Few things in the real world are clear-cut black and white. This is not always the case in the fantasy world; many times in fantasy, the good guys are good, and the bad guys are bad. The same is true for player characters. In Gaianar, the alignment system described whether a character is good, evil, or somewhere in-between, as well as describing a character's approach to good and evil.
Good and Evil
Characters of good alignment believe strongly in the sanctity of life. Good warriors never kill needlessly, nor do they view torture as an acceptable method information gathering. A good priest has a strong and meaningful reverence of the Light and will fight -- if necessary -- for the good of the community.
In general, people of good alignment see value in the concepts of truth, charity, piety, honor, and beauty. And although good people are not perfect, they tend to be remorseful over ill deeds.
Neutrality is the belief that good and evil are not absolute. What is good for one person may be evil for another. A neutral person will rarely commit a good or evil deed for the sake of it being good or evil.
People who are neutral tend not to have a well-defined moral code, but tend to view problems differently as each new situational arises. While it is easy for a neutral aligned person to be objective, it is also easy to become self centered and selfish.
Evil is the antithesis of good. People who are evil see little value in the life and happiness of others. Instead, they seek to satisfy their own goals and desires no matter who may be hurt in the process. The word bond of an evil aligned person is worthless. They see little value in honor, trust or justice.
Most people who are evil reject the Light, and instead pay homage to the darker powers. Evil people see no moral dilemma in using poison or torture.
Structure and Randomness
This is another part of a player character's alignment. Structure and Randomness refer to a character’s approach to moral dilemmas. As an example of these concepts, say a horrible crime has been committed. A person who is structured would find a legal means to bring the villain to justice, while a Random person might get a lynch mob to hunt the criminal down. It is Structure and Randomness that separates the modern-day police officer from the vigilante.
Structured people see the need for law and order in every community, and recognize the need for laws to be obeyed. Randomized people, on the other hand, feel that laws are an artificial constraint of the populous, and that people should be free to behave as their own conscience dictates.
A person balanced between Structure and Randomness might see the need for some basic laws, but feel that too much law is not necessarily a good thing; they might obey laws that make sense to them, but ignore those they deem superfluous. A compass can be created, illustrating how the alignments work Together.
The "Pure" or "Balanced" alignments are Benevolent (Good, but balanced between Structure and Randomness), Ordered (Structured and between Good and Evil), Malevolent (the opposite of Benevolent), and Chaotic (the opposite of Ordered).
Alignments are the reflection of a character's deeds and intentions. Thus what the character chooses to do in any given situation may have a cumulative effect on that character's alignment. And so while no single action may change a character's rating with respect to good, evil, order, and chaos, a series of like actions often will.
This is probably one of the most difficult alignments to maintain given that the game setting is a broken, post-apocalyptic world. Characters of Saintly alignment dedicated to making the world the best place it can be for the most people (good) whilst also desiring that society be based on the rule of law (ordered). A Saintly character may take a contract to apprehend a dangerous criminal but then take care to ensure that the criminal receives a fair trial. A Saintly character may use various types of manipulation to extract a confession from a suspect but would never resort to torture or poison (mind reading and the use of empathic powers are, however, completely acceptable). Characters of Saintly alignment are less likely to hoard wealth than members of other character classes. That doesn't mean that a Saintly character lives in poverty (unless the character class requires it), but it does strongly imply that a Saintly character would use excess income for philanthropic causes such as education, medical clinics, legal defense for the poor, homeless shelters, food banks, and the like.
Faced with injustice, a Saintly character is more likely to strive for change within the law than without. Rather than assassinate a dictator, the Saintly character would seek to have a despot removed from power by way of a bloodless coup or constitutional reform. Saintly characters tend to use diplomacy first, deeds second, and violence as a last resort. They are not, however, cowardly.
It should be noted that alignment has nothing to do with "niceness" and courtesy. A champion of the poor and defender of the innocent might also be rude, surly, disheveled, and have a permanent five o'clock shadow.
