I’m sorry to tell you, but everything you know about Dungeons & Dragons is a lie. There are only eight alignments. Because like the title of this essay suggests, Lawful ain’t Good.
I can already hear you protesting. The Law/Chaos axis is wholly separate from the Good/Evil axis, you’ll argue. It’s not. Lawful is incompatible with Good.
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For those of us concerned with anarchist storytelling, Michael Moorcock’s 1978 essay Starship Stormtroopers simply knows no equal. Here is a science fiction legend, an anarchist himself, explaining the politics of the 1960-70s science fiction scene and ruthlessly attacking the reactionary and conservative elements in genre fiction. While much of the essay discusses stories that seem less relevant today, other parts tear apart many science fiction legends whose presence lingers on in the world. Of particular interest to me is how masterfully and concisely Moorcock pieces apart the romanticism that draws us to conservative writing.
While this essay has been online more than a decade, it has long since languished in the more antiquated and unreadable corners of the anarchist internet. We reproduce it here in full, in a good faith effort to keep these words in the light, adding links for annotation and context whenever possible.
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So it turns out Anarcho-Geek Review is going to occasionally publish essays, either original ones, or mildly annotated ones. The following is an essay we have reproduced in full from a long-extinct Geocities page. We were unable to track down the author—we present this piece in good faith. It is perhaps the best exploration of the alignment system we have encountered. Our few notes are marked in red.
The Nine Alignments
In 1977, admittedly before I was born, the roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons introduced the world to an ethical system known today as the nine alignments. A quarter of a century has gone by and millions of people have been exposed to this system. I was introduced to D&D in fourth grade and now, twenty years later, I still understand the world in this way. For many of us, in fact, with no formal training in philosophy, this is the only clearly-articulated understanding of ethics we’ve ever had. And this doesn’t bother me.
Continue reading The Nine Alignments