The D&D alignment system is worthless

I used to like the D&D alignment system which has a chaotic/lawful axis separate from the good/evil axis. I think the reason I liked it was because it seemed to add something less debatable; if we couldn't agree whether a character or action was good or evil, we could probably at least agree on whether it was chaotic or lawful, even if we didn't agree on the relationship the two axes had. But then I got disillusioned with the system and no longer use that language. It doesn't actually make things any less open to interpretation.

For example, some people interpret lawful to mean supporting existing authorities:


Others say that lawfulness only means believing that it would be good to have some established authority, not that the existing ones are good or deserve loyalty, while still others say that lawfulness doesn't have any intrinsic association with authority, just strict adherence to a clear set of principles; hence a libertarian purist like Murray Rothbard would be highly "lawful" despite being an anarchist. (Although, when you think about that, it becomes more like "philosopher versus nonphilosopher".)


Another common aspect of interpretation thrown into it is that consequentialism is a chaotic idea:


while lawful characters adhere more strictly to "principles". But it's also said that chaotic characters are more individualistic:


These are at odds, because consequentialism inherently has collectivist implications (if you can sacrifice one good for another, you can sacrifice one person for another).


Some people will say that lawful characters "hate to see the guilty go unpunished":


But many also say that "thou shalt not kill", or in general the Christian opposition to revenge, is a lawful idea:


Both of them can be framed as strict adherence to one's principles.

The D&D two-axis system clarifies nothing, it only adds a meaningless dimension that causes at least as much confusion as the other one.


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