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View Full Version : Alignment, crucial mechanic, or plot driver?



Lord Soth
05-16-2010, 06:27 PM
Through the many games and campaign worlds, through editons decimaled and not...the issue of alignment has always been ever present, especially through the old TSR systems and now with WotC's interpretation of fantasy gaming...the question i propose is this? Is alignment of true importance to the game, or does it take a back burner to other aspects of gaming such as stats, and/or feats...

let me know what you think...

yukonhorror
05-17-2010, 06:47 AM
I think it was a way to guide your character's actions. Would torturing the goblin for info about saving the village be evil? Was it evil to kill the baby kobolds to prevent them from growing up into adult kobolds? Would it be unlawful to go against laws based on a chaotic society?

I think based on the game you are playing, these questions are valid and may have the answer ready based on current alignment. In others, questions like these may never arise, so alignment is a lesser issue

fmitchell
05-17-2010, 09:20 PM
Alignment is a clumsy attempt at an ethical system. The old Law/Neutral/Chaos system copied Moorcock without really understanding. Adding a Good/Evil axis only made the problem worse: it devolves quickly into "horse opera" morality: the white hats are Good no matter whom they kill, and the black hats are Evil no matter their real motivations. Even Tolkien, inventor of endless cannon fodder, regretted defining an entire race as irredeemably evil.

D&D 4th Edition made a step in the right direction by divorcing alignment from mechanics, and defaulting to "unaligned" unless a character truly plays hero or villain. Yes, in some stories only the Pure of Heart can find the Grail or wield the Ultimate Weapon, and Darkest Evil is a palpable force, but that should be a DM's decision based on behavior. (Admittedly, mechanisms from World of Darkness or Pendragon might help quantify Good or Evil).

rabkala
05-17-2010, 09:40 PM
The system is flawed... Ah yes, love is deaf as well as blind! The game is based on a struggle between the forces of good/evil and law/chaos. What a perfect excuse to move the action!

The huddled masses cry for justice! Would you answer the call? If you were the Lawful stupid or chaotic moron... Yes!

Do you need it, no! A rough guide, maybe.

tesral
05-19-2010, 01:17 AM
Forry did not go far enough, and replaced the crippled beast with nothing.

The Conundrum of Alignment (http://phoenixinn.iwarp.com/fantasy/alignment.html). Yes, I've been down this road before.

fmitchell
05-19-2010, 12:18 PM
Forry did not go far enough, and replaced the crippled beast with nothing.

You meant "replace", yes?

I agree it would have been better to throw out the entire thing, but at least this way DMs can decide to chuck it themselves without having to trawl through the rules for things that break.

On the other hand, if you've got a party full of munchkins and/or rules lawyers, I mean younger players -- maybe the game's target audience? -- you have a tool to beat them with. ("You said you were Good, but how is backstabbing the Bishop of Pelor and taking his loot good?") Really, some people need reminding.

Sascha
05-19-2010, 02:45 PM
Alignment as a realistic system of ethics is ... well, messy. Largely because real-world ethics is messy. Interesting debate, but not at all clear-cut.

Alignment as a game concept is less messy - depending on what you want out of a game. As long as the whole group's on the same page, there's nothing wrong with its presence or absence. I think the issue is when it's mechanically important, it's harder to excise from the system and still keep integrity.

My preference is giving alignment choice the same mechanical weight as the eye and hair color entries on the character sheet. (As for 4E's take on alignment, the Unaligned option makes it effectively eliminated, without having to change/ignore the rules, if you're so inclined.)

Crom on his Mountain
05-21-2010, 04:34 PM
Alignment is a necessary evil. I personally dislike it, but every game I've run without it gets messy. If you don't have a way to say "everybody has to be good" you always end up with one jerk who decides to do whatever he wants whenever he wants, damn the repercussions. Chaotic stupid will always rear its ugly head unless you expressly forbid it.

Sascha
05-21-2010, 05:20 PM
Alignment is a necessary evil. I personally dislike it, but every game I've run without it gets messy. If you don't have a way to say "everybody has to be good" you always end up with one jerk who decides to do whatever he wants whenever he wants, damn the repercussions. Chaotic stupid will always rear its ugly head unless you expressly forbid it.
You don't necessarily need game rules to solve that, though; my experience has been the exact opposite, actually.

mrken
05-21-2010, 08:52 PM
For me the alignment issue was fixed when 3rd Ed. came out. I just deleted it. It caused a great deal of problems so I fixed them by not having alignment to deal with. Don't have problems with evil or chaotic characters though. Local or regional law enforcement tend to fix the characters and the players attitudes. Or, competeing villians get tired of the meddling of the competition.

fmitchell
05-21-2010, 10:33 PM
3.5 depended less on alignment, but there were spells and powers -- notably a paladin's Detect Evil -- which put alignment front-and-center. Whether "detect evil" meant "detect supernatural creatures of evil", "know what lurks in the hearts of men", or "smell the indelible taint of any Evil-aligned creature" provoked a lot of debate on these very boards. One thread considered the case of a person with Evil lineage who, despite "neutral" or even "good" behavior, detected as Evil and therefore had every paladin and cleric after their evil-smelling heads.

One can root out all the alignment-based spells and powers; Midnight replaced good, evil, law, and chaos with Shadow (i.e. the power of the Dark Lord). But yes, ripping out the whole mess would have been better. Maybe 5e?

A GM can simply say that all characters must be virtuous or at least mentally and ethically healthy, and handle any pretend sociopaths outside the game ... or not, if he prefers (e.g. Amber, Paranoia). Only the greenest GM needs to back up a basic social contract with The Rules.

tesral
05-21-2010, 10:47 PM
Alignment is a necessary evil. I personally dislike it, but every game I've run without it gets messy. If you don't have a way to say "everybody has to be good" you always end up with one jerk who decides to do whatever he wants whenever he wants, damn the repercussions. Chaotic stupid will always rear its ugly head unless you expressly forbid it.

There are no necessary evils, lawful or chaotic. If your players default to chaotic stupid, then it is not the game, it's the players. They are chaotic stupid, not their characters.

20 years, no alignment, I run a good, fun game with no chaotic stupid in sight.

In my experience no system can stop stupid; stupid is systemless. Stupid is not written into the books of any game, and no game system that exists can prevent it. Stupid is a quality brought to the game by those that play the game. In game controls are not going to stop it either. In game controls only work for system, and what did I say? Stupid is not part of the system*.

So if you are "forced" to use alignment as a hammer, which is the absolute worst used for alignment, bar none; it's the players.


*Unless you are playing Paranoia, Stupid is part of that game. One of the better parts too.

Lord Soth
05-22-2010, 07:50 PM
I'll comp to the fact that the alignment issue can create havoc. Just last night i was running Ravenloft 2e for a gamers convention, and two of the seasoned players that were at my table turning Gothic Horror into farsical slapstick, all the while hiding behind the guise of 'being chaotic good, or neutral'. Not only did it detract from the setting and trying to maintain the fear factor, but it was just bad etiquette all around...having been gaming for 18 years, it was the least amount of control i've had of a game ever. More experienced gamers would simply say...that's being chaotic, they were acting within alignment...if that's the case, then it stands to reason that it is one aspect of the game, that needs to be scrutinized before entry into one's game.

yukonhorror
05-23-2010, 10:33 AM
I have put my 2 cents in already, but need to chime in with a real-game experience from last night.

When I play, I like to be the good guy, the hero, the champion. The ethics may get messy (is it really bad to steal the holy relic of my own church), but there were lines drawn between the good guys and the bad guys. When my character comes across a creature inherintly evil who doesn't immediately present themselves as a non-threat (person crying for help, etc...) I am going to attack and ask questions later. I am not going to wait till they blast a fireball in my direction to assess "should we attack him or reason with him."

Have a defined mechanic of alignment makes this decision easy. If we came across an unaligned bad guy with his weapon in his scabbard in neutral territory, I could see not attacking. However, if I see a creature I know to be evil, in the evil witch's territory, sword drawn, I am going to strike first. Why? Because I am good, they are evil, and that's what they do to each other.

If I am attacking an enemy bunker in Afghanistan (home to plans for a nuclear bomb) known to be the home of Taliban, I am not going to assess if they are a threat before attacking. By the very situation (Taliban - not nice person, works for evil organization), they are a threat, and need to be eliminated.

Call me crazy.

In short, I keep myself alive a bit longer because of the evil alignment being in place. My character would be more hesitant if that wasn't such an explicit concept. But evil means attack.

fmitchell
05-23-2010, 07:16 PM
If we came across an unaligned bad guy with his weapon in his scabbard in neutral territory, I could see not attacking. However, if I see a creature I know to be evil, in the evil witch's territory, sword drawn, I am going to strike first. Why? Because I am good, they are evil, and that's what they do to each other.

(Emphasis added.) The problem is "knowing" that a creature is evil. Yes, if someone is menacing you with a sword you should defend yourself. Unfortunately, "I am good, you are evil" is the white hat/black hat sort of morality that, frankly, creeps me out. Consider:

"Kill them all! Surely the Lord discerns which ones are his." -- attributed to a Papal legate during the Albigensian Crusade, when asked how to tell the heretics from good Christians.

"YOU ARE AN EN-EM-Y OF THE DA-LEKS! YOU WILL BE EX-TER-MI-NA-TED!" -- just about every Dalek ever

The Albigensians were a peaceful if heretical sect massacred for political reasons as well as religious. The Daleks are the most evil creatures in Doctor Who, bar none: anything not a Dalek must die, full stop. "Champions of good" in D&D sound a lot like the villains. (See also Moorcock's The Eternal Champion.)


If I am attacking an enemy bunker in Afghanistan (home to plans for a nuclear bomb) known to be the home of Taliban, I am not going to assess if they are a threat before attacking. By the very situation (Taliban - not nice person, works for evil organization), they are a threat, and need to be eliminated.

(Emphasis added, again.) In the real world, intelligence can and has been wrong. Terrorists often hide among civilians, and distinguishing a true terrorist from somebody defending his home from armed invaders is nigh-impossible.

As an example counter to yours, I ran a RuneQuest II one-shot adventure last weekend in which the PCs, members of a barbarian culture, attacked a "temple" of invaders/colonists/refugees from a civilized culture. The target pointed out by the barbarian headman was a religious sorcery school, dedicated to healing and peaceful uses of magic. I kept waiting for the PCs to reconsider the mission: the city and temple were open to all visitors, many of their own clan lived in the city by choice, the acting leader was an elfin young woman who greeted the PCs warmly, security was a joke, the ranking Adept had only two offensive spells (both designed to incapacitate, not kill), and to top it off the "runes" they were sent to destroy were grimoires which sorcerers had already reconstructed once. (Oh, and the headman later admitted he meant them as a diversion, not the main assault. And the village priest ripped them a new one.) However, the players truly played their pre-generated characters: they were the invaders, we were the heroes, who cares who dies? While wholly realistic, it was a bit depressing to me. By any modern, "objective" system of morality, the PCs were terrorists, and their targets innocents.

Give me Warhammer Fantasy, where the society at large can't or won't distinguish adventurers from bandits and heretics. Give me Barbarians of Lemuria, Conan, and similar swords-and-sorcery settings where there is no "good" and "evil", merely "harmless" or "dangerous", "good for me" and "bad for me", "a matter of honor" and "a matter of survival". Or give me Doctor Who, where talking to the "enemy" accomplishes as much or more as blasting them. Or Glorantha, where every culture has its own myths and beliefs, often diametrically opposed; no one can say who is right or wrong, and most cultures aren't simply "good" or "evil".

