Evil societies are not the simply tyrannical states most people envisage – they could be democracies. The important mix is that there is a heavily controlled, defined and stratified society: maybe a caste-system or extensive slavery. Rulers work within the bounds of the law but the law itself is designed to protect their interests. The Confederate South might be an example here of a society that was legalistic and lawful yet those laws protected evil practices, for example slavery and institutionalised racialism. Other Lawful Evil societies might be the Neo-Assyrian Empire, which expanded violently across the Near East, crushing dissent with utter cruelty yet a strict legal code.
Don't fuck with the Assyrians. 


Lawful Good

Lawful Good societies are societies with the same legalistic preponderance, but they work actively to push towards a more equal society for the populace within the bounds of the laws. Lawful Good societies would only take part in Just Wars and place the welfare of their people highly in consideration. The idealised self image of the United State of America would be an example of a Lawful Good society. The actual United States, probably not. Norway or other Western European social democracies would also probably qualify.

Chaotic Evil
Chaotic societies are those with little legal framework to take control of, such as steppe tribes or  societies in a constant state or revolution and flux (such as modern Syria or Afghanistan). A Chaotic Evil society would be one in which rulers tend to rule solely by force and might-makes-right – the subjects have little right to recompense and the personage of the ruler and their ability to exercise force are the source of all power. The Mongols (before Genghis Khan) probably qualify as a Chaotic Evil society due to their incredibly violent punishments and foreign policy, and ready acceptance of slavery, rape and plunder. A more modern and controversial example would be Nazi Germany, whose crimes probably do not need to be listed.



Chaotic Good
Chaotic Good societies also rely on the personal charisma and status of individual(s), but they work towards the betterment of the collective. They would have a limited or non-existent coercive power and would rely extensively on altruism and voluntarism from their citizenry. Examples are hard to find in the ‘Real World’ setting because blood is so often the lubricant of the wheels of history – I’d say no state in the traditional sense really qualifies (perhaps some Native American tribal groups, but that’s probably my romantic Noble Savage bullshit coming into play.) I’d argue for potentially the Zapatistas, Spanish Anarchists or the Indian Independence movement around Gandhi.


No comments:

Post a Comment