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An example, from the AD&D 2e DMG:

For example, Beornhelm the Ranger carelessly dons a helm of alignment change and switches to chaotic evil alignment--something he didn't want to do! Exerting its influence over him, the helm compels Beornhelm to commit all manner of destructive acts. Although unable to resist, Beornhelm keeps looking for an opportunity to escape the accursed helm. Finally, after several misadventures, he cleverly manages to trick an evil mage into removing the helm, at which point he is restored to his previous alignment.

The Helm of Opposite Alignment (no helm of alignment change item is listed in the DMG) is described as instantly changing the wearer's alignment to one in direct opposition; LG to CE, NN to any of the four extremes, etc. This alteration is explicitly stated to be mental and desired by the wearer. Further, it is permanent to the extent that it can be undone only by a Wish.

The Helm's description seems to contradict the example given in the above-quoted "Effects of Changing Alignment" section. Which is accurate? Are both true by virtue of the existence of a Helm of Alignment Change, different from the Helm of Opposite Alignment, that I haven't been able to find?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You might want to also include a summary of the helm's effect so as to motivate a serious AD&D 2e expert to address this pretty severe inconsistency \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Oct 7 '16 at 21:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Your “I always thought” paragraph and the passage you quote directly contradict each other — and you seem to know that, by the way you phrased it. So please tell us: what about the passage isn't clear? We need to know what we're supposed to be answering about. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Oct 7 '16 at 22:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Edited to clarify question and extend description of the Helm. \$\endgroup\$ – Passage Oct 7 '16 at 22:23
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The helm's description is the authority here: the PC will want to keep their new alignment. Let's look at why…

The problem with that passage is that the Effects of Changing Alignment section is breezily conflating players and player characters. The full section is about whether and when alignment-change XP penalties kick in. These changes depend on player desires, not PC desires, and the section as a whole makes that clear. That one passage about the helm, however, uses the PC's name — but in context of the whole section we can see that it is still referring to the player's desire and choices. To wit: the player doesn't want the new alignment and seeks to undo it; therefore no XP penalty kicks in. The PC, Beornhelm the Ranger, does wish to keep the alignment. The passage uses the PC's name, but means the player.

There is a discussion about the nature and acceptability of metagaming in AD&D 2nd edition that could be had here, but which is beyond the scope of an answer about the helm. For the purpose of this question, let's just point out that this passage is additionally confusing because its example is assuming metagaming is OK and happening, but not saying so explicitly.

The effect of the helm

There are actually two helms — the helm of alignment change is an item that originally appeared in the D&D Cyclopedia, while the helm of opposite alignment originally appeared in the 1e DMG — but they're effectively the same for the purpose of this question.

Both helms cause alignment change that is involuntary, but afterwards desired by the PC:

  • Helm of alignment change (Encyclopedia Magica, p. 584)

    … the wearer will resist its removal. Once the helm is removed, the wearer's original alignment returns. …

  • Helm of opposite alignment (Encyclopedia Magica, p. 591)

    Alteration of alignment … once effected, is desired by the individual …

In both cases, the player might not personally desire the change in their PC, and metagaming-ly may work to overturn the change, through quests or seeking a wish or whatever (details of what can achieve the reversal vary between the two helms). Whether the player accepts the change or works against it matters for alignment change effects on XP, but otherwise doesn't impact the fact that the change is effectively permanent and desired by the PC.

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