“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”
If you know me at all, you know I like to listen to radio story shows like This American Life, The Moth, and Snap Judgment. There’s another show that I’ve heard a few times that’s more of an interview format called Studio 360. A couple of weeks ago they aired a segment about the concept of Character Alignment.
It has its origins in Dungeons and Dragons. I’ve never played, but apparently in that game you build your own characters. In order to do that, you have to decide what kind of person your character will be. But it’s not enough to say your character is good or bad. So they came up with a character alignment grid. If you want to skip all of these words and go straight to the source (which is much more entertaining), click the link below and skip over to the 33:30 mark. It is, as Mr. Spock would say, “Fascinating.”
If you’re still reading, here’s the deal. In the basic grid, there are three rows of three squares, nine squares total. The upper left hand corner is good, the lower right hand corner is evil. The degrees of good and evil are in between.
The upper left corner square is Lawful Good. This person is good, and can’t be anything but good. He/she follows all the rules and treats everyone fairly. In the world of Star Trek, Mr. Spock is Lawful Good.
To Spock’s right is Kirk. Neutral Good. He’s good, but he’s not above breaking a few rules to get the just result. Think Kobayahsi Maru. To Kirk’s right is good old Bones. Dr. McCoy. Chaotic Good. Yeah, his heart’s in the right place but he can be a tad impulsive.
Here’s another universe for the top row, The Office. Lawful Good is Pam. Neutral Good is Jim. You’ve probably guessed Chaotic Good, Michael Scott.
The next row is Lawful Neutral. Think Dwight Schrute. Law and order are everything. There is no right or wrong. To Dwight’s right is Stanley, the epitome of non-committal. To his right is Ms. Chaotic Neutral, Meredith.
The bottom row are the Evil characters. Lawful Evil. I bet you can guess. Yep, Angela. Neutral Evil, Ryan the Intern. And diagonally opposite of Pam, in the lower left hand corner, is Chaotic Evil. The one truly scary character on the show, Jan Levinson.
As a fan of pop fiction, this is indeed fascinating. As a writer, I think it’s an extremely effective tool. Just like with DnD, I build make-believe worlds and the characters are everything. I like the structure of the Alignment Grid and how it forces you to think of the subtle differences in people. I plan on using it.
As an added bonus (although I’m not sure I want to), you can try to figure out where you fit in the grid. If you’re Chaotic Evil, please keep your distance.