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4/25/2014 7:53 am  #1


Alignment in your game

If you are using alignment, what role does it play and how does it actually affect things?


"Steel isn't strong, boy. Flesh is stronger. What is steel compared to the hand that wields it?"

Spriggan's Den
 

4/25/2014 9:00 am  #2


Re: Alignment in your game

When I referee...

You create a PC and pick an alignment, then make your PC behave within the general constraints of the alignment as understood/accepted by our group. We don't really scrutinize alignment adherence too carefully unless the PC's behavior is so egregiously inconsistent that everyone at the table goes WTF?!? I'm reluctant to give examples, as it's kind of a "you know it when you see it" thing for us.

We view alignment as a basic indicator of whether you tend toward good or bad and to what degree. It's not a straight jacket that dictates every little thing and distracts us into arguments over the Nature of Good and corner cases of adherence. So, I guess I'd say, "Yes, we use it, but it's not a huge part of the game unless an action's really egregiously inconsistent."

Nevertheless, I realize some people play the game differently and approach alignment much more seriously, which is all fine and good as long as you are still having fun.


Blackadder23: Insanely long villain soliloquy, then "Your action?"
BORGO'S PLAYER: I shoot him in the face
 

4/25/2014 9:07 am  #3


Re: Alignment in your game

Chainsaw wrote:

When I referee...

You create a PC and pick an alignment, then make your PC behave within the general constraints of the alignment as understood/accepted by our group. We don't really scrutinize alignment adherence too carefully unless the PC's behavior is so egregiously inconsistent that everyone at the table goes WTF?!? I'm reluctant to give examples, as it's kind of a "you know it when you see it" thing for us.

We view alignment is a basic indicator of whether you tend toward good or bad and to what degree. It's not a straight jacket that dictates every little thing and distracts us into arguments over the Nature of Good and corner cases of adherence. So, I guess I'd say, "Yes, we use it, but it's not a huge part of the game unless an action's really egregiously inconsistent."

Nevertheless, I realize some people play the game differently and approach alignment much more seriously, which is all fine and good as long as you are still having fun.

Ditto.
 


“How can I wear the harness of toil
And sweat at the daily round,
While in my soul forever
The drums of Pictdom sound?” 
 

4/25/2014 9:08 am  #4


Re: Alignment in your game

I kind of want to try incorporating alignment in my ASSH game (assuming the game itself materializes...), but my reflex is to ignore it entirely.  In my earlier D&D experience (I've been avoiding D&D and its spawn since 1990 or so), alignment was either completely meaningless or a hammer used to bludgeon people into adhering to a specific playstyle.  I've never actually seen it used in an active, but reasonable, manner.

 

4/25/2014 9:30 am  #5


Re: Alignment in your game

I think alignment is most important as a part of character concept creation and as a role-play aid. It helps a player define a persona. Beyond that, only the restricted alignment classes or those whose actions are scrutinized have much reason to consider alignment, and in those cases the "code" is more significant in context than the alignment record itself.

I should mention that in my games, players have been insisting on writing down alignments from 1E that are missing from AS&SH.... Especially NG and CN.

Last edited by Maezar (4/25/2014 9:31 am)

 

4/25/2014 9:41 am  #6


Re: Alignment in your game

I've been thinking about introducing the original Law-Chaos alignment for my game.In that setting, material planes are islands of stability in a universe of eternal primordial chaos, that remain stable for some billions of years before they collpse back into raw chaos. This order is neccessary for the existence of mortal life and spirits and they can not exist outside their native plane.
Learning to harness Chaos brings great benefits for sorcerers and spirits, as pure raw chaotic energy is unrestrained by the laws of nature, allowing for more powerful magic. Many spirits strongly affected by chaos even greatly enjoy having access to powers that havn't been around sice the early days of the material plane, when the order of thing had not yet been set into stone.
However, mortal creatures and nature need the stability of the natural laws to exist, and allowing too much chaos back into the world can harm nearby creatures and make regions incapable of sustaining any life at all. There is also a concern, that the use of primordial chaos energy could increase the natural rate of entropy and bring the end of time much sooner.
Sorcerers who study fel magic, warlocks who work with the immaterial demons of the primordial void, and shamans serving spirits that appeared in the early days or embraced Chaos later on, are all servants of Chaos, regardless of how careful they are in its use or their intentions for the world and creatures around them.
Shamans who serve the spirits of nature, or those who dedicate themselves to fighting the spread of demonic corruption are servants of Order.
Most people care only about who means them harm and threaten their life, and are neutral.