Just don't pretend invading lairs, killing the inhabitants, and taking their stuff is "good".

Sascha
05-23-2010, 08:38 PM
(Emphasis added.) The problem is "knowing" that a creature is evil. Yes, if someone is menacing you with a sword you should defend yourself. Unfortunately, "I am good, you are evil" is the white hat/black hat sort of morality that, frankly, creeps me out.
D&D, in editions where alignment is integral, has methods of determining those things. Morality is, in those cases, not just a philosophic concept. (Of course, original D&D had no Good/Evil split, and - if I recall correctly - 1E's descriptions were intentionally basic, so that individual DMs could define them fully.)


Just don't pretend invading lairs, killing the inhabitants, and taking their stuff is "good".
Not by our standards, no, but D&D doesn't necessarily operate under our ethical assumptions. Stabbity justice from a hero is a perfectly acceptable moral method in D&D, provided the target is, indeed, Evil. It's not realistic. (I'm not really convinced it even tried to be.)

tesral
05-23-2010, 10:10 PM
This whole later argument is making my point for me. Alignment is too fractious. Far better to give the characters NPC or PC motivations, alliances; a set of usable ethics if you want ethics.

I don't like black and white morality. The races are not letter coded for you convenience. To know where someone stands you need to interact with them.

templeorder
05-23-2010, 10:13 PM
goo, evil, law chaos are both real codes of conduct and social labels. As the later, they are meaningless. As the former, its easy to codify some behaviors and come up with ethical approaches. They are useful, but the cookie cutter approaches that one integrated tightly are thankfully gone. Such things are flavor and fluff now. However, they still do have their place. High fantasy games rely strongly on such feels and can make use of them for story purposes.

tesral
05-23-2010, 10:19 PM
Real ethical codes....

My Ethical code is good! I do good things.

Really, define good?

Goodness, not doing evil.

And what is evil so I know not to do it?


Rinse, repeat. They are social labels that are badly defined in every edition. Sit six players down and ask them to define a Lawful Good Paladin's actions in regard to a given circumstance, you will get six answers.

There is far more to morals and ethics that two word descriptors.

Richard Littles
05-24-2010, 05:35 AM
Good and Evil are wholly constructs of the society around the characters. For example, in every war the US has participated in after the War of Independence has cast the US military as the good guys and the enemy as the bad guys. The Japanese and Germans were considered to be the good guys by their respective countries while the US and the Allies were the bad guys. Now this doesn't mean that there isn't altruistic Good or pure Evil, since those go beyond the societal constructs of a single nation, but are shared by the world at large. Genocide is pure Evil and helping the poor is an altruistic Good that is shared by the world at large. However, some societies see nothing wrong with genocide and consider it to be part of what makes them great (see Eugenics). The long and the short of it, alignments in any game system is a poor way of handling character motivations and personalities. Hero System, GURPS, and WOD make use of complications (flaws) to define the character's basic motivations and personality through the use of Psychological and Physical Complications (Disadvantages/Flaws).

yukonhorror
05-24-2010, 07:49 AM
I guess I didn't drive my point in the right direction.

This isn't about morality/ethics/politeness etc... It's a game. By making the concept black/white, the consequence of morality need not play a role. I am not playing this game to explore morality/ethics. I am playing it to kill the bad guys, to recover the stolen treasure, to vanquish the evil witch, etc... I do like the role-playing component of that, but I feel with the situation I encountered, my personal morality/ethics were attacked. I can defend those, but it is difficult for me to venture into my character's morality/ethics and defend them. As those are not my own views/opinions/standards/ideals. It is easier from a gaming standpoint to be, "hey, evil guy, kill it. Hey neutral guy, let's talk to him, find out his motives, then kill it."

It is a game, not a social experiment, not a test of defending or interpreting morality, but a game. I know many people enjoy that aspect of the game, but I don't. I hold my morality/ethics/ideals close and I don't like sharing. They are not something I want to bring into my game. I want the difficult decisions to be whether or not to heal, should I attack the dragon or the sorcerer on his back, should I get information out of the duke with threats or with bribes, should we sneak into the barracks or come in guns ablazing. Whether to attack or talk my way out of an encounter is fine, (like I said previously, this is fine for some encounters, but for me, not ALL encounters), but I want the liberty without being persecuted to attack first if I find out we are attacking an evil creature, not wait till they strike first. Also, I have very little gaming time. I'd rather it be spent exploring the manor and making the decisions I like making, rather than squabbling over whether or not I should have waited to blast the spriggan guard.

If I wanted to be persecuted for my actions/beliefs, I would get into a conversation about religion and my faith, not bring it into my game.

You don't like the black hat/white hat concept, that's fine. To each his own. But I do, that's the game I like to play, that's the view I like to have (in game). You may consider that low-brow gaming (there are a lot of "elitist/snobby" gamers on this site who are too "above" certain types of gaming and look down on this brand of gaming), but I find it easy and fun.

So my point is, I think it is a mechanic that should be used according to how the players want to play and the GM wants to run the game and there should be a general consensus on how to play it. It is a crucial mechanic for those that want it, but a waste for those who don't.

Luckily, this is a game where rules can be altered/manipulated/ignored.

fmitchell
05-24-2010, 11:32 AM
I think of the role-playing games I play as stories, and I simply can't enjoy a story where the underlying morality of what the main characters are doing isn't addressed in some way. Even modern police procedurals have those episodes where the characters wonder whether justice was actually served. And, as I mentioned above, Tolkien regretted characterizing the orcs as irredeemably evil and therefore killable without a second thought.

If that's not your play style, fine. You're all about the mission. I just wonder if black hat/white hat (or dark ugly face/pale pretty face) is a mental habit we should encourage.

But yes, back to the topic: the alignment mechanic is superfluous. If you're playing black/white, then the enemy is the enemy. If you're playing with shades of gray, then alignment breaks. And, as has been argued several times in previous threads, "Detect Evil" and similar powers shatter verisimilitude for those of us who care about such things, and make the DM's job harder if he wants to sucker players into a ruse.

tesral
05-24-2010, 07:26 PM
If that's not your play style, fine. You're all about the mission. I just wonder if black hat/white hat (or dark ugly face/pale pretty face) is a mental habit we should encourage.

I am quite sure that polarized morals are something we should not encourage. When should a kid find Power Rangers dull? About age five?

yukonhorror
05-25-2010, 08:01 AM
you're talking about real life morality. I am not. I am talking about a game. I am not using this game to develop my sense of morality, how I interpret ethical situations, etc...

The game I mentioned even more-so, because it is a one-shot adventure. It is not meant to develop a character, or explore morality, it is a 3-4 session game to recover an item from a witch's lair so that we can see what higher level play is like (started at 7th level).

I don't know what Tesral's trying to say, but I have to say polarized morality or discretized morality is probably not the viewpoint of the average D&D player (as a real-life person). I think players understand morality isn't black and white. By playing a GAME where it is, do you think that encourages the player to be the same?? Maybe if you are mindless drone who falls easily into mindless rhetoric (which is a good portion of this country), but does that really matter. I am sure the game isn't what pushes that person to have that viewpoint, it is their upbringing and other environmental factors.

Maybe if you are playing with a group of 10-yr olds whose sense of morality is easily manipulated, yes, you don't want to encourage it. But playing with a group of adults, hopefully they are too mature to be "encouraged" in that sense.

tesral
05-25-2010, 09:33 AM
I want better villains. "Because I'm eeeeevil." is a lousy motivation. Short games? I role-play checkers, I question the motivations of a poker hand. Do the two 7s really want to pal up with three 4s?

I am (re)witting an adventure right now. A classic four hour convention game. There are eight characters. There is not an alignment in sight. However each has a paragraph explaining why they are here and what they hope to gain from it. Just because it is a short one off game does not mean one has to short oneself on the role-playing aspect.

Quality matters, no matter how long or short the game. Indeed I think you need to front load motivation and pack more into a short game. You are not going to get the time to develop it.

TheGreenTeaGamer
05-25-2010, 11:10 AM
Alignment is useful as a starting point for character creation. It gives you a skeletal framework to later hang the "meat and bones" of the character upon. It states what you do, and even to a degree why you do it, but as a player you can go further and ask yourself "but why do they do what they do the way they do"? (Ok, even reading that to me it sounds silly, but you get my point.) With infinite possibility comes, for some, infinite indecision. Having a direction to point and hone to a further degree from helps people to get really "into" their characters.

I enjoy interjection of alignment into games, and I'm sorry, but I disagree with the idea that morality is societally granted. Sure, certain codes of ethics are defined regionally, but one can sum up selfishness versus selflessness as a universally accepted (and ultimately dumbed-down simplicity) idea of evil versus good. Good and evil both readily exist in human society, but the fact of the matter is there is no purity thereof, but rather humanity is in the gradient within. You can make all the arguements about how genocide isn't considered evil by people who believe in eugenics, etc, but most people who come up with those ideas sit around drinking wine thinking philosophically about the theory in a typical ivory tower manner. The people who actually pull the trigger are commiting a heinously evil act (even though they may be overall good people who are obeying orders and trying to put food on their family's table), and no amount of theoretical arguement or opinionation can change that.

But I seem to be the minority in this opinion.

Sascha
05-25-2010, 01:02 PM
Sure, certain codes of ethics are defined regionally, but one can sum up selfishness versus selflessness as a universally accepted (and ultimately dumbed-down simplicity) idea of evil versus good.
Ethical egoism's branches don't, so it's not exactly universally accepted. Acting in another's best interests is immoral, to varying degrees. This is part of, if not *the*, foundation for Ayn Rand's philosophy, which itself has influenced other schools of thought.

(Note: it's not egotism, which is a somewhat related, but ultimately different concept.)

fmitchell
05-25-2010, 02:13 PM
I enjoy interjection of alignment into games, and I'm sorry, but I disagree with the idea that morality is societally granted.

Humans have empathy and altruism, but they also have aggression and tribalism. Those instincts are ingrained into almost every human being; sociopaths lack the selfless ones, but people lacking the selfish ones die out pretty fast. Cooperation and competition are equally responsible for our survival.

Morality is judging what actions applied to what people is "crossing the line". Maybe unveiled women shouldn't be allowed to leave a burning building; maybe not even duly constituted authority should take a life. Where one draws the line is, to a greater extent than we choose to admit, shaped by society.

Oh, and Ayn Rand is wack.

Veering back to the topic, I think D&D 4e has a healthier attitude to alignment: most people are Unaligned, with causes and desires unrelated to any greater struggle of Good and Evil. A struggle between clearly-defined Good (save the world) and clearly-defined Evil (destroy/dominate the world) features prominently in some of the literature that inspired D&D (e.g. Tolkien, Anderson, Moorcock sort of), and is conspicuously absent in others (e.g. Conan, Vance, Dunsany). In 4e, alignment implies choices; characters and races aren't tagged with "good" or "evil" at birth, even if certain cultures bias individuals one way or the other. In any case, joining one side or another has little or no effect within game mechanics.

