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D&D Alignments

Cognisant

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What are they?
How are they defined?
Which alignment do you see yourself as and why?
What function do they serve in the game, both from a game-mechanics and narrative perspective?

I think all characters (not just player characters) are neutral by default, that good/evil and lawful/chaotic are spectrums defined by their extremes but every point between those two extremes is some degree of neutrality. In other words if a character is to have an alignment of anything but true neutral they have to EARN it, when the players encounter a "bad guy" he should be doing something bad, a guy lounging around in a bandit camp is just a guy, implicitly he's a bandit if you encounter him relaxing in a bandit camp but that tells you nothing about WHO the character is.

The party happens upon a bandit camp and finds they've captured a family caravan, the father lays bloodied and tied up on the ground, one of the bandits is using him as a footrest, the grandmother scolds the bandits as they go through the family's cart, one of them hits her, the daughter is being forced to work as a waitress, one of the bandits grabs her ass, the son is being forced to dig a trench, "make it deep" a bandit says, the mother puts up a fight while a couple of bandits drag her towards a tent, you get the idea.

Now those bandits aren't just random guys, they're BAD guys, the players aren't just going to kill them for experience and loot, they're not just going to walk away if the camp looks too big to handle, really the number of examples given being used in a single scenario is massive overkill, a single instance of a captive being abused would have been sufficient as all the bandits are guilty by compliance.

Likewise a player-character isn't good or evil until they do something to establish themselves as such, lifting a coin purse from a stranger in a busy tavern is bad but it's not capital "E" evil, the paladin will smack you and make you take it back (if he catches you) but he's not going to kill you for it. On the other hand if you quietly murder a random character on a hunch that he's probably the big bad or an agent thereof, congratulations you're evil now, your actions may have been well intentioned, you might even have been right, but you crossed that line on a hunch and that says something about who you are.

Once tainted by evil you stay evil until you do something especially good (your redemption) whereby you return to neutral, likewise a paladin or cleric who relies upon being good needs to consider their actions to stay good, but within acceptable limits they can still be assholes, a paladin can nick a coin purse without falling from grace but if they ever do it'll be one more thing they'll have to atone for, an act of charity (equal to the amount they stole) on top of performing a truly good deed.

I like the idea of a paladin with drinking/gambling habits still being a paladin until he seriously fucks up, then it's a long hard road to redemption, whereas one that fucks up but has an otherwise clean record merely needs to atone for that mistake.
 

Blarraun

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I think all characters (not just player characters) are neutral by default, that good/evil and lawful/chaotic are spectrums defined by their extremes but every point between those two extremes is some degree of neutrality. In other words if a character is to have an alignment of anything but true neutral they have to EARN it
(...)
Likewise a player-character isn't good or evil until they do something to establish themselves as such, lifting a coin purse from a stranger in a busy tavern is bad but it's not capital "E" evil
I'm not sure what you're trying to say here.

Player character's alignment is usually established in the background story preceding the actual DnD game. Any actions in the backstory serve to show the good and bad sides and how that PC interacts with the world, how aligned is their goal or experience.

So starting the first game the GM knows all of the player's characters and the team alignment after discussing it with them during the life story creation. The game master uses those points to create villains, plot points and so on.

I wouldn't say it's that difficult to make an ambiguous character, it requires more effort to roleplay convincingly. It can be interesting to not have any direction established or play more neutral and have some tension because of that.


If you consider the oscillation on the "good/bad" axis, if a player would amplify the waves they could at one point play out angelic and the following day be a fiend. That could generate an interesting chaotic insane persona. The important thing would be getting some unifying themes that would connect that insane character with the party and the world.
 

Jennywocky

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Aside from the pure mechanics ("You cannot use this sword unless you are Chaotic Good!") it's more of a general summary of the character's overall aims rather than a specific litmus test. I mean, it's just like real life, as far as personality goes -- maybe you can summarize someone as one of 16 personality types, but the specific flavor of the person is going to vary greatly from person to person even if you can see overall similarities in attitudes and the like.

In our current game, we just told the GM what alignment we THOUGHT we were. He told us he'll be tracking us and having NPCs react to each of us in the way we actually behave.

