Neutral Good in a Lawful Evil World
October 2, 2003 11:53 AM   Subscribe

Neutral Good in a Lawful Evil World I'm sure that some of us have played Dungeons & Dragons before. Now imagine applying the D&D alignment traits to a nation. ( for example: Switzerland=Lawful Neutral ). What is your opinion of the alignment of your nation?
posted by patrickje (27 comments total)
"Our diplomatic enemies, such as France and Germany, are lawful evil. "

Wow. That's sad.
posted by Stuart_R at 12:01 PM on October 2, 2003

Our diplomatic enemies, such as France and Germany, are lawful evil. They don't have the military or economic power to challenge us directly, so they fall back on international legal institutions such as the UN to thwart America and to further their own goals. Since they're willing to leave vicious tyrants in place for the sake of stability, I have no problem categorizing them as evil.

This kid needs to get out of his basement a little more. The entire point of world politics is that thinking of things in terms of 'good' and 'evil' is what is causing so many problems at the moment. George W. Bush and Fox news thought of this little model before this guy did and are currently putting it to much use.
posted by Space Coyote at 12:04 PM on October 2, 2003

Overly Simplistic Labeling Structure; Volume 414.
posted by mathis23 at 12:07 PM on October 2, 2003

Name: George W. Bush
Race: Human (male)
Class: Thief
Level: 9


Hit Points: 32
posted by Bonzai at 12:08 PM on October 2, 2003

I think the premise is interesting, of course the author is a bit of gasbag.
posted by patrickje at 12:09 PM on October 2, 2003

Oh please shrub is not a level 9. Dad can't give you levels. And he sure as hell wouldn't have survived any of my campaigns up to level 9.
posted by filchyboy at 12:30 PM on October 2, 2003

Kind of silly but kind of fun.

I think Canada must be lawful good. I was watching televised coverage of a huge protest at Parliament Hill once, and then the camera view switched to an aerial view. Thousands of people - all of them carefully staying off the grass.
posted by spnx at 12:30 PM on October 2, 2003

ahh, the real story...

"I started playing Temple of Elemental Evil last night"

good game, but wait for a patch. It's not finished, yet still found its way to store shelves...somehow.
posted by wah at 12:39 PM on October 2, 2003


"They tend to use the UN and treaties when it suits their purposes, but they abandon them just as quickly when it doesn't. "

Five Hit Point and a Vorpal Weapon for anyone who can guess which country he is 'analyzing' here?
posted by wah at 12:41 PM on October 2, 2003

Japan's also Lawful Good. Any country with elevators that politely apologize for stores being closed has to be.

As for America, I think we're probably Chaotic Neutral. "Out to get their own" perfectly describes this country, I think. Fortunately, we're not always Chatoic Neutral in a bad way... though lately I'm starting to wonder if the DM isn't going to take us aside and ask us to announce an alignment change.
posted by vorfeed at 12:46 PM on October 2, 2003

This made me giggle. :)

What Space Coyote said, except I'd go further.
'Nations' cannot have alignments, if by a 'nation' you mean the sum of people living in a place. Common people everywhere are a mixture of good and bad, and faced with moral and ethical choices, and it's clearly ridiculous to say that members of one nation are more or less 'bad' than members of another; this argument only serves to dehumanise people based on where they live and the policies of their governments.

It may be possible to define individual political leaders as being more or less guided by ethical choices as opposed to self-interest (and then you have the question as to which ethical choices are the right ones - a fanatic who believes he is acting in a 'moral' interest can be far more dangerous than one acting out of pure self-interest). So, while nations clearly cannot be categorised like this, governments may possibly have a collective 'alignment' (whatever that means - it might be more helpful to read up on the history of ethics and thinkers who shaped it - Aquinas, Kant, Bentham etc. - rather than a concept that was invented for a fantasy game, but there you go). But even so, in mature democracies, the political parties which make up governments are often coalitions of different interests (left versus 'New' Labour, religious vs. economic Republicans).

It's also arguable that governments almost inevitably act in their own interests and the interests of power when confronted with the realities of holding office. Tony Blair, for example, is certainly a very different character now than when he first campaigned to be an MP, when he came across as an idealistic young thing wearing a CND badge and endorsing positions such as unilateral nuclear disarmament. Power corrupts, and there is such a thing as human frailty which allows people to be sucked into a love of power ; by the time you get to the stage of being in government after years of manipulation, spin-doctoring, rabble-rousing, paying off interest groups, ballot fraud etc., all the 'good' you may have originally intended may have long being sucked out of you.

