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Thread: Alignment: Threat or Menace (The Alternatives Thread)

  1. #16
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    Well, what are the odds that after being ostracized for being Satanic, D&D saw a need to establish its ability to observe what's commonly thought of as "good?" That's a marketing, out-of-game reason to include Good-aligned game elements.

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    AD&D and the Good-Evil axis pre-dates the Satanic Panic by at least three years (1977 vs. 1980 for the very beginning or 1982 for the start of BADD). TSR's response was to scrub the game of nekkid wimminz and the words "demon" and "devil". So no, Gygax invented the Nine Alignments all on his own.

    ---------- Post added at 09:27 AM ---------- Previous post was at 09:19 AM ----------

    Also, just as a general note:


    The 3.5 SRD gives some guidance on defining good and evil:

    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.
    A careful reading will detect weasel words. "Innocent" life? Do orcs count as innocent? What counts as "debasement"? Slavery? Adultery? Worshiping the wrong gods? Governments enslave and kill criminals; does that make them evil?

    Plus there's the whole philosophical conundrum of Detect Evil. Does it detect evil alignment or the evil lurking in the hearts of men? What's the difference? How does a being start radiating evil? Are there false positives, e.g. a blackguard or tiefling seeking redemption? Why bother with courts when a paladin or cleric can walk in and determine the guilty party? How do we know the cleric or paladin is himself telling the truth? (Not to mention Detect Evil kills any plots requiring subterfuge: the party or its opposition can use their Guardian of Good and Evil to pick out anyone who doesn't belong.) Law and Chaos present similar problems.

    Arguing that paladins are rare doesn't solve the basic problem. Arguing that True Evil is rare nerfs the power. Thus the reason for this thread: how do we avoid the ambiguity in our own games?
    Last edited by fmitchell; 09-05-2011 at 09:24 AM.
    "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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    only the shadow knows....
    nijineko the gm: AG16, CoS. nijineko the player: AtG, RttToH; . The Journal of Tala'elowar Kiyiik! .
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    Quote Originally Posted by fmitchell View Post
    The 3.5 SRD gives some guidance on defining good and evil:
    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.
    A careful reading will detect weasel words. "Innocent" life? Do orcs count as innocent? What counts as "debasement"? Slavery? Adultery? Worshiping the wrong gods? Governments enslave and kill criminals; does that make them evil?

    Plus there's the whole philosophical conundrum of Detect Evil. Does it detect evil alignment or the evil lurking in the hearts of men? What's the difference? How does a being start radiating evil? Are there false positives, e.g. a blackguard or tiefling seeking redemption? Why bother with courts when a paladin or cleric can walk in and determine the guilty party? How do we know the cleric or paladin is himself telling the truth? (Not to mention Detect Evil kills any plots requiring subterfuge: the party or its opposition can use their Guardian of Good and Evil to pick out anyone who doesn't belong.) Law and Chaos present similar problems.

    Arguing that paladins are rare doesn't solve the basic problem. Arguing that True Evil is rare nerfs the power. Thus the reason for this thread: how do we avoid the ambiguity in our own games?
    May I be so bold as to re-write this for the Klingon Empire (freely plagiarized by me as my new Orc Empire)?

    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 no good reason.
    Wow... only a tiny change!

    Might makes right - and only the mighty are deserving of a good life. Dignity is found in victory and honorable combat. Good people will help deserving citizens. "Evil" implies killing for money, without honor and by sneaky means (assassination/poison/etc). Some evil creatures simply have no honor and will kill for no reason - not even for honor. Others actively pursue evil, killing without thought of honor or the Empire.

    And we have the gall to call THEM evil? (nijineko, THIS is what I mean by sliding scales and no "universal" truths).

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    Sorry to open up the "why alignment doesn't work" argument, which has consumed multiple threads on this very board. As I said at the start of this thread, let's assume standard alignments don't work, and figure out alternatives.

    FWIW, here are my preferred solutions, in order of desirability:

    1. No alignment, by default. In d20 game, alignment based spells and powers aren't available, or redefined as "Detect Extraplanar Influence". (Then again, I wouldn't run straight D&D anyway.)
    2. When thematically appropriate, a very simplified alignment system devoid of ethical judgements, e.g. Law/Chaos in LotFP or Shadow/not-Shadow in Midnight, and most of the world Neutral or Unaligned. d20 Allegiances might also have a place.
    3. When the system or setting demands them, one or more scalar alignments, driven by a character's actions: BRP Allegiances or Personality Traits (after Pendragon), WoD Morality, SW Dark Side Points, Taint, etc. Players know exactly what actions change their tallies. Only characters with supernatural ties need to keep score; in some games that's every player.
    "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 Malruhn View Post
    And we have the gall to call THEM evil? (nijineko, THIS is what I mean by sliding scales and no "universal" truths).
    take the corollary there. there are no sliding scales and there are universal truths. if such exist then ultimately someone is right, and someone is wrong or mistaken. it may not be any given particular right, however.
    nijineko the gm: AG16, CoS. nijineko the player: AtG, RttToH; . The Journal of Tala'elowar Kiyiik! .
    CrystalBallLite: the best dice roller on the planet! . nijineko the archivist: the 3.x archive

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    Cut down on ambiguity: there's one supreme god. It makes the rules, and anyone who breaks them, or wants to break them is evil.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DMMike View Post
    Cut down on ambiguity: there's one supreme god. It makes the rules, and anyone who breaks them, or wants to break them is evil.
    You're no fun.

