Character Alignments

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A categorization system for ethical and moral stances of characters in a game

Some games, especially role-playing games, concern themselves with if actions are morally correct or not from the view point of the characters performing those actions. Making characters adhere to Character Alignments is a way to organize the possible stances characters can take, and potentially linking these to game mechanics in various ways.


The first Roleplaying game, Dungeons & Dragons, had Character Alignments as part of character definition. In its first incarnation this was a choice between lawful, neutral, and chaotic, but this was in later version of the game expanded to nine options by adding a second dimension based on good, neutral, and evil. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, another Roleplaying game, uses the scale lawful-good-neutral-evil-chaotic. The fourth edition of Dungeons & Dragons introduced as very similar scale -- lawful good-good-unaligned-evil-chaotic evil -- but returned to the 2-dimensional system in its fifth edition.

Wikipedia has a page related to Character Alignments[1].

Using the pattern

The most basic design questions regarding Character Alignments is what alignments should exist, and if they should be organized in various dimensions. From these decisions, the next steps is to relate the alignments to actions and opinions in the diegesis to help players with Roleplaying. This typically takes the form of which actions one should perform (and in what circumstances) and which actions are deemed morally objectionable or worse. This typically takes the form of Diegetic Social Maintenance and Diegetic Social Norms, but these may also exist independently of the alignment system.

Unless players are completely blocked from performing actions that go against their alignment, game designers need to consider what happens when Characters break the rules of the alignments. Ability Losses is a typical penalty but allowing Characters to change alignment despite the penalty makes Character Defining Actions a possibility.

While Character Alignments are typically most relevant to Player-Created Characters, they can be useful for all Characters and Factions especially when the alignments are Characteristics that affect actions.

Diegetic Aspects

Deciding if Character Alignments refer to metaphysical properties that exist in the diegesis or if they are only social constructs can be relevant to games with Character Alignments. This since that in the former case breaking the rules of one's alignment can be the basis for Ability Losses due to being in the disfavor of a god, for example. The same can occur in the latter case but then needs to be tied to psychological explanations.

Narration Aspects

Besides helping players guide how they should roleplay, the explicitness of Character Alignments can help in the design of Social Dilemmas which belong to Characters rather than players.


Character Alignments can be Characteristics in that they can regulate what actions agents of specific alignments can do in a game as well as affects with actions can be made against them; being revealed by "detect good" spells for example. As mentioned above, Character Alignments can be used to regulate how Characters should behave or what are the norms of Factions. In doing so, they dictate Diegetic Social Norms and Diegetic Social Maintenance in the cases when they do require active engagement. They can also affect how players can or want to relate to Diegetic Social Maintenance and Diegetic Social Norms that exist independently of the Character Alignment system.

Character Alignments can be an important part of making players of Player-Created Characters consider how they wish to Roleplay.


Can Instantiate

Characteristics, Diegetic Social Maintenance, Diegetic Social Norms, Ability Losses, Social Dilemmas

Can Modulate

Characters, Diegetic Social Maintenance, Diegetic Social Norms, Factions, Player-Created Characters, Roleplaying

Can Be Instantiated By


Can Be Modulated By

Character Defining Actions

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With



New pattern created in this wiki.


  1. Wikipedia entry for Alignment.