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Thread: Character Alignment

  1. #1
    Ed Zachary Guest
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    Character Alignment

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    As DM, which alignments to you allow (and disallow) from your campaigns?

    As a DM, I do not disallow any. But if a persons is going to play a character who is a monster, there will be a price to play. Not even the most corrupt Thieves Guild wants to be associated with a mass murderer.

    As a player, what are your favorite alignments?

    As a player, I prefer the three chaotic alignments and the three evil alignments. My chaotic characters do not revel in chaos or anarchy, they simply do not like to be told what to do by the oppressive powers to be. As adventurers, restrictive laws usually get in their way.

    Similarly, my evil characters are not very evil, and they are not monsters. They are evil because they put their self interest above the common good. What is wrong with that?

  2. #2
    Ed Zachary Guest
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    The following is how I had expected my players to view the nine alignments. I asked them to rate their characters on a scale of +/-10 for both civility and morality.

    Character Alignment

    Characters may be morally good, neutral or evil, and civilly lawful, neutral or chaotic. A character’s Alignment (Morality and Civility) should be geared toward existing in human society, where goodness and rule of law are preferred by not required. Some characters will join a Militia, Guild or Temple, and that organization will help guide Alignment and regulate behavior. Each human society will differ somewhat, and non-humans more so. Humanoids will not radiate good or evil, only creatures from the Outer (Astral) Planes, or magical effects tied to those planes.

    A creature’s general moral and civility are represented by its alignment. Alignment is a tool for developing your character’s identity. It is not a straitjacket for restricting your character. Each alignment represents a broad range of personality types or personal philosophies, so two characters of the same alignment can still be quite different from each other. In addition, few people are completely consistent within their alignment.

    Nine distinct alignments define all the possible combinations of the lawful–neutral-chaotic axis with the good–neutral-evil axis. Each alignment description below depicts a typical character of that alignment. Remember that individuals vary from this norm, and that a given character may act more or less in accord with his or her alignment from day to day. Use these descriptions as guidelines, not as scripts. The good alignments are for Heroes, the neutral alignments are for Adventurers, and the evil alignments are for Villains.

    Morality (Good vs Evil)

    Morality: is the measure [range: +10 (good) to –10 (evil)] of value placed on Society (City, Nation, Race, Religion or Guild) as a whole, versus the value placed on the individual (yourself). A positive Morality means that you value the greater good over your own personal gain. A negative Morality means that you value your own personal gain over the greater good.

    Good: Those that are Good rate from +10 to +4 on the morality scale. A purely good creature would never kill (injure or harm) another creature unless for a very good reason, or allow others to do so. They have concern for the dignity of sentient beings, and make personal sacrifices to help others. A creature can have some tolerance for what falls short of what is pure good, they can still be good.

    Neutral: Those that are Neutral rate from +3 to -3 on the morality scale. There is no such thing as pure neutrality, unless they never interact with another sentient being. A neutral creature will kill for certain reasons, but there must be a reason no matter how minor. They do not kill just for the sake of killing, or derive pleasure form it. They are not judgmental on the actions of others, as long as they see that there is a valid reason for the killing. Often they lack the commitment to make sacrifices to protect or help others.

    Evil: Those that are Evil rate from -4 to -10 on the morality scale. A purely evil creature would not think twice about killing another creature for any reason, and is completely indifferent toward or are glad to see others kill. They have no concern for the dignity of sentient beings, and will never make a personal sacrifice to help others. Even though a creature may have some intolerance for what is pure evil, they can still be evil.

    Civility (Lawful vs Chaotic)

    Civility: is the measure [range: +10 (lawful) to –10 (chaotic)] of value placed on law and order as dictated by whatever authority exists, versus a less structured system based on loose guidelines rather than laws. A positive Civility means that the individual values structured law and order. A negative Civility means that the individual values personal freedom within a set of loose guidelines.

    Lawful: Those that are Lawful rate from +10 to +4 on the civility scale. A purely good creature would never break a rule unless for a very good reason, or allow others to do so. They have concern for the rule of law of the societies of which they are part, and make personal sacrifices to do so. A creature can have some tolerance for what falls short of what is pure lawfulness, they can still be lawful.

