Value of My Alignments
And yet, nobody can agree on what they mean.
Sure, a lawful person follows the law, and a good person respects life. An evil person kills with ease, while a chaotic person burns houses down at random. It's easy to lay down basic outlines of what the individual alignments are, but when you begin putting the pieces together it starts to become blurry. What exactly does a chaotic good person do? How does a lawful good person confront a potential threat? And gods forbid we actually start throwing neutral around.
A question I posed to my group a while back: Would a lawful good person kill their enemy after combat? Without question most of them answered "Yes". But then I expanded on the scenario: "What if he had been attacked in an ambush?" Still yes. I then asked if it mattered what the reason was for the attack? None of them even questioned it - No. They had been attacked and, being a good character, obviously their attackers were evil so they had the right to kill them. Now, in my opinion this contradicts the principles of what Good represents. Where is the sanctity of life in those acts? What if your attacker had a starving child at home, and the evil sheriff had stolen all of their money so they couldn't buy food? And now, you've gone ahead and killed her father, all because he attacked you and you were simply performing your lawful-good duties.
What if your attacker was a goblin. They're evil, right? So it's okay to kill them because every single goblin out there is inherently evil.
What if there was an evil warlock who had enslaved an entire goblin clan and taken all of their treasure, and now this goblin has a starving child.... Well, I think you get the picture.
Now, you might say, "But Game Master; how was my character supposed to know that he wasn't evil? After all, he did attack me." That is true, random player sitting at my table. However, did you have to kill him? Is there not that state of unconsciousness just before death for a reason? What would stop you from tying him up, bringing him back to consciousness, and then questioning him on his attack? Who knows, maybe you'll become the savior of the goblins and end up bringing the two races together, leading to a world-wide celebration of peace and prosperity? Or, maybe you could just drive your sword through him because it's easier.
The main issue I've found with the outlook on alignment is in what world you base them in. If you were to ask most people what alignment a police officer would be, they would tell you lawful good. However, do their actions even begin to come close to those of a paladin, fighting for truth and justice? What about a gang member who does a drive-by to kill a rival member? Probably chaotic evil on that one. But do his actions measure up to that of a death knight sacking an entire village and burning everything to the ground, killing women and children?
What I have found is that most players base their perspective of the alignments in reality, while most GMs base their expectations in fantasy. If a player is lawful, then they are expected to follow the law. Good is meant to treasure life. Chaotic is meant to do whatever they can to destroy. Evil is selfish and oppressive.
Perhaps before jumping to a conclusion about your character's alignment, you should take into consideration precisely what your Game Master's expectations will be of said alignment, and either make sure that you are following the code or perhaps reconsider a more neutral standing. But, like I said; It's all about perspective.