The only actors who can be trusted to be 'good' are those such as certain NGOs - Oxfam, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch etc. - who act out of humanitarian concerns (as opposed to 'morality' - saving lives in the hope of converting them to your religion - as happens with certain NGOs - is very different from concern for the welfare of people).

So, no government is 'good', but certain concerned citizens may be.
posted by plep at 12:52 PM on October 2, 2003

Since they're willing to leave vicious tyrants in place for the sake of stability, I have no problem categorizing them as evil.

posted by Slothrup at 12:58 PM on October 2, 2003

Give me a Chaotic Good country and a sack of platinum to charter a ship there, and I'm off!
posted by infowar at 1:00 PM on October 2, 2003

Of course, the D&D alignment system has about as much to do with the real world as, say, the D&D Monster Manual. While I think that most of us would describe (for example) Saddam Hussein as "evil", I find it extremely unlikely that Hussein would describe himself the same way. And yet, one of the chief self-described goals of "evil" in D&D was the spreading of "evil". Right.

But I'm sure that this is old terrain...
posted by Slothrup at 1:03 PM on October 2, 2003

Oh please shrub is not a level 9. Dad can't give you levels. And he sure as hell wouldn't have survived any of my campaigns up to level 9.

I don't know. If you read Molly Ivans book ('Shrub') it sure seems like he's made quite a bit of money in some very shady deals over the years.

But it the joke was just the idea of applying politics to AD&D. It doesn't matter what level you make him.
posted by Bonzai at 1:48 PM on October 2, 2003

Jeez. I couldn't even begin to figure out what level I am, let alone presume to figure out my entire country.

(I'm pretty sure Dick Cheney is a balrog, though.)
posted by crunchland at 1:48 PM on October 2, 2003

Wait. You mean that a system that was intended to roughly mirror the real world instead turns out to roughly mirror the real world? Do tell.
posted by kindall at 2:18 PM on October 2, 2003

Belgium has a 10-foot pole.
posted by solistrato at 2:29 PM on October 2, 2003

I guess I must be Belgian then.
posted by Space Coyote at 2:51 PM on October 2, 2003

And then I was slain by an elf.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:15 PM on October 2, 2003

*throws saving roll against posting*
posted by crunchburger at 6:01 PM on October 2, 2003

When I think of the current state of the nation, it's better to think in terms of Call of Cthulhu. That is to say, we failed a sanity check somewhere along the line.

Also, it lets me call George Bush "Shrub-Niggurath"
posted by Hildago at 6:06 PM on October 2, 2003

Lawful neutral is the only way to go.
(Pulls out Blaster rifle)

"This Xorn, does it have a nest?"
posted by clavdivs at 6:39 PM on October 2, 2003

The big glaring problem with using D&D alignments in the real world is this. In the real world, there is no objective definition of good and evil. Everything is subjective, and consequences and intentions both count and interact with each other. At best, there is consensus around some things, eg torture of children for personal amusement.

In most (not all) D&D worlds, there is clear good and clear evil, and good folks know they're good and try to be more good (because it leads to power), and evil folks know they're evil and try to be more evil (because it leads to power), and folks who don't care either way think of themselves as "good", kinda, and are probably actually neutral, and do whatever seems best at the time (because that leads to power).

Also, in D&D worlds you have involved and active gods on all sides of the alignment chart, pushing mortals this way and that to pursue the gods' bizarre and irrational agendas. In the real world we don't have beings, objectively and unquestionably more powerful than ourselves, pushing their agendas onto us. We have people that do, we have cultures, religions and ideologies that do, but we don't have gods that do, and there is a huge difference.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:03 PM on October 2, 2003

Canada is Lawful Angst aligned.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:21 PM on October 2, 2003

I'd say the U.S. was Chaotic Stupid, but that would be shrill.

Actually, I just want to call something Chaotic Stupid, I don't care what. I don't think the author of this blog post qualifies. I think he's Neutral Stupid.

If you want to read something Chaotic Good, that young woman who put together The Compleat Diagram of Strange Persons has a pretty good entry where her and her girlfriends, none of whom are vaguely RPG-inclined, get together to play D&D.
posted by furiousthought at 8:07 PM on October 2, 2003

A refresher on alignment...


Lawful: does whatever is required to not break any laws.
Neutral: tries not to break laws, but will do so if necessary.
Chaotic: will use laws if they are useful, otherwise disregards them.


Good: the altruist, only wants what's best for everyone even if it means sacrifice.
Neutral: the everyman, cares mostly for herself and those close, "sure it would be great if the world was a better place for all, but i have other thing to worry about".
Evil: self-centered, cares about others only so long as they are useful, will sacrifice anything for personal gain.
posted by Aleph Yin at 3:22 AM on October 3, 2003

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