- Local time
- Today, 09:50
- Dec 12, 2009
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.