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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Do You Use Alignment in Your Campaigns?

I use it, but there are times I wonder why I bother.

Alignment is rarely a driving force in any of the games I've run, and my interpretation of the different alignments and the interpretations of my players rarely meet. Yes, even after reading the exact same section in the rules. Needless conflict ;)

I'm beginning to wonder if more general good / indifferent / evil type of axis would be more effective in future campaigns for my usual group. More latitude and less "various interpretations".

So, do you use alignment as is? Do you tweak it? Drop it all together?


  1. Depends on the campaign. In my 3.x era campaigns alignment shifts regularly based on character actions without penalty. It isn't a guideline for role-playing, it is an indicator of how the character has been role-played.

    In my B/X era campaigns I stick a lot closer to the alignment structure, which is easier since there are only 3 alignments. There the alignments are "less restrictive" because there are only the 3 of them, but they end up being "more restrictive" in play because they are used as a guide to roleplaying instead of an indicator of roleplaying.

  2. I find alignments to be prescriptive rather than reactive, and I feel like they should be more of the latter. Based on actions. I find it hard to want to "punish" a player with such a meta-element that alignments are too, when they don't act according that that specific alignment's dogma. To me it seems like needless paperwork.

    Usually, I do drop alignments. In older D&D, that can cause issues with the Protection from Blah-Blah-Blah spells and Smite Evil and all that. In those cases when I am playing those games, I take a page from Swords & Wizardry and go with Good and Chaotic/Evil, with Unaligned thrown in there for characters who are neither. I feel like the basic idea of alignment doesn't hold a character down and lets them explore what that idea means for them.

  3. I used to use it, but not anymore. Players still play as if they were one alignment or another, but I don't enforce it by the rules.

    When it comes to Protection or Detect Evil spells I now use otherworldly beings instead. So detect evil won't detect a goblin or ogre, but it will detect a ghost or elemental.

  4. Since I usually run games on Tekumel, alignment is built into the temple system. Deities are either Stability or Change (Law and Chaos), but both are accepted parts of society. And everybody is a member of one of the temples. Atheists are thought to be insane, since the manifestation of the gods can be seen. But being a member of the temple doesn't mean you are a "burn everything" fanatic. You can be a "I show up for the twice-yearly Orgy of Magnificent Splendor and The Feast of Ecstatic Consumption, but I'm too busy making money the rest of the time" temple-goer.

  5. I ran a 3.x campaign without alignment and it worked. I've run 1e with and without alignment and it worked. I guess it depends on the campaign and feel that you want. I'm currently running Under Illefarn with my kids, and I made a player's booklet for them in which I defined alignment by providing them perspectives held by each alignment. This is the first batch of characters made by my kids that wasn't Chaotic Good or Chaotic Neutral.

  6. I use Law and Chaos as impersonal cosmic forces, eternally opposed. Law is about building up civilization and Chaos is about tearing it down again. No one is required to choose an alignment except for Clerics, who derive their spell casting abilities from it. Lawfuls and Chaotics can work together without conflict (again excepting Clerics, who are expected to at least have a plan to kill each other), so it's more a mover of events than a limit on behavior.

  7. I use the 3-alignment-system and have implemented additional rules in my games. Here's a small selection. More are sprinkled throughout my D&D-Mine-Clone-Text.

    A character's alignment defines his approach to problems and his personal allegiance and ethos concerning the forces of chaos (entropy) and order (creation). A characters alignment may affect his abilities and actions.

    Some classes have a requirement in alignment. A newly created character cannot choose a class which alignment requirement he cannot meet. A character that can no longer meet his class's alignment requirement at a later point during his career will be unable to earn experience points and advance in level until he can meet the class's alignment requirement once again. Additional consequences, such as being unable to use one's class-based powers, may also come into play.

    Alignment is kept track of on the alignment track. Your GM will decide when to move a character's alignment one or more steps towards the chaotic or lawful end of the alignment track. This will usually happen when a character has a significant moral dilemma and takes action in accordance with one of the three alignments. The same holds true if one of the character's personality traits is challenged or if the character takes actions in accordance with one of these traits.

    Alignment Track

    Adventurers have three personality traits (one for each alignment), affecting their behavior and actions. If a choice is to be made and a character activates one of his traits through a suitable action, his alignment shifts one step on the alignment track towards the trait’s associated alignment. Traits are chosen from or randomly determined by using the example table below. The GM may assign traits to henchmen and other fully developed characters to help him define their personalities and portray them accordingly.

