Playing Neutral Good
I hate Neutral Good.
As a player it’s an easy pick, all the advantages of heroism without the need to be tied down by an ideology like the rule of law or the right to be free, ignore the rules whenever you please – oh sorry, whenever the cause is just – without suffering the wrath of the police. On the bright side it allows players to explore ideologies and philosophies more readily than might a lawful or chaotic bound player, and different perspectives on what one must do to be considered “good”. As a player it needn’t be a cop-out, claiming to do the right thing just because it’s the right thing, it can be a chance to explore what can drive someone to a life of heroism.
Here’s a few ideas on how and when to be Neutral Good.
Philosophy over Ideology
In many ways an NG adventurer is more likely to be the hero than a Lawful Good adventurer, as they’re often willing to do what is right despite the ramifications, but how does one
The notion of “good” as a concept is pivotal to most philosophical schools. What is good? What is right or just? Is life inherently good, or is good a label that is earned? At what point does respecting the views and opinions of one person become destructive to the views and opinions of others? You see why we try and stay out of politics and divisive subjects on GeekOut wherever we can, it’s a hornet nest that we’re all living on and trying not to kick.
For the purposes of the alignment system, “Good” is the preservation of life and pursuit of happiness for as many people as possible in any given situation. Put succinctly “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.” and while Spock was too lawful to be listed as NG, when it comes to good, he hit the nail on the head. For your adventurer it also means being very careful what quests you take, and scrutiny of those who send you.
Does a king have the best interests of his people at heart when he sends a band of adventurers to attack a band of gnolls, or will the attack provoke a far bigger response to justify spending money on his army? Is it better to stand behind the industrialist who keeps thousands employed under miserable conditions against a murderous mob who only seek to destroy his works that help so many others, or should they cast him down for his greed no matter the benefits of his craft?
Law, or the organisation behind it is something that a character can believe in, giving them both a source and a guide on their view on “good” and how it should be pursued. Chaos – despite its inherently unpredictable nature – does the same, it often provides an ideology of its own.
So what inciting incident or compelling philosophy drives the Neutral Good player? Is it enough to want to do the right thing for no other reason than because it’s the right thing? Have you lived under oppressive rule, or lived in fear of some invading army far from the protection afforded the capital city? Perhaps you were made a victim when you were young and now you seek to make sure the same fate doesn’t befall anyone else.
Alternatively, is good even an ideal for you, or do you simply try and live as best you can? Never forget that an alignment isn’t your entire pursuit, but if you have a goal, an ethos or an obsession, how do your methods reflect against the common morality of the world around you? Is a detective good for bringing in criminals when in fact he barely cares for the victims, only an answer? An engineer with a smile for everyone and a kind word to say at every moment is still good even if she’d rather be fixing engines than saving lives. A musician cannot save a life, but they can make sure it’s remembered.
A pirate helps slip medicines and foods past an embargo that threatens to wipe out a population, ensuring that the people are fed despite the stubborn wills of the two opposing governments. The people hail his black flag as the mark of a saviour, and beg him to take action against the governments and their destructive en passe, but as neither side is right or wrong he declines for fear that his interference may provoke a war.
Dr Robert Chase from House proves himself to be NG when he makes the impossible decision to break his Hippocratic oath when a genocidal dictator lies in the hospital dying and under his power. Usually it would be severely questionable (perhaps neutral rather than good) to kill a man who is not only entirely under your power, but who you have by extension sworn never to harm. However, the decision practically destroys Dr Chase, and despite proving that he feels he has a duty to uphold the greater good, the abhorrence of the deed overwhelms him.
A brawler notorious for having fists like sledgehammers is out to prove herself as the absolute best fighter in the world has actually built up a very different reputation. Despite being able to shatter rib cages in one well placed blow, she’s also a dab hand at setting bones and treating injuries, almost as good as she is dishing them out. The only people who walk away from a fight with her with a lasting mark or two are broadly agreed to deserve it, and there are stories about the few who never walked away.
No matter what anyone else may believe, Batman is Neutral Good! In this instance he treads a line of balance, not dismissing law and chaos as interfering or clouding the importance of morality and objective good, but straddling both law and chaos to sit himself firmly in the middle ground. He recognises law, acknowledges its importance and works to serve it and ensure the proper process of justice, but he also knows that he needs to operate far outside of the law, and be willing to do everything in his power legal or otherwise. His only absolute law he breaks whenever it becomes necessary, or in cases like serial-resurrectors or immortals like Solomon Grundy or Ra’s Al Ghul.