Post by trapcrafter on Apr 29, 2015 16:51:06 GMT -8
After starting in the caves of D&D 3.5 and its ilk, the concept of alignment for a character seemed like a given. However after playing more morally gray campaigns and trying other systems, I feel the alignment descriptor is not needed. I am Gming a fifth edition game and have a player who uses questionable methods but for the greater good for instance. I don't punish or tell him no since it his character. Is this descriptor to rigid and archaic or is it just a minor thing to be ignored?
Post by Probie Tim on Apr 29, 2015 20:11:12 GMT -8
IMHO, alignment is simply a loose, pseudo-archetypal description of the character's morals and ethics. It expresses base tendencies and should never be used as a straight jacket to roleplaying. It's also a quick and easy way to determine if a character is affected by spells and effects which target alignments.
There's also nothing which says alignment has to be fixed and static. Instead of using alignment to dictate character actions, character actions should dictate alignment and if you've got a character who declared lawful good but is acting chaotic good, it's time for that character's alignment to change. But it is needed by the game and should not be ignored.
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Post by kaitoujuliet on Apr 30, 2015 15:16:44 GMT -8
You've sort of tipped your hand by using the word "rigid" in the question! How is anyone supposed to argue in favor of alignment without also arguing in favor of rigidity, which is typically considered a negative concept?
I think it depends on the type of story you want to tell. Not all stories benefit from lots of moral greyness, especially if you're going for something in a particular genre. It also may depend on your players and to what degree they can be trusted to stick to their character concepts even when going against that idea is tempting.
I agree with iamtim, an alignment system should never get in the way of role playing. I do support the idea of consequences for actions be they for good or for ill wholesale. So play that up, thus my two cents have been spent.
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The problem with alignment is because it's so ill defined. I contend most adventurers and players are evil, because of the way I've defined the good/evil dichotomy. However if everyone isn't on the same page of what alignment means then wires can get crossed.
Alignment is a great tool for staring to develop your moral outlook and personality, but it isn't a hard and fast rule to adhere to throughout the game.
Post by weaselcreature on May 1, 2015 10:44:05 GMT -8
I agree with iamtim as well. They are more general guidelines that can help a player make decisions his/her PC would make. However, as certain spells and holy characters rely on alignment, it should be listed and adhered and be accurately portrayed, but it can be somewhat fluid (although less fluid for a holy character who needs to follow the tenets of his/her faith).
As for "I am Gming a fifth edition game and have a player who uses questionable methods but for the greater good for instance. I don't punish or tell him no since it his character."
You shouldn't punish the character/player, but you should make sure the alignment on the sheet is true to the alignment that is played. Is this character Lawful Good, but these "questionable methods" break the law? Sounds like a shift to Neutral Good may be in order. And again, the main reason it should be accurate is the system requires it for certain aspects. A Paladin doing questionable things that are against the tenets of his/her faith should lose favor, and if it repeats possibly lose abilities.
There's an old saying, "Man will always love what is good. It is determining what is good is where Man goes wrong."
Few people in really consider themselves to be Evil. Our ability to rationalize and justify our actions makes excuses for nearly anything. How many times have we heard things like, "I'm on a mission from God." "To preserve our way of life" "My country, right or wrong" "It's just business" "I deserved it" when someone is confronted with actions considered immoral/illegal.
I'm a little fuzzy on how the alignments in D&D are defined, but even the Borg from Star Trek can be considered lawful good. Think about it, they want to unite all species and end the chaos brought about by individuality. The forced assimilation of peoples is just a case of ends justifying the means.
Is a necromancer evil for raising zombies and skeletons to do physical labor instead of enslaving the townsfolk? Is the dragon who burns down villages evil or just exercising an extreme form of population control on the rapid-breeding humans? Is the merchant selling shoddy goods evil if he's a patriot of a rival nation and is trying to undermine The Enemy's economy so it can't fund a war? Motivations count just as much as actions.
OTOH, we need a convenient way to describe the personality/attitude of NPCs so alignments are necessary as a guideline. For PCs, a few general notes should be good enough. If the character has a code of conduct imposed on him/her (like paladins and clerics), they need to be defined but shouldn't be considered an alignment. How they're enforced depends on the organization? Can a character skate by on a technicality or are there ways to "see into their heart" to learn if their motives were pure.
If alignment is getting in the way of the game: Ignore. That was why I never used it as a kid playing D&D.
That said, I absolutely love alignment in Dungeon World. In that system, you choose the alignment for the character, and that defines something about how they see the world.
E.g. A Ranger has a choice to be Neutral: "Help an animal or spirit of the wild." If, during the session, they play towards their alignment, then they get an extra experience point. It could be as simple as running into an injured animal that they then decided to heal. Or they didn't kill some wild beast that waylaid the party, but instead tried to sooth it so that it would turn away and go back into the jungle.
That said, a Ranger could just as easily be Chaotic: "Free someone from literal or figurative bonds." Different outlook.
You could use something like this in traditional D&D quite easily. Check out the link above from Dungeon World SRD (specifically under Changing Alignment, or check out the various character sheets here), and have the PCs select one or two alignment statements that fit them. If they play towards that, great, extra XP, or favor from their god, or whatever.