The idea of Order representing civilization, and Chaos wanting to destroy it, does not have any meaning in this world. The two most advanced city states are ruled by sorcerers studying chaos, and one even employs an order of demon hunters who use fel magic to stop ruthless warlocks quickly and minimize the overall spread of Chaos in the world.
At the same time, many violent barbarian tribes hate Chaos and are servants of Order, some druids hunt everyone even remotely associated with Chaos, and any form of blood magic and human sacrifice is based entirely on natural life forces that represent Order.

Detect chaos and detect order can find servants of Chaos and order, and their exposure to these magical forces makes them susceptible to some magic effects like spirits and demons.
Still, the problem remains how to have both servants of Order and Chaos in the same group.


"Steel isn't strong, boy. Flesh is stronger. What is steel compared to the hand that wields it?"

Spriggan's Den
     Thread Starter
 

4/25/2014 11:47 am  #7


Re: Alignment in your game

All the PCs in my AS&SH game are Neutral. I think it's because all the players are Evil. That's a guess, but I have my reasons!

I agree with both Chainsaw *and* Maezar. Alignment can be a great guide and support for how a character plays out. But one of the major ways that happens is in class and religion choice. I'm not sure Xathoqqua cares necessarily how Chaoric Evil you are, but you better damn well give him his propers or all the Neutral in the world won't save you.

 

4/25/2014 12:06 pm  #8


Re: Alignment in your game

Chainsaw wrote:

 You create a PC and pick an alignment, then make your PC behave within the generalconstraints of the alignment as understood/accepted by our group.

This pretty well sums up my current approach aswell.

Yora wrote:

I've been thinking about introducing the original Law-Chaos alignment for my game.

To me the law-chaos alignment axis always made more sense to me than the good-evil (or ethical) axis. I think this is because it resonates so well from the mythological sources that i always use as an inspiration when i'm writing or playing within the fantasy genre.

I see law basically as adherence (or even community) and chaos as transgression. Both of which can be both good and evil depending on degree and circumstances. In a game i think this could describe a PC's preference towards one end of the spectrum, both i would always encourage player's to make desicions based on how they feel their PC would see the situation.


Níu man ek heima, níu íviðjur,
mjötvið mæran fyr mold neðan.
(Völuspá)
(Nine worlds I knew,the nine in the tree with mighty roots beneath the mold)
Realmsofmelpomene
 

4/25/2014 1:11 pm  #9


Re: Alignment in your game

Good and Evil is pretty much irrelevant because these concepts are really just an attempt to objectively determine what is right and wrong. Chosing between Good and Evil is never a question. The only ambiguity lies in determining which option is the Good one. Characters may fail to recognize an option as being Evil and pursue it, but nobody would ever pick an option he has determined to be Evil. Players and DM may make characters who are evil, but those characters would hardly see themselves as evil.
There's nothing really to work with.


"Steel isn't strong, boy. Flesh is stronger. What is steel compared to the hand that wields it?"

Spriggan's Den
     Thread Starter
 

4/25/2014 3:25 pm  #10


Re: Alignment in your game

Chainsaw wrote:

. It's not a straight jacket.