I'd really rather PCs not have alignments at all, and monsters merely have "default reactions" (better name) to indicate whether they'll automatically attack, run, hold its ground, offer to help, lure characters into its clutches, whatever. Alignment should be an optional system; DMs can then choose to use it if it suits the campaign, and ignore it if it doesn't.

Crom on his Mountain
05-26-2010, 09:26 AM
Maybe if you are mindless drone who falls easily into mindless rhetoric (which is a good portion of this country), but does that really matter. I am sure the game isn't what pushes that person to have that viewpoint, it is their upbringing and other environmental factors.

How about we keep insults and politics out of it?

yukonhorror
05-26-2010, 11:57 AM
How about we keep insults and politics out of it?


that wasn't targeted at anybody specific. Just a general statement for people who fall into mindless rhetoric.

fmitchell
05-26-2010, 01:18 PM
that wasn't targeted at anybody specific. Just a general statement for people who fall into mindless rhetoric.

That's a suspicious statement ...

I prefer "mindful rhetoric": convincing people that every opinion expressed, every unquestioned assumption has a tiny but cumulative effect on society at large. Even in games.

(No, heavy metal music and violent video games don't create school shooters, but over time excessive, unthinking portrayals of violence in popular culture can make undesirable behavior acceptable. The f-word used to be an expression of extreme rage; now it's punctuation.)

Dytrrnikl
05-27-2010, 02:44 AM
...Tolkien regretted characterizing the orcs as irredeemably evil and therefore killable without a second thought...

Ok, I'll bite...where did you come across this...fact? I ask, because I consider myself a fan of Tolkien, having no minor bit of frustration at the creative license Jackson and his people took with Lord of the Ring series...removal of Legolas, no Old Forest and Tom Bombadil, increased role for Arwen, the deployable addition of a contest of wills between Gandalf and Saruman through Theodin King, just to name a few. I've read a great deal of his works concerning Middle-Earth, so I'm curious as to from where this comes.

Anywho, back to the OP. Personally, I see alignment as a necessary...evil, if you will, within any game that would even remotely call itself fantasy. The reason being that, for me, and by no means anyone else, fantasy, ALL fantasy, is about the age old, never ending battle between good and evil. Yes in real life, good and evil is dictated by our societal mores and culturally accepted behaviors. However, in the context of a game, D&D in particular, having a defined idea of good, neutral, evil, law, and chaos whether or not it fits nice and neatly within our own personal ideals is necessary to properly tell the epic tales of good vs evil. As I said, that's what I (by no means anyone else) see as the core of fantasy. That and sooner or later everyone takes a side.

In other non-fantasy based games, Star Wars not included for me, I leave alignment out of the picture, allowing for less black/white and more shades of gray moral codes.

tesral
05-27-2010, 07:36 AM
34 year old Fantasy game. All the usually suspects. No alignment. No one has ever accused me of not running a high Fantasy setting.

By little facts are mighty theories felled.

Alignment is not necessary to define a struggle. More so, epic struggles are not a good long term campaign strategy. By the very definition an epic struggle is the most important thing your character will ever do. You just saved the kingdom from the Evil evil and married the princess. What now Bucky; go to Disney World? That character is done. More so that world is pretty used up.

To get a long term campaign you cannot have an over arching evil that threatens the whole world. Threats need to be smaller and more immediate. To that end my world is not about the PCs, but the game always is. While the world might not tremble in fear, they will. The local threat will be more than threat enough to move the game.

The threat does not even have to be an evil thing. In the current game the PCs main foe is neglect. Their city has been shoved back and neglected. They seek to recover it from this malaise. There is no big bad. There are corrupt watchmen, lazy officials, and the burden of poverty, but no big evil.

Back to the first point. Experience has proven that you do not need a vast and primal struggle between good and evil to have a vast high fantasy setting.

Dark
05-27-2010, 05:38 PM
Veering back to the topic, I think D&D 4e has a healthier attitude to alignment: most people are Unaligned, with causes and desires unrelated to any greater struggle of Good and Evil. A struggle between clearly-defined Good (save the world) and clearly-defined Evil (destroy/dominate the world) features prominently in some of the literature that inspired D&D (e.g. Tolkien, Anderson, Moorcock sort of), and is conspicuously absent in others (e.g. Conan, Vance, Dunsany). In 4e, alignment implies choices; characters and races aren't tagged with "good" or "evil" at birth, even if certain cultures bias individuals one way or the other. In any case, joining one side or another has little or no effect within game mechanics.


Just one more reason as to why I have no use for 4e's attitude to alignment is total and utter crap. A perfect example of earlier edtions as to why Alignment, crucial mechanic, or plot driver is the paladin class.

Alignment, like all other things, is relative. What a lawful good diety would consider to be right and "good," a chaotic evil diety might consider wrong and evil. A chaotic neutral diety views "law" as chaos, and "chaos" as law. Therefore, in a very real sense paladins of all alignments are "lawful good" in the eyes of their diety and others who follow the paladin's religion. In the world of the Aztecs for example, human sacrifice was considered to be a holy deed. Sacrifice kept their god, Hiutzilopotchli, alive and gave nourishment for his divine body. The Spaniards, on the other hand, detested this practice and condemned it as dispicable and evil.

A paladin can be of any alignment provided he maintains the values and mores of that alignment with fervor beyond that commonly displayed by the ordinary man. Paladins are warriors dedicated to a specific deity or group of deities. They defend the faith in word and deed. A paladin epitomizes the ethos of the faith he or she defends and can suffer no detour from that faith or risk loosing the special powers granted by his or her god. The paladin must choose a patron deity and follow that deity's alignment. Paladins of good dieties have powers designed to foil evil, chaotic paladins to foil law, etc...

fmitchell
05-27-2010, 10:18 PM
Ok, I'll bite...where did you come across this...fact?

Maybe regret is too strong a word, but, for example, in "The Unnatural History of Tolkien's Orcs" (http://www.ansereg.com/TheUnnaturalHistoryofTolkiensOrcs.pdf), the author notes:



... can orcs be redeemed? Maybe. Tolkien is reluctant to rule this out, though, as with other cosmological points in his notes, he explores several interpretations. In one of the "Orcs" texts in Morgoth's Ring he says orcs "might have become irredeemable (at least by Elves and Men), but that they remained within the Law." As part of this, if an Orc ever asked for mercy, good people were obliged to give that mercy, "even at cost". Orcish repentance and redemption, however improbable, were supposed to be given a chance.


A few other sources I've read indicate that his Catholic faith would not allow him to consider an individual, let alone a race, "irredeemably evil". So, despite the impression given in The Lord of the Rings, orcs weren't automatic targets of slaughter; "good" people should accord them the same mercy that they would give a human combatant. (Some people even imply he didn't fully think through the implications of orcs until after LotR was published.)

This contrasts sharply with the typical interpretation of D&D alignment: all orcs and goblins must die because they're EEEEEVIL. Order of the Stick, and particularly Goblins, satirize the implied racism/speciesism in D&D alignment.

Dytrrnikl
05-27-2010, 10:27 PM
Alignment is not necessary to define a struggle. More so, epic struggles are not a good long term campaign strategy. By the very definition an epic struggle is the most important thing your character will ever do. You just saved the kingdom from the Evil evil and married the princess. What now Bucky; go to Disney World? That character is done. More so that world is pretty used up.

I'll give you that alignment is unnecessary to define struggle...however, struggle IS necessary to define alignment. Epic struggles do not start out as epic, they have a slow build, that starts with something as simple as...to use your example...neglect. Incidentally, neglect, corrupt watchmen, lazy officials, and the burden of poverty may not be a big bad epic evil, but they are evils none-the-less, just on a more immediate scale...the possible beginnings of a much larger struggle that persists from city to city to a much more societal, world consuming scale.


To get a long term campaign you cannot have an over arching evil that threatens the whole world.Threats need to be smaller and more immediate. To that end my world is not about the PCs, but the game always is. While the world might not tremble in fear, they will. The local threat will be more than threat enough to move the game.
The players working to end the neglect are good, since they are working for something that will ultimately not just benefit themselves, but their city, their immediate society at large. That is the smaller and more immediate threat to draw the true heroes into something larger than themselves.


Experience has proven that you do not need a vast and primal struggle between good and evil to have a vast high fantasy setting.
I would say your experience may support this, but based on your example, you may not have alignment, you do have good and evil, call it what you may, but your game is supporting my core idea of fantasy being good vs evil.

Incidnetally, my last campaign began with the PCs working to end the constant raids by an Orc warlord and his army against there village. That lead them to discover that the Orc Warlord was actually a servant of a wizard, seeking specific items for a ritual to craft an artifact, which lead to the discovery that the wizard was just one of several wizards working together to create an artifact capable of opening an immense gate. They also discovered that this group of wizards had fanatical hatred of all things fey, seeking a final measure to insure the removal of fey the world over. Ultimately, the artifact was called the Elfsun, and was used to open a one mile wide, 1000 foot tall gate in which all fey creatures were compelled to enter - no save. The gate opened a portal into Oblivion, Void, where nothing exists or could exist. A side effect of opening the gate was the world wide cataclysmic effects of calling forth that much magic to power a gate of that magnitude. The whole point, of that, is all of my campaigns have started out with something immediate and not very epic, but an evil none-the-less for the players to be drawn into the world at large.

---------- Post added at 10:57 PM ---------- Previous post was at 10:54 PM ----------

fmitchell, thanks, I'll have to check that out. I'd never come across it before.

Sascha
05-27-2010, 10:30 PM
Just one more reason as to why I have no use for 4e's attitude to alignment is total and utter crap. A perfect example of earlier edtions as to why Alignment, crucial mechanic, or plot driver is the paladin class.
4E's system is the closest to the original than other editions, in that it's effectively a non-issue. Alignment's nothing but team colors, and 4E basically admits to it, like 0E did. AD&D started mucking it up with the Good/Evil axis.


Alignment, like all other things, is relative.
Except where D&D states the source of moral authority is objective and universal. Law & Chaos, Good & Evil are all but tangible, rules as written. Especially in settings like 2E's Planescape, and 3E's continuation of the planar themes.


What a lawful good diety would consider to be right and "good," a chaotic evil diety might consider wrong and evil. A chaotic neutral diety views "law" as chaos, and "chaos" as law.
Not with the above; Evil deities (and characters) *know* what they're doing is immoral, and either don't care or relish it. They're mustache-twirling, tying-damsels-to-train-tracks Black Hats, and make no airs of being otherwise. Unrealistic, sure, but very much with the spirit of D&D's source material. While the real world indeed has people who consider themselves "evil," they're far out of the league of fantasy Evil when it comes to evilness. (The closest we get is, as you say, folks who consider what they're doing to *be* a moral course of action. Or those who psychologically can't conceive of notions of morality, for various reasons.)

Likewise the Law/Chaos split - a "true" follower of Chaos, especially in 2E, is beholden to nothing but whimsy; they don't view it as a code, and would probably stop being predictably unpredictable if it was pointed out to them. I'm somewhat loathe to use the example, but compare the behaviors and beliefs of Lord Cutler Beckett (Order) and Captain Jack Sparrow (Chaos), from Pirates of the Carribean.


