One of the many weird things about D&D alignments is that Law vs. Chaos tends to do double duty indicating whether you’re an orderly-minded person and whether you prefer a large, law-bound society or a loose, small-group affiliation. When elves tend chaotic, it’s because of their hippie-style small family groups based on respect rather than a deep legal system. Similarly, orcs tend chaotic because they form tribal warbands where there are no rules beyond those imposed through fear of the chief. So I got to thinking about ways to pull that political component out completely from whether or not you’re inclined to do whatever random thing jumps into your head.

Is a political alignment system actually useful? I dunno. Is the current alignment system all that useful?

Empire vs. Tribe

Individuals that favor organizing people into as large a social structure as possible have an Imperial alignment. Those with a benevolent outlook feel that wars and injustice would end if everyone in the world was bound by the same leaders and justice system. Those with less noble aims still prefer a world where you only have to learn and follow one creed and culture to get along anywhere.

Those that instead favor building society through direct ties of blood and respect have a Tribal alignment. They believe that society begins to collapse the moment justice must be administered by someone that doesn’t have personal knowledge of those being judged. “Impartial” is just another word for “uninformed,” and they’d rather stick with tight-knit groups of no more than a few hundred people with loose ties to their neighboring groups.

In between these two, some split the difference and consider themselves of the National alignment. They reject that you must have a personal relationship with your leaders and judges, but still feel that broader ties of race, religion, and culture can only stretch so far. At a certain point, a society would get too large for everyone to have the same aims and willingly agree to the same structures. They think empires fall not because of communication, but because of an unsolvable difference in subject peoples.

Obviously, all three types tend to have drawbacks.

Those that favor Empires, even without the ultimate goal of subjugating the entire world for their emperor, tend to ignore the personal in the legal. They’ll try to make rules apply when they’re clearly wrong for the situation, or to write laws so broad and well-meaning that they’re useless in practice. They tend to be blind to dramatic cultural differences in needs from the law.

Those that favor Nations can become the worst sort of racists: folk that are too different are seen as basically alien. Even the benevolent among them see many outsiders as unable to be integrated into society, and can easily ignore ghettos and similar injustices because they think “those people” deserve their own laws, even as an island in another nation. The worst among them regularly start genocidal wars with their country’s neighbors.

Those that favor Tribes are not just limited to the wilderness: organized crime, guilds, military units, nobility, and law enforcement can easily inculcate a belief that laws should apply differently within the familial organization than in the society at large. They all can grow to feel that the laws of the larger culture don’t apply to them, and only their personal rules should matter. Even in the wilderness, justice based on bias can easily become extremely unfair when elders are weak to favoritism or cupidity.

Republic vs. Monarchy

It’s really hard to get a democratic regime off the ground, but those that favor it have a Republican alignment. They feel that every person in a society should have input into its laws and governance. Annoyingly, many tend to draw a circle around “persons” that doesn’t include all individuals in the society, but they still prefer a broader base of power than in other forms.

Conversely, the most common beliefs in support of a single strong leader have a Monarchist alignment. For those that have actually thought about it, they think that a single decider is more effective than many special interests all pulling in different directions. Particularly in war, even a tyrant is better than confusion.

There are relatively few in the middle of the two extremes, and they can be considered Oligarchists for lack of a better term. They agree with the monarchists that the masses cannot be trusted with control of society, but they think the risk of a single bad leader is too great. They prefer a small group of powerful and wise leaders that are few enough to get things done but numerous enough to check weakness or madness in one of their own.

These beliefs can reach across all sizes of government.

Those that favor Republics expect rule by the many to apply in an empire as easily as in a tribe. Obviously a tribal republic can easily be a direct democracy, where all individuals in the group offer their input toward rulings. As the society becomes larger, republican sentiment requires more layers of coordination. True republicans are always wary of the representatives they’ve elected as proxies for a democratic nation or empire becoming oligarchs.

Those that favor Oligarchies tend to be happier with the reality on the ground in empires and nations. In a monarchy, the reality of governance falls to important courtiers, and in a republic, elected officials inevitably draw power. Oligarchists just wish these systems could go ahead and abolish the weak link at the top of the monarchy, or the confused desires of the masses of the republic. In a tribe, they tend to favor a collection of elders or deacons rather than a single strong leader, but may be happy with a much smaller number of oligarchs than they would need in a large society.

Those that favor Monarchies are often happiest in a tribal setting, where they can personally know their chieftain. The larger the society they prefer, the more their personal relationship with their monarch is necessarily abstract. Monarchic imperialists often see a narrow difference between emperor and deity: who could truly make laws for the entire world other than someone so abstracted as to have become divine?