Alignments - A Memory Dump Essay
by Silver 8/27/2021
Note: Props and credit to shadowfae who’s panel on problematic sources at Othercon 2021 motivated and inspired me to write about morality differences.
Morality, in The Before, was different, in the sense that there were Allignments.
I am A Silver Dragon, from a slightly AU-ed Dungeons and Dragons world. Alignments there dictated whether you were good or evil, lawful or chaotic. You may have seen the grid around, the nine squares with things like ‘neutral good’ and ‘lawful evil’ on them. This is that.
When I say ‘good’ and ‘evil’ I mean a different concept than the behavior choices that fall into ‘doing harm’ and ‘helping people’. There were words differing between the two in dragonic, though I do not remember them now, for what I am talking about.
In this world, ‘good’, ‘evil’, ‘lawful’ and ‘chaotic’ - the dragonic forms of these words, were not behavior descriptors, nor intention descriptions. They were factions, and many species simply could not choose their born faction or change it very much if they could. These factions were generally due to god interference in the creation of that species, and it meant certain magics worked or did not work against/for them or they had traits that were often seen as harmful. The correct translation for ‘good’ and ‘evil’ is more accurately ‘darkness’ and ‘light’, though lawful and chaotic are close enough to ‘things that follow order’, and ‘things that reject order’.
These alignments said very little about the behavior they exhibited or the morals they had. The dragonic word for ‘evil’ as in how people here use it to mean ‘does harm to others’ could be retranslated as ‘being an asshole’. A person aligned lawful good could regularly commit tax fraud and beat their wife, and a person who was chaotic evil could be a pacifist who gardens and is passionate about healthcare reform.
For some of the littlefolk (the Polite translated dragonic word for humans and elves and the like), this was more flexible, and generally littlefolk would not consider those who did large amounts of harm to their in-group to be good aligned, nor people who had never done harm any worse than neutral, despite this not being the case magically speaking. It could make things rather confusing when talking to the layman, as much of the littlefolk could simply choose whatever faction they liked and often could jump ship whenever they liked too.
There were other various littlefolk somewhat limited in their alignment choice however- a Drow could not be ‘good’, and Aasimir could not be ‘evil’, for example. Usually this was split down the good and evil, rather than lawful and chaotic, as the ‘good’ and ‘evil’ deities held the most active sway.
Think of it like nationality, I suppose. Its the closest equivalent. Some people can't ever gain citizenship in a country other than their country of birth even if they want to, others can do so with a bit of work.
Dragons, however, didn’t have this sort of choice. All true dragons were born a specific alignment to do with their species, and inherent instincts to follow the tenants generally professed by that faction. This is one of the major traits that separated a True -also known as Greater- Dragon from other dragonic creatures, such as fairy dragons, wyverns, and rust dragons, actually. Other dragonic creatures had some wiggle room.
Chromatic dragons were all evil aligned, Gem dragons were all neutral aligned, and Metallic dragons were all good aligned. Planar dragons, while true dragons, were another matter and their alignments were to nothing on the scale as their origin points and commitments were beyond the gods of that my former plane’s influence. Lung dragons were a type of Planar dragon in my canon, instead of their own category.
The individual species of those groupings each had a assigned further spot. A Gold Dragon was ALWAYS Lawful Good, whether they are an abhorrent entity or not, and a White Dragon was always Chaotic Evil.
The individual species were as follows(* for ones that are AU to dnd 5e canon but are true to mine):
Chaotic Evil - Red, Black, Yellow, White
Neutral Evil - Brown, Purple*, Gray
Lawful Evil - Blue, Green
Chaotic Neutral - Topaz, Crystal
True Neutral - Amber, Amethyst, Obsidian*, Prismatic
Lawful Neutral - Emerald, Sapphire
Chaotic Good - Copper, Mercury*, Brass
Neutral Good - Silver*, Iron*
Lawful Good - Gold, Bronze, Platinum*, Steel
So I was and am a Silver Dragon. Bahumat created metallic dragons with the intention of combating His sister Tiamat, who created chromatic dragons in turn. The deities of Law and Chaos- neither touched my kind deeply. We could use all magic aligned with the light or neutral powers, and none of the dark. There was little magic that was specifically aligned with order and chaos, but all of that was accessible, provided the spell was not of the shadow. Things that repelled creatures of the light could keep me out.
The more ‘good’ creatures that existed in the world in relation to ‘evil’ ones brought more and less power to Bahumat and Tiamat in their eternal fight. So long as one ‘good’ or ‘evil’ creature existed, neither god could die and they were driven to wipe each other out. The same could be said of the law and chaos deities.
Of my life, the beginning is murky. Once I was grown enough to roam, I first Adventured with a elven rider companion and then lived upon a mountain lair until my death. Towards the middle and latter end, the towns at its base paid me rites and respect for my guardianship. These rites did technically elevate me to a minor god* capable of working greater magic. I also had a village much closer to and in my lair, one where I took those who asked my asylum who perhaps needed greater safety or guidance.