Therefore, in a very real sense paladins of all alignments are "lawful good" in the eyes of their diety and others who follow the paladin's religion. In the world of the Aztecs for example, human sacrifice was considered to be a holy deed. Sacrifice kept their god, Hiutzilopotchli, alive and gave nourishment for his divine body. The Spaniards, on the other hand, detested this practice and condemned it as dispicable and evil.
Except the real world doesn't have clear-cut morality that's universally accepted. D&D does, according to the text. Base D&D cosmology assumes a universal moral authority, where our own world still has a little debate left :P


A paladin can be of any alignment provided he maintains the values and mores of that alignment with fervor beyond that commonly displayed by the ordinary man. Paladins are warriors dedicated to a specific deity or group of deities. They defend the faith in word and deed. A paladin epitomizes the ethos of the faith he or she defends and can suffer no detour from that faith or risk loosing the special powers granted by his or her god. The paladin must choose a patron deity and follow that deity's alignment. Paladins of good dieties have powers designed to foil evil, chaotic paladins to foil law, etc...
Which is, somewhat ironically, the 4E Paladin in a nutshell (except for the bit about the source of a Paladin's powers). It's certainly *not* the Paladin of previous editions, which follows the path of Good, regardless of deity, as per the rules; 3E Paladins didn't even have to follow any deity and they still receive the full Paladin power package, though they're still required to be a specific alignment (accounting for the variants in Unearthed Arcana).

fmitchell
05-27-2010, 10:52 PM
Sorry to quote so much.


Alignment, like all other things, is relative. What a lawful good diety would consider to be right and "good," a chaotic evil diety might consider wrong and evil. A chaotic neutral diety views "law" as chaos, and "chaos" as law.

Here is where you lose me. In D&D, alignments aren't relative, they're absolute. Evil is evil and Good is good; Law is law and Chaos is chaos. All gods, all people of the same alignment have the same general philosophy about the value of life and the need for law and order. To me it sounds like you're arguing against your own thesis: if alignments are matters of opinion, they're useless.


Therefore, in a very real sense paladins of all alignments are "lawful good" in the eyes of their diety and others who follow the paladin's religion. In the world of the Aztecs for example, human sacrifice was considered to be a holy deed. Sacrifice kept their god, Hiutzilopotchli, alive and gave nourishment for his divine body. The Spaniards, on the other hand, detested this practice and condemned it as dispicable and evil.

If "good" has any meaning, if it's more than a white hat or a flag, it means that no being has a right to take another's life except to save its own life or those of others. Check out this quote from the 3.5 SRD:



Good characters and creatures protect innocent life. Evil characters and creatures debase or destroy innocent life, whether for fun or profit.

"Good" implies altruism, respect for life, and a concern for the dignity of sentient beings. Good characters make personal sacrifices to help others.

"Evil" implies hurting, oppressing, and killing others. Some evil creatures simply have no compassion for others and kill without qualms if doing so is convenient. Others actively pursue evil, killing for sport or out of duty to some evil deity or master.


"Hiutzilopotchli", by devouring innocent human souls, is Evil. Even if his followers use murderers, it's at least morally questionable to kill people in cold blood. (And what if they run out of murderers?)

On the other hand, if you're arguing for relative morality, how can you tell anything about someone who considers himself "Lawful Good": he's following his laws of his god and he considers them good.


A paladin can be of any alignment provided he maintains the values and mores of that alignment with fervor beyond that commonly displayed by the ordinary man.

That's the 3rd edition version; in AD&D and earlier, all paladins had to be "lawful good". Setting that aside, consider this from several paragraphs down:



Lawful characters tell the truth, keep their word, respect authority, honor tradition, and judge those who fall short of their duties.


Even granting the definitions above (from the rules), two Lawful Good paladins could follow two different authorities and two different traditions. How do nine labels capture all the nuances of law, tradition and behavior? Wouldn't it be better if the god (i.e. GM or player) defined which actions it encouraged, and which it forbade? In that case, isn't alignment superfluous?

P.S. I'm getting tired of having (http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/showthread.php/8200-Morality-and-Alignment) the (http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/showthread.php/8625-What-s-your-opinion-of-Alignment) same (http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/showthread.php/10239-Alignment-Discussion) argument (http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/showthread.php/10656-Getting-rid-of-Alignment) over (http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/showthread.php/3481-Should-the-4th-Edition-Alignment-System-Be-Changed) and over (http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/showthread.php/7167-So-what-half-of-alignment-is-more-important). Alignment fans, go nuts. The rest of us will carry on without it.

tesral
05-28-2010, 08:36 AM
I would say your experience may support this, but based on your example, you may not have alignment, you do have good and evil, call it what you may, but your game is supporting my core idea of fantasy being good vs evil.


I have good and evil; small letters. It isn't necessarily the driving force behind conflict. The far more common source of conflict is what drives conflict in reality. Us vs. Them. Empire vs. empire, church vs. state, blue vs. red. Pick your team and choose your side. You are either with us or against us. As is typical in any conflict each side will picture themselves as right, good, and with Ghodd on our side. The other side is bad, evil, and the work of the Deevil. Exact motivations and ideologies are secondary at best. The pitch is made at the emotional level. "Yea us, boo them."

I prefer this more realistic and less simplistic method of constricting a conflict. The reality of most conflicts is that the smaller the difference between the two sides, and/or the less important the results, the more bitter the struggle. High school popularity contests can be the most bitterly and pettyly fought contests. End result, meaningless. US partisian politices results in some of the dirtiest retoric I have ever seen, and the two sides are essentially the same. Repibcrats and Democins.

So good and evil don't even really have to come into it. They will get press, each side claiming the other sleeps with evil. Actual "evil" may be nowhere in the area or both sides may wallow in it. So not only is alignment not necessary, but you get a better quality of conflict by leaving good and evil, as objective concepts, out of the equation as well.

It does mean that you have to identify the real reason for the conflict. It's not enough to simply slap the black and white hats on and start fighting.




P.S. I'm getting tired of having (http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/showthread.php/8200-Morality-and-Alignment) the (http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/showthread.php/8625-What-s-your-opinion-of-Alignment) same (http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/showthread.php/10239-Alignment-Discussion) argument (http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/showthread.php/10656-Getting-rid-of-Alignment) over (http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/showthread.php/3481-Should-the-4th-Edition-Alignment-System-Be-Changed) and over (http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/showthread.php/7167-So-what-half-of-alignment-is-more-important). Alignment fans, go nuts. The rest of us will carry on without it.

I'm there myself. It's old, I've made my point. One will either agree or they will not, and shouting at me will not change my mind. Talk to the Page.


Out of the Box; the Conundrum of Alignment (http://phoenixinn.iwarp.com/fantasy/alignment.html)

Dytrrnikl
05-28-2010, 01:08 PM
I have good and evil; small letters. It isn't necessarily the driving force behind conflict. The far more common source of conflict is what drives conflict in reality. As is typical in any conflict each side will picture themselves as right, good, and with Ghodd on our side. The other side is bad, evil, and the work of the Deevil. Exact motivations and ideologies are secondary at best. The pitch is made at the emotional level. "Yea us, boo them."

I prefer this more realistic and less simplistic method of constricting a conflict. The reality of most conflicts is that the smaller the difference between the two sides, and/or the less important the results, the more bitter the struggle. High school popularity contests can be the most bitterly and pettyly fought contests. End result, meaningless. US partisian politices results in some of the dirtiest retoric I have ever seen, and the two sides are essentially the same. Repibcrats and Democins.


Ahhh, I now see the difference between our game styles. I salute you for wanting to bring a more real world aspect to the game...it's something I myself avoid for fantasy based games. I do this for two reasons, oen being that too much realism injected into fantasy games makes for a less entertaining game as I consider simulations of real world conflict when I want to let my imagination take me away from everyday rhetoric. Second, the "Us vs. Them. Empire vs. empire, church vs. state, blue vs. red. Pick your team and choose your side. You are either with us or against us..." set up to a game fits better in real world simulationgames...d20 modern in any of its incarnations, Shadowrun, Alpha Omega, and so forth. But that's me and judging from my own experiences, many of the people I've games with over the years. Then again, I'm a big loather of the hero that is every bit as brutal, viscious, and do whatever is necessary to beat them ideology...the flawed anti-hero - or as I like to dub them - the troubled teenager who won't grow up.

This discussion reminded me of something I came across once before that I think fits into your perspective...here's the link, http://www.snopes.com/college/exam/hell.asp ...the part being relevant beginning with "As for souls entering hell..."

Oh, something you said from an earlier post...

...More so, epic struggles are not a good long term campaign strategy. By the very definition an epic struggle is the most important thing your character will ever do. You just saved the kingdom from the Evil evil and married the princess. What now Bucky; go to Disney World? That character is done. More so that world is pretty used up.

I apologize if this comes across heated or argumentative, that wasn't what I was aiming at, just trying to be emphatic.

I've been gaming regualrly since I was 16, 1989...roughly about the time 2E (still my favorite incarnation of the game, nastalgia ridden to the core) hit the markets. Only one game, a WEG d6 Star Wars game is even looked, and that's been going on, now off and on only during holidays since '94. All other games I've played in have never lasted more than 2, 3 years at most. In my own homebrew campaign setting, I've run games we're characters have become demi-gods, ousted Lolth, defated a Lich that assembled an artifact designed to eliminate all fey creatures and cause cataclysmic changes the world over. My homebrew is richly detailed because of this, and has become the base setting for the games that my group uses, whether I DM or not. In large part because several of the players, as DMs had a hand in shaping part of the world. The point being, that it has been broken and squeezed a number of times, by me and other DMs, and the world has never been dried up. Was there more for Bucky to do? Generally, no. How is that wrong? I've seen discussion with people ripping apart the Realms as a haven for Ed Greenwood and his gamers to have a place for their obnoxiously powerful heroes to populate. Everyone gets there 15 minutes of fame, sometimes 15 seconds. What happens then? Unless they did something truly worth remembering, such as Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Jesus, they disappear...vaguely remembered at most, if at all. Who remembers the name of the guy that jumped out of and off the bleachers...into the tunnel behind the goal posts from a Monday night game...in order to catch a football that had been kicked over the catch net? It was a Bills game I think, and the guy got an appearance on Letterman for his stunt, footbal and all. He talked about how he was going to get an agent. My bet would be that without some internet searching or knowing the guy directly, anyone who reads this is saying...WHO?!

The idea behind that rant being, characters come and go, the campaign setting stays, forever changed in small or in large by the actions, exploits, and efforts of the PCs. Then they fade into memory and new people step up and try to make their mark.

magic-rhyme
05-31-2010, 12:12 AM
Alignment is fun. In my group's opinion, at least.

If it's fun for your group, use it.

If it isn't fun for your group, don't use it.

That said, here's how my group handles alignment (which we have imported into other game systems for the fun of it):

We treat alignment primarily as motivation and honor code. They don't restrict what characters can do so much as represent what characters think is the best rule of thumb for how to behave ethically in this world. And they make it much more fun when characters encounter situations which do not fit the philosophical approach or motivation which they prefer. (We enjoy roleplaying characters who like each other but are at odds over how to handle something ethically.)

These work well as honor codes or philosophical approaches because two classic controversies in our history have involved the Individual vs the Group and the issue of Duty to Strangers: look at modern political arguments of the past fifty years about patriotism! My country right or wrong?--Lawful Neutral. I love my country as the best way for the most people to have a chance for liberty and a good life?--Lawful Good. My country works because it allows the strong to rise, allows the weak to fall instead of helping them, and considers any action morally justified if the powerful commit it?--Lawful Evil.

