Author Topic: Alignment  (Read 2462 times)

The Holy Saint, Grand High Poobah, Master of Monkeys, Ehlers

  • Administrator
  • Level 96
  • *****
  • Posts: 19211
  • Fell Points: 17
  • monkeys? yes.
    • View Profile
    • herb's world
Alignment
« on: April 17, 2003, 08:40:04 PM »
Ok, so I've decided a thread for this might be useful

When I think of alignment, I think of D&D's LG-CE usually. Partially because the alignment system I remember from Palladium didn't even have a clear naming system that helps me remember what anything means.  Which is partially why I don't like that system.

Also, in fantasy role playing especially, "good" and "evil" are incredibly vague and not useful. Is a fertility cult evil if they practice only sexually oriented rites (no sacrifices, even of animals?) Is that the same answer the Christian religion (or some religion with similar views) would give? If not, is that Christian religion evil?

Is disobeying the law evil? Not necessarily in D&D's system, where that's governed by the law-chaos side of alignment. What if your religion says it is? And what about oppressive laws? If you're lawful good do you have to follow those laws?

What about nonviolent bigotry? Selfishness? Ritual Combat? Drug/alcohol abuse? If you have multiple religions, they may answer every single one of these questions from the next faith. What makes a bad guy bad?

This is also why a simple 1-20 scale doesn't work, in my mind, Slant. I couldn't use that systme anymore. Sure, the guy's a saint, but how does he feel about my politics? Is drinking ok in his religion? How about letting women speak in public? It seems to me the best way to represent morality as a stat (which is almost absurd in any context) is to have it be a series of scales. One end of each scale is an arbitrary "evil." One for domestic violence, crime violence, and war violence. One for drug abuse, one for lying, stealing, sexual relations (which would also have a set of scales: adultry, fornication, homosexuality, etc). As you can see, to make it useful, it becomes mind numbingly burdensome (that is, if you care at all for having two different "good" religions that have different stances on different morals).

The other way to handle it is to take ONE aspect of morality and say "this is the good to evil." For example, good v. evil is based on generosity. People who share their wealth with others are good, (even if they commit violent crimes to get that wealth). People who hoard are evil. It's a little too simplistic. Better to just say "he's good" and leave it at that without meaning anything. But then, it doesn't matter how a priest act, because he's "good" and can't fall out of grace by any rule system.

The best use of alignment I've seen is actulally in Hackmaster, even though it's still to burdensome to use.  They have alignment audits, alignment tracking charts, and honor (at least in a small way) affected by adherance to your alignment. It adds too many rules for me to want to bother with it, but at least it has a use and a monitoring system for how the rules are followed.

Now, if you ditch alignment altogether, you lose all those good "protection from {alignment}" spells in D&D. And the Paladin's protection from/detect evil abilities. And adherance to a clerical devotion becomes moot again. So do we really want that? I think the idea of "protection from evil" is pretty cool.

So how to do it?

I once saw an editorial in Dragon Magazine (oh those many decades ago when I spent money on that) where the guy based "good" and "evil" from a subjective perspective. If you were loyal to the king, than anyone else loyal was "good" and any enemies were "evil" (and Switzerland was neutral). Good and evil became political. Now, of course, to the Orcs who hated the king, hatred of the king was "good" and loyalty to the king was "evil." This is more fuzzy, but is a little bit easier to use in a game. It also gives you the ability to use Orc Paladins fighting Human Paladins of diametrically opposed values. Which is pretty cool.

Then in AORP I based it on religion. Law-Chaos reflected how believing and obedient you were to your Christian or Pagan faith (or your agnostism or atheism). Then "Protection from Evil" is really "Protection from Pagans." But that has it's own problems, some of which I can't talk about because soem people here post to that board, and I'd be giving things away if I talked about why that was a problem. This COULD work, if you could work out how "protection from atheists" would work on someone who did a good show of acting like a good Catholic but was really just trying to get ahead in a mostly Christian court. So far, no one's tried to use the spells, so I haven't had to deal with it.

So, more thoughts on the matter?

