Monthly Archives: January 2014

Open Thread (verging on article): Making Alignment systems

(by chris the cynic)

[Something went wrong so this didn’t go up when scheduled, oops.]


So, basically, make an alignment system.  Or describe one you like and how you like it.  Remember that the idea is not to fully describe anything, but rather to create a model that approximates the desired thing well enough to be useful in some fashion.

For those familiar with alignment systems, go, do this thing, for those who want a bit more detail, read on.

Dungeons and Dragons, which the above chart is taken from, says that alignment describes ethos.  Ethos is an ancient Greek word and it’s a very important one.  It’s one of Aristotle three modes of argument; it’s what gives us words like ethical and ethics.  It means “character”.  Not character in a play, or character in an RPG, but who a person IS.

An alignment system is supposed to describe that ethos in a way that is simultaneously simple and complex enough to be useful.  If it’s too simple then it won’t really describe, if it’s too complex it might describe stunningly but it won’t be terribly useful as any kind of shorthand.

Generally, to create an alignment system you need two things:

  1. Axes (the plural of axis, not ax/axe)
  2. An understanding of how they relate to each other

So first Axes

The two most obvious are probably the ones that DnD uses.  Let us start there.
Good vs. Evil is a very old system of thought, though what constitutes good and evil is subject to variation and change.

Lawful gives us our first wrinkle in things.  One might construct a Lawful axis as going from completely following the law always, to completely disregarding the law.  That would go from Lawful to Neutral.  DnD instead extends it passed Neutral to completely hostile to the very idea of law and order (Chaotic) thus equal and opposite of Lawful.

Point being, if you’re making something up, you get to choose the poles of the spectrum.  And by no means feel constrained by DnD’s choices.

Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight introduced an alignment system for American politicians that had one axis be conservative-moderate-liberal and the other as populist vs technocrat.

I’ve seen a nice role playing game that had selfless vs selfish as its only axis.

means vs. ends works fine

big picture vs. little picture

individual rights vs. good of the group

diversity vs conformity

individuality vs conformity (yes, I did just have two axes with the same pole)

In Star Wars Jedi are guided by the Force to do the right things while Sith contort the force to their whims, so:
submission to (the force) vs. domination of (the force)

protect the powerless vs. please the powerful

Luddite vs. Borg

silly vs. serious


How they relate

I’m not sure if the diagram above was my introduction to DnD alignment, there’s some evidence it was, but I could have sworn that there was less internal curves and grey space and more showing of the axes. Regardless, my introduction was a circle, not a square, and I always liked that because the descriptions given didn’t allow one to be pure X without completely disregarding the adjacent positions.

Totally committed to lawfulness means you obey the law, be it good or evil, so to become more Good you must become less Lawful.  To become more Evil you must also become less Lawful.

The way that DnD’s two axes relate is that they share a common center, are at right angles, and it’s impossible to get more than a certain distance (say 100%) from that center.  So Chaotic Evil isn’t 100% Chaotic and 100% Evil because (by Pythagoras, blessings be upon his name) that would be about 141.42% away from neutral, impossible.  In fact it’s (again, Pythagoras) about 70.71% Chaotic and an equal percent Evil.

But it’s possible for two axes to be completely independent of each other, in which case they’d form a square.

Or it’s possible for them to be dependent in a non-Pythagorean way.

Imagine that we added, “Commitment” to the DnD circle.  If you’re 0% committed to your position it doesn’t matter what the position is, so at 0% commitment the alignment circle disappears into a point.  If you’re 100% committed then you’ve got the full DnD circle.  If you’re 50% committed you’ve got the circle but half as big.  What we have is an inverted cone.

But, like with lawful, we can extend this beyond indifference.  You could be negative 100% committed to a position in which case your ethos is anything but that.  Rather than being described by one point on the chart where you are, you freely roam all over the chart except for one part of it.

This is silly, but the point was to be able to say that now we’ve got an alignment system that is two cones that meet at the tip, a weird shape indeed.

If instead of “commitment” I’d said to add “ends vs. means”, well, that doesn’t interact with the DnD system at all. It’s perpendicular and increasing it (in either direction) from neutral doesn’t change the DnD alignment at all.  Regardless of where you stand on ends v.s means you still have the full DnD circle.  Instead of a cone you have an alignment cylinder.

The point here is that sometimes things interact, sometimes they don’t.  If they do, there are various ways they can interact.

Once you work out your axes and work out how they (do or don’t) interact you’ve got a fully formed alignment system.

Mind you if it’s the populist vs technocrat / submission to the force vs. domination of the force hexagon, I may look at you somewhat funny.  (And I want a good explanation for why these two axes create a hexagon; show your work.)

But regardless, please do share in the comments.

Board Business, January 23rd, 2014

(posted by chris the cynic)

Irregular Business

Crap, I forgot to do this last night and there’s an open thread scheduled to go live in about half an hour.  Other than that, all is normal.

Regular Business

There is no submission deadline for articles and open thread suggestions.  Send them any time.

The Submission Deadline for the weekend post is 20:00 (8PM) US Eastern Time Saturday.

Anyone who has submissions for the weekend post should send them in.  Some people wonder if they really deserve to be in the post.  The answer to that is always the same: You do.  So try not to be afraid and do try to send in submissions if you have them.

The sections of the post are as follows:

The Blogaround

Any denizen of the Slacktiverse who has posted an article to their own website since they last submitted to a weekend post is invited, enticed, and cajoled to send a short summary of that article along with its permalink to the group email. That summary and link will be included in the next weekend blogaround. This will help to keep members of our community aware of the many excellent websites hosted by other members.

Remember, this is since you last submitted to a weekend post, not since the last weekend post. For example, if the last time you submitted was a month ago, everything you wrote since then is fair game.