This alignment is one of the easier alignments for Player Characters. While always seeking to do good, help the downtrodden, and right the wrongs, the Benevolent character isn't necessarily obsessed with the legality of their actions. Sure, they'll obey all laws when convenient. But if bending a few rules allows them to accomplish their goals, they will bend-a-way. Benevolent characters are not, however, vigilantes. They will not generally engage in wanton destruction to achieve the greater good. But if they have to occasionally steal, lie, or trespass to get a job done, that's exactly what they'll do.
To compare a Saintly character to a Benevolent character, let us revisit the example of the evil dictator. Whereas a Saintly character would attempt to achieve a constitutional reform to remove the despot, the Benevolent character might organize massive protests in the streets and engage in non-violent civil disobedience to accomplish societal change.
This is essentially the "action movie hero" alignment. Heroic characters are brave, bold, and answer only to their own conscience. They want to see society changed for the better, but they are not too particular about the means by which that happens. For example, a Heroic character might decide that shooting a wanted suspect is more efficient than a fair trial (especially if the bounty is high!) A Heroic character would have no trouble stealing a truck if it meant saving a hostage (after all, the owner can always get a new truck). Likewise, smacking around a detainee until he talks is better than wasting time with flowery words. After all, actions speak louder than words. Rather than organizing a legal defense for a wrongly-accused victim of the justice system, a Heroic character might simply organize a jail break. Heroic characters tend to leave wreckage in their wakes.
Comparing the Saintly, Benevolent, and Heroic outlooks is easy when using the "despotic dictator" example. A Saintly character would seek constitutional reforms, and a Benevolent character might arrange for sustained non-violent protests, a Heroic character would simply raise his/her own army and directly overthrow the dictator (likely placing himself/herself in charge -- until the job gets boring).
This is a pretty common alignment for soldiers, Judges, and law enforcement officers. Many sentient Constructs are also Lawful. With the Lawful alignment, matters of rules and laws take precedence over matters of good and evil. That isn't to say that a Lawful character places no value on good and evil. But it does mean that given the conflict between obeying the law or doing what is morally good, the Lawful person will obey the law. Lawful characters are generally uninterested in extenuating circumstances when lawbreakers are apprehended. Likewise, a Lawful person expects those he/she deals with to honor promises and not break contracts. A Lawful character may sue over a broken contract but he/she will not usually commit violence or seek retribution in a way that breaks the law.
When dealing with suspects, if the societal law allows for torture, then the Lawful character will have no qualms about using torture. If torture is forbidden, then the Lawful character will refrain from using torture.
Unlike the "good" alignments, a Lawful character is unlikely to oppose a sinister dictator -- unless the sinister dictator actually commits a crime. A dictator using the existing laws to enact oppressive social policy will generally not get a rise out of a Lawful character.
TThere are not a lot of sentient beings with this alignment. Most thinking entities have distinct opinions concerning good/evil, social justice, the rule of law, and how civilization should be ordered. For sentient beings, the claim of being "true neutral" is usually an exercise in intellectual laziness. that said, certain life-forms are automatically neutral. For example, wild animals and most pets are non-aligned. Likewise, non-sentient Constructs are usually unaligned.
Some creatures that may appear to be "evil" are actually completely neutral. For example, a scorpion is not "evil". It might sting a human if startled but it is incapable of acting out of malice. A security drone may shoot a trespasser, but if it is not sentient then it is incapable of disobeying its programming. A good rule of thumb is this: if the creature operates solely on instinct or programming and cannot make informed decisions, it's probably unaligned. If the creature is sentient and can make informed decisions and yet claims to be utterly neutral, the being is morally/intellectually lazy.
The Chaotic alignment is the preferred alignment of low-level criminals. They aren't necessarily out to hurt other people on purpose, nor are they seeking wholesale slaughter. They do, however, generally act like life owes them a paycheck without having to work for it. Characters of Chaotic alignment typically have poor impulse control and have little regard for the rule of law. They see no problem with shoplifting, wrecking things "just for kicks", getting drunk and starting fights, and transgressing the will of others. A Chaotic person does not seek pleasure in the suffering of others, but will be indifferent to such suffering.
