Counting Ku

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Unaligned Maligned?

Posted by countingku on April 11, 2010

Thoughts on alignment based on the blog post,
Where have all the cowboys gone? Pt. 1

My twitter pal, @ThadeousC, wrote an interesting analysis of alignment that you can read at the link above. It is a good read, and was going to take more room to respond to than a regular comment, so I brought it here.

Unaligned folks certainly include the self-interested sorts that Thadeous mentioned in his post. However, it is limiting to think that is all that Unaligned means. There is space in this alignment for more than just the mercenary in it for the money.

People who pursue agendas are often unaligned. They aren’t self-interested, in fact they often don’t think of themselves at all. They believe in something, and will do what is needed to achieve their goals. They will save a village or the world, bust a ring of slavers, or crush a drug cartel if they stand in the way of their beliefs. Inversely, innocent people may get hurt, authorities may be defied, artifacts might be stolen, but they do it because the alternative is worse.

Consider The Operative from Serenity. Yes, he is portrayed as a villain in the movie, however, in terms of alignment I would say that he is Unaligned. He believed in the good of the Alliance, and was willing to do terrible things to protect it. He did not do these things for enjoyment or personal gain. He was a true believer.

Malcolm Reynolds is considered a hero in Serenity, but he is Unaligned as well. On the surface, he seems to be self-interested and out for the money. When you look deeper, you see that his hatred of the Alliance and flaunting of their authority has purpose, he believes in the power of individuality and the right of a person to choose his own path. He is a true believer, as well.

I see them both as paladins of a sort, neither lawful or good, but men dedicated to a purpose. I don’t really have a problem with the varied alignment of the 4th Edition Paladin. I think it is more realistic, and while that may not be what we expect in a fantasy world, it makes a better story.


3 Responses to “Unaligned Maligned?”

  1. cailte said

    I agree with your general premise, but I disagree with your comments about the Operative. The Operative, without guilt killed innocents – DnD makes that Evil.

    A better “shady” example of Unaligned is Jayne. On the one hand he sends money home to his mother to help with the care of a girl (and she sends him funny hats), on the other he is so mercenary that he joined the crew of the Serenity for a larger share of heists and his own bunk (and of course at least 2x attempts to betray River to the Alliance).

    Serenity’s crew is interesting from a DnD alignment perspective. I would say; Book is LG, Inara, Simon & Kaylee are Good, everyone else is Unaligned for one reason or another. Just looking at Wash, River, Mal, Zoe and Jayne you get a great idea of just how broad Unaligned can be!

    • countingku said

      I agree that The Operative is an an extreme example, and that killing innocents is an evil act. But, in the mind of The Operative, that is not how he sees it. He believes that the Alliance can bring about a better world, and if it has to be reached over the bodies of a few people, so be it. He is working to create something that will improve the lives of billions, he is willing to pay the cost of a few lives.

      Firefly is a great place to find inspiration for Unaligned characters that are more than just mercs.

  2. countingku said

    Thanks for the comment. I will address your points tonight after I am home from work.

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