To go back to paladins briefly, the paladin in our last campaign was far more lawful than good. He was an anal-retentive law and order dwarf with a gruff manner. Overall he was vying for everyone's best interests but could be a tedious with nitpicking and was kind of an ass in terms of empathy. The paladin in our current campaign (a half-orc) is more enthusiastic but still very zealous, he can run roughshod over folks; his saving grace is how he actively looks out for others in the group and is willing to interpose himself / protect them. When I played my paladin in Pathfinder, she was more "good" than "lawful," and she was more quiet and contemplative -- just otherworldly, in a Joan of Arc way. She also would not demand others do something, she would choose to do them herself and let others be inspired to follow by her example. So she was a quiet paragon of rational virtue, and would always encourage others to aspire to their best selves by her example, without real judgment. Within each alignment there's a lot of personal variance in the personality tics and what specifically each character will and will not do, their approach to others, etc.

For an example from the other side of the tracks, my thrallherd tengu lich was Neutral Evil... but she also valued learning and information. Her cult temples that she established weren't just temples to her but centers of learning, libraries, and schools for the psionically gifted. She rewarded aptitude and intelligence. She tried to give back to the community, even if it was also about earning praise and being the dominant power. She also didn't abuse her followers, even if they were expendable on some level; they just better served her purposes while alive and especially if they were intelligent and capable. It was a matter of prioritizing, though, not really empathy or compassion. The GM used my cult in another game and the adventurers were confused because they were expecting overt evil and didn't know what to make of my followers because they were curious and smart and encouraged learning. (Still, Sumiko could also be paranoid and proactive in protecting herself, while also craving attention. But she was also lonely. There was a ratfolk priest who adored her, who she took inner pleasure in poking and goading... and then when he died and she lost that attention, she wore a memory stone around her neck of the time he took her out for dinner because on some level she missed him.) Still she was fine with destroying her direct enemies (in as much pain as possible), being loved and admired, trapping the souls of creatures in stones to use for her own power regardless of their own torment, violating the rules of nature to make herself immortal, flipping off gods and trying to destroy them if she could, etc.

Alignment isn't broad destiny, it just provides eddies and currents for roleplaying. I think it exists more for the mechanics and a general ballpark that is the "center" of a character's natural behavior. Your "range" might stretch beyond your center and bleed into other areas, it's just your center on the map is unique. Make a grid and stick your actual center somewhere on the grid, then map your behavior, and you should have a "splat-like" mark on the map as far as your actual behavior goes. Some tendrils might be longer than others.
 

travelnjones

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Really you can discard it pretty easy. Many or Most other games have no thought for the concept of alignment.

if you are talking about what alignment we see ourselves. Most INTPs should fall into the Chaotic alignments. The N is basically a measure of disorganization. P probably pushes us more toward neutral.
 

Nebulous

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It helps as a guideline / reminder to stay in character in the game. I was actually just thinking about dnd alignments and have this up http://easydamus.com/alignment.html it’s a really good explaination of the alignments.

You can’t really apply them to actual real life people that well. But in dnd it helps you develop the character. It can help out in writing as well. The types can function as niches, tons of stories/ campaigns work because they have characters of different alignments acting in their respective niches. Chaotic good is the one who goes against the rules and risks to do what is morally right to them, and that’s always both captivating in a story and capable of carrying forward action and plot.

And it makes for fun lunch table discussion with friends.
 

Cognisant

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I'm not sure what you're trying to say here.
I wasn't making a philosophical statement and I misspoke by essentially implying "this is the way D&D is" because it's not, I just went on to making my point, writing it as I was thinking it.

To be more accurate I've noticed that alignments in D&D are a somewhat difficult thing to DM (perhaps that's why many DMs gloss over it) because most situations/actions have a degree of ambiguity and it's hard to definitively say whether a character is a "good" or "evil" on average. So I'm advocating that alignments be polarized, that for the sake of qualifying as evil you're either evil or you're not, and in order to qualify for evil status you have to do something particularly evil, in narrative terminology there has to be a singular event that signifies your character gaining that status.

This is kinda strange, you can have a character who is an asshole to everyone all the time for no reason and does lots of petty crimes, who isn't evil because they've never done anything particularly evil. While there's another character who is always nice to everyone, always sees the good in people, bakes cookies for their party and is in every regard a good person, but is actually evil because they did one particularly bad thing one time.

It's a very biblical take on morality, indeed perhaps someone with an evil parent is also evil unless their other parent counteracts that evil by being good, or maybe there's a patriarch/matriarchal element to this and moral status can only be inherited from a parent of a particular gender.

