Character Alignment: An Introduction

Who Are You?

Riker:What do we do, sir? With them monitoring every move, every word…
Picard:S.O.P., Mr. Riker.
Riker:Standard Operating Procedures?
Picard: We do exactly what we’d do if this “Q” never existed. If we’re going to be damned, let’s be damned for what we really are.”

Star Trek: The Next Generation “Encounter at Farpoint” (Season 1, Episode 1)

Good and Evil. Order and Chaos. Every fictional character falls somewhere within those four concepts. In 1974, uber-nerd Gary Gygax created a 9×9 character alignment chart for his new game: Dungeons & Dragons.

These alignments are useful shorthand when describing fictional characters. The system is flawed. The same character performing the same actions can fall into multiple alignments depending on the viewer. Arguments about character alignment can lead to hellacious flame wars.

So what are these Character Alignments? Let’s find out.

Lawful Good: Holding Out For a Hero

Ideal For: Knights, Doctors, Police, Monks

Zoe:Preacher, don’t the Bible have some pretty specific things to say about killing?
Shepard Book: [loading a rifle] “Quite specific. It is, however, somewhat fuzzier on the subject of kneecaps.

Firefly “Serenity” (Season 1, Episode 1)

Civilization has always embraced codes of conduct. Chivalry, Bushido, religion, rule of law, or whatever. Many people would be good regardless, but these characters rigidly follow their code.

Lawful Good is the classic hero character alignment. Followers preach honor and morality while fighting evil. They tend to be natural leaders and well-suited to diplomacy. 

Lawful Goods can be rigid and stubborn. If they focus on being by-the-book, they may make boneheaded moves because their code requires that action. It’s also easy for these characters to fall into zealotry and burn heretics. Remember, it’s Lawful Good, not Lawful Nice

She-Hulk is a great example of Lawful Good in her roles as a hero and a lawyer. Captain America fits as someone focused more on the Good side. Officer Karrin Murphy of The Dresden Files is emblematic of this character alignment, as is Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Neutral Good: Hopes and Dreams

Ideal For: Heroes, Healers, Mentors, Activists

Zidane:You don’t need a reason to help people.

Final Fantasy 9

Who cares about authority or rebellion? Some people enjoy helping others, actively or in small ways.

Neutral Good is the pure good character alignment. Followers are similar to Lawful Good, but will tell the law to shove it if the rules prevent them from helping. They’ll champion social justice, seek peace and equity for all, and tend to give people diabetes from acting so sweet. But don’t think for a second that they’re pushovers.

A Neutral Good character can come across as naïve and sheltered. Laws exist for a reason, so it is possible that they can make things worse by not knowing what they’re getting involved with. A Neutral Good character may also pursue the greater good while inflicting damage because the ends may justify the means.

Most superheroes are perfect examples of Neutral Good. Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, The Doctor, and Gandalf are good examples of those who follow the rules until they get between them and someone who needs help.

Chaotic Good: Break In to Break Out

Ideal For: Barbarians, Good-natured Rogues, Rebels (when good), Anti-Heroes

Steely Dan:Please, I beg of you! Forgive me!
Jotaro:Ask for forgiveness from Enya, the woman you killed. But as for me, I never had the slightest intention of forgiving you.”
Steely Dan:D-Dio paid me to cause this madness… you can have it all!
Jotaro:Good grief… I know this is blatantly obvious, but you really are a piece of work. What you owe me… can never be paid back with money!

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders “The Lovers” (Season 3, Episode 17)

Rules were made to be broken. Maybe you think the protection they give isn’t worth what you give up. You’re not evil, but you won’t be constrained by anyone.

Chaotic Good is Robin Hood’s character alignment. Followers believe in freedom from law, usually because they view laws as corrupt or supporting tyrants. They may steal or kill, but they won’t hurt innocents and don’t cause havoc without a reason.

Chaotic Goods are often running from the law and may appear untrustworthy. They tend to be brutal combatants who are quicker to go for a kill or torture. These characters walk the knife’s edge between heroism and villainy.