Lawful means the person claims to believe that it is better for four genuinely innocent men and/or women to go to prison than for one relentless serial killer to be set free -- the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.
Chaotic means the person claims to believe that it is better for four relentless serial killers to be set free than for one genuinely innocent man (or woman) to be imprisoned -- the needs of the individual outweigh the needs of society.
Good means the person claims to believe that everyone's quality of life matters, including strangers and acquaintances.
Evil means the person claims to believe that strangers and acquaintances are merely pawns to be exploited or killed off in duty to oneself (only one's own needs and the needs of one's loved ones matter) and that power justifies all.

=] A Lawful Good philosophy advocates trying to respect everyone's quality of life needs through focusing on and valuing the community, even if an individual is therefore left out.
=] A Chaotic Good philosophy advocates trying to respect everyone's quality of life by getting the group out of the way and keeping the individual free, even if this means society's structure or rules must be violated.
=] A Neutral Good philosophy focuses on everyone's quality of life without committing to the popular either/or of society or individual.
=] A Lawful Evil philosophy privileges social order and nationalism -- through exploitative competition and a belief that only the strong matter and the weak have no rights.
=] A Chaotic Evil philosophy privileges the unfettered individual, not for the sake of liberty and happiness but because "it's every man for himself!" and power is the primary moral barometer.
=] A Neutral Evil philosophy focuses on the ruthless acquisition of power without any particular faith in a strong society or in the individual
=] A Lawful Neutral philosophy focuses on the importance of the community without advocating quality of life issues and without privileging domination and strength
=] A Chaotic Neutral philosophy focuses on the importance of the individual without advocating quality of life issues and without privileging domination and strength
=] A Neutral Neutral philosophy either resembles philosophical apathy (or an inability to abstract enough for philosophy) or an ascetic withdrawal from comment on how the world is run

If handled as ideals which the player-characters would like to meet rather than as restrictions over what the player-characters can think or do, alignments can add a lot of fun to any game!

Weatherheight
07-18-2010, 10:45 PM
Alignment is fun. In my group's opinion, at least.

If it's fun for your group, use it.

If it isn't fun for your group, don't use it.

Lawful means the person claims to believe that it is better for four genuinely innocent men and/or women to go to prison than for one relentless serial killer to be set free -- the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.
Chaotic means the person claims to believe that it is better for four relentless serial killers to be set free than for one genuinely innocent man (or woman) to be imprisoned -- the needs of the individual outweigh the needs of society.
Good means the person claims to believe that everyone's quality of life matters, including strangers and acquaintances.
Evil means the person claims to believe that strangers and acquaintances are merely pawns to be exploited or killed off in duty to oneself (only one's own needs and the needs of one's loved ones matter) and that power justifies all.

If handled as ideals which the player-characters would like to meet rather than as restrictions over what the player-characters can think or do, alignments can add a lot of fun to any game!

I encourage players to use alignment for two reasons - it might help them get a handle on role-playing their characters, and it provides me, the GM, yet another tool to generate dramatic tension. Both ethics and morals are standards not of personal behavior in a vacuum, but rather standards of behavior in relationship to those around them - without other persons, ethics and morality end up being practically meaningless.

Much like magic rhyme, I break down Law/Chaos into the now-cliched quote from Star Trek. "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one." Lawful Characters believe this, Chaotic characters think this is a bunch of hooey ("Sometimes, the needs of the many are outweighed by the needs of the few or the one"). Other forms of ordered behavior (adherence to the legal system, a disciplined lifestyle, and so on) can be expressions of a character's individuality or their alignment, but to me these are not so relevant, since these affect the character's behavior to himself/herself.

I break down Good/Evil into terms of how the character feels about sharing power. Good characters want to increase their own power and the power of those around them, but won't increase their own power at the expense of the power of those around them. Evil wants power for its own sake and isn't as concerned with how that affects the power of those around them. I define power as the ability to enact change on your surroundings - money, magic, military force, tech, and social pressure are all forms of power.

Once I advise the player of these definitions, they nearly always understand what any given action will be, alignment wise, by comparing the expected outcome of their actions with the INTENT of their actions, and they can pretty much figure out if it is something that their character would reasonably do. From that, they can then choose their course of action.

That said, alignment just doesn't come up much in the game, because most people think about alignment before they finish character creation and base their character's personality on that. Most players (at least, the ones that I've met in 20+ years of gaming) don't play someone too much unlike themselves - it's usually some aspect of themselves that gets to take front and center for awhile. More often than not, players don't really think much about "what would my character do?" as opposed to "What's the best course of action in this situation?" I can usually bludgeon a player way harder with the reasonable consequences of their actions than anything involving how this relates to alignment. (Player: "What do mean she's ticked off at me? What'd I do?" GM: "Let's see, she sent you to go out and look into a situation she's been blocked on for over ten years, you figured out more than she did, then came back and instead of reporting to her, you went to her boss and told her everything you found out in one-fiftieth of the time she's spent on it? Hmm, can't imagine why she's mad...")

In addition, I never tell a PC "Your alignment won't allow you to do that." I will tell the PC that's about to act out of their stated alignment, "That choice may have unintended consequences - are you sure you want to do that?" (mind you, I say that to almost any risky action about to be taken by a character...). Once the character does do something out of alignment, I watch the character's behavior more closely. The character's companions might start noticing the character seems a bit out of sorts (or behaving oddly), maybe spending more time away from the main body of the party (or spending MORE time), but whenever that happens, I make sure it fits what the player says his character is doing.

It's more fun when the player uses the tool without prompting - one character in the game went from Neutral to Neutral Good over several years of RT game play, and only one person in the group noticed (the paladin, strangely enough). The character significantly changed her relationship to various party members, becoming less guarded and defensive over time. At the end of the campaign when the PC's accidentally set themselves up for glorious failure, the campaign post mortem had several players slowly realizing that two characters had changed alignment during the campaign and that in one case, the alignment change ended up saving the character's life.

All this said, alignment has never been an "up-front" part of the rules set, with great importance. It's rather a 'final option" gauge that is used in a very few instances when no other game mechanic really fits the problem.

Is it needed? Nope. But we've sure had a lot of fun with it over the years, and several people became much better role-players by including it in their tool-set.

Malruhn
07-22-2010, 04:03 PM
First off, let me say that I do not agree with a single point in magic-rhyme's post... for all the reasons that have been afore-mentioned.

I dumped alignment as a "rule" some 25 years ago, and began using it as a scenario device. You claim you are Neutral Good? Great - I'll design campaigns with that in mind - up to and until you prove that you are acting in a manner that is NOT NG. At that time, we can talk and decide on a new "descriptor". Then the new alignment will be used as a plot tool.

That's it.

As for the game mechanics, I had to do some planning. Let's consider Bob the Baker and Nargrath the Demon. If Bob acts in an evil manner (as accepted in modern society), he is still just a smelly human and will not be detected by a Detect Evil spell or can he be Smote. Nargath, on the other hand, DOES detect as evil and can be Smoted repeatedly. When Bob begins to work with Nargath - and is "tainted" by this association (think Cthulu or radioactive isotopes) - THEN he will begin to detect as Evil and can be Smoted by those who are Smotable (I had to go there).

Other than that, it's all about rules and laws of those whom with you align yourself. You wanna be a NE Paladin - go for it - as long as you follow all the rules of your chosen deity's military branch. Break them, and you are one ex-Pally. Sure, you'll bump heads with the LG Paladin of the same deity - just like Sally the fry-girl bumps heads with Tim the fry-cook - but there's no real "evil-itude" there.

It's worked very well for almost three decades.

And I don't have to worry if a race is described as LG or LE - THEY think they are good... just like we all do.

tesral
07-22-2010, 10:54 PM
Alignment; remarkably disposable.

templeorder
07-23-2010, 09:03 AM
While its not DnD, in my own game we recently started USING alignment. I never thought i would see it creep back in but it did. We have optional "codes of conduct" that you get points for adopting. We've not used these in 8 years and here 2 characters adopted opposed (law and chaos) out of an argument they had between them. They felt so strongly and it was so obvious that they felt it had to be done. In my own real world experience, a vast majority of causes and ideals adopt an "the end justifies the means" approach, so yes you can have a NE paladin (thats their behavior), fighting for a "good" god or cause. When the original anti-paladin came out (lets get in the way-back machine kids) it became obvious that it was all about the cause they served and the power their god gave them, not necessarily about how they acted. If it did come down to proscribed behavior, then i gave the characters extra powers because of the challenge of playing them. Then of course the same people played knights/paladins all the time and got bonuses over the others because thats just what they played and it was easy for them to get uber characters. That got boring fast. But, i digress. Here i am using an alignment system, after specifically trying to escape it - oh the irony. Maybe its time to see what else i can do with the concept of alignment...

Hangman
09-02-2010, 10:52 PM
This topic has been covered in quite a bit of depth. I don't know if I can add much, so I will just mention what I do: Alignment can be handy for quick, light games. I like my games to have a little more meat to them, though, so I prefer friend and enemy versus good and evil. I would really like to change detect evil to detect enemy.

As a character creation tool, I find it limiting, and it's just as easy to come up with two adjectives to describe your character (which may include "good").

Pelendor
04-17-2011, 05:50 AM
Motive instead of Alignment

At the beginning of every new campaign the question is always asked "So is this the kind of world all goblins are evil, or are there some good ones?" It's funny, but in the real world you often find yourself criticising others for generalisations, racism and bigotry; but when you turn up to the table with your dice you're ready to torch the village because they're all chaotic evil! I know it’s just a game (can't believe I just said that) and for many, including myself, it’s a great place to play out the struggle between good and evil, but maybe 'alignment' is a spent idea.

Instead, what about using 'motive'. You could use motive to tie the adventurers together, as well as justify the actions of NPCs and monsters in a far better way than the lose personality typing of alignment.

As example, the war party of orcs from across the river have entered the elven forest to kill enough elves to establish their transition to adulthood. Motive: Glory of Battle. But on the other hand, if you took the battle to the orc's village you would encounter the established adults, their children and elders. Motive: Defence of Kin, Show of Force.

Or, for adventurers, the party could be greedy treasure seekers; Motive: Gold Before All Else. Or they could be crusaders; Motive: In the Name of Pelor. The party just needs a shared motive.

A couple of clumsy examples, but what do you think. Who cares what your personality type is, it’s what you're trying to achieve that drives your actions.

tesral
04-17-2011, 11:09 AM
"In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments; there are consequences." -- Robert Green Ingersoll

nijineko
04-17-2011, 06:02 PM
i believe that there is an absolute standard of good which can apply equally to all regardless of race, culture, or belief. i don't really think it translates well into game mechanics.

however, in the scale of d&d, i have reworked the alignment system such that it is a pact-based artifact. an individual is welcome to enter into pacts with various entities of their own free will and choosing. the pact leaves a mark on the maker, which is what is revealed by the spells formerly known as alignment detecting. some don't care if you have more than one pact, others demand exclusivity. in my world settings, these are usually defined by the term Contract.