Fellfrosch

  • Administrator
  • Level 68
  • *****
  • Posts: 7033
  • Fell Points: 42
  • Walkin' with a dead man over my shoulder.
    • View Profile
    • Fearful Symmetry
Re: Alignment
« Reply #1 on: April 18, 2003, 02:30:38 AM »
Alignment is one of those rules that I always just ignore. (Of course I grew up on the Palladium system, so I'm used to ignoring rules.) I was astonished, upon being introduced to D&D in college, that there were actual creatures defined as "evil" or "chaotic," and the protection spells would only work against them. Why doesn't the same spell protect you from a serial killer? It seems silly to me. My style of play, however, is much more similar to Mr. P: you tell a story, and roll dice whenever you think it might help resolve a question. Rules are there to help where necessary, and in some cases (like alignment) it just doesn't make any sense to codify certain things.

If you're not dependent on rules, then anything is possible. Players know when a paladin is being good and when he's being bad--they don't need a bulleted list to help them define it.
"Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die." --Mel Brooks

My author website: http://www.fearfulsymmetry.net

Mad Dr Jeffe

  • Level 74
  • *
  • Posts: 9162
  • Fell Points: 7
  • Devils Advocate General
    • View Profile
Re: Alignment
« Reply #2 on: April 18, 2003, 07:47:27 AM »
Palladium has an allignment system too, one that I think works a little better. Do you ignore that?

White Wolf has that whole nature/demeanor thing

Warhammer Fantasy doesnt per se. It seems to follow the Michael Moorcock Eternal Champion route with Law and Chaos but it doesnt require you to keep track of it. This is cool because it means your Templar can be a son of a gun and not really care.Its also chock full of cool professions for players. (My rat catcher attacks your knight!)

Elric er... Stormbringer was cool that way too.


For a really neat honor alignment system get Pendragon.
Its an automated robot. Based on Science!

Mad Dr Jeffe

  • Level 74
  • *
  • Posts: 9162
  • Fell Points: 7
  • Devils Advocate General
    • View Profile
Re: Alignment
« Reply #3 on: April 18, 2003, 07:54:11 AM »
Basically you choose an Idiology Christian, Pagan etc which has associated virtues... fufill those virtues and you get a little bonus to just about everything for your pure heart. Fall short and nothing happens.  Its more like a set of Morals and Ethics. If you dont comply then people talk about you behind your back.
Its an automated robot. Based on Science!

The Holy Saint, Grand High Poobah, Master of Monkeys, Ehlers

  • Administrator
  • Level 96
  • *****
  • Posts: 19211
  • Fell Points: 17
  • monkeys? yes.
    • View Profile
    • herb's world
Re: Alignment
« Reply #4 on: April 18, 2003, 12:35:48 PM »
Quote
If you're not dependent on rules, then anything is possible. Players know when a paladin is being good and when he's being bad--they don't need a bulleted list to help them define it.


My point is they *think* they know, but they don't. Not to be Socratic about it at all

But in the middle ages, it was just fine and dandy for a noble to hit, or starve a peasant. That was the peasant's role in life. But do we feel the same? Dang right we don't. So which is it? Is it evil? Or just fine?

How about sexual activity? Some religions say it's ok. Some don't. Is it evil in your game? Or not?

If you have a character that has to be "good" you have to define good before it becomes a conflict between GM and player, if for no other reason to be fair. I personally think the political bent (although you could say loyalty to this church, then to the king, or whatever) is workable, but an individual code for each character for which it matters is best.

Fellfrosch

  • Administrator
  • Level 68
  • *****
  • Posts: 7033
  • Fell Points: 42
  • Walkin' with a dead man over my shoulder.
    • View Profile
    • Fearful Symmetry
Re: Alignment
« Reply #5 on: April 18, 2003, 01:57:10 PM »
The nice thing about Palladium's alignment system is that it's not rules-based--you pick an alignment that more or less tells you your outlook on life, and then you know how to play the character. I do tend to ignore it, though, because if someone starts acting out of character (ie, doing things that don't fit within the character personality they've established), they tend to blame it on alignment. "I'm unprincipled, so I'm allowed to beat a confession out of this guy."

