On Alignment, by Gygax

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"Paladins are not stupid, and in general there is no rule of Lawful Good against killing enemies. The old adage about nits making lice applies. Also, as I have often noted, a paladin can freely dispatch prisoners of Evil alignment that have surrendered and renounced that alignment in favor of Lawful Good. They are then sent on to their reward before they can backslide.

An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is by no means anything but Lawful and Good. Prisoners guilty of murder or similar capital crimes can be executed without violating any precept of the alignment. Hanging is likely the usual method of such execution, although it might be beheading, strangulation, etc. A paladin is likely a figure that would be considered a fair judge of criminal conduct.

The Anglo-Saxon punishment for rape and/or murder of a woman was as follows: tearing off of the scalp, cutting off of the ears and nose, blinding, chopping off of the feet and hands, and leaving the criminal beside the road for all bypassers to see. I don't know if they cauterized the limb stumps or not before doing that. It was said that a woman and child could walk the length and breadth of England without fear of molestation then... 


Chivington might have been quoted as saying "nits make lice," but he is certainly not the first one to make such an observation as it is an observable fact. If you have read the account of wooden Leg, a warrior of the Cheyenne tribe that fought against Custer et al., he dispassionately noted killing an enemy squaw for the reason in question.  

I am not going to waste my time and yours debating ethics and philosophy. I will state unequivocally that in the alignment system as presented in OAD&D, an eye for an eye is lawful and just, Lawful Good, as misconduct is to be punished under just laws. 

Lawful Neutrality countenances malign laws. Lawful Good does not. 

Mercy is to be displayed for the lawbreaker that does so by accident. Benevolence is for the harmless. Pacifism in the fantasy milieu is for those who would be slaves. They have no place in determining general alignment, albeit justice tempered by mercy is a NG manifestation, whilst well-considered benevolence is generally a mark of Good." -Gary Gygax 2005

11 comments:

  1. Ah! A refreshing take on the unjustly-maligned paladin and other lawful-good character types. It is interesting that our culture often equates law with "letting someone else do the dirty work," when we are dealing with a fantasy world where paladins are the personal agents of GODS.

    Paladins can be ideologically rigid -- and terrifyingly badass.

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  2. "Dieu reconnaitra les siens." Little different from having alignment being entirely reinforced socially, rather than metaphysically, in-game - plus recognition of the opposed powers of metaphysical purity and corruption, perhaps.

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  3. My game party mostly LN fanatics with a few good - this is interesting - greg stafford has "kill those who seek to murder you" used which is nice. Preemptive killing of people who will be you enemies in future sound better and better - pre emptive strike eye for eye - logically they will compete with my offspring so any one is a threat

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    1. Someone who wasn't a sociopath might view them as your offspring's potential marriage partners, friends, employers, employees, and customers. But chacun a son gout I guess.

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  4. This definitely changes my opinion of the paladin and LG-aligned characters in general.

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  5. "Nits become lice" was also the statement Cromwell was said to have uttered before ordering the execution of Irish women and children. It may be effective, converting them to your cause would seem more so, but it does not strike me as good.

    Interesting read though. So, in OD&D LG is defined as "what advances my group"?

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    1. But most Irish women aren't of evil alignment.

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    2. It's pointless to apply real world examples (with the real world's moral relativism) to a fantasy game. In default D&D, evil is a actual metaphysical presence represented by demons, devils, evil gods, and those who serve them. The D&D version of your example would be Cromwell the Paladin exterminating a village full of actual demon cultists or diabolists.

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    3. The Shadow Knows (sorry).

      In the real world, one group looks at the other and decides "Hey, those guys are evil." The other group looks at the first group and says "Hey, those guys are evil."

      In D&D, the Paladin just Detects Evil and it's done.

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  6. I like this in some ways. It's suggests "Good" and "Evil" (in alignment terms) could just as easily be called "Red" and "Blue." They have only the barest relationship to any human ideas of morality and have the harsh absolutist feel I would expect of extradimensional alien powers.

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    1. Well, that comes pretty close to the Law and Chaos depicted in Elric books. Most humans have no idea what it means, anyway.

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