Sascha
04-17-2011, 06:24 PM
i believe that there is an absolute standard of good which can apply equally to all regardless of race, culture, or belief. i don't really think it translates well into game mechanics.
Pretty much exactly what D&D's implementation of good and evil is, though: universally-applied standards, to which even deities conform. Whether it achieves that goal satisfactorily is another question ;)

nijineko
04-18-2011, 01:19 AM
no kidding, right? ^^

tesral
04-18-2011, 09:58 AM
Pretty much exactly what D&D's implementation of good and evil is, though: universally-applied standards, to which even deities conform. Whether it achieves that goal satisfactorily is another question ;)

Which is what I don't like about it. Under that system you have beings that willfully adhere to evil. Something everyone agrees is a bad thing, including those that practice it because it is a universal standard.

"I'm going to do evil! I'll join the evil club, and advance the cause of evil throughout the land!"

I expect the Power Rangers to show up any minute now. The problem with this simplistic black hat/white hat universal view is I'm over 50, not 5. It doesn't work. The above point of view is tantamount to insanity. It goes way beyond the ends justify the means even. Those people consider themselves doing good. They are wrong, but they will defend their motivations to the last.

Second it makes evil and good into meaningless game mechanics, not moral concepts. Being Evil is in game terms no worse than joining the Elk Lodge instead of the American Leagion. I want more from the moral and ethical system of my universe.

Now, it is a game. That means that the GM is the deciding factor in the universal truths of the game universe. I'm not debating the existence of good and evil in the real world. Philosophers great and small have argued that for thousands of years without a definitive answer.

They can be real things in the game world. The question is, does that make for a good game? My answer is it depends on the game. If you have a bunch of 12 year olds, it might be a good start. For people in my age bracket it does not satisfy. I want more from the game world. I want a feel of verisimilitude in my game universe. Large plastic blocks not welcome.

Sascha
04-18-2011, 10:46 AM
Which is what I don't like about it. Under that system you have beings that willfully adhere to evil. Something everyone agrees is a bad thing, including those that practice it because it is a universal standard.
Sort of. It is the most common way I've seen it done, but that doesn't mean it's the only way. You can still keep an objective moral authority and not have turn into caricature - you just have to get rid of the alignment mechanics (ie. Spells and effects). It's the absolute proof of morality that does it, not the nature. Get rid of the proof, and the characters aren't aware of alignments.

(Functionally, it's the same thing as removing objective moral authority, itself, but conceptually it's different.)


I expect the Power Rangers to show up any minute now. The problem with this simplistic black hat/white hat universal view is I'm over 50, not 5. It doesn't work. The above point of view is tantamount to insanity. It goes way beyond the ends justify the means even. Those people consider themselves doing good. They are wrong, but they will defend their motivations to the last.
Equating maturity with ethical understanding is ... problematic, at best, in the real world. There are plenty of folks who believe in moral absolutes, and they're as rational as anyone else. (In that most are decent, reasonable folks, just like those with differing viewpoints.)


They can be real things in the game world. The question is, does that make for a good game? My answer is it depends on the game. If you have a bunch of 12 year olds, it might be a good start. For people in my age bracket it does not satisfy. I want more from the game world. I want a feel of verisimilitude in my game universe. Large plastic blocks not welcome.
Again, equating maturity with moral outlook probably isn't the best way to go about it; you'll get a range of outcomes, not just those that match your own. If we're allowing anecdotal evidence, I know folks in your age group that don't share your views. I know folks in mine and younger who do. It's less a function of age, and more a function of culture and subculture, some of which are tied to specific points in time. But not always.

Also, verisimilitude isn't only adherence to real world logic; it also means internal consistency within the fiction, and DnD's use of empirical morality follows from that. Not realistic at all, sure, but I doubt the game was ever supposed to be.

fmitchell
04-18-2011, 02:21 PM
"I'm going to do evil! I'll join the evil club, and advance the cause of evil throughout the land!"

There's something to be said for introducing Good and Evil into a game, even for making a sharp division between the two with associated game mechanics. However, Good and Evil aren't teams or sides, they're choices. Or rather, they are each an accumulation of choices that separate ordinary humans from heroes and villains. (Oddly enough, 4e got this sort of right in their revised alignment system, wherein the vast majority of living beings are Unaligned.)

To take an illustrative if slightly irksome example, consider the Force in Star Wars. Because great power requires great responsibility (yeah, wrong franchise, so sue me), users of the Force follow a selfless and ascetic creed. If a Jedi yields to selfish and self-gratifying impulses -- anger, pride, envy, any of the Seven Deadlies really -- he wanders ever closer to the Dark Side, where only his ambitions matter and his every action spreads misery and death. The Star Wars RPGs simulate this philosophy with Dark Side Points, "awarded" when a character violates the principles of the Jedi Knights.

Earlier editions of D&D restricted alignment to "Law" and "Chaos". While effectively synonymous with "good" and "evil", a DM could easily tweak their definitions to incorporate a more mature understanding of ethics. For example, in the Lamentations of the Flame Princess RPG "Lawful" creatures believe in a higher purpose and meaning in the universe, while "Chaotic" creatures perceive a cruel, uncaring, fundamentally random cosmos. (Notably, Magic Users and Elves must be Chaotic.) Moorcock's concept set up Balance as closest to absolute "good": too much Law led to sterility and stasis, too much Chaos turned the world into a literal hell.

Now, characters can pledge allegiance to Law or Chaos, Alliance or Empire, Gondor or Mordor, Chunky or Creamy, etc. That's largely independent of moral choices, although it's hard to be a humanitarian in the Empire, Mordor, or the League of Creamy. "Good" and "Evil", however, must be earned.

Malruhn
04-18-2011, 08:22 PM
i believe that there is an absolute standard of good which can apply equally to all regardless of race, culture, or belief. i don't really think it translates well into game mechanics.
I disagree with this idea with every fiber of my being.

Even in the USA, there are portions of religious society that believe that if you don't follow their idea of "Truth", you are committing unspeakable evil. There are those that believe that assassination is not only justifiable, it is a duty to follow the precepts of their version of the holy teachings.

When you start to go worldwide, there are folks that hold that all life is precious, and all must be protected at all costs. Others believe that you can forfeit that life by your own actions or inaction, or by edict of the courts. Others practice infanticide by killing subsequent newborns if the mother is nursing a baby (a nursing baby is a known quantity and there isn't enough for two). Others practice a ritualized female coming of age ritual of female circumcision - or mandating that FATHERS share the marital bed with their daughters on the wedding night before the husband gets to sleep with the bride.

There are such sliding scales of "right" and "wrong" and "good" and "evil" that it's truly amazing that we have made it to the point we have in society.

And I haven't even touched on the standard US political diatribe about how that "other" side is bad and doing evil things to society by promoting the platforms that propose... or the big religious arguments of the world. (I don't wanna tick off the Mods!!)

Sorry, nijineko, there is NO grand scale of right and wrong, and there never will be.

tesral
04-19-2011, 12:35 AM
Speaking of game worlds there can be. Why because the GM is ghodd. and ghodd decides. (BTW Malruhn that which about you mention is the difference between fact and truth. I'll take fact every time. Natural laws are the ones you cannot break.)

The GM creates the cosmos. Ergo the GM decides the fact of good and evil. I don't have an absolute. But I prefer a more ambiguous universe. Clerics and Paladin have a Truth, fact isn't part of the deal except for the fact that the god has laid down the truth. What is right and proper for one religion is not right and proper for the next. "Good" has little to do with it.

Such systems do not fair well under a universal objective standard of good and evil.

Dark
04-19-2011, 02:36 PM
In my Conan Campaign game I use the no alignment rule which I found one time and it has served me well.

The Hyborian Age is set within the Sword & Sorcery genre (a genre which, according to some scholars, was invented by Robert E. Howard). Although this genre certainly has its own set of clichés, it differs from high fantasy in that there is no delicate balance between good and evil, with fair and noble elves valiantly fighting against stupid, evil orcs. Rather, it is a grim world of cruel kings, barbarous fighters, beautiful women, and ambitious sorcerers and foul demons lurking in the shadows. Individuals within this world are defined by their motivation, culture and personal ambitions and ethics.

Alignment is never interpreted the same way by two people. Usually, even the Dungeon Master has trouble defining the behavior of the different alignments.

Having characters act according to their own motivation creates much more interesting plots and storylines than simply "I'm good, you're evil" plotlines.

nijineko
04-20-2011, 01:18 AM
I disagree with this idea with every fiber of my being.

Even in the USA, there are portions of religious society that believe that if you don't follow their idea of "Truth", you are committing unspeakable evil. There are those that believe that assassination is not only justifiable, it is a duty to follow the precepts of their version of the holy teachings.

When you start to go worldwide, there are folks that hold that all life is precious, and all must be protected at all costs. Others believe that you can forfeit that life by your own actions or inaction, or by edict of the courts. Others practice infanticide by killing subsequent newborns if the mother is nursing a baby (a nursing baby is a known quantity and there isn't enough for two). Others practice a ritualized female coming of age ritual of female circumcision - or mandating that FATHERS share the marital bed with their daughters on the wedding night before the husband gets to sleep with the bride.

There are such sliding scales of "right" and "wrong" and "good" and "evil" that it's truly amazing that we have made it to the point we have in society.

And I haven't even touched on the standard US political diatribe about how that "other" side is bad and doing evil things to society by promoting the platforms that propose... or the big religious arguments of the world. (I don't wanna tick off the Mods!!)

Sorry, nijineko, there is NO grand scale of right and wrong, and there never will be.

well now. i see your points. i do note however that none of your examples seem to be speaking of such a standard, but rather are examples of how people have come up with some set of rules and attempted to apply them without regard for what is "good".

but i still disagree. just because humans have proven themselves incapable of sticking to or believing in such a standard has absolutely no bearing on the existence and reality of said hypothetical standard. (i say hypothetical because i respect others right to not believe in what i believe to be true, to me it is not hypothetical - i have received evidences sufficient to convince me through many and varied personal life experiences in multiple countries.)

here is a quote of mine from another post:



well, it all depends on how you (the ultimate decision) define good. being that you have allowed it to slide so far will likely mean that desiring any change in the game parameter of "good" will result in the need for a discussion with the player previous to the change to work out any differences, and to give them a heads up so they can develop other tactics.

so. i will give you some thoughts on my take on good, and you are welcome to the bits you find useful and/or harmonious to your views. i have given a lot of thought as to what constitutes good, and what doesn't, because of my background and some of the things i have done and events that have transpired in my life. i have served as a minister and missionary, and had amicable discussions with folks from various backgrounds such as many different forms of christianity, buddism, shinto, wicca, daoist, islam, and more. what is good, was very much on the table for many of those discussions.

in my experience and learning, the definition of good consists basically of the ability to choose for one's self, growing that ability in self and others, and preserving that ability for self and others in all that we do. i believe that good means that life should be respected, and that we should avoid cutting it short, for we cannot replace a life we have taken or ended. i also believe that self-defense, only the minimal necessary, but even to the point of blood shed is also considered good. which makes for an interesting balance. in the case of charm, i think it wise to mention that i think that lying is not good. i think that i can skip further details for the point of this discussion, but i'm always open to further questions and discussions in another thread or in pm.


this results in the following definitions of good:

1) preserve the right to choose for all, self and others, in all choices we make.

2) respect life, avoid cutting it short for it cannot be replaced. there are some situations where ending a life does not violate good.

3) self defense, to the minimal necessary to succeed, but even up to the taking of a life, is permitted and is still considered good.