    Personality Traits Table:
    D20 Lawful|Neutral|Chaotic
    1 Altruistic|Aesthetic|Angry
    2 Brave|Amoral|Argumentative

    Cleric (Alignment and Spells): A lawful cleric who casts the reverse form of a spell instead of casting its normal form shifts his alignment one step closer towards the chaotic end of the alignment track. A chaotic cleric who casts the normal form of a spell instead of casting its reversed form shifts his alignment one step closer towards the lawful end of the alignment track. A neutral cleric can cast the normal form or reversed form of a spell without shifting his alignment.

    Druid (Alignment and Spells): A druid who casts the reverse form of a spell instead of casting its normal form shifts his alignment one step closer towards the chaotic end of the alignment track. A druid who casts the normal form of a spell instead of casting its reversed form shifts his alignment one step closer towards the lawful end of the alignment track. A druid who cats a non-reversible spell moves his alignment one step closer to the neutral middle of the alignment track.

    Paladin (Alignment): A paladin who grossly violates his code of conduct can no longer use his paladin powers until he repents by atonement. A paladin who becomes neutral in alignment can no longer use his paladin powers until he becomes lawful again. A paladin who becomes chaotic in alignment will never be redeemed and turns into a fallen paladin, called a blackguard, of equal level.

    1. Alignment ist also important for some spells and abilities, such as detect evil. If you do not use alignment, you have to delete those spells from your games (or rephrase them) and some Magic items become obsolute (or have to be changed, too)

  8. Yeah, you have to have alignment, or the wheel pulls to the side. Make sure to rotate your players now and then so the wear is as even as possible, it preserves the tread on the campaign longer. =)

  9. I use alignments in a couple of different, non-standard, manners.

    For NPCs I use AD&D-style alignment as vague guide for how they will behave based on the baggage I've subjectively prescribed to each alignment over the decades.

    Players, however, are generally unaligned unless they have somehow linked their soul to some cosmic force, e.g. clerics and paladins. These forces are not generally called law or chaos or good or evil, though I suppose they could be. Rather, they go by names like demonic or angelic, light or dark, faerie or elemental, coke or pepsi, etc. As clerics are not at all common in my game, alignments are not often relevant though they may be called into play from time to time when it suits the action.

  10. In 4e it has no game impact so I ignore it in my 4e Loudwater game.

    In my 1e Yggsburgh game I guess I downplay it, but supernatural evil a la Hammer Horror is a trope in that game so the existence of Good and Evil is somewhat relevant.

    1. Hm, thinking about it I don't think I actually list Alignment for my Yggsburgh NPCs, and the PCs mostly don't either. Whereas in Loudwater, which is Forgotten Realms highish fantasy, characters do actually have Alignments listed. So the reverse of what I just said. :)

  11. First thing I dumped, years ago. I sometimes use the "For King and Country" system from Dragon magazine (in my return to D&D-types I've been attracted to it again), but just as often I ignore the idea entirely. The "Protection from Evil" and such I change to "Protection from Outer Plane Entities".

  12. Alignment is one of those things that makes D&D ... D&D.

    But yes often folks misunderstand what alignment IS.

    It is NOT your PCs personality.

    It is NOT a thing the DM should use to force PCs to act a certain way.

    If you got an hour to read it check this out (it's not really all THAT long, but it will make you ponder along the way):


    I'm only 1/4 of the way through it and I agree with so much of what this "duanevp" person is saying.

  13. alighnment is a thing imposed by planes on humans - i use lots and even offer bonuses for being a fanatic and tie to clerical abilities - needless fighting is the point of alignment - who do we get to kill

    i apply alignments to cities, nations as well

    alignment causes fights - good that's what it is for

  14. I'm playing ACKS and using its alignment system. In a nutshell, alingment in ACKS does not equal morality, not to mention personality, but rather allegiance to either the Gods of Civilization (Lawful) or to the Gods of Chaos (Chaotic; Cthulhu-type entities). Lawful characters are willing to fight and give their lives, if need be, for the protection of civilization, flawed as it may be. Chaotic characters either want to bring down civilization and restore primeval bestiality, or gain immense personal power and the world be damned. Most people in the setting are Neutral, that is, they enjoy the benefits of civilization, but are not readily willing to fight in the front lines and die for it.

    You can be a perfect villain and still be Lawful or Neutral; being a good guy while Chaotic is much more difficult, but this does not mean that all Chaotic characters behave as psychopaths in their daily lives. Most people are, as I said, Neutral.

  15. @Omer: Great presentation of the alignment system (lawful-chaotic-neutral) that i also prefer. That's also how i use it in B/X, and how ts's used in LotFP really. I think i will probably use that 3-way system, in that way, also in future AD&D-like games.

  16. No, dropped it many years back. In my experience it only leads to dead end arguments about what 'good' and 'lawful' means and just gets in the way of playing characters and playing the game.