The best way to get cooperation out of a Chaotic person is to explain how an action directly benefits them. Chaotic individuals will not respond to pleas for help, nor are they altruistic in any way. For the chaotic, cash is king. It is generally folly to place too much reliance on the word-bond of a Chaotic character. They see no problem selling out a comrade if the price is right. With regard to social justice, a Chaotic character would only oppose an oppressive dictator if the laws got in the character's way too often. Chaotic characters won't commit murder for sport, but if people do get killed as collateral damage, the character won't lose too much sleep thinking about it.
This is the favored alignment of evil priests, oppressive dictators, heartless bankers, and trickster Law Twisters (lawyers). Despotic people are skilled in using existing law to their advantage while legally harming others. Despots may craft constitutional laws to enrich themselves. A Law Twister may find a technicality for freeing a serial killer. Bankers may foreclose on the elderly and disabled. And evil priests may use the words of their holy books to sew strive, division, and hate.
One of the hallmarks of Despotic characters is that they cloak themselves in the trappings of the Saintly alignment. They know the right words to say, they wear the right clothes, they're seen with the right people. They know all of the buzzwords. For example, a Despotic politician would not say "I hate witches and foreigners" but rather say "I support traditional Touchstone culture for the true people of Touchstone". A Despotic Priest may convince the elderly to send their life-savings to the Church instead of preserving the money for their children's inheritance or covering living expenses. A Despotic Law Twister may use the legal system to launch nuisance lawsuits against protesters.
Generally, characters of Despotic alignment make formidable enemies. They are generally intelligent, resourceful, and know how to accomplish their nefarious goals all within the boundaries of established law. And they often look like heroes while doing so.
This alignment represents one of the more malignant worldviews. A Malevolent character is more likely than not to be a violent criminal. While not seeking to actively break every law they encounter, the Malevolent character obeys laws only so far is it is convenient to their goals. A Malevolent character places himself/herself first in every situation. They don't mind committing crime to get what they want -- even violent crime. If they think they could get away with a murder, and there is someone they'd like murdered, not much would stop them from committing that deed.
Malevolent people generally have a "tough guy" outlook that should not be confused for bravery. They prefer fights where the odds are stacked in their favor. They have no qualms with oppressing those weaker them themselves (thus they make especially poor intimate partners and parents of small children). Loyalty means little to them. As far as opposing despots, a Malevolent character leaves that to the heroes. A Malevolent character has no problems with using torture or poison. They are more likely than not to laugh in the face of someone who asks for their help.
There are fortunately very few individuals with the Satanic alignment. This is the alignment of the serial killer and the sex offender. Cult leaders that send their followers out to commit acts of wanton violence in the name of their deity are fine examples of the Satanic alignment. Like the Chaotic character, a Satanic character generally has poor impulse control and has little disregard for the rule of law. Unlike the Chaotic character, a Satanic character actually derives pleasure in the suffering of others. For example, a Satanic character hired as an assassin may concoct a poison that takes hours to kill the victim. Or a Satanic character may kidnap a child, collect the ransom money, and then still torture the child to death. A Satanic character may convince a collection of gullible ruffians to blow themselves up in acts of terrorism (all the while issuing commands from a place of safety).
Of the evil alignments, Satanic characters are somewhat less formidable that Despotic characters simply because they don't (or won't) use the existing legal structures to their own ends. They also tend to decompensate over time, eventually getting more careless with each success. They are, however, much more dangerous than a character who is simply Malevolent.
Game Master's commentary: The term "Satanic" within the context of this game generally refers to the Judeochristian notion of what Satanic behavior was thought to entail. This page doesn't refer to the moral values of modern-day Satanism, as extolled by the Temple of Satan in New York City. Those Satanists are inclusive, pacifistic, and support social justice.
It's helpful to remember that certain character classes have restrictions on the ethical/moral compass of its members. As World of Gaianar is a game in which the Player Characters are supposed to be heroes, many of the character classes have limits along the axes of "Good" or "Ordered"