Moral Code: Learning from "Lawful Good" in Role-playing Games

Gamasutra has editorialized about the alignment and morality systems in Dungeons & Dragons and D20-inspired role-playing games, with a particular focus on the Lawful Good alignment and the challenges of upholding it properly within the confines of the game itself. A few paragraphs:

The D20 alignment grid shares this common failing with the primitive morality sliders that have existed in several roleplaying games, particularly in Bioware's various outings over the years. What results from these aggregates of points, of additions and subtractions, is twofold: one, any worthwhile exploration of morality is lost in the mercilessness of scoring, and second, that players are compelled to game the system rather than play with it.

The distinction there is important. When I played Knights of the Old Republic, for example, I did what I quickly learned would net me (light side points)-- it became a simple matter of picking the obviously virtuous option, which was often declarative, simplistic and ethically uncomplicated, ultimately in the service of ensuring I played a (good) character (I felt guilty otherwise) and getting that lovely column of light around her in the character screen. But what I could never be encouraged to do in such a system is make anything other than a binary choice to achieve that predetermined state; it did not teach me much that I didn't already know from basic, inoffensive, moral education.

Put very brutally, both alignment and good/evil sliders are like moral vending machines that yield to the inputs of sufficient kindness (or evilness) coins, not unlike romance systems which were actually structured very similarly.