    Neutral: Those that are Neutral rate from +3 to –3 on the civility scale. There is no such thing as pure neutrality, unless they never interact with another sentient being. A neutral creature will follow laws for certain reasons, but there must be a benefit no matter how minor. They do not follow or break a rule or law for the sake of it, they weigh carefully the chance of getting caught versus the risk and reward. Often they lack the commitment to make sacrifices to fit in with society.

    Chaotic: Those that are Chaotic rate from -4 to –10 on the civility scale. A purely chaotic creature would never make an effort to a rule, and are completely indifferent toward others that do so. They have no concern for the rule of law of the societies of which they are part, and make personal sacrifices to do so. Even though a creature may follow some laws, they can still be chaotic, as there is no law against following a law.

  3. #3
    Ed Zachary Guest
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    Nine Alignments

    Lawful-Good: Crusaders (heroes) want society (city, temple, guild or militia) to thrive and prosper, and their interests are secondary. They follow the established rules, there is no room for individual interpretation or selfishness. Crusaders combine a commitment to oppose evil with the discipline to fight it relentlessly. They tell the truth, keep their word, help those in need, speak out against injustice, and hate to see the guilty go unpunished. An example would be a Police Officer who defends the public good per the law regardless of his personal feelings, because in the end the collective will is better than their will.

    Neutral-Good: Benefactors (heroes) want society (city, temple, guild or militia) to thrive and prosper, and their interests are secondary as long as the collective good is maintained. They allow for a balance between following the established rules and following their hearts to do what is right, there is no room for selfishness. Benefactors do the best that a good person can do. They are devoted to helping others. They work with kings and magistrates, but do not feel beholden to them. An example would be King Solomon, who tempered the law with common sense.

    Chaotic-Good: Rebels (heroes) want society (city, temple, guild or militia) to thrive and prosper, and their interests are secondary as long as those organizations don’t oppress others. They follow their heart and do what is right, there is no room for dictatorial law or selfishness. Rebels act as their conscience directs them with little regard for what others expect of them. They make their own way, but are kind and benevolent. They believe in goodness and right but have little use for laws and regulations. They hate it when people try to intimidate others and tell them what to do. They follow their own moral compass, which, although good, may not agree with that of society. An example would be a vigilante gang (Robin Hood) that works to help the common good regardless of the rules.

    Lawful-Neutral: Judges (adventurers) are interested in the betterment of society, but will not hesitate to sell out for their own interests as long as they act within the law. They insist that everyone must follow the established rules regardless if right or wrong, there is no room for individual interpretation. Judges follow the law, respect tradition, and act as their personal code directs them. Order and organization are paramount to them. They may believe in personal order and live by a code or standard, or they may believe in order for all and favor a strong, organized government. An example would be a guard who follows his orders without judging whether they are the right thing to do or not.

    Neutral-Neutral: The Uncommitted and Undecided (adventurers) are interested in the betterment of society, but will not hesitate to sell it out for their own interests if the reward was great enough. They allow for a balance between following the established rules whomever they benefit and doing whatever seems right at the moment for themselves without major consequences. The Uncommitted and Undecided are the most difficult to categorize. The Uncommitted are Neutral by choice. They see existence as a conflict between Good and Evil, and Law and Chaos, and they strive to maintain a balance. They are as committed to their beliefs as those of any other alignment. While generally misunderstood, they are seldom hated by others as they do not represent an extreme. The Undecided are Neutral by default. They acknowledge the conflict between Good and Evil, and Law and Chaos, but this battle is unimportant and likely had not hit home, so they go on with their lives. It does not matter whether or not they are under the rule of another or not, and if that ruler is good or evil. What matters is that they thrive and survive under the present situation. An example would be a career politician who balances his interests with those of society, and follows most rules as long as there is gain without significant risk.

    Chaotic-Neutral: Free Spirits (adventurers) are only marginally interested in the betterment of society, and will not hesitate to sell out the majority for their own interests. They follow their own interests as long as there are no major consequences, and established laws are only a suggestion. Free Spirits follow their whims, as they are individualists first and last. They value their own liberty but don’t strive to protect others’ freedom. They avoid authority, resent restrictions, and challenge traditions. They do not intentionally disrupt organizations as part of a campaign of anarchy. To do so, they would have to be motivated either by good (and a desire to liberate others) or evil (and a desire to make those different from himself suffer). They may be unpredictable to some, but their behavior is not random. An example would be an opportunist who is looking to do what is the best for himself without causing major problems for others.