4) lying is not good.
so, as applies to your situation, i have several points:


does charm unavoidably take away their ability to choose?
if yes, then charm is not a good act in any circumstances.

if no, then there are some situations where using charm could be a good act.

how this is decided is up to you as the gm, but assuming that the former answer is no, then using charm in self defense to prevent enemies from attacking you is still a good act. in my opinion, since charm is defined such that charmed individuals will not do something they would not normally consider doing, that meets my 'not taking away will clause'... but in essence it is deceitful, as it convinces the person you are a friend - a form of lying... thus it could be justified in self-defense - depending on the roleplaying aspect - but not in other situations by a "good" character.

for example, if i was trying to be a "pure good" character by my definition, then i would feel compelled to let the opponent know that they have been charmed, but i am using it in self-defense. this would satisfy my need to avoid lying by implication or effect, but still use charm in a useful way.

it does not sound from your brief that your player is using charm in this "good" fashion.


are they respecting life?
in the case of your player, no, they are not. just because someone makes bad choices, does not mean that it is a good act to kill them, or allow them to be killed. besides, i'm pretty sure charm states within the definition that they will not die for someone or jump in front of danger, or put themselves in danger... (going from memory, not book). unless you have npcs who are, or can achieve, a state of pure evil or utter repudiation of good, then there will never be a situation where a good character can just kill something and it be considered "good".

(as a side note, even though d&d defines some races as "always y/z" alignment, i change those so that they match my beliefs that all sentient races/individuals get to choose for themselves. )

(side note #2: it just occurred to me that if this belief is taken to it's logical extreme, then the players would never take first initiative, in order to fulfill the self-defense clause. unless they could somehow ready an action so that when attacked they attack, thus using the interrupt mechanic to attack first... call it that they could sense the intention to attack or something. ^^)


are they defending themselves to the minimum necessary?
again, no. your player is using other living sentient beings as expendable, breakable objects.


are they lying?
in my opinion, your player is using charm in such a fashion.

(side note: if everyone is on board, it can be quite fun to figure out ways to accomplish typical d&d rpg objectives without lying in any way. )


in conclusion, by the four definitions of good i have given, your player is not acting in a good fashion by all four definitions. i think that they are acting more in the form of a cunning chaotic evil, maybe the edge of chaotic neutral with decidedly evil leanings. as it happens, i don't believe in neutrality as an alignment in d&d nor in life, but that's another discussion. i hope my thoughts are helpful, even if you do not happen to find yourself in agreement with some or all of them.

just a few thoughts, and only partly applies, but i hope they are useful.

Malruhn
04-20-2011, 10:35 PM
well now. i see your points. i do note however that none of your examples seem to be speaking of such a standard, but rather are examples of how people have come up with some set of rules and attempted to apply them without regard for what is "good".

but i still disagree. just because humans have proven themselves incapable of sticking to or believing in such a standard has absolutely no bearing on the existence and reality of said hypothetical standard. (i say hypothetical because i respect others right to not believe in what i believe to be true, to me it is not hypothetical - i have received evidences sufficient to convince me through many and varied personal life experiences in multiple countries.)
What do you think those examples were of, actually? They were snapshots of how various groups of people define "Good" or "Evil."

For the Yanomamo Indians of South America, it is GOOD to keep the existing nursing infant alive and to kill the newborn. For the Masai tribe in Africa, it is GOOD for the father to deflower the daughter on the wedding night. We, as Westerners see both of these practices as quite evil and wrong.

Who is right?

Well, to be honest, we BOTH are, because there is NO STANDARD and it all depends upon local viewpoints.

You may want and/or espouse a hypothetical standard's existence, but that doesn't make it true - much like my proposal that glittery unicorns live in the forests of Arizona but nobody has seen them. Just proposing a thing doesn't make it true. The idea that there is a "Universal" idea of what is right and wrong is just preposterous!

Well, actually, there are a LOT of cultures and groups that would maintain that there is a universal ideal - but every one of them has a different definition of what the parameters are.

Hey, in South Korea, families are big into genealogy, with huge tomes in their courthouses with family trees dating back hundreds of years, each numbered with a special number for that family. When Betty Lou gets married, her hubby's name is entered in her book, with a note that her "line" will continue in HIS family's book, with the book's unique number. In his family's book, her name is entered, followed by her family's book number - and then followed by all of their children.

If someone does something to disgrace the family, their name is physically erased from the family book - disowning them forever. No self-respecting person - or family - will allow a union between an "honorable" person (in a book) with a "dishonorable" person (who has no book)

Nice, eh?

BUT - with a male-dominated society, women are, at best, second-class citizens, and it is common for poorer farmers to sell their daughters to brothels to get money to send their sons to college. Being a prostitute is disgraceful - so any girls sold have their names erased. If you walk into any brothel in South Korea and bring up the topic of these books, the girls will wail and cry - and you will be kicked out. Their ONLY hope is to get a GI to marry them - or find someone else who has been similarly "erased".

And the general population thinks this is GOOD.

Care to come up with another hypothetical idea? Perhaps we compare notes on religion to see which one is "true" and all the others are "wrong"...

No, sir. I do not agree with you. (and thank you for accepting my diatribe as being directed at your argument and not at you!!) (and by the way - these debates are best done over a fermented malt beverage!!)

tesral
04-20-2011, 10:58 PM
Part of the problem is that the Judo/Christian idea of what is good/evil is so deeply ingrained into Western thought as to be insuperable. So it is typical for Western thinkers that have not exposed themselves to other philosophies to believe that this is the universal truth.

There are a few moral viewpoints that transcend culture and are indeed ur morals. The idea of the Golden Rule is found in all of the major Wisdom Traditions. The idea that killing is bad, for at least ones own tribe. The idfea that steraling is bad, again if among the right people. These are universal, but to what extent they are extended can vary greatly. How big is the circle of people? How large is the tribe?

But, none of that has anything to do with alignment, really. Alignment is an artificial system in a game. You can declare anything to be right and proper. Alignments can be anything as well. Big endian and little endian if you like. Have wars over it even. The construct of the game is an artificial one.

Now, how fine grained you want your construct is a matter of taste. I prefer my artificial societies to be in high definition as much as I can manage. Alignment to me is like slapping an EGA video card in the latest computer. Why oh why would you? It's crude, it's simple, it is very low resolution.

Sascha
04-21-2011, 08:24 AM
The Golden Rule: where only masochists are allowed to be sadists.

fmitchell
04-21-2011, 11:00 AM
"Judo/Christian"? Christians who practice an Asian form of self-defense using holds and throws?

tesral
04-21-2011, 11:01 AM
If you choose to be extreme. I look at the first corollary of the golden rule; your right to swing you arm ends short of someone else's nose.

It is of note however that this basic idea of behavioral equity is in all major religions. AISI as close to a universal moral imperative as exists.


:focus: That still has nothing to do with alignment.

The closest thing to alignment in real world terms I know of is the old idea of the four temperaments. In medieval times these were connected with the four elements. They don't explain your moral stance but rather your personality, or at least try to. Pop psychology keeps dredging them back out the trash heap of ideas. The problem is that people do not fit into boxes, no matter how you arrange them or how many you have.

Perfect example: I was asked to do a phone survey a few weeks back. Tim Horton's incidentally, they are not real good at disguising who they are. Now, the whole thing rotated around drinking and buying coffee. I don't drink coffee, ergo I don't buy it from anyone. The survey question were built assuming that everyone fit into a coffee drinking box. Not coffee, yes or no, but coffee, whose and how much. The poor woman kept stumbling over her script. I was all but laughing. Their sandwiches still suck.

IMHO Alignment is neither a plot driver or a crucial mechanic. It is an overly broad set of boxes based on the dual axis temperaments of the middle ages that the system demands you stuff your character into. Forry didn't go far enough, it only crippled the beast.

I say the above because I run a good game (Players coming back for more for decades.) in which there is no alignment.

Sascha
04-21-2011, 02:44 PM
Anecdotal evidence is anecdotal.

As far as universality of moral principles, you're leaving out the possibility of its existence and that we completely ignore it. Without an unambiguous declaration, there's no way to prove one way or the other; hence the debate for all of human history. (Though, there seems to be a lot more non-relative theories than relative. Somebody must think there are categorical moral truths out there.)

As to how it relates to alignment: it's game rules, and there's no consensus on the degree to which they're applied, alignment or otherwise. Doesn't make your game better because you use or don't use it, except in relation to the actual people at the table (metaphorically speaking, just like your game isn't necessarily better because you use or don't use social skill rules. Play style differences, and all.

rabkala
04-21-2011, 08:40 PM
Why do you bother debating these points? Just join my Judo/American free style wrestling christian movement, and I will let you rest your mind. It's not a cult, you can keep 10% of your own money! We will all ride glittery unicorns to the new promise land after the aliens decimate the earth. Want some Koolaid?

These are not the droids you are looking for... have a beer!

No, no point that i remember any more. :decision::panda:

nijineko
04-22-2011, 11:32 AM
....

No, sir. I do not agree with you. (and thank you for accepting my diatribe as being directed at your argument and not at you!!) (and by the way - these debates are best done over a fermented malt beverage!!)

heh, i'd have to make mine orange juice or a&w, but yeah, i agree that a friendly discussion over a pint of choice is definitely better.

well, i see your points here, but it still seems to me that those points are limited to a sub-group of humans and what they think as good. just because any given group: culture, religion, philosophy, whatever; thinks that something is good does not mean that they are right. (my own beliefs included, btw.) i believe that there does exist, on the order of a natural law a law of good and a law of evil, same as gravity, quantum, light, etc (yes, i'm proposing good as a universal law). whatever this law is, applies equally to all, regardless of what they think it is.

so, in effect, i'm not even really disagreeing with your points; you make good points, thought out.

and i don't really have anything i can offer as concrete proof either. all my experiences were and are (so far) subjective in nature, and thus do not lend themselves to current methods of scientific analysis, despite being potent enough and numerous enough to convince me personally.


whoops, yes, i apologize for participating in tread derail.

as far as making this somewhat topic related: i carry my beliefs into game as a dm and as a player about half the time, depending on the type of character. so for me this is topic relevant. but it has contributed to derailing, so i apologize again. *^^*

Malruhn
04-26-2011, 01:10 PM
Actually, I'll disagree with you again... I think stupid debates like this are completely in line with threads like this. If we can't decide on the definition of good/evil here on teh interwebs, then we'll have problems sitting around a table with lots of papers and Mountain Dew (and don't forget the Doritos!!).

My argument against a universal law of good/evil is based upon the subjectivity - just like the definition of, "How high is 'UP'," the answers depend upon your point of view and background. Morality is totally subjective, and comes down to, "I believe this way because... I do," and this is why I disagree with your supposition so strongly. It comes down to our FAITH in what we feel is "right" or "not right."

These arguments are as silly as religious debates, as they also come down to nothing more than a belief that "my" side is "right" and yours "isn't"... and can't be proven by science.

I may have to look you up if I ever end up near Oceanside. This may need a couple of six-packs of A&W!!

Sascha
04-26-2011, 02:44 PM
These arguments are as silly as religious debates, as they also come down to nothing more than a belief that "my" side is "right" and yours "isn't"... and can't be proven by science.
Yep. But that's only a problem if you consider scientific fact to be the only fact out there. Moral facts don't operate in the same realm, so you can't use the same methods for determining them. If they exist, that is; but that's a metaethics question :P

With regards to alignment, the game already provides the metaethics answer: moral truth exists and it's objective. Whether it's something an individual group wants is the subjective question; it's anecdotal how one group does things over another, if you're not part of said group. (Relativist ethics games operate more like Burning * with its BITs, or Fate and its Aspects, and others I'm forgetting.)