John Constantine and Han Solo are the champions of this character alignment. Wolverine, Hulk, and Jack Bauer represent good guys who are willing to do bad things. If you want someone who is free to help others, hit up Sherlock Holmes, Harry Dresden, The A-Team, or The Ghostbusters.

Lawful Neutral: Programmed To Fight

Ideal For: Judges, Cops, Regents, Soldiers

Sgt. Vimes:You can’t give me my job back. It was never yours to take away. I was never an officer of the city, or an officer of the king, or an officer of the Patrician. I was an officer of the law. It might have been corrupted and bent, but it was law, of a sort. There isn’t any law now except ‘you’ll get burned alive if you don’t watch out.’ Where’s the place in there for me?

Guards! Guards!

Morality is nice, but the law’s the law. How can society endure without guiding principles?

Lawful Neutral is the authoritative character alignment. Followers are completely bound to a code, be it the law, a master, their religion, or a personal code of honor. They rarely, if ever, deviate from their path.

Lawful Neutrals vary based on their code. Some are reasonable authority figures who can always be trusted. Others fit into evil character alignments with a few extra steps. A character with a personal code could have the strangest morals they relentlessly adhere to.

Inspector Javert is the dictionary definition of Lawful Neutral. Judge Dredd and Captain Marvel represent heroic versions of this alignment. Villainous examples include Gladiator and Amanda Waller. The Punisher and The Flame Emperor perfectly describe divisive characters who follow their own code.

True Neutral: It Has To Be This Way

Ideal For: Monks, Drifters, Deities, Elementals

Iroh: “It is important to draw wisdom from many different places. If we take it from only one place, it becomes rigid and stale. Understanding others, the other elements, and the other nations, will help you become whole.”
Zuko: “All this “Four Elements” talk is sounding like Avatar stuff.”
Iroh: “It is the combination of the four elements within one person that makes the Avatar so powerful. But, it can make you more powerful, too.”

Avatar: The Last Airbender “Bitter Work” (Season 2, Episode 9)

Good, evil, order, and chaos are dividing concepts. Perhaps there is a way that won’t enslave you. A path between Scylla and Charybdis. Or maybe not.

True Neutral is the character alignment of balance in life. Followers aren’t interested in helping or harming others, but may choose to. These types of True Neutrals often become guardians protecting balance in nature. Other balance-seekers may become too powerful and unwilling to interfere in others’ affairs.

Apathy is their opposite. Some True Neutrals simply don’t care about things that don’t involve them. Their involvement usually satisfies another need of theirs. They killed a monster plaguing a town? Whatever, they just wanted the magic spear it had.

The Watcher and Doctor Manhattan are perfect examples of non-interfering True Neutrals.  Most incarnations of Death fit the bill for balance, as do The Arbiters of Fate and Galactus. You’ll find that Shrek, Sheldon Cooper, and Godzilla represent the apathetic type quite well. 

Chaotic Neutral: Livin’ La Vida Loca

Ideal For: Tricksters, Mercenaries, Free Spirits, Gentlemen Thieves/Cat Burglars

Silco:Half a dozen Enforcers, dead! Enforcers! DEAD!
Silco:A building blown to pieces!
Jinx: [laughs] “Yeeah.”
Silco: “Do you have any idea what you’ve done?!
Jinx: [suddenly serious] “Actually… I do. [hands him a Hextech Crystal] Happy Progress Day!

Arcane “Happy Progress Day!” (Season 1, Episode 4)

Who cares what other people say? People may tell you what to do, but these Neutrals live by their rules only. It ain’t easy, it ain’t safe, but they’re free.

Chaotic Neutral is the character alignment of freedom. Followers do what they want, when they want, and hang the consequences. They might punch a queen in the face, belt out “Careless Whisper” while stealing a cart, and end the day by sharing a sandwich with a homeless orphan.

Chaotic Neutral is fun, but not easy for teamwork. They can come across as madmen and jerks. It’s also possible they’ll slide into Chaotic Evil if they lack good boundaries.

Deadpool and Delirium of the Endless are the pinnacle of Chaotic Neutral. Hit-up Mr. Mxyzptlk, The Great Gazoo, or Q for the tricksters of this character alignment. If you fancy blood and guts, The Three Musketeers, Doomslayer, and Peter Griffin are your guys.