    Lawful-Evil: Dominators (villains) want what is best for themselves to thrive and prosper, and the greater interests of society are secondary. They follow the established rules because they benefit themselves, and there is no room for individual interpretation or reason for selflessness. Dominators methodically take what they want within the limits of their code of conduct without regard for whom it hurts. They care about tradition, loyalty, and order, but not about freedom, dignity, or life. They play by the rules, but without mercy or compassion. They are comfortable in a hierarchy and would like to rule, but are willing to serve if it suits their purpose. They condemn others not according to their actions but according to race, religion, homeland, or social rank. They are loath to break laws or promises. This reluctance comes partly from his nature and partly because he depends on order to protect themselves from those who oppose them on moral grounds. Some villains have particular taboos, such as not killing in cold blood (but having underlings do it) or not letting children come to harm (if it can be helped). They imagine that these compunctions put them above unprincipled villains. An example would be a lawyer who manipulates the law to his benefit, or a dictator that makes his own laws for his own whims.

    Neutral-Evil: Malefactors (villains) want what is best for yourself to thrive and prosper, and the greater interests of society are secondary. They allow for a balance between following the established rules that benefit them and doing whatever you want, and there is no reason for selflessness. Malefactors do whatever they can get away with. They are out for themselves, pure and simple. They shed no tears for those they killed, whether for profit, sport, or convenience. They have no love of order and hold no illusion that following laws, traditions, or codes would make her any better or more noble. On the other hand, they don’t have the restless nature or love of conflict that a Destroyer has. An example would be a mafia boss who makes his own rules that are often open for interpretation, but pays lip service to established rules and bends them as needed.

    Chaotic-Evil: Destroyers (villains) want what is best for yourself to thrive and prosper, and the greater interests of society are secondary. They do whatever the heck they want, and there is no room for dictatorial law or reason for selflessness. Destroyers do whatever their greed, hatred, and lust for destruction drive them to do. If hot-tempered or insane, they are vicious, arbitrarily violent and unpredictable. Unfortunately the sane ones are more dangerous. Thankfully, their plans are often haphazard, and any groups they join or form are poorly organized. Typically, chaotic evil people can be made to work together only by force, and their leader lasts only as long as he can thwart attempts to topple or assassinate him. An example would be a criminal who ignores the law to benefit himself regardless of the consequences, but behaves enough not to get caught.

  4. #4
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    I've never allowed (or offered, for that matter) evils in my campaigns. None of my players have ever had any interest (that I know of) in playing an evil. We have had monstrous characters, sure, but they were always "unique" to their species' norm and had to be played that way (usually with very interesting & DM-unexpected story arc developments).

    I/we aren't necessarily "against" evil characters, just holds no interest for us. I'm a sports coach, and I guess I bring to my games a sense of "team" (cooperation, complimentary skill sets, blah blah blah) working against the "bad guys" to make our (& by extension everyone else's) lives easier/better. We had a discussion about this some months ago and the group sense was that it seemed what Mr. Gygax had in mind in the original game design? - I suppose we're a little old-fashioned then, huh.
    Note: I've also taght the game to interested teen athletes here and there, and obviously, I keep the "team" and "good-guy" concept forefront there.

    Nothing against you evil character folks, just my two pennies (since Ed asked ).

    Long story short, our groups tend to be a mix of races, usually of good alignment (occasional Neutral - Druid or Rogue).
    " 'He looks at me as if he's Sensing Motive'? What the hell is THAT supposed to mean!?"
    -our party rogue, clarifying a DM comment
    -------------------------------------------------------
    Famous (Rogue) Last Words: "Relax, i've done this a million times..."

  5. #5
    Ed Zachary Guest
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    Quote Originally Posted by QumullusTheNimblest View Post
    I/we aren't necessarily "against" evil characters, just holds no interest for us. I'm a sports coach, and I guess I bring to my games a sense of "team" (cooperation, complimentary skill sets, blah blah blah) working against the "bad guys" to make our (& by extension everyone else's) lives easier/better. We had a discussion about this some months ago and the group sense was that it seemed what Mr. Gygax had in mind in the original game design?
    That's the way our game started. For the first two years we only had good and neutral characters. Then we started some evil characters. They began as true monsters, but eventually evolved for the better to self centered, power hungry, and greedy SOBs. Still, they were no longer monsters, and could reside in a city without (getting caught) killing and stealing. One cardinal rule that we strictly enforce in our game... "Thou shalt not kill another player's character." Here is an exerpt from one of my character's description:

    Being the egotistical prick I am, I like to be seen in public, especially as a hero or leader. I seldom use invisibility or disguise, because my ego does not permit a low profile. But I am not stupid, I know when to stand out, how to stand out, and when not to. While adventuring I like to take point, because I am better than anyone else. And I want to see what is there first. I view myself as a noble warrior and my magic is used to enhance my abilities. But I am a spell caster, not a fighter. I will bravely lead an attack on an inferior foe, but will quickly fall back if necessary. I am not a caster of fireballs or other spells that draw attention. I have the deepest respect for and loyalty to my associates and want them to be as prosperous as possible, but I am better than they are and deserve more of the spoils of victory. For that reason, certain treasures found are secretly taken as compensation. I have risked my life many times for them, and have used my resources and influence to help and hinder them in covert ways.

  6. #6
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    Alignments are something in D&D that I just can't stand. The vast assumptions made about people in the alignment system irk me to no end.

    On the other hand, I do appreciate your effort to make the alignment more literary, story-based, in nature, but even so, the words "good" and "evil" are so value laden that they simply cannot be used without digging into those values and trying to parse out what they mean in context.

    (I have to grill pork chops now, so I don't really have time right to go into the matter extensively. My apologies.)

  7. #7
    Ed Zachary Guest
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhishStyx View Post
    I have to grill pork chops now, so I don't really have time right to go into the matter extensively. My apologies.
    Well, I know a "good" pork chop when I eat it... tender, tasty, not too much fat.

    Now if you cook ten pork chops, all ten will not be equally good. Even the best one may have a bad spot on it, while the worst of the bunch may have a couple of choice parts to it. To grade each pork chop, you take an overall average of its deliciousness.

    OK, now I'm hungry!

    Distance to Pork Chops: ~ 512 miles
    Last edited by Ed Zachary; 03-25-2007 at 05:33 PM.

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    I'll be honest. I'm not a big fan of alignments. Its not a criticism against people who use them. They are simply not to my taste.

    My biggest problem with the alignment system is actually not with the almost comically over-simplified alignments themselves. Its with the spells that follow from it -- detect evil, protection from evil, etc.

    The fact that a manipulative lawyer or a clergy who has turned from his faith because of temptation somehow "smells" of evil greatly irks me. The fact that one class can sense this evil at will at first level only adds to the irk. I don't want the PCs to be sure who is really evil. The only solution is to give every villian I want to hide some alignment concealing magic item or spell and that quickly gets tedious and frustrating.

    Generally, I ditch alignments. If I keep them, I completely detooth them mechanically. How then will you know who is good and who is evil? By their works ye shall know them.

    Gary

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    [quote=Ed Zachary;3187]Not even the most corrupt Thieves Guild wants to be associated with a mass murderer.
    quote]

    Why does everyone feel that an evil character needs to be a sociopath. If that's what you expect then you should include insanities in the character description. Charles Manson & Jeffry Dommer PC's don't lend themselves to an evening of enjoyment with your friends, unless you plan on having them for dinner!

    When ever I play an evil character, I usually try to mold them in a way that doesn't destroy the campaign; I have a 1st edition elven mage with evil tendancies, let's just say he's a racist. In his opinion humans and dwarves are nature's scourge; he enjoys throwing the wrench in their mechinations, not beating them over the head with it. In my opinion subtlety is more challenging to play anyways, think Lucky Luciono or Meyer Lanski, and forget Al Capone!

  10. #10
    Ed Zachary Guest
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    Quote Originally Posted by gdmcbride View Post
    My biggest problem with the alignment system is actually not with the almost comically over-simplified alignments themselves. Its with the spells that follow from it -- detect evil, protection from evil, etc.
    I agree with you on that. In the games I've played, Detect and Protection only work against creatures from the Lower Planes, Undead, Priests with Evil or Death Domains, and Evil Artifacts.

    Quote Originally Posted by gdmcbride View Post
    By their works ye shall know them.
    Very good point. But most players I've known choose an alignment for their character, take pride in it, and work to maintain it. But I agree with you regarding the spells.

  11. #11
    Ed Zachary Guest
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    Not even the most corrupt Thieves Guild wants to be associated with a mass murderer.