Couldn't have said it bettar, I see so many players treat their evil allighnment as if it were a lycanthropic curse causing them to murder and destroy people/places even though it flies in the face of the partie's goals, group decision, common sense, all logic....
     I think I would like to see more players come up with a description, backstory and goals for the char they want to play and consider their personality as unique,  maby something as simple as he acts like Boromir but only then determine allighnment after you've decided who they are, as oppose to the other way around.  This may be preferable to the gm as well, like Yora mentioned above, good and evil are subjective and the gm may think you fall into a different category though perhaps still a grey one. 

 

4/25/2014 4:11 pm  #11


Re: Alignment in your game

That's kind of the reason I mostly don't use alignment at all. It seems that in many cases, picking an alignment is not actually a starting off point to develop a character, but simply a shortcut to skip most of the process. It's not that players don't want their characters to have personalty or don't want to bother with the effort, but somehow it subconsciously makes you feel that you already have that aspect of your character sufficiently covered. I'm doing it myself all the time when I happen to get an opportunity to play as a player for a few sessions.

The idea of Alignments as teams always seemed odd and nonsensical to me, but now I am feeling that it's actually the only meaningful aspect alignment actually has. The alignment system I discribed for my setting really onlt is about commiting to a position in one particular ideological question. A really important one for those directly involved with it, but one that's irrelevant to 95% of any humanoid society. It's an issue of cosmic scale, but not one that will really make any global difference for thousands of years. Making a character aligned to the Natural Order or the Primordial Chaos is just one small element that contributes to his personalty, but it's clear that it's not a summary of the same.

I keep continously amazed how many things from early D&D actually make a lot more sense than their contemporary "refined" versions, when seen in context. And explained by someone much better suited to it than Gygax was.


"Steel isn't strong, boy. Flesh is stronger. What is steel compared to the hand that wields it?"

Spriggan's Den
     Thread Starter
 

4/25/2014 4:18 pm  #12


Re: Alignment in your game

Yora wrote:

Players and DM may make characters who are evil, but those characters would hardly see themselves as evil.

They might not describe themselves as evil but they surely know that they're neither good or neutral http://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons/happy.png


Regarding alignement, I agree with what Chainsaw posted and am thinking about some way to substitute alignement with a chosen deity instead to emphasize the religious faith of a character (and maybe granting some tone down cleric abilities to non cleric).
 

 

4/25/2014 6:49 pm  #13


Re: Alignment in your game

Alignment is not a big part of my campaign. Every character is basically neutral.

For clerics, I have a house rule that good clerics may only cast the normal version of spells like cure light wounds while evil clerics may only cast the reverse of those types of spells. There are no neutral clerics. One PC has a henchman who is a priest of Kthulhu. Neither the player nor I wanted him running around as the party medic, so we decided he was evil and this rule evolved. He isn't necessarily evil in his actions, but he is aligned with 'evil' cosmological forces.

Chris

 

4/25/2014 7:06 pm  #14


Re: Alignment in your game

I tend to see a gaming world in terms of black and white -- typically "Law" versus "Chaos" where law is the good guys and chaos the bad guys. This shakes out in my game in the form of a party of characters who pick either law or neutral, depending upon whether or not they are actively battling chaos or not. Some of my players tend to view the game as "there's a bad guy ... get him!" and pick law. Others tend to view the game as "I don't like chaos, but often I do whatever works best for me" and pick neutral. I really discourage folks from being chaos in my campaigns.

Just my two coppers.


Marv / Finarvyn
DCC playtester (2011), S&W WhiteBox Author (2009), C&C playtester (2003), Metamorphosis Alpha since 1976. OD&D Player since 1975
 

4/25/2014 8:35 pm  #15


Re: Alignment in your game

I'm lucky to have posted first, else I'd be agreeing with all of you, heh. http://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons/happy.png


I also think Maezar (alignment is important especially when you're creating your character because it helps inform your general approach) and finarvyn/chrisj (law and neutral are where players usually shake out) pretty well describe how things roll in my campaign. The idea of aligning according to gods first (then acting accordingly) rather than good/neutral/evil first (then picking a god) is also a subtle, but different and interesting approach (thanks RedJowel).

