Choose Your Language

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Alignment Talk (The Importance of Language)

This blog post is made due to a conversation I was having with somebody on the Vault forums. It speaks about the use of alignment in D&D, and my own beliefs. This was my comment:-

... I think this entire thread/conversation does highlight the importance of language, and how we use it … and that is always a concern to me. For if somebody hears one thing and understands it to mean something else to the speaker, then problems can arise.

While this is not always a problem, and can even make for a moment of mild amusement, there are other times when it is of the utmost importance! And, let’s be frank, if the language being used is talking about matters of good and evil, which, as we know, stems from a real-life perspective of a matter of faith, then its importance is paramount!

Logically speaking, whether somebody is a believer or not, if any conversation is talking about a matter of life and death, then anybody of sound mind should sit up and listen. And, as everybody who is reading this is alive (and knows they will die one day), then it behoves them to give serious thought about anything that pertains to an afterlife, which, as we have been discussing, includes matters of what “good” and “evil” are, and our own relationship to them.

Confusion of terms compounds misunderstanding, and will only serve to lead people into erroneous thinking, which ultimately will (at best) lead them astray while they are alive, or at worst (from a believers understanding), lead them to Hell in death.

The problems that the erroneous use of language (due to a sinful nature) are what give us the sects and heresies in the first place … and, so now we can see why (logically) that the only way a man can be “saved” from such errors (sins and evils) is by the grace of God, who is outside of such errors and bestows His grace upon those He chooses. i.e. A man cannot escape their sinful (evil) nature without outside salvation (God). The ones God saves are known as the “Elect”: However, no man knows who God’s elect are, and so Christians still “Preach the Word”, because it is by hearing the Word of God that people are “saved”. Romans 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

That all said, and not to understate its importance, I now turn back to the matter of the use of language in D&D with respect to alignment in gaming terms. The bottom line being, and in my opinion, players of the game take a lot of what they “play” and “learn” in their role-playing to heart. After all, that is part of the attraction: to live out a persona that embodies the hero inside them! I can speak from experience when I say that playing D&D for me, opened up a lot of my thinking about life in general … including aspects of alignment and religion. Maybe, as a DM, it required greater thought to “implement” than a player simply “playing” it, but, nevertheless, it made me think … and not always in the right way.

However, thankfully, there were those around me, who, by the grace of God, helped me to discern and appreciate language and its use there of, to the point when I was able to appreciate when something was not “right”. And here is the point: I do sometimes think that players today lack any moral teaching, and only pick up any idea of “morality” from games that have an “alignment” system, including D&D. And if that system uses poor language or descriptions to reinforce an amoral idea of morality (as absurd as that sounds), which basically “subjectifies” peoples ideas of morality, then we are only serving to lead people astray.

Therefore, I strongly believe, a builder has a moral sense of duty to ensure their world minimises any confusion of what is and is not meant by the terms “good” and “evil”, so that it reinforces what we should already know in the real world with respect to “absolutes”. I am not saying we cannot have a morally difficult situation, or even a morally ambiguous situation, but am saying that a player should be reinforced in those areas that are already “absolute”. E.g. Even if a “rogue” does steal, the player should have all consciousness that the action would certainly be perceived as “evil” in the real world, no matter what language they may use (or borrow from D&D) to try to justify a known evil action such as theft. i.e. I hope said players would not be encouraged (in real life) to argue that theft can be “ok” simply because they believe they are not “evil”, but simply a little “chaotic”. That (in real life) is a slippery path to … fill in the blank.

Even a shade of grey is made from black and white!

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