Which really makes the answer to the topic question "Yes." Also "No." And the values between.

tesral
04-26-2011, 07:58 PM
As much as I believe in moral behavior I have to count "moral fact" as an oxymoron. Facts are measurable, repeatable, and demonstrable; each and every time. If I drop a d6 from my hand it will fall, every time. I can measure the speed of that drop. I can demonstrate that drop. "A d6 when dropped from my hand will fall" is a fact. I can think of not a single moral stance including "Thou shall not kill" in which the general statement cannot be debated, and debated with merit. That is not a fact.

And trying to pull this thing back on topic:

Lets take the issue one question at a time. The Theory is: Alignment is a critical mechanic.

No. Empirical data (mine) proves that you can have a successful D&D game without alignment. Other DMs have echoed this. Therefor alignment is not a critical machanic. You might wish to use alignment, but it is not critical. The game will go on if alignment is not there.

I seriously question if the best use of alignment is even as a mechanic. As a concept, as a moral compass (Abet a large colorful and inaccurate one) even as a set of pigpenholes for NPC behavior, I can see and will admit, that alignment can find a limited utility.

I do not believe that alignment has any place as a game mechanic. The worst uses and abuses of the concept have come when it has been used in that fashion. It is like saying the best use of a copy editing program is for censorship. Use alignment if you choose but get it out of the game mechanics.

nijineko
04-26-2011, 10:26 PM
i am enjoying the debate, but i must agree with tesral about the invalidity of alignment as a mechanic. it is not critical; at best, it is optional.

i'm tempted to add some debate related stuff. in any case, i'll take you up on multiple six packs of a&w for certain. =D can we add in some ice cream?

Malruhn
04-29-2011, 10:46 PM
Tesral, you might have empirical evidence, but as it is only ONE campaign, that makes you statistically moot - a mere anecdote, lost in the wilderness.

If you don't mind, let me offer MY anecdote as well - and TOGETHER - we are two data points. If we can get several others, we might be able to call ourselves DATA, and then we will actually be empirical evidence.

And, yeah, like I said before - it's a plot device and nothing more.

Oh, and ice cream is ALWAYS nice!!

tesral
04-29-2011, 11:07 PM
I don't even think it can be called a plot device. I have yet to see a plot based around alignment that didn't have the depth of a mud puddle.

As to data, this is a case of disproving. In which case a single data point is sufficient. If one can do without it, then it is not critical. If it was truly critical it could not be done without. It can be done without, theory disproved.

Monkiesthrowingpoop
06-28-2011, 05:12 AM
I disagree with this idea with every fiber of my being.

When you start to go worldwide, there are folks that hold that all life is precious, and all must be protected at all costs. Others believe that you can forfeit that life by your own actions or inaction, or by edict of the courts. Others practice infanticide by killing subsequent newborns if the mother is nursing a baby (a nursing baby is a known quantity and there isn't enough for two). Others practice a ritualized female coming of age ritual of female circumcision - or mandating that FATHERS share the marital bed with their daughters on the wedding night before the husband gets to sleep with the bride.



Still others round up whole races of people and subjugate them in concentration camps that later become death camps as mass genocide is committed against them. And although events like these find a way to permeate every fibre of your being you are somehow comfortable non chalantly refferencing them in regards to a post by a complete stranger on a role playing forum as referenced here:
http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/showthread.php/19745-Game-group-application-quiz

fmitchell
06-28-2011, 06:47 AM
Bringing a disagreement from one thread to another (dormant!) thread is definitely Bad Form.

Invoking Godwin's Law AND citing a post wholly out of context is Extremely Bad Form.

If you have a problem with another poster's comments, handle it on that thread ... or better yet, move away from the computer, indulge in the beverage of your choice, walk outside for a bit, and get a good night's sleep.

Please stop flinging poop, Monkiesthrowingpoop.

tesral
06-28-2011, 08:51 AM
Looking at the post thus far posted I think we might have a troll. Just saying.

fmitchell
06-28-2011, 08:58 AM
Looking at the post thus far posted I think we might have a troll. Just saying.

Nope, just a new user reacting badly to others' bad behavior. We're taking care of it.

tesral
06-28-2011, 09:11 AM
Then I bow out and let you.

Dark
06-28-2011, 12:25 PM
:deadhorse:

CountChocula
07-03-2011, 05:13 PM
How do other DMs deal with a new campaign when one player wants to be a Paladin and another wants to be an Assassin?

nijineko
07-04-2011, 12:12 AM
pray...

tesral
07-04-2011, 12:59 AM
Well when you don't have alignment it is easy. Assassins don't have "assassin" tattooed on their foreheads.

nijineko
07-04-2011, 11:35 AM
neither do paladins, for that matter. ^^

Malruhn
07-04-2011, 10:19 PM
Nin, you're saying that paladins don't have, "Assassin" tattooed on their forehead?? Okay, I got it...

(/chiding tone)

(insert totally childish giggle here)

tesral
07-04-2011, 10:27 PM
Depends on who was at the frat party.

magic-rhyme
07-11-2011, 03:29 PM
With regards to alignment, the game already provides the metaethics answer: moral truth exists and it's objective. Whether it's something an individual group wants is the subjective question

This is one of the most accurate, reasonable, respectable responses I have yet to read to the alignment question (which seems to pop up repeatedly in damn near every gaming forum I have been to!).

So I think the REAL question is either "Is alignment important in a campaign which does not have moral truth as an objective factor?" or "Must a fantasy campaign treat moral truth as an objective factor?"

tesral
07-11-2011, 04:15 PM
So I think the REAL question is either "Is alignment important in a campaign which does not have moral truth as an objective factor?" or "Must a fantasy campaign treat moral truth as an objective factor?"

No and no.

Alignment is unimportant if there is no absolute moral truth (AMT) Without the AMT alignment is like tits on a chicken. Even with the AMT I feel alignment is a poor method to model one's place on the moral compass.

Fantasy low or high does not require an AMT. I prefer the gritter feel of a world that does not have an AMT. The characters feel more like real people in the various situations, not cardboard cutouts with their lines and actions preordaned by their polace within the AMT.

fmitchell
07-11-2011, 10:29 PM
Even with the AMT I feel alignment is a poor method to model one's place on the moral compass.

Fair enough, but as I cited in the anti-thread (http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/showthread.php/19219-Alignment-Threat-or-Menace-(The-Alternatives-Thread)?p=159984#post159984), LotFP:WFRP Grindhouse uses alignment to denote what cosmic powers have their hooks in a character.
Chaos-aligned characters, including all Elves and Magic-Users, perceive the vast, unpredictable, and inhuman forces that threaten the small island of stability we call reality. Those who work magic allow those forces purchase in our world.
Lawful creatures, including all Clerics, at least believe they follow a Higher Power that guides all things to a veiled but inescapable destiny.
Neutral creatures have no real connection to either side. "Unaligned" might be a better term.

The author freely admits that alignments exist mainly to define traditional spells like "Detect Evil" and "Protection from Evil".

Malruhn
07-12-2011, 09:24 PM
I once DM'ed a LG half-orc PC (okay, he was half-uruk hai, but let's not quibble!) who was a devout follower of the LE Orcish deity of battle (Ilneval). When I asked him about the alignment mismatch, he just looked at me and said, "I fully believe in the Orcish domination of the world, but I believe that humanity can be won over better by honey instead of sting. While the shamans and the rest of Orcish-kind do their thing, I'm going to do this by working through the system and doing GOOD in Ilneval's name!"

His actions sparked my first rethinking of alignment, deities and orcs. It was then that I realized that alignment is a squishy concept - and variations can be done by followers of the various deities all in the belief that they are "serving" that deity. This squishiness allows for followers to be pacifists or bloodthirsty warriors - and all of them claiming to follow the same deity.

After playing with a bunch of theories and gaming house-rules for over 20 years since then, I have stolen an idea from Tesral (thanks!!) about detectable alignments only being found on those people/objects from the outer/lower planes (or those minions that have officially "sold their souls" or are "sainted". Tim the Uber-Evil tax collector won't detect as anything... unless your new Detect Anal Sphincter spell is working...

The only reason I cling to alignment is to drive a plot, to make planning decisions for the campaign.

tesral
07-12-2011, 10:11 PM
After playing with a bunch of theories and gaming house-rules for over 20 years since then, I have stolen an idea from Tesral (thanks!!) about detectable alignments only being found on those people/objects from the outer/lower planes (or those minions that have officially "sold their souls" or are "sainted". Tim the Uber-Evil tax collector won't detect as anything... unless your new Detect Anal Sphincter spell is working...

I'll have to write that one up. You'll know you have one when they fart, dogs howl.

magic-rhyme
07-20-2011, 05:43 PM
So I think the REAL question is either "Is alignment important in a campaign which does not have moral truth as an objective factor?" or "Must a fantasy campaign treat moral truth as an objective factor?"


No and no.

I have found that players seem most to enjoy the variety of having both campaigns with discernible moral truth as an objective factor (something like Narnia or LOTR, for obvious examples) and campaigns with no such absolutes (something like Conan or Fafnrd & The Grey Mouser, for further obvious examples). We also have the occasional campaign in which the PCs know there are absolute moral truths as objective factors BUT have no certainty about what those truths might be and, thus, their discovery of those truths is one part of the fun of the campaign for them.

---------- Post added at 05:43 PM ---------- Previous post was at 05:38 PM ----------


I have stolen an idea from Tesral (thanks!!) about detectable alignments only being found on those people/objects from the outer/lower planes (or those minions that have officially "sold their souls" or are "sainted". Tim the Uber-Evil tax collector won't detect as anything... unless your new Detect Anal Sphincter spell is working...

I agree -- and it fits the source material fairly well. Even in Tolkien's world, with the clear evil of Sauron and the virtue of the elves, the majority of people are what AD&D would classify as Neutral. Lewis was far more overt about the morality of his Narnia series, but I seem to recall his suggesting in The Horse and His Boy that most people are perfectly fine being (to use AD&D terms) a sort of goodish Neutral, and only threats from True Evil force people to sort themselves into Good and Evil.

tesral
07-21-2011, 08:32 AM
I have found that players seem most to enjoy the variety of having both campaigns with discernible moral truth as an objective factor (something like Narnia or LOTR, for obvious examples) and campaigns with no such absolutes (something like Conan or Fafnrd & The Grey Mouser, for further obvious examples). We also have the occasional campaign in which the PCs know there are absolute moral truths as objective factors BUT have no certainty about what those truths might be and, thus, their discovery of those truths is one part of the fun of the campaign for them.[COLOR="Silver"].

Just because AMT is not a necessary part of Fantasy does not mean it cannot be used. It just means it is not necessary to have a good Fantasy. Wizards are also optional parts. Optional parts can be used or not.

nijineko
07-26-2011, 12:48 AM
i have found in my own personal experiences that real life does have an "amt". i tend to take it into games, though i likewise tend to be non-pushy about it. in conjunction with that fantasy does not have to address the existence, or lack thereof, of morality or ethics to be an enjoyable read, or fun game.