I've been thinking about the alignment and general nature of vampires for some time and I keep coming to the same question; why are vampires Chaotic Evil? Many vampires are originally inspired (at least indirectly) by the vampire from Bram Stoker's Dracula and that goes across numerous forms of media. Taking that as an inspiration, I would argue that the alignment of Neutral Evil better suits vampires. Chaotic Evil usually gets the credit for being the worst of evil, but I think the chaos of the alignment actually causes it to fizzle out quickly. On the other hand, I believe Neutral Evil is actually the more destructive alignment due to its singular focus on the advancement of the individual, while still avoiding chaos and short-term planning and thinking.
Traditional vampires don't come across as chaotic, irrational, or spontaneous in my view. To the contrary, I think vampires are strategic thinkers, who plan for the long game, and who are patient and very thorough. Of course, they are completely evil and can be very blood thirsty (literally and figuratively), but I don't see them acting chaotically. I would love to hear thoughts on this topic.[/i]
I agree with your position, xo42. Even Count Strahd Von Zarovich was coldly calculating and never attacked the PCs without an end in mind.
Because of examples like vampires, and the fact that different editions of D&D change the alignments of various monsters and even the gods, I have no qualms about assigning different alignments to creatures than the ones listed in the Monster Manual.
Take Drow, for example. They are listed as Chaotic Evil. Despite this, the original publication introducing them to D&D describes a city ruled over, very strictly, by the clergy and secondly by the noble houses. Some rules are strictly enforced - even with respect to foreign visitors being required to wear the cloaks that glow a bright green to infravision/ultravision.
In my campaign, the drow are individually Chaotic Evil, but their society is Neutral Evil - mostly out of necessity, since a CE community of that size would never survive long, even if it wasn't surrounded by deadly enemies.
So, if you find the Neutral Evil alignment suits the classic vampire better than Chaotic Evil, play them that way.
I look at vampires from a societal point of view rather than a personal order point of view. By their very nature, vampires feed upon society and do not build it. I think Chaotic is suitable for that.
As you mentioned, Bram Stoker's Dracula is the inspiration, and were the game to be created now with Vampires a la Anne Rice, Stephanie Meyer, or Vampire the Masquerade as inspirations, D&D vampires would probably look a lot different.
There was a discussion of differing alignments of vampires in the Dragon Magazine article "Mind of the Vampire" in Issue 162 that is worth checking out.
The author, Nigel Findley, postulated that depending on the state of the victim, the alignment of a newly formed vampire may be different than the standard CE. But with the passing of time and the nature of the vampire having to feed off of the living, maintaining an alignment other than CE is difficult at best and usually the vampire will devolve to at least a passive evil status if not totally absorbed into self serving, selfish CE.
But there remains a possibility for other alignments in the early stages of an undead existence. Read up on it for more inspiration in this vein.
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