Create Your Hero: Moral code

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Characters can choose to follow a moral code, or they can remain unaligned. Unless you are playing a prophet, you do not have to choose a moral code. Moral codes are required for certain specialties and may provide benefits (or penalties) in special situations.

There are two parts to a moral code: Order vs. Chaos, and Good vs. Evil. There are eight moral codes: Ordered Good, Ordered, Ordered Evil, Chaotic Good, Chaotic, Chaotic Evil, Good, and Evil.

The character may choose between Order and Chaos, or remain neutral to that part of the code, and the character may choose between Good and Evil, or remain neutral to that part of the code. A character who cares for neither order nor personal freedom may remain unaligned toward the order and chaos part of the code, but still be good, for example.

Unaligned characters—characters who have no moral code—don’t see the world in terms of moral choices, and probably avoid them for as long as possible. Such characters simply don’t pay attention to the great questions and live day to day.

Order vs. Chaos

Order vs. Chaos is the choice of following order or anarchy. Order is concerned with order, law, and community. Ordered characters promote hierarchy and establish consistent rules. Chaos is concerned with individuality, personal responsibility, and rights. Chaotic characters eschew an established hierarchy.

The Chaotic character believes that the individual is paramount. The Ordered character believes that society is paramount. An Ordered character will be willing to sacrifice individuals to save the group; a Chaotic character will be more willing to put the group in danger to save an individual. Ordered individuals believe that the common good is more important than any individual’s well-being.

To an Ordered individual, authority is its own justification. Once authority is established, authority can create other authorities. To the Chaotic individual, authority must be earned, on an individual basis and according to the situation: the most appropriate person is looked to for counsel and guidance according to the needs of the situation. To an Ordered person, it may look like a Chaotic person does not follow orders. But give them an order worth following, and they will follow it.

Ordered individuals will say that when there are clear rules to be followed and a clear hierarchy, problems stand out. They are easy to see, and easier to fix than they otherwise would be in a chaotic mess. Chaotics, while they are not against freely arisen order are against imposed order, order that does not develop freely from the individual.

As an example from American history, the Constitution is Order. The Bill of Rights is Chaos. The American Constitution sets down the order of the society. The Bill of Rights says that none of that order may override individual rights. Many of the teachings of Lao-Tzu in the Tao-Te-Ching are chaotic, where Confucianism is often on the extreme end of order. It is hard to find a better description of the beliefs of the Chaotic moral code than “The more regulations, the poorer the people will become. The greater the government’s power, the more unruly the nation will become. The more laws, the more frequently evil deeds will occur.”

Good vs. Evil

Good vs. Evil is the choice between caring for the well-being of others for their own sake, and of pure self-interest, of caring only for one’s self or a close circle of friends, whose friendship may well only last as long as it is useful. A good character is likely to keep their word to others, and value others’ friendships and lives. An evil character is likely to keep their word only if there’s something in it for them or they feel like it, and will value others only insofar as others are useful to them. Good is generous of their own time, wealth, and skills. Evil is selfish of their own resources, though they may be generous with the resources of others.

Good characters might be willing to die for the lives of others. Evil characters are very unlikely to do so. Evil is manipulative. Evil characters see others as tools for their own advancement. Evil characters will see their actions as pragmatic, but their pragmatism is a short-term pragmatism.

Player characters may not be evil.

Combined moral codes

Ordered Good promotes order, law, and community to enhance the well-being of everyone in the community.

Ordered Evil uses order, law, and social hierarchies to enhance one's own well-being, standing, power, and wealth at the expense of others.

Chaotic Good promotes personal responsibility and civil rights to enhance the freedom and well-being of all individuals.

Chaotic Evil uses the self-centered manipulation of others to fulfill the character’s own immediate desires.

Moral code examples

Order and Good are usually easier to understand than Chaos and Evil. A good example of Chaotic (or possibly Chaotic Good) in fiction is Alan Moore’s hero “V” in “V for Vendetta”, a character who believes that anarchy is the best thing for the well-being of others. Such a character might well hold, with Rousseau, that people are inherently pure but become corrupted by civilization.

