I’m soooo bored of the good versus evil story! ‘Evil’ as presented in D&D is just greedy, needlessly violent, and selfish. Good, in contrast, seeks harmony. *gak* The only way to make these two alignments interesting is by challenging their stance. For example an ‘evil’ character only gets interesting if his motives aren’t evil (Thanos killing 1/2 of everything to save the rest).
So lets ignore that boring nonsense and get to the fun stuff; law & chaos! Now I previously did an article on focusing on this dynamic with dragons and how you could play them out, but I figured I could spend a little more time exploring this concept under a more general banner; colonialism!
Don’t leave! I promise this’ll be fun in the context of a game. This cultural ideal is actually a great tool to use in your game since it explores the conflict of interest between Security (Law) and Freedom (Chaos). There are those who believe in the empire and think that the world would be better if we all just joined forces (Law), those who are outside of the empire that want nothing to do with them (Chaos), and the colonies of the empire that are annoyed by the yoke of the empire but still reap some of the benefits of being part of their family (Neutral).
This way of viewing alignment is fun because the citizens within an area can have their views shift with time. A tribe that was forced to become a colony may grow to become the empire’s biggest advocate, or the capital city could split into a civil war over the lack of representation. It is an incredibly dynamic way of looking at alignment that also leads to active storytelling. However, lets look at the two poles of this spectrum to see how it can drive your games.
There are a lot of benefits of being part of the empire. The roads are often clear of bandits and beasts thanks to the large and pervasive military presence. You have access to a well funded training facilities that guarantee a stable life once you finish your education. The markets are filled with all kinds of exotic foods and wares that make the mind spin.
However, not everything is golden in paradise. You are treated as a second class citizen if you don’t speak the empire’s core language. The worship of non sanctioned gods is prohibited. There are laws in place forbidding the use and types of magic in certain places since it can be dangerous to the public. Due to the large number of restrictions criminal organizations and corruption often take root throughout the empire.
There are plenty of reasons to stay outside of the empire. You get to experience the art and culture of the myriad of peoples found throughout the world. The taverns are filled with flavorful local brews and fresh foods made by family recipes. You never have to worry about paying road taxes, leaving your weapons outside the city gates, or dealing with licensing.
However, just like security; freedom has its price. Yes, the village may have a unique wine that can’t be found anywhere else in the world, but it may be the ONLY wine available for 20 miles. The roads leading to the next town are also unkept and there have been rumors that people have gone missing traveling it. Once you get there, you may be out of luck since they only speak dwarvish. Freedom is nice, but it’s not safe or convenient.
Mix it Up
Of course those are extreme cases. An empire could be as tyrannical or unifying as you want it to be. The civilizations outside of the empire can have wildly differing personalities and traits. Even the colonies can have differing outlooks of the empire. This dynamic gives you plenty of ways to flesh out your world, so play around with it and have fun.