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Saturday, August 1, 2009

How about 13 alignments?

(This is a total ramble. Sorry - it's saturday.)

I've never been able to implement the use of alignment into a game I ran that I thought was satisfying.

Really, I dislike the following ideas as much as I dislike virtually all ideas about handling alignment - except that one which advises willfull exclusion of it.

You can view the 9 axis AD&D alignment (LE-CE-NE-CN-TN-LN-NG-CG-LG) as a 2D array (like the picture on the page). Now sparsely populate the third dimension with doubles of the bases (LL-CC-NN-EE-GG) - say that these are the most exaggerated, atavistic or monolithic interpretations of these ideas...Neutral Neutral seems like True Neutral...UGH - at least there's 13 elements, which might scare prospective DM's off due to superstition and folklore, and those who skip from level 12 to level 14...


OK. Get rid of the conceit of 'common tongue' instead (maybe allow other less-inclusive ones like Tradespeak, Scholarspeak, Mercenarese, etc (thieves and druids do it, right?)). How about getting rid of all other languages as automatic to the character at creation - only the alignment language stays, so generally people can speak best to those'of like mind'...allow them to be learned as any other...

Eh. In a world without races, that could be cool.

Here's my personal binary favorite: PC and monster.

The concept is really fundamental to the game of D&D - in the sense that it's in the original rules, was there from the start (is it still there now?). Maybe, just maybe, my dissatisfaction with it is a shortcoming of my own. I've always hated using it while playing. I've always felt like players who make a big deal about their character's alignment have some kind of agenda to their play ('always' isn't the best word - maybe 'usually felt that'...anyway). I've always appreciated those games that don't even bother with alignment in the rules. There are, of course, good guys and bad guys in those games (PCs and monsters).

Nevertheless, I've always felt compelled to use it, or at least include it in setting and design for fantasy games, in some way just a cut above token inclusion. Take the swords and magic items that possess intelligence, ego, alignment. Opinions, outlooks, etc - these are elements of sentience - morality, ethics, what is right, what is wrong - you know the rap...

Seems likely that the anti-paladin was an invention very early in the history of the dissemination of the original game. Where's the evil anti-ranger, who hunts the edges of civilization, culling the sheep who stray too far from the village? (well, that role is filled nicely by wolves and monsters I guess...) As a class, I guess that's an assassin...

The endgame of OD&D vs say BECMI (hope I got the order right, BEMCI?). Wargaming vs at-home campaigns. Gross definitions vs fine definitions. Good Guys vs Bad Guys. Team players vs. Individualists. I'm not a big fan of 'epic' style games - so the identification of universal powers of such-and-such alignment always rubbed me wrong.

But, dammit! As a DM, I want to know if some NPC king in question is neutral, good, or evil! (Basically just so I can figure out which of them are fighting...) I still use it in design a lot. For that matter, I want to know if some prospective henchman is Chaotic Evil or Lawful Neutral. I end up writing small programs to automate NPC generation, with the idea that it'll help to populate villages and such (*herm* ok, i do it cuz it's fun) - but within these lists, inevitably, I segregate the NPC into groups of common alignment, to begin to piece together story-hooks and relations between groups...

Assuming you've made it this far, I'll apologize again.


Benoist said...

Nah, it's alright. No need to apologize.

You shouldn't sweat it too much. Just think of it as a tool, and use it as a tool. Not a defining characteristic your campaign couldn't live without.

When the tool's useful, pick it up and use it. When it ceases to be useful, and even becomes cumbersome, just drop it. :-)

Ragnorakk said...

That is largely my approach. The last thing I want to do is make alignment bigger or more comlpex, certainly, and I tend to just kinda stay away from it.

Timeshadows said...

Whenever this topic comes up, I feel compelled to share my radical solution in old AD&D days: Embrace and take to Nth degree.

The Alignments are more powerful than the gods. There is a nine-faced pillar in the very centre of reality, and that pillar is the 9 Alignments ordering things, including the gods, who were just big-britches champions of one (or more) of the Alignments, and as PCs continued to 'play their role' the pillar granted them more power, but caused them to encounter other champions of other alignments in a gargantuan game.

Alignment tongues were real and although far subtler than mortal languages, could be spoken in whatever axis that two creatures shared (CE and LE could still communicate in Evil, CN and CG in Chaotic, etc.)

Assassins, then, were tremendously powerful because they could learn other alignments' languages as part of their infiltration and observation roles.

The campaign reached its crescendo when a tenth facet formed on the pillar: False Neutral, as suggested in a letter to the editor of Dragon Magazine.

I ran the same event in another scenario where a culture had slowly moved from LG to LN to FN, before disappearing from reality altogether.

In the D&D's I favour CN, and in Palladium, I favour either Anarchist or Aberrant. :D

Alignment in Urutsk is perhaps more accurately Allegiance to one's Sanguine Elemental Lord or Lady (or, Pant the It in the case of Steam).

Whatever works for you. :)

Andreas Davour said...

Alignment causes brain damage. :)

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