Alignment in the Borderlands

As Game Mechanics - Us vs Them
I believe that to early versions of D&D such as Basic & Expert it is important to remember that they are outgrowths of wargaming and carry a lot of assumptions from wargaming.

One of these assumptions from wargaming was that you knew who the enemies were. In a historical wargame they wear different uniforms and are controlled by another player; in early D&D they were labelled "Chaotic" which, by default, made it okay to kill them. The categories of "Law," "Neutral," and "Chaos" as "a general guide for the wargamer designing orders of battle involving fantastic creatures." These categories serve a primarily practical purpose in helping players of wargames to select units that could plausibly fight side by side.

The other aspect of alignment is a mechanical one. Spells such as Protection from Evil need to know who the bad guys are. For spells which use "good" or "evil" as defining conditions, instead read "lawful" or "chaotic".

Lawful vs Chaotic
Basic D&D implies a primordial conflict between Law and Chaos, with "Law" being equated with the forces of mortal civilization and order and "Chaos" being equated with forces of otherworldly destruction. Thus, while Chaos might be called "insane" or at least "irrational," Law encompasses both good and evil components, as anyone who prefers the orderliness of civilization over the howling instability of Chaos would throw their lot in with this alignment.

If the final battle between Law and Chaos comes tomorrow, as many are always saying it will, this determines which characters would be drafted by agents of either side. Lawful characters do their duty, and are seen as potential recruits by the Forces of Law, who encourage lawfulness by occasionally giving boons to exceptional champions. Chaotic characters follow their instincts, and are in some ways alien to the modern world and susceptible to influence by aspects Chaos.

Dungeon-delving and otherwise peering into the mysteries of past eras is an inherently a non-lawful activity. Many Lawful individuals will nevertheless find personal justifications for doing so, but Lawful societies that engage in such activities are inevitably short-lived. No sane form of government would sponsor an expedition underground and suffer the resulting destabilizing effects.

Lawful characters always act according to a highly regulated code of behaviour, whether for good or evil. For example, slavery may be an accepted part of the regulated order of things or may be abhorred as a vile and, more importantly, illegal act. Lawful characters will obey the law, tell the truth and look out for the greater good.

Chaotic characters are quite unpredictable and can not be depended upon to do anything except the unexpected - they are often, but not always, evil. A chaotic character's behaviour can be simulated using a roll of the dice. Only the foolish would adventure with a chaotic companion and not expect to be betrayed or abandoned at some point.

Neutral characters are motivated by self interest and may steal from their companions or betray them if it is in their own best interest. It is assumed that most adventurers are neutral. Neutral characters will do what is best for themselves realizing that typically that means being part of a strong group.

Alignment and Religion

Lawful: The official religion of the Realms is the Church of Law. The Church of Law is highly conservative, institutionalized, and supports the ideals of social order, rule of law, and polite society. While people follow such tenets with varying degrees of devotion, these ideals tend to resonate strongly with the general populace, and have the ring of social truth in them.

Chaotic: The religion of chaos is made up of innumerable cults each prophetizing the impending destruction and how to best benefit before everything comes to an end. They stress that nothing really matters since it is all coming to an end soon so in the mean time you might as well do whatever the hell you want.

Neutral clerics have to pick from one of these two faiths.

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