What I'm saying is that I see no need for a codified alignment system. I disagree that players don't know what's right and what's wrong--if you're playing in a society that has vastly different mores than our own (such as nobles are allowed to hit peasants and still be righteous) then you establish that beforehand and play as normal. If you need a rabbinical list of what's good and bad and a mechanical description of what happens when you don't follow your alignment, then you're going overboard with the concept.
"Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die." --Mel Brooks

My author website: http://www.fearfulsymmetry.net

The Holy Saint, Grand High Poobah, Master of Monkeys, Ehlers

  • Administrator
  • Level 96
  • *****
  • Posts: 19211
  • Fell Points: 17
  • monkeys? yes.
    • View Profile
    • herb's world
Re: Alignment
« Reply #6 on: April 18, 2003, 05:16:54 PM »
I think a non-rules connected alignment system is essentially useless. So I'd ignore that as well. It doesn't work as a guide to making a personality, so why use it.

But I fundamentally disagree with you that people know and can agree upon what "good" means. We could start a discussion right now about what is good and what isn't and I'd bet we get a fight. Look at our stances on the Iraq war. Some think it's "good" to invade Iraq. Others do not. What if one of us was a Paladin asked to go over there?

This isn't a "rabinnical" list either. I'm not talking about how many steps they can take on the sabbath or a detailed dietary requirement (though some religions may require vegetarianism). I'm talking about a basic set of codes. If you have a character that fundamentally relies on being a good guy, you have to have some agreement about what being a good guy means. Does it mean being a vegtarian? Does it mean practicing abstinance from some activity or drugs? Does it mean nonviolence to some degree? All I'm saying is that you have to have a tacit agreement about the definition of good when you introduce a character whose abilities RELY on being good. Just making a basic assumption that you agree doesn't work if you either have players of different religious and moral backgrounds or if you're playing in a setting even vaguely different than your own.

So, maybe your solution is dont' play with characters of that type. But that's not a universal solution. I like the idea of evil and good characters. Not all the time, but sometimes.

My solution is not to create an extensive and comprehensive morality and ethics system for your whole world, but rather, when someone creates a Paladin or Cleric, part of the char gen process is to say "This is what the doctrines of good [or evil, if appropriate] are for this character." Departure from those standards indicate a violation of alignment. This approach accomplishes both a more complete character (the ideals are not predefined and are decided on by the player and the GM) and it allows you to judiciously arbitrate a situation where a character would be penalized for departure from their beliefs -- facilitating Protection from Evil or similar spells.

Fellfrosch

  • Administrator
  • Level 68
  • *****
  • Posts: 7033
  • Fell Points: 42
  • Walkin' with a dead man over my shoulder.
    • View Profile
    • Fearful Symmetry
Re: Alignment
« Reply #7 on: April 18, 2003, 07:04:33 PM »
You and I have very different concepts of what an alignment should be and how it should function in a game. And yet we've still managed to roleplay together on multiple occasions, so I say no harm done.
"Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die." --Mel Brooks

My author website: http://www.fearfulsymmetry.net

The Holy Saint, Grand High Poobah, Master of Monkeys, Ehlers

  • Administrator
  • Level 96
  • *****
  • Posts: 19211
  • Fell Points: 17
  • monkeys? yes.
    • View Profile
    • herb's world
Re: Alignment
« Reply #8 on: April 18, 2003, 10:54:36 PM »
No! You disagree with me! You must be CHAOTIC EVIL! I'll hack off your head you spoon... er... nm.

actually in most of those games we played alignment wasn't crucial. In the one where it was, (at least for my character, not so much anyone else's) I felt COMPLETELY lost about what was affecting my level of good. EUOL was very vague and unclear. The only reason your character wasn't evil was because brandon said "he isn't." Apparently mine was turning that way, even though he didn't act terribly evil. and even though I wasn't really told so till I was more than halfway there (though other people were). That game could have used some good definitions of evil. (just a little case in point.

And of COURSE no harm done. As I've told El Jeffe, and as he's told me, each about a million times, the point is not the system, when it comes down to it. I can play any system and have fun if I'm with people I enjoy. The FIRST point is that it's a GAME and should be FUN. realism/smoothness/balance/applicability all come second. I assume already though, that we already like to have fun. So I don't beat that with a stick like I do rules :)