In Case You Missed This

Readers of The Slacktiverse can send short summaries of, and permalinks to, articles that they feel might be of interest to other readers.  These should be sent, as you might expect, to the group email.

Things You Can Do

Anyone who knows of a worthy cause or important petition should send a short description of the petition/cause along with its url to the group email.

Again, none for articles and open thread suggestions, 20:00 (8 PM) US Eastern Time Saturday for the Weekend post.  Also, if there’s a deconstruction you feel should be in the roundup, you can suggest that at any time.
In case the links don’t work: the group email is SlacktiverseAuthors (at) gmail (dot) com.
It is perfectly acceptable to use this as an open thread, should you so desire.

Writer Workshop

(Posted by chris the cynic)

It seems like lately all our writers/artists have been busy with other things, should we put these weekly posts on hold until people are back to doing stuff that would lead them to comment in these threads?

With that question asked, I give you your regularly scheduled post.

Those of you who also frequent Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings will find this somewhat familiar.  Here, as there, it was requested that there be a regular post to talk about writing projects (and other artwork-creation). Thus this post exists.

Pencil by Elisa Xyz

What are you working on? How are you feeling about it? What thoughts and/or snippets would you like to share? How does your activism work into your art? What tropes are you hoping to employ and/or avoid? Are there any questions you’d like to ask or frustrations you’d like to vent?  Writing workshop below!

Open Thread: I’ll have the salad

(By Coleslaw)

I also have an idea for a thread topic, but I don’t know how interesting it would be to anyone other than myself. The idea is for participants to write an opening paragraph or two for an adventure story that starts with the words, “I’ll have the salad”, with two caveats. One, it must make sense for the character to order a salad (no, “I’ll have the salad”, said Indiana Jones) and two, it must make sense for the story to start with those words, rather than start at some other point.

This week in the Slacktiverse, January 25th, 2014

(posted and compiled by chris the cynic, written by members of The Slacktiverse)

The Blogaround

Coleslaw wrote:

It’s been so long since I sent links that I’m not sure where I left off, so I’ll start with the most current and go backwards:

Attica Locke, this year’s winner of the Ernest J Gaines award began her speech by saying she was going to be Real, and I believe she was. My sister posted an old picture of me and my dad on Facebook, commenting that “You were the Apple of his eye.” An online friend referred to my buying spree at the mall, triggered in part by my being annoyed at my husband, as The Mad Dash. I took issue with another online comment that “No good story ever started with ‘I’ll have the salad’.” (BTW, at least one of those posts has a link to something called “The OT”, so I’m giving a content warning. The tiger droppings off topic board, the OT, is the home to a lot of racism and sexism, and even thread titles can be triggering sometimes. So why do I read and post there? After the last presidential election I became aware that I do the same thing that I accuse other people of different political and social views of doing – surrounding myself with people who think the same as me. I’m trying to branch out, but I’m not brave enough for the Politics board.)
Just because, I posted Penguin Pictures.

I may have linked to these two before, but in case I didn’t, there’s also an account of my son’s Thanksgiving Homecoming  and some reflections on my adventures volunteering at a food pantry, or as I call it with a sarcastic jab at nineteenth century piety, Doing Good Works Among the Poor.

chris the cynic wrote:

Another winter storm gave me cause to share pictures of snow on trees.  I sort of needed to vent about money so first I made a post about getting the bill from university, actually that was second but nevermind first, third I gave a more clear explanation of what the present situation is.

And then there was a short bit where Lucy of Narnia fame met Snarky Bella.

The fact that that’s all I have to share kind of drives home how little I did this week.  Though I did write an article here and I’ve got four things lined up for next week already.

On the Slacktiverse itself:

In Case You Missed This

Firedrake wrote:

Short hair on women
The article takes a lot of words to say “there are lots of men who
regard long hair on women as terribly important”, but some of them are
good ones.

Things You Can Do

No submissions this week.

–Co-authored by the Slacktiverse Community

Open Thread: Conventions in Fiction that Need to Stop

(by chris the cynic)

After having the character Elsa in the movie Frozen say “You can’t marry a man you just met,” there was a general response of, “About time, Disney,” and also this:


Other princesses respond.

Other princesses respond.

The movie has multiple characters expound on the idea of getting to know someone first, and (mild spoiler I guess) it doesn’t end with a single wedding.  The, “We’ve just met, it’s clearly true love, let’s get married right NOW,” that is so traditional to Disney movies does not appear.  Instead it gets taken down.

What are some other common things in fiction that you think need someone, say an Elsa, to stand up to them and say, “No.  Bad idea,” or at the very least have opposition shown to them?

Deconstruction Round Up, January 24th, 2014

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by chris the cynic)

The point of these posts is threefold:

1 To let people stay up to date on ongoing deconstructions.
(All ones on our list, including finished and stalled ones, here.)
2 To let people who can’t comment elsewhere have a place to comment.
3 To let people comment in a place where people who can’t read disqus can see what they have to say.

Ana Mardoll: Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings

Multiple Deconstructions:

Erika M. and Will Wildman: Something Short and Snappy

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: My Little Po-Mo

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

Multiple Deconstructions:

Mouse: Mouse’s Musings

Philip SandiferPhilip Sandifer: Writer (formerly TARDIS Eruditorum: A Psychochronography in Blue)

Yamikuronue: Raven Wings

Multiple Deconstructions:

Be Prepared: The Lion King from the Hyena’s point of view

Please comment or e-mail us if we’ve forgotten anybody or you have anyone to add. Or if any links are broken, or if you’re linked to and don’t want to be, or if you’ve found a doorway into another world, or for more or less any reason really.