If they play contrary to their chosen life goals, then you can use that in the story (god revokes spells for a while, or -1 to hit as their confidence in their life path is temporarily shaken).
Don't punish them, but make it story-relevant. If they don't want to be that alignment anymore... great! Let them go through a short transitional change where they have some disadvantages, and then let them change the alignment and move on.
I'd like to see alignments replaced with an expansion of the Backgrounds mechanic in 5th. Alignments are like Horoscopes when trying to describe personality types. (The whole woo thing aside) there are way more personality types than there are horoscope signs.
I'd like to see a collection of Ideals (and perhaps Flaws) define the character's alignment.
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Its just nice to have some character personality/moral code guidelines come into play during the game. "The game where everyone plays paladins" (L5R) is entertaining because there is a rigid system that the society is built upon that is very different from the one in which we currently exist. You have to make an effort to think "other" thoughts and consider what you would do as a character in a world where the individual is not supreme.
I just had one of my life long friends ask the question of another character "What is your alignment?" This was during our weekly game after that character begin to consider the merits of enslaving a rival species for the potential redemption and salvation of the entire world at large. It was said in semi-jest but still a great example of the dangers of reducing extremely intricate morality choices down to a two word descriptor.
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I am going to present the augument that a character has two alignments. One that is the one that the character holds as true, and the one the population the character interacts with sees. Alignment is and has to be a fluid system for it to really work.
As it is I am not a fan of the hard line system that my group is telling me that it has to be. But I am major believer of a more "adjustable" system.
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(L5R) is entertaining because there is a rigid system that the society is built upon that is very different from the one in which we currently exist. You have to make an effort to think "other" thoughts and consider what you would do as a character in a world where the individual is not supreme.
I'm not a fan of alignment in pretty much any system, but I prefer it in D&D because ethics/morality has historically been baked in to the default worlds. Temple of Elemental Evil, for instance, succinctly states in the title that Evil is a fundamental element in the universe.
So, even more so than Rokugan, what you've got is a universe that is very different from the one in which we exist. I mean, outside of humans existing, physics, geology, and biology are all incredibly divergent from the real world, so I'm not sure why theology and morality can't be as divergent. I'm OK with Good and Evil being proper nouns in those kinds of settings.
I think the idea of alignment somehow gets misinterpreted early on for most players as to mean "rigid adherence to a moral code." Follow that up with a few middle-school games full of Lawful-Murder Paladins who PvP every party thief and shit on any opporunity for moral ambiguity, and we form the opinion that the D&D alignment systems are for assholes.
Even in a world where it is "Good vs Evil" I think alignment should probably more properly be thought of as a simple alignment, defined as "a position of agreement or alliance." Outside of the truly pious inhabitants of the world, I'm not sure it has to be much more than this.
In a class-based system where fighter is clearly distinguished from wizard, and adventurers more or less only have eight jobs to pick from, I'm not sure why alignment seems any more restrictive.
You can skin a fighter to be a swashbuckler, a mercenary, a degenerate drunken brawler, or a warpriest who can't cast spells, right? There's no reason you can't skin a NE thief as a great friend to have around, who usually doesn't go out of his way to commit evil acts, but if captured would give up his whole party to the Evil Cult if it'll save his own skin...or maybe even for a really good bribe.
You can get plenty creative with personalities and still have alignment matter in a metaphysical sense.
Still, alignment has to be a player choice, and not a set of restrictions. Move the alignments around if players continually make choices opposed to their professed alignment. Applied consistently, and sparingly (only when it's an incredibly obvious moral or ethical dilemma) the alignment system can be pretty engaging.
Last Edit: May 3, 2015 14:20:00 GMT -8 by squeatus
I agree with all of that squeatus. I think the danger that many sometimes fall into is just bringing a set of prejudices about what constitutes good/evil/law/neutrality and what it means for a character to take those labels. I very much enjoy a high fantasy game where there are very much moral absolutes. Hell below and heaven above. Then the PCs fall between somewhere within that dichotomy but then also because we are grown adults it becomes even more interesting to smash that dichotomy all to hell with complicated, ambiguous situations. If my players are often finding themselves bellowing "I don't know what fucking side to be on..."
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I always kinda figured the alignment you pick when you make your character is like a sticky note you stick on the cardboard cutout that you're building, i.e. it's a convenient way to kinda sum up what you figure your soon-to-be guy is gonna be like when you get around to playing it. Whatever develops in game, that sticky note is where it started. If it changes, cool. If it stays the same, cool.
But, if the system you're playing has some kind of mechanical reason that the alignment has to be a way, or there's a bonus for one thing or the other, then... it should be on the player to do the work to get the donut. Like if you have to be lawful good to be a paladin of GOODGODGOODERSON, the god of goodness, then... you better figure out how to play lawful good, son.
All that being said, if there isn't actually a reason for it to matter, like nothing changes if the paladin of GOODGODGOODERSON shoots a dude in the head with an arrow because he can't find his heroin, then... why worry?
Last Edit: May 3, 2015 23:16:51 GMT -8 by Forresst
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