    Plus, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam believe in one supreme god, technically the same god, and they never disagree on right and wrong, do they? Just like Orthodox Christians, Catholic Christians, Protestant Christians, Mormons, Unitarians, Independent Baptist Churches, the Anglican Church, ...
    "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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    Ummm, I think you missed his point.

    I THINK he was hinting that you should drop all deities other than ONE in your campaign world - and make this deity very hands-on, so there truly ARE only one set of rules. If someone gets out of line (or interprets something in a "new" way - he is smoted... smote... smotty... smut... blasted from existence, with all around knowing WHY he was sm.... blastified.

    If not, you can end up with exactly what you described... chaos. Actually, that's so chaotic, it would be spelled, "Kayoss"!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Malruhn View Post
    I THINK he was hinting that you should drop all deities other than ONE in your campaign world - and make this deity very hands-on, so there truly ARE only one set of rules.
    No, I got the point. I just don't fancy Jack Chick the RPG.

    If the deity is so hands-on, then what's the point of the PCs? Their world will contain no "evil", since the Big Guy will automatically fry them. (Unless he fries heretics but leaves murderers and rapists alone, in which case he's a jerk.) If the deity lets evil exist and counts on humans to stamp it out, then you end up with the profusion of Abrahamic religions, or at least the misery of Europe's Middle Ages (or Dark Age). If there's a middle ground that isn't patently absurd, I can't see it.
    "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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    Naw, you could still keep other gods. But the big one, the "Zeus" if you will, makes the rules. Or you could go the historical route: good and evil are determined by the politicians, taken of course from divine insight from the gods, and the gods just get to make guest appearances once in a while...

    Sure, it's a problem that some game systems take a subjective thing, like alignment, and try to make it objective. I actually like the ambiguity of the alignment definitions - it means that a PC who thinks he's Good can actually be treated as Evil when it's convenient for the DM!

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    well, from my point of view, a universe or campaign with only one-true-god has to have a reason as to why they are sticking mortals on a world and letting them screw things up. and likely an opponent of some sort. in the judaeo-christian-islamic section of belief, god is the one and only, mortals are being allowed to choose for themselves between good and evil, and either an angel or something similar rebelled and is opposing the whole shebang. and even among themselves there are several major, and a number of minor variants as to the details.

    basically, all you need is a god, an opponent that makes logical sense, and a logical reason or reasons for the prime and other lesser planes to be a mostly hands-off zone so that mortals can do whatever it is they are trying to do. as has already been pointed out, there is no particular reason to not have powerful but lesser beings out there as well working together or at cross purposes as the dm sees fit. this gives all the groundwork needed to have a non-deterministic rpg game that is also potentially fun to play in. ^^

    as far as alignment goes, just like in our world, even if there does happen to be "one true god" and "one true religion", if everyone is allowed to choose for themselves for some greater purpose, then some aren't going to agree, and the god isn't going to prove it one way or the other so that the ability to freely choose for themselves is preserved. voila! all the ambiguity you want plus "one true religion". ^^
    nijineko the gm: AG16, CoS. nijineko the player: AtG, RttToH; . The Journal of Tala'elowar Kiyiik! .
    CrystalBallLite: the best dice roller on the planet! . nijineko the archivist: the 3.x archive

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    With that latter idea, FMitchell is also allowed to have variations on a theme - it allows for the "Mother Teresa" interpretations, AND the Warren Jeffs interpretations, AND the Paul Jennings Hill interpretations (abortion doc killer) - and everything in between.

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    Yeah, I'm not sure the hegemon-god actually allows interpretations. Yes, it's possible, but the problem with what we see in real-world-practice is that you don't find out who's been breaking the rules until they die. That's where the legal system comes in - if god doesn't judge you until you die, you need a supreme judge or a church head to do that task before you die.

    In the game, luckily, gods can do anything they want to show their approval or disapproval. A character can get instantaneous judgment, wait until he's dead, or anything in-between. So the treatment or disregard of alignment gets put directly in the GM's hands: how much effort are you willing to put into moral judgments?

    None: eliminate alignment, or make it objective, like a brand.
    Loads: then you have room for nine alignments or more.
    Somewhere in between: get creative.*

    * Poster-recommended option

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    I'm one of those guys that likes to develop his own campaign setting. For me, alignment seems entirely too rigid. The alignment system seems to assume that all the "Goods" work together, all the "Evils" work together, all the "Lawfuls" work together, and all the "Chaotics" work together. A flaw I see with this is that it lacks realism. Are we really supposed to assume that all Lawful Good factions actually help each other?

    I think Allegiances should be separate from Alignment. Alignment itself should be more flexible, and should not pidgeonhole PCs. Taint should be reserved for extreme evil cases. Taint scores should have an odd mechanic (much like the Dark Side mechanics of the Star Wars RPG), which involves a "reward" to tempt a character to continue to perform actions that increase the Taint score. These "rewards" have diminishing returns, as their Taint score gets higher. Also, as the Taint score increases, the character takes on a more monstrous appearance. Although, if I were to use a Taint system, I'd be tempted to use a "Blessing" system or something like it.

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