Any way of looking at alignment that feels additive/inspiring (rather than strictly prescriptive) seems cool to me.


Blackadder23: Insanely long villain soliloquy, then "Your action?"
BORGO'S PLAYER: I shoot him in the face
 

4/25/2014 8:56 pm  #16


Re: Alignment in your game

Yora, I really like what you're writing here.

 

4/26/2014 1:15 am  #17


Re: Alignment in your game

RedJowel wrote:

Chainsaw wrote:

. It's not a straight jacket.

Couldn't have said it bettar, I see so many players treat their evil allighnment as if it were a lycanthropic curse causing them to murder and destroy people/places even though it flies in the face of the partie's goals, group decision, common sense, all logic....

I've tended to see problems more on the other end of the spectrum.  As we tended to interpret it when I was in high school, Evil can pursue whatever selfish goal it wants and Chaos can use whatever methods it wants, but Law. Must. Obey! and Good. Must. Do. The. "Right". Thing!  At all times!  We definitely saw a bit of Chaotic Stupid from time to time, but Lawful Stupid and Preachy Good were much more common alignments in my personal experience.

Yora wrote:

It seems that in many cases, picking an alignment is not actually a starting off point to develop a character, but simply a shortcut to skip most of the process.

Yes, that too.  An alignment is not necessary to developing a character's personality and it's not even close to being sufficient.

Another point which hadn't occurred to me until just now is that, while alignment may be appropriate to high fantasy settings, which often focus on a clash between Capital-G Good and Capital-E Evil, I don't really see it having much of a place in S&S, where most of the fiction seems to revolve around characters whose primary alignment is merely Selfish.

 

4/26/2014 9:54 am  #18


Re: Alignment in your game

Yora wrote:

The idea of Alignments as teams always seemed odd and nonsensical to me, but now I am feeling that it's actually the only meaningful aspect alignment actually has.

I wouldn't necessarily call it "nonsensical". http://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons/wink.png
Here are two definitions of the word "alignment" that come straight from a standard dictionary: "a state of agreement or cooperation among persons, groups, nations, etc., with a common cause or viewpoint" and "alliance or union with a party, cause, etc".  Those both pretty much mean "what team are you on".  More importantly, alignment in the Elric stories (from which Gary "appropriated" the concept) exactly means "what team are you on".  Freighting the "team" concept with a whole lot of extraneous moral and ethical baggage just confuses the issue and makes it harder to referee.  PCs do have to meet certain standards of behavior, or they'll get booted off their "team".  But (in my opinion) there's no need to parse every action and get into long debates about whether orc babies have souls.

Yora wrote:

I keep continously amazed how many things from early D&D actually make a lot more sense than their contemporary "refined" versions, when seen in context. And explained by someone much better suited to it than Gygax was.

In my opinion, this is because many of the modern revisionists have lacked a basic understanding of what the game really means and how it actually works.  So most of their changes have been for the worse, and when they (rarely) make a change for the better, it's more or less accidentally. http://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons/depressed.png


Michael Sipe 1979-2018
Rest in peace, brother.
 

4/26/2014 10:51 am  #19


Re: Alignment in your game

Now looking at some of the very old sources, I feel like returning to my original stance that alignment really is just a poorly conceived idea that was never actually developed into something coherent. It's a neat idea, but it was never really explained what it is supposed to be, and what role it is supposed to fill. Allowing GMs to get a general idea about a creatures or NPCs role and behavior at a single glance seems to be the only thing it ever really did well. And there are good argument to not use it for that purpose either and instead go through the trouble of actually writing two short sentences on this instead.

Somewhere I read that the first versions of alignment were intentionally meant to be very open and undefined, and GMs supposed to fill it with meaning for their own campaign. Law and Chaos were only one example for a cosmic strugle, that could be worked into a world. As I actually did with my version of Natural Order and Primordial Chaos. Or you have the Light Side and Dark Side in Star Wars, the Open Palm and Closed Fist in Jade Empire, and to some extend Paragon and Renegade in Mass Effect.