Good examples of evil moral codes may be found in Eddison’s “The Worm Ouroboros”. Lord Corund of Witchland is Ordered Evil. He works strictly within the confines of Order, and will not deviate from that order. He has a sense of hierarchy that he will not break merely to win battles against a hated enemy, even when his most trusted advisor recommends doing so. When he is assigned a lesser overlordship in Pixyland because the government believes him most suited to govern the newly-vanquished country, he accepts. He does not jockey for the overlordship of more desired lands as others within the court of Witchland do.

Lord Gro, his most trusted advisor, is an example of Chaotic Evil. He cares only for what will bring him and his close circle of friends greater reward. When Corund calls the lords of Demonland to parley, Gro recommends ambushing them; when Corund refuses because one does not do that to royalty, Gro encourages a lesser warrior to do so.

The Kingdoms of Witchland and Demonland are Ordered Evil and Chaotic, respectively. Witchland fosters a strict hierarchy within which advancement is possible. Personal power is gained only insofar as the individual advances the cause of the state, and only insofar as that individual’s promotion also advances the cause of the state. Demonland fosters a state wherein individual glory rules. Individuals who perform well on their own will gain power, regardless of whether such is good for Demonland and its peoples as a whole.

The classic example of an Ordered character is the bureaucrat who cares nothing for whether their actions are good or evil, but merely whether the paperwork is filled out and the schedule met. However, a good example of a person devoted solely to Order, regardless of Good or Evil is d’Artagnan in “The Man in the Iron Mask” by Alexander Dumas. In that book, d’Artagnan is devoted to the preservation of the monarchy, and much of the book is about the conflict between that devotion and d’Artagnan’s own friends. In that book, Athos would tend toward Ordered Good and Aramis toward Ordered Evil. Both promote Order, but Athos for a greater good and Aramis for personal gain at the expense even of his friends. Athos is an honorable man. Aramis will do anything to establish an Ordered society—with himself in control. He is always trying to twist his words so that listeners hear something other than what he is saying, and is willing to outright lie if it will further the cause of Order. Porthos is neither Ordered nor Chaotic, but simply Good. He tries to keep his word, and he tries to do the right thing, regardless of royalty or personal freedoms.

Conflicting codes

Occasionally the two moral sides will conflict. An Ordered Good character might have to make the choice between something that is more Order or more Good. Different characters will come to different decisions. Different characters will have different commitments to their moral codes and to each part of their moral code.

A character may align themselves to a moral code, but fail to live up to the ideals of that code. The Guide will decide the implications of that failure (and the implications of success) in following a moral code. In some games, a moral code will be a divine choice. In other games, Order and Chaos, Good and Evil will be part of the unseen structure—or lack thereof—of reality. Your first level character is likely to be completely unaware of this when you make their choice to follow or not follow a moral code.

Persons of opposing moral codes may have trouble getting along under some circumstances. Those following Order and those following Chaos are more likely to put their philosophical differences aside than those following Good vs. those following Evil. Organizational enmities, however, are more likely to be built across the abyss of Order and Chaos. Even in the early days of the United States, with its multiple-personality constitution, the followers of Order and the followers of Chaos fought bitterly in public. The Chaotics called the Ordered “monarchists” and the Ordered called the Chaotics “guillotinists”.

Sometimes, people with the same moral code will also find themselves in conflict. Moral codes are neither secret societies nor guilds. Lower-level characters will not even know that their choice means anything more than basic morals. In general, characters who are good will find it difficult to battle other characters who are good without significant moral quandaries. This also applies to war. Evil characters and unaligned characters will generally not care about the morality of who they make war with. Evil characters might use moral conflicts as a tactical advantage; unaligned characters don’t think in terms of morality.

  1. Character archetypes
  2. Create Your Hero
  3. First level mojo