I've gotten lost on another tangent, getting back on track my point is this isn't morality as morality itself but rather morality as a plot device and as a plot device it can be more readily incorporated as a game mechanic. An heirloom sword may be a cursed item to a good character, a regular sword to a neutral character and a boon to an evil character (or a boon to good and a curse to evil), a good person being cursed by a sword because they did one bad thing one time isn't fair but this isn't natural morality, this is morality as dictated by the whim of some deity (as acted by the DM) so you don't get to decide whether your character has a good/evil status because that's not the players decision to make.

Am I making any sense?
 

Blarraun

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So I'm advocating that alignments be polarized, that for the sake of qualifying as evil you're either evil or you're not, and in order to qualify for evil status you have to do something particularly evil, in narrative terminology there has to be a singular event that signifies your character gaining that status.
From outside perspective, someone's character is an unknown, only ever revealed by actions. I practically agree with this approach and I recently started to think more in terms of orienting my upcoming PC's in terms of how they have already defined themselves. That said characters can change back over time or shift to neutrality, it is rare to have many shifts without making the roleplaying too contrived.

For the introspective, a bad guy doesn't really know who they are unless they do something terrible and think "I guess I really am different", or witness the social rejection due to their wrongdoing or simply misbehaving. Of course it doesn't have to be a single deed, but a sum of recent influences the person draws on for guidance. Sometimes it may take time before it all sinks in and all the dangerous desires become apparent to the PC making it easier to pursue those. Or equally it could be repressed, a character deluding themselves into thinking they are right or good, perhaps even acting towards greater good but failing to integrate it emotionally or identify themselves with results, perhaps taking out their cruelty on enemies or feeling ashamed of that dark side.

Did any of you try DnD 5? I'm waiting for the handbook import. Kinda sucks that WotC doesn't put enough effort to try to translate it and most players here are stuck with either flavor of warhammer or older editions. We're left with some empty promises that it was being done.
 

Jennywocky

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I think evil people get shafted. Everyone assumes the evil person is bad, has always been bad, and actively thinks about how bad he is. No, sometimes they have their own hero's quest to pursue (e.g., Thanos in "Infinity War" or another character from "Unbreakable") where they make their own sacrifices and/or have to discover who THEY are and then embrace it.

Most villains will view themselves as the hero in their own story. They have their reasons.

Did any of you try DnD 5? I'm waiting for the handbook import. Kinda sucks that WotC doesn't put enough effort to try to translate it and most players here are stuck with either flavor of warhammer or older editions. We're left with some empty promises that it was being done.
We switched over to 5e from Pathfinder and just finished our 15 month campaign, then started another with a new GM.

We all like it a great deal, they did some stuff to really simplify the number-crunching / mechanics morass while still being sensible about it. I think if you really like the mechanics of character creation, you'll get more control in Pathfinder and other systems, but 5e is a bit more elegant in approach honestly.
 

travelnjones

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5e embraces a more rules light/indie philosophy, where as Path is very crunchy.

If you really want to try something cool that views the character as the sum of their actions rather than alignment, give some of the other RPG's a try. There is a new version of Runequest that is getting great reviews. A new War Hammer Fantasy Role play just came out. Both offer games that are different in flavor from Pathfinder or D&D.
 
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pathfinder has lots of weird sexual monster lore and that's what really matters

oh and alignments are kinda neat, i guess
 

travelnjones

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If you want that Try Tribe 8 that got down right creep for me
 

Hadoblado

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Alignment systems... I think they're too flawed to be of value. Maybe if you kept the chaos/lawful element but got rid of good/evil and replaced it with friend/enemy?
 

Cognisant

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Sin maybe?
The biblical notion of sin isn't morality it's like morality adjacent, it makes no sense in any sensible philosophical discussion but as a plot device it's quite amazing.
 

Jennywocky

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well, like it or not that approach will be pretty intrinsic to original D&D derived from European chivalric attitudes.

Other RPS have been breaking away from the basic alignment things for years, it's nothing new. The game I was involved with in the mid-90's used a more Giver/Taker approach rather than an alignment grid. White Wolf doesn't really have alignment, it's about roleplaying. There are many others. Alignment just happens to be around because it's friggin' TSR who jumpstarted all of this stuff (so they set the framework that others built off, plus they are always going to have a loud voice), and there's a convenience to the mechanical angle when you can slap a shorthand label on things.

TBH in our group, we just kind of circumvent it aside from the mechanics stuff. it's really about what you do and how you interact with others. If you screw over NPCs, they aren't going to like you. If they hear about you doing awful things to others, they won't trust you. And so on.
 
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