I think that's a decent approach, but it's not the case that this was Gygaxs master plan all along and he merely got misinterpreted. Alignment was adressed in Strategic Review #2 back in 1975, pretty much immediately after Dungeons & Dragons first appeared, and even back then it seems to have been something that had lots of people very confused, so it needed to be elaborated. People thought Law means good and Chaos means evil, so Gygax explained that lawful characters could also be evil, and chaotic characters also be good, somewhat reafirming the notion that alignment was meant as teams. I didn't take notes on this when I was reading around, but the two-paramter-alignments like CG and LE were made part of the game very early on, throwing the whole notion of teams into the wind, and it never really came back as far as I know.
AD&D 1st Edition seems to be commonly accepted as the final version of Gygaxs game, and there there are no hints of it at all. In fact, the whole straightjacket accusation doesn't seem far fetched when you look at the presentation there. It always says "a charcter views", "creatures believe", "things are scorned", and so on. It doesn't say that the terms are blanket terms that cover certain related ideas, but it says what characters of an alignment think and do. And there's also the notion of "Neutrality" instead of "being unaligned", with the weird concept of keeping Good from defeating Evil, because of... reasons. Presumedly.

I guess all I can really say is to look at Law and Chaos and use it as a starting point to develop your own alignment system for your campaign. If you think it adds something to the game. Statements in the rulebooks like "You must chose an alignment for your character as part of his creation" seems just straight out wrong to me.

Maezar wrote:

Yora, I really like what you're writing here.

That's always nice to hear. I usually feel like some outside kid who randomly rambles about something he only half-understands, to people who are much more knowledgable about the subject, while not actually having a clear idea what point he wants to make.
Which I often do, but it's always nice to hear that sometimes someone takes something useful away from it.


"Steel isn't strong, boy. Flesh is stronger. What is steel compared to the hand that wields it?"

Spriggan's Den
     Thread Starter
 

4/26/2014 1:23 pm  #20


Re: Alignment in your game

I don't think it's too far off base to look directly at the Eternal Champion stories by Micheal Moorcock or Poul Anderson's "Three Hearts, Three Lions" to see what GG was conceptualizing with Alignment - not so much a personality test, as it was a way of putting player behavior into larger context of a cosmic struggle between two diametrically opposed, supernatural forces. 

Basically, the way I've always conceived it, there are cosmic forces of Law and Chaos at odds with each other, and this conflict accounts for much of the activity that we percieve in the universe. Law seeks order and to hold things fixed, never changing, while Chaos (Entropy) is a force of creation, change, dissolution, and rebirth. It's where these forces collide that you end up with the full panalopy of phenomena in the multiverse.

Within this framework, the two forces are completely indifferent to the concerns of ordinary folk, except where they might use mortals to further their own ends. And a person's "goodness" or "vileness" in this Law vs. Chaos paradigm, doesn't really concern the ineffable powers of the universe, save for how it affects their grand strategies. 

Anyway, Originally I was tempted to implement a simple Law-Neutrality-Chaos scheme for my AS&SH campaign, but decided to go ahead and work within the five point alignment system so I didn't have to re-work how powers and spells that deal with "evil" work. And I'm pretty happy with the result. I use the Law-Chaos axis to determine a player's allegiences (most of the time it's subconscious) in the great cosmic struggle, while the Good-Evil axis is much more mutable and subjective; more of a way of relating a character to their peers and society.

All that said, In play, alignment isn't anything I've ever really enforced. It's just a tool to help conceptualize a player character or non-player character's goals, behavior and tendencies. Unless somebody is a raging psychopath or demon possessed, spells and powers that divine the presence of and protect from evil don't have any effect. Alignment also has no bearing on the gods characters worship,since deities in my campaign are far more cultural than personal - "worship" of the gods is much more about trying placate them with offerings than any feelings of affiliation or affection.

OK, I think I'm done rambling now. Thanks for your patience. http://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons/embarrassed.png

 

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