marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

summum bonum

Was further pondering alignments and thinking that a better take off point for the characters would be defining what they regarded as the summum bonum, the highest good.

In practical terms. Obviously a large number of characters regard getting lots of loot and XPs as the highest good. And DMs let themselves pass themselves off as Good, or even Lawful Good. No doubt there were games in which the question of whether you wanted this gold for any particular purpose or just greed would be clutter.

But the summum bonum would be a good rule for filtering out the differences between a character devoted with absolute fanaticism to her family and its hierarchy, and the bureaucrat who regards the functioning of the bureaucracy as the most important thing in the world, both of whom would be cast as Lawful Neutral in an alignment system.  To be sure once you look at it that way, it's hard to see much difference between the bureaucrat and one who enjoys the power of denying people what his job calls for him to do, who would be cast as Lawful Evil.  True, the Lawful Evil guy is failing at the virtue of Justice, but the Lawful Neutral one is failing at the virtue of Prudence, since he is not correctly distinguishing right and wrong:  the bureaucracy being a means, it can not be right to sacrifice the ends for which it was constituted to its proper workings.  (Not thinking about it is only compounding the problem.)

The fanatical scion of the family is another matter, since she is after looking after the well-being of actual people -- probably.  On the other hand, there is the question of what she would sacrifice for it.  If she was heavily concerned with maintaining the unblotted honor of the house -- hmm, then she would not be Lawful Neutral but Lawful Good as well.  OTOH, if she were concerned by its reputation, or its wealth, or its power, things got even more interesting.  As a notion, it would probably not work too well because of the extensiveness of detail needed to flesh it out -- except among such people as think philosophical speculation as much fun as killing orcs.
Tags: heroes and villains, role-playing games

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