... now with 35% more arrogance!

Friday, September 18, 2020

Weird Alignment Ideas II

I know that I never wrote a post with the title "Weird Alignment Ideas I", but I sort of did write a post like that, exploring alternatives or add-ons to the Law/Chaos, Good/Evil approach we all know.

This time, I was going down a different rabbit hole. I've been looking at well-known maps about fantasy map tropes (The Map of Clichéa and The Only Fantasy World Map You'll Ever Need) to, well, create a list of fantasy map tropes in hopes of creating maps that truly subvert or avoid the stuff we've all seen before. And I asked on Twitter if anyone remembered any similar maps.

A friend reminded me that xkcd had done two maps that sort of fit that bill: Online Communities and Online Communities 2. These are less useful for my specific needs, but while examining the first one more closely, I discovered (rediscovered?) the map's compass rose and realized the countries are arranged according to a scheme that's vaguely reminiscent of an alignment chart, at least in the late-stage sense of alignment as a guide to an individual's behavior:
  • Practical vs. Intellectual
  • Focus on Real Life vs. Focus on Web
And I thought: could that actually be used as a basis for behavior types in a fantasy world?

Practical vs. Intellectual is easy. Real Life vs. Web seems irrelevant at first, unless we imagine some shared dream world, perhaps the astral plane, that wizards and others focus on instead of real life concerns. Perhaps the mythic underworld itself is some aspect of this.


  1. I might argue that the "real world vs web" axis could be generalized to material attachment vs. spiritual / metaphysical / intellectual pursuit, or something like "grounded vs. abstract" or something like that. A long time ago I wrote a post along these lines:


    1. If taken in isolation, maybe. But that's pretty much identical to the Practical/Intellectual axis. If P/I is what you do (solve problems vs. explore possibilities,) then it seems R/W would be where you do it, physical reality vs. some kind of intangible reality.

    2. ... Although if you strip away the metaphysical/intellectual part and interpret "spiritual" in the sense of an afterlife, you could see this as This Life/Next Life, which parallels some historical dichotomies of motivation.

    3. I don't think it's necessarily identical to practical vs. intellectual but that depends on how we're defining the terms. Anecdotally, I've known many people who are highly intelligent, but very grounded/practical in their thinking. Also, someone can be well detached from materialism in this sense and not necessarily be intellectual; and in fact this is the one of the motivations behind labor practices in Buddhism and many other religions- to use grounded effort to clear the mind from material concerns. Some even argue that this is a form of anti-intellectualism, although I personally wouldn't go that far.

      And while I think that "concerned with current life vs. afterlife" could be an interesting metaphysical axis as well, I don't think that's really the same thing as what I'm saying necessarily, although many of these ideas we're discussing have a lot of overlap, which is ok, it just comes down to what specifically you want to focus on.

  2. Even though I do think these are different things, the more I think about it, I really like your idea of one axis being "what you do" and the other being "where you do it". It took me a while to process it but the more I think about it the more I like it.

    1. Woops accidentally clicked reply in the wrong place >.<