OD&D is where alignment first enters the picture and it uses the same categories as Chainmail, again without any explanation of their meaning. The text states that "Before the game begins, it is not only necessary to select a role [i.e. a character class -JDM], but it is also necessary to determine what stance the character will take [italics mine] -- Law, Neutrality, or Chaos." The term "stance" is vague but, once again, seems to imply an allegiance rather than an ethical outlook or moral code. At the same time, among the prominent members of Chaos listed are "Evil High Priests," suggesting a connection between Chaos and evil. Also of note is that there are no spells in the three little brown books (or their supplements) that allow the detection or knowledge of alignment. (And, in a shift from Chainmail, elves go from being Neutral with tendencies toward Law to full-fledged members of Law)
The Holmes-edited Dungeons & Dragons speaks at greater length about alignment. The text reads:
Characters may be lawful (good or evil), neutral or chaotic (good or evil). Lawful characters always act according to a highly regulated code of behavior, whether for good or evil. Chaotic characters ore quite unpredictable and con not be depended upon to do anything except the unexpected - they are often, but not always, evil. Neutral characters. such as all thieves, are motivated by self interest and may steal from their companions or betray them if it is in their own best interest. Players may choose any alignment they wont and need not reveal it to others. Note that the code of lawful good characters insures that they would tell everyone that they are lawful. There are some magical items that can be used only by one alignment of characters. If the Dungeon Master feels that a character has begun to behave in a manner inconsistent with his declared alignment he may rule that he or she has changed alignment and penalize the character with a loss of experience points. An example of such behavior would be a "good" character who kills or tortures a prisoner.Here we see not only greater definition of alignment, with practical and mechanical examples, but also a shift away from the "us vs. them" approach of Chainmail and OD&D and into something that prescribes and proscribes behavior. Holmes also introduces the know alignment spell.
Of course, predating Holmes was an article in the February 1976 issue of The Strategic Review by Gary Gygax. Entitled "The Meaning of Law and Chaos in Dungeons & Dragons and Their Relationships to Good and Evil," it's a very odd piece. I posted the chart that accompanies it in an earlier entry. The article basically argues that alignment is much misunderstood in OD&D and that it needs to be clarified by adding the categories of "Good" and "Evil" so that there are now five alignments rather than just three. Gygax goes on to note that "While they [i.e. Law and Chaos -- JDM] are nothing if not opposites, they are neither good nor evil in their definitions." He also notes that, in settings that emphasize the showdown between Law and Chaos, Chaotic Good and Chaotic Evil creatures ultimately both serve the same end, namely anarchy and lawlessness and would, to some degree, cooperate to prevent the ascendancy of Law. Of course, he goes on to say that, "Barring such a showdown, however, it is far more plausible that those creatures predisposed to good actions will tend to ally themselves against any threat of evil, while creatures of evil will likewise make (uneasy) alliance in order to gain some mutually beneficial end."
The Strategic Review article also marks a shift in its imputation of an ethical/moral dimension to alignment. Indeed, one of the purposes of the article is to delineate the characteristics of Law, Chaos, Good, and Evil so that a referee might track a character's behavior on a chart to determine how closely he hews to his stated alignment, with repercussions should he stray too far. To this, Gygax adds, "Alignment does not preclude actions which typify a different alignment, but such actions will necessarily affect the position of the character performing them, and the class or the alignment of the character in question can change due to such actions, unless counter-deeds are performed to balance things." I distinctly recall playing in games where players took this to heart in a very literal way, doing equal and opposite things to ensure they "remained Neutral."
Despite this, some questions remain murky. Gygax says that "law and chaos are not subject to interpretation in their ultimate meanings of order and disorder respectively, but good and evil are not absolutes but must be judged from a frame of reference, some ethos. The placement of creatures on the chart of Illustration II. reflects the ethos of this author to some extent." [italics mine -- JDM] That's quite a bombshell, if you ask me, and one that adds several new wrinkles to attempts to grapple with the meaning of alignment in OD&D, the most important of which being that, at least in 1976, Gary felt the game required that it be seen through some lens that the players and referee brought to it on questions of good and evil. I can't help but find that remarkable, assuming I am reading him correctly.
(Also interesting is the idea that "The player-character who continually follows any alignment (save neutrality) to the absolute letter of its definition must eventually move off the chart
(Illustration I) and into another plane of existence as indicated," but that's probably a topic for another post.)