    [quote=CAD;3210] Why does everyone feel that an evil character needs to be a sociopath. If that's what you expect then you should include insanities in the character description. Charles Manson & Jeffry Dommer PC's don't lend themselves to an evening of enjoyment with your friends, unless you plan on having them for dinner![quote]

    That was exactly my point, that evil characters were very playable in a campaign that stressed community interaction. I have told my players, that if they wanted to play a monster, it will be avoided by other players and very likely be hunted down and destroyed.

    Quote Originally Posted by CAD View Post
    When ever I play an evil character, I usually try to mold them in a way that doesn't destroy the campaign; I have a 1st edition elven mage with evil tendancies, let's just say he's a racist. In his opinion humans and dwarves are nature's scourge; he enjoys throwing the wrench in their mechinations, not beating them over the head with it. In my opinion subtlety is more challenging to play anyways, think Lucky Luciono or Meyer Lanski, and forget Al Capone!
    Well stated. I can not imagine that character not fitting into any campaign with mostly all good or neutral character.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by gdmcbride View Post
    The fact that a manipulative lawyer or a clergy who has turned from his faith because of temptation somehow "smells" of evil greatly irks me.
    Plus, if a person who considers himself good does evil things, does he start stinking of Evil? What of the overzealous inquisitor who tortures and kills for the greater glory of his god? What of the paladin who exterminates everything with even a whiff, a tiny seed of evil? What of the megalomaniac who would conquer the world to deliver it from ignorance, poverty, and war?

    An interviewer once asked Willam Dafoe whether he preferred playing "good guys" or "bad guys". His response? "Ain't no difference. Everybody thinks he's righteous."
    "On two occasions I have been asked [by members of Parliament], 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question."
    - Charles Babbage (1791 - 1871)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Zachary View Post
    I agree with you on that. In the games I've played, Detect and Protection only work against creatures from the Lower Planes, Undead, Priests with Evil or Death Domains, and Evil Artifacts.

    Very good point. But most players I've known choose an alignment for their character, take pride in it, and work to maintain it. But I agree with you regarding the spells.
    I'm with you on that house rule, 100%. Instead of making alignment the key instead its your connection to Evil (with a capital E). If you have made a pact with dark powers and allowed a demon to fuse itself with your soul in order to gain Unlimited Power[tm], then you detect evil. If you are a greedy rapacious street thief in the capital city who would sell their mother for a plug nickle, you are undoubtably evil, but you don't detect it.

    I take your point about alignments. In my mind, alignment is kind of like role-playing training wheels and I mean that without any perjorative connotation. It gives your character a simple, clear cut focus. "I'm chaotic good ... you know, like Han Solo." Even a twelve year old player can wrap their mind around that. It makes their character not just an elven thief but a cocksure, scoundrel-with-a-heart-of-gold elven thief.

    D&D alignment has precious little connection to real issues of morality and ethics. Good and evil are tangible, detectable, absolute quantities in the realms of high fantasy. Good does not depend on your point of view. Good depends on whether your actions are in line with the Powers of Good, the absolute, immortal, unquestionable, perfect source of Elemental Good (as defined by your friendly neighborhood DM).

    That good and evil are easy to tell apart, moreso than magic, elves and dragons, is perhaps D&D's central fantasy. In a world all too often drowning in nuanced grey, it is common enough to crave the Light.

    Gary

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    Quote Originally Posted by fmitchell View Post
    Plus, if a person who considers himself good does evil things, does he start stinking of Evil? What of the overzealous inquisitor who tortures and kills for the greater glory of his god? What of the paladin who exterminates everything with even a whiff, a tiny seed of evil? What of the megalomaniac who would conquer the world to deliver it from ignorance, poverty, and war?

    An interviewer once asked Willam Dafoe whether he preferred playing "good guys" or "bad guys". His response? "Ain't no difference. Everybody thinks he's righteous."
    There's no arguing with Mr. Dafoe. "I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord." -- Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf.

    However, the moral issues you pose are real world moral issues. In D&D, the paladin or conqueror will immediately know if their actions are right, if they only care to find out. They can summon an angel and ask. Even if they blunder ahead without consulting the powers that be, once they do the action they will either retain their paladin abilities or they will lose them. Either way, moral uncertainity is vanquished.

    You can play morally uncertain D&D, no doubt, but it does require some house rules.

    Gary

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    You can play morally uncertain D&D, no doubt, but it does require some house rules.
    Yeah, it's just too simplistic for my taste.

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