On D&D, Elon Musk, and Donald Trump

A few months ago, in conversation with my friend and video game aficionado Michael, I discovered the Dungeons & Dragons alignment system. As a novice who had never played D&D and only knew of it from Stranger Things, I was fascinated by the weird and wonderful corner of the internet that creates D&D-inspired alignment charts for pretty much anything you can think of.

Role-playing games like D&D use alignment as a way to categorize characters by their moral and ethical outlook. Alignment in D&D is defined on two axes: law vs chaos, and good vs evil, with a total of nine alignment categories:


“Lawful” implies honoring and respecting society's rules, whereas “chaotic” implies rebelliousness and individualism. On the other axis, “good” implies altruism and respect for life, while “evil” reflects selfishness and a disregard for life. This wiki does an amazing job of succinctly explaining the alignments and how they differ from each other.

Obviously, the alignment system is an oversimplification of moral and ethical beliefs, which can vary with time and based on context. No one fits neatly into these boxes. But we can still use it to categorize people because, well, it’s fun and entertaining.

I'm particularly interested in two real-life characters who have arguably sparked more controversy than anyone else in the past five years: Elon Musk and Donald Trump. Some people like to put them in the same bucket, but I think that’s lazy thinking.

Let’s start with what they have in common: they’re both merchants of chaos. They resent being told what to do by traditional authority figures, like to follow their conscience, and do what they promise if they feel inclined to. They value personal freedom and can be adaptable and flexible, but they can be equally reckless and irresponsible. They'd both score off the charts on the chaotic scale and when they do appear lawful, it’s only because they’re forced to.

That’s where I think the similarities end though. I’m convinced that their motivations are very different. Elon has had his fair share of issues, particularly his Twitter shenanigans. But if you analyze his full body of work, his goals for Tesla, SpaceX, and Neuralink, and consider how he presents himself in long-form interviews, you get the sense that he intends to do good for society and at least tries to follow through with it. He can be misguided and grandiose in his approach, but overall, I would argue he is mostly good.

Trump, on the other hand, is selfishness and greed personified. He uses his power for his own gain and doesn’t have much regard for other people’s well-being unless it can serve him. Evil is a strong word and he’s not literally out there killing people, so I might classify him as neutral if I’m being generous. Unlike say SpaceX and the incredible work they’re doing, Trump’s ventures often appear to be a house of cards intended to deceive.

If Elon is a rebel, Trump is a destroyer. But it’s also possible that I’m drinking too much of the Elon cool-aid or that I have TDS (Trump Derangement Syndrome). Maybe one or both will prove me wrong.