Lawful Evil: Radio Demon

Ideal For: Tyrants, CEOs, Politicians, Mafiosos, Demons, Fairies

Doctor Doom:Imagine: I now possess the power to end hunger. To abolish disease. To eliminate crime. To establish a perfectly content, perfectly ordered world, all under the benevolence of MY IRON WILL!

Fantastic Four “Doomsday” (Season 2, Episode 13)

It’s amazing how much power can be gained legally: the ability to buy and sell anyone, connections to make issues go away, and all while remaining untouchable. It’s good to be evil.

Lawful Evil is the tyrannical Character Alignment. Followers will game any system, manipulate anyone, and commit any crime to increase their power. Some enter politics, others reap the mafia’s riches, and a few have Satan on speed dial. Every path leads to being indispensable.

Lawful Evil types tend to give big “I run this town!” speeches, but some are more humble. They are also the most likely evil alignment to aid heroes, since there’s not much point being rich and powerful if the world’s been destroyed. Many Lawful Evil characters are potentially trustworthy and predictable since they follow their own code of honor.

Darth Vader and Doctor Doom embody Lawful Evil. Mayor Wilkins from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Cenobites, and Sauron are excellent emissaries of this alignment. You may be able to trust “Gentleman” Johnny Marcone, Don Corleone, Lord Vetinari, or David Xanatos as reasonable representatives of Lawful Evil.

Neutral Evil: Smooth Criminal

Ideal For: Crooks, Assassins, Jerks 

Cinder Fall:You Atlas elites are all the same! You think because you hoard power, you’ll have it forever, but it just makes the rest of us hungrier! And I refuse to starve.

RWBY “The Enemy of Trust” (Season 7, Episode 13)

Raging jealousy is often the motivation beyond Neutral Evil characters.

Neutral Evil is the villain’s Character Alignment of choice. Followers don’t care about laws or morals, just what they want. They’ll kill and steal without hesitation. Small scale followers are content robbing banks, but more ambitious villains will try to conquer the world.

Most Neutral Evil characters have a line in the sand. They’ll do almost anything, but some certain acts are beyond their low standards. Rape, torture, slavery, and harming children are frowned upon. Many Neutral Evil characters oppose others trying to destroy the world. Where else would they store their loot? 

Most Supervillains exemplify this character alignment.  Hedley Lamarr, Hans Gruber, and Gaston represent the petty side of Neutral Evil. For the real movers and shakers, try Emperor Palpatine, Lord Voldemort, The Master, or Handsome Jack.

Chaotic Evil: Infinite

Ideal For: Irredeemable Villains, Cultists, Serial Killers, Monsters

Shabriri:Burn the Erdtree to the ground and incinerate all that divides and distinguishes. Ahhh, may chaos take the world! May CHAOS take the world!

Elden Ring

Morals? Laws? Why should anyone care about those?! This world’s one big playground, and all they want is to start breaking toys while painting the town red.

Chaotic Evil is character alignment of monsters. Followers couldn’t care less about other people. Their goals usually boil down to torturing and killing everyone because they can. Some remain rational enough to rave that their actions will make everything better.

Chaotic Evil characters disgust other villains. They’ll beat a mother to death with her baby for a laugh. They’ll roast marshmallows over burning corpses. We won’t cover potential interactions with children or animals.

The Joker and Kefka Palazzo are Chaotic Evil incarnate. Freddy Krueger, Tomura Shigaraki and The Major from Hellsing represent the evil side of Chaotic Evil. But you’re really screwed if you come across Pennywise: the Dancing Clown, Majin Buu, Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones, or other embodiments of Chaos.

What is your character alignment? Have we mislabled anyone? Tell us in the comments.

Image: Justice Smith plays Simon, Chris Pine plays Edgin, Sophia Lillis plays Doric and Michelle Rodriguez plays Holga in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves from Paramount Pictures. Photo Aidan Monaghan. Copyright © 2023 Par. Pics. TM Hasbro.

Related posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Get Netflix Dates emailed free to you every week