I’m one of those folks who doesn’t have a huge hate on for the AD&D alignment system. I find it pretty elegant in design and pretty simple to use and certainly grants more nuance than the OD&D Lawful/Neutral/Chaos division. It’s a pretty Four-color system for a pretty four-color game. Now, I do think that the AD&D system is amazingly badly explained and implemented at times – the Palladium RPG had a much better way to explain things with their Good/Selfish/Evil categories which gave specific guidelines and lists as to what the various “ethos” would do and not do. It was also a much “grayer” or grittier system.
The AD&D game itself doesn’t help because there is some confusing and contradictory things written into the rules itself. Does Detect Evil detect otherwise normal or mundane evil individuals? Or does it require some sort of supernatural connection like being a cleric or a champion of some evil deity? Of it does, what exactly is the use of the Know Alignment spell?
(In general, I argue that for Detect Evil to work, there needs to be some sort of supernatural connection – otherwise you need the Know Alignment spell.)
In my recent “wilderness years” of home-brewed systems, I used a combination of the AD&D and the Palladium RPG systems. I wrote up extra Ethos, in that style, to match up to the various other AD&D alignments and ran with it – and it worked out pretty well. I’ve kept those notes for people and just went back to the AD&D labels. One of the things that I like that came out of that period was that I really came to a better place in deciding how to handle evil and making the divisions between Lawful Evil, Chaotic Evil, and Neutral Evil something that actually mattered.
It also gave me the space to explain how evil people and good people working together in society. I like to say that the Good-Evil axis is the morals and the Lawful-Chaos axis is the ethics. While morals are important for a well-working society, it’s the ethical codes that will really bind it together. In particular, if everyone is Lawful Something, they may disagree (and really disagree at times) about some particular moral issue, they all have the same basic agreement around the sorts of things that a society needs to run. Throw in a fair number of Neutral Somethings and a limited number of Chaotic Somethings and you’ll have a pretty functional nation-state – at least until you bring religion into the mix…
And what is it with those goofy alignment languages?