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Neutrality and you: Alignment and roleplaying the antihero

Anne Stickney

All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players. In World of Warcraft, that player is you! Each week, Anne Stickney brings you All the World's a Stage with helpful hints, tips and tricks on the art of roleplay in WoW.

Mists of Pandaria is an expansion full of war, conflict, and the effects that said war and conflicts have on the world around us. It's an expansion where the clash between Alliance and Horde once again rears its ugly head. It's an expansion in which the Alliance finally begins to pull together and push back with ferocity, and it's an expansion where the Horde finds itself splintering, driven to pieces by the warmongering leader, Garrosh Hellscream.

And in the midst of all of the war and conflict is Pandaria. Its idyllic, serene landscapes are shatteringly altered by our arrival on its shores. Yet even as our characters look at Pandaria as a once-tranquil land shattered by war, our leaders seek to provoke us into further animosity. This leaves us with a unique space where our character may not feel like embracing their factional pride ... and takes us into the interesting gray area of the antihero.

Neutrality and you Alignment and roleplaying the antihero SAT

Neutrality and Pandaria

While some characters may be perfectly happy carrying out the orders of King Wrynn or Warchief Hellscream, it doesn't mean that your character necessarily needs to be. And in an expansion that introduced a new race based entirely on neutrality, there's a peculiar emphasis on factional pride. How does your character feel about his faction? How does he feel about faction war? Does he believe that every Horde member he sees should be killed on sight? Is he firm in his conviction that the Alliance needs to die?

Or does he waver somewhere between the two? The Burning Crusade taught us as a whole that in the end, there are far worse dangers in the world than petty conflicts between Alliance and Horde. At the end of Burning Crusade, we united as a whole to launch an assault on the Isle of Quel'Danas and prevent Kil'jaeden's entry into our world via the Sunwell. In Wrath, we saw a divergence into a world of war, and it wasn't a pretty world. Alliance and Horde clashed even as the Scourge waged a full on assault against Azeroth.

Yes, the Lich King fell. But would the task have been easier had we banded together and worked as one, as we did with the Sunwell? As we did when the might of the Qiraji surged forth from the fallen kingdom of Ahn'Qiraj and threatened a world of chaos? Is your character questioning his factional loyalties? Has he observed what happened when the Alliance and Horde arrived on Pandaria? What were his observations?

Neutrality and you Alignment and roleplaying the antihero SAT


In Dungeons & Dragons there's a method of defining your character called Alignment. Alignment isn't a black and white situation -- nobody is simply good or evil. Good and Evil are traits in Alignment, as well as Neutrality, but Alignment is further defined by an axis of Law versus Chaos.
  • Law is the belief that everything follows rules and order. Obeying rules and order is the natural way of life. It implies honor, trustworthiness, and obedience to authority in all things. But being Lawful also has its downsides -- as a staunch follower of order, a Lawful character will follow the laws and rules set to the letter, even if those rules and laws are unjust. A Lawful character would not even consider that the laws and order set in place are unjust, it simply wouldn't cross their mind.
  • Chaos is the opposite of Law. It's the belief that the world is a random place, events are mere chance, and nothing in the world can be predicted. Being trustworthy isn't important in the long run, nor is social responsibility. To a follower of Chaos, the most important being in the world is themselves. A Chaotic character has no respect for the law, and cares little about obedience to any sort of authority figure.
  • Neutrality is the belief that the world rests somewhere between Law and Chaos. There's a balance to the world, and a Neutral character recognizes that balance. While some things in the world may be evil, it doesn't mean that all things are. A Neutral character follows the rules of the world as it suits them -- they use their moral judgment to make choices, rather than the rigid structure of the law, or the casual immorality of chaos.
Within the boundaries of Law, Neutrality and Chaos are the ideas of Good and Evil. Although Law sounds like it would automatically be a good trait and Chaos would be bad, both Law and Chaos can be equally bad or good, depending on the character. As for neutrality ... well that puts a wrench right in the middle of it all.
  • Neutral Good/Lawful Good characters tend to act altruistically. They're out in the world and doing good deeds for anyone and everyone. Neutral Good characters are much more interested in making the world a better place for other people; they aren't interested in their own advancement or gain at all. A Neutral Good character follows the laws if they are just and right, but if they see a law that is unjust, they have no qualms with breaking it; a Lawful Good character will follow the law to the letter, acting as a judge or diplomat.
  • True Neutral characters are creatures of balance. They aren't interested in viewing the world as good and evil, nor are they interested in making the world a better place. Some call True Neutral characters "undecided" characters. It's not that these characters are incapable of choosing one side over another, they simply have no desire to do so. A hermit in the woods could be considered a True Neutral character -- the hermit lives by himself far from society, and feels no particular need to follow any laws. Nor does he feel any need to sow chaos and destruction on the world. He simply lives for himself, by himself.
  • Chaotic Neutral/Neutral Evil characters are the anarchists and free spirits of the world. A character that is Chaotic Neutral travels the world at his whim, helps others at his whim, and harms others at his whim. As far as he is concerned, the laws of the world do not apply to him. Chaotic Neutral characters are less concerned with what happens to the world, and more concerned with how events will affect their lives. They don't enjoy taking orders, nor do they enjoy carrying them out -- unless there is something in it for them. Neutral Evil characters will push the line of selfishness even further, performing acts of murder, chaos and destruction -- as long as there is something in it for them.
Neutrality and you Alignment and roleplaying the antihero SAT

The Antihero

Somewhere in the midst of all this neutrality lies the Antihero. An antihero is a character who is a protagonist -- a main character of a story -- who lacks the attributes of a typical hero. Antiheroes blur the line between hero and villain, taking a space that is somewhere in between. In many cases, these antiheroes are what could be considered neutral characters, working with ideals and morality that is completely their own, for some mysterious cause that they have deemed to be a good one.

Batman is a good example of an antihero. He's a superhero to be sure, but he works independent of the police force in Gotham City. Sometimes he will work with Commissioner Gordon on a case, sometimes he'll work outside of the Commissioner's sphere of influence or knowledge. Batman has a strong moral code, much like a Lawful Neutral character would; he is adamantly against using guns, and he metes out punishments based on his own moral choices.

In Warcraft, the best example of an antihero we currently have is Wrathion. He is a black dragon, which by all rights should define him as a villain. But he's free of the corruption that made the black dragonflight the villains that they are. He has his own agenda and own reasons for being on Pandaria -- and according to him, he is intensely concerned with the future of Azeroth. But whether his idea of the best future for Azeroth matches the rest of the world's ideas for the same is a complete unknown.

Neutrality and you Alignment and roleplaying the antihero SAT
Antiheroes supposedly work for a greater good, but that definition of a greater good is entirely up to them. An antihero working within the Horde or Alliance may kill players of the opposing faction if he thinks they are morally wrong, but it's always according to his morals. He would just as soon help a member of the opposing faction if he somehow believed they were morally right, regardless of what his faction leader happened to say.

Antiheroes and neutral characters are some of the most fascinating characters out there. A neutral character walks his own path, regardless of factional biases -- and though he may appear to be working for his own faction, that allegiance carries only as far as it will benefit him. Some may call it selfishness, some may call it cowardice, but an antihero holds just as much capacity for good as he does evil -- which makes him hard to predict, hard to understand, and a delight to play.

All the World's a Stage is your source for roleplaying ideas, innovations and ironies. Let us help you imagine what it's like to sacrifice spells for the story, totally immerse yourself in your roleplaying or even RP on a non-RP realm!

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