I would defend my territory and would help those who asked. It was a good life, and I hold little to no exotrauma from it.
*not to be confused with Greater gods, which are what effect Alignment or embody big concepts, minor gods are just those who are Believed in by enough people- and thus given power from that collective Belief
The divide between what was and what is is deeper and more shallow that one would expect, all at once.
I’ve started tentatively identifying as a walk-in relatively recently, my selfhood simply showed up one day and the original, whos interests, opinions, demeanor, and identity was different than mine disappeared shortly thereafter. The system has many theories on how exactly this happened, the origins thus such, and how much of the original’s ego was made into me, and also exactly when. The transition was rather seamless and there was much brain weirdness to muddle it all and convince me that I have always been here. None of us know the answer, and it generally doesn’t matter in practice.
The experiences of the original that I inherited gave a large amount of distance to this life. For reference, I Awakened as a Silver Dragon ~2014 perhaps 2015 -time is muddy- or so- having finally put together all the noema and shifts and assorted feelings that were not my cat theriotype into what they were. I had been in the body for a good handful of years previous to that, however. It gives me a distance from that life. My memories and retained selfhood from that life are dull- a botched reincarnation. I remember just enough- I experience just enough bleedover that it upholds a pillar of my identity and I still identify as the being of that life, but not so much I am exactly as-is.
I want to do a little disclaimer- The statement that this definitively IS a past life and I AM a walk in and these ARE memories of a past life is a theory, not fact. I do not and cannot know if my theory is right, and I have a healthy dose of skepticism in regards to this. My experiences could be sourced to many things, however I experience my draconity in a fashion that is similar to how others describe their past life experiences. It fits accounts better than the accounts of people who are not past-life otherkin. It feels right to describe these experiences as such, and so I do. Perhaps one day my understanding of this may change, but for now it is as such.
Returning to the topic at hand; its a point of frustration to me almost to the point of dysphoria, how good and evil, and moral and immoral are used in society here and how. Good and evil denote both the ingroup-outgroup AND the moral standard, equating sinful with strange with harmful behavior. Evil no longer means ‘entity supporting or created by Tiamat’- who is night and shadow. Good no longer means ‘entity supporting or created by Bahumat’- who is day and light.
The congruence of good with helping and evil with harming is far more intense here, Bahumat and Tiamat as I know them hold no power here- as they shouldn’t. Their place was in my old reality and that is as far as those entities reach. The assignment of moral values to enjoyment of a thing or thoughts, rather than actions is wholly new, and honestly quite unpleasant.
Evil here, becomes ‘entity that enjoys harming’ and often ‘anyone I don’t like’
Good here them also becomes ‘entity that enjoys helping’ and often ‘anyone I do like’
There will be people who insist to ignore people that do that last part and claim that it doesn’t matter- that the social realities of how others assign you do not matter, but I disagree.
Being queer, kinky, mentally ill, neurodivergent, disabled, and a strong leftist among other things means people will think me evil for existing quite a bit. Stigmatized minorities are othered, our traits become evil no matter how kind we may be.
Society calls us evil, has designated us evil- alright, how is this a bad thing?
Disassociating Evil from moral allows one to reclaim Evil. Ok, we are Evil now, but oh, no less kind. No less caring. Take the words slung at you and make armor out of them.
And also no matter how kind you may be, by this metric if you enjoy causing pain and destruction, you are evil.
This… is a thoughtcrime thing. No matter how you conduct yourself in life, if you enjoy pain you are evil to society at large. So as above, unlink Evil from Moral, and it is reclaimable.
How people assign you is a material reality you can choose to make hold no power over you. You can make it your own scales.
It is for the reason of words changing meanings, of the fact that my god I was born to does not reach here and thus frees me from obligations, that I no longer identify as Neutral Good. It simply does not mean the same thing anymore and I can now choose my alignment besides. Bahumat was no terrible god to serve or anything, but I would have appreciated the choice if it was not hardwired into my dragon brain at the time to be devoted to such a being.
I take joy in harm and at the same time take joy in helping, I think the absence of care of society is not something I can do, nor do I think rigid obedience is right.
Thus I would consider myself in the alignments of this world today as True Neutral.
Not to mention I have chosen the service of a True Neutral god in Cernunnos, so by my former world’s standards I am True Neutral now as well.
It feels right, to identify as such now. Society considers me evil enough I am too sin-stained to be good, but I have too much love of creation and helping to be wholly evil.
I believe that rules are necessary or we get Situations that cause harm to others, but at the same time am too Anarchist-leaning to not chafe under absolute order.
Still, the... Dissatisfaction with how people use alignments here persists.