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Friday, May 16, 2014

How Strict Are You With Alignment?

I've seen a lot of talk about how alignment isn't realistic, that the 9 alignment system is too strict, that the only thing the Palladium system got right was alignment, law and chaos is the way to go, good and evil are matters of perspective and more.

Alignment seems to be the one thing gamers are least likely to agree on.

Do you use alignment in your campaigns? Do you track it and force change (and repercussions) to those that stray from the path? Do you hand-wave the whole thing?

21 comments:

  1. I keep track of alignment and will change the alignment if behavior drifts for a long time. I don't directly penalize the wayward character. Struggling against ones nature or to preserve it in the face of adversity are great themes of fiction and myth and ignoring that in RPG is to lose an awful lot.
    I don't play alignment as a straightjacket on personal action; good people may do horrible things and evil men may redeem themselves. A good person can be driven to murder by passion or madness and it torments them. Acts of mercy by an evil person trouble them as others may see it as weakness.
    The supernatural does react to alignment and magic is impacted by alignment. Years back my players summoned a minor lawful spirit to aid them against a chaotic undead lord, forgetting a third of the PCs were pretty wicked; sorting that out was fun and the summoning would have been boringly mechanical without the alignment based interaction.
    How well a player reacts to all this earns their characters extra exp for playing well it's not a trap that restricts actions and retards development of the character's heroic journey (if they have one).

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  2. No alignment. There a causes and situations and deities. A cleric will have a somewhat more strict behavior code than the others. Should a battle god's cleric just ask for healing he might get perturbed, he wants his power going towards breaking down enemies, and may reverse the intent of the healing spell.

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  3. No worries about alignment. Tracking it is time consuming bookkeeping and time is short enough. I'll keep an ear out for the occasional paladin's intended actions but that's the limit.

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  4. Alignment is descriptive, not proscriptive. Unless you're divinely powered.

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  5. Alignment is not usually a consideration in my universe. Then again, I tend to like dark, gritty sword & sorcery with Howardian and Lovecraftian themes.

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  6. I play B/X. Primarily I ignore alignment entirely. I handed out character sheets that had the fill-in for alignment which was an oversight, and when people asked what to put there I suggested leaving it blank or writing none. A few people wanted to put something in it and I said we had only lawful chaotic and neutral in the rules. One wanted to be lawful and one chaotic. I didn't see the harm in writing those things, and they've been playing characters that mostly fit them.

    The mechanics of B/X do have some spells and such that refer to Evil, and I'm entirely subjective about it, and basically told them I would be. There was a shrine that activated in a canned adventure and only protected Good characters, and I decided to just ask them if they were "good" enough for the holy relic to think they would be deserving of its attentions. Kind of a slanted situation, but they all seemed to feel they were generally do-gooder types, and this did influence their self-perception of their characters.

    So I suppose the general idea comes up, but not really in an "alignment system" way. If someone decides they don't really want to be a Goodie all the time, I won't mind. If the woman who wrote Lawful or the guy who wrote Chaotic don't keep inside those lines, I won't care at all because I don't view those slots as meaningful.

    What I *am* going to do is track reputation. Depending upon what the characters do and don't do, they're going to be perceived in certain ways in areas of the world. My Cleric will have to answer to her god if she strays from the path of her religion too far. My thief is trying to figure out her own moral code, and since she is playing a family outcast it's going to guide that story.

    But alignment as written doesn't much appeal to me.

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  7. It really depends on the game I am playing, but I prefer for it to just manifest as a slight advantage or disadvantage than anything else (ie, a Chaotic character trying to convince a lawful NPC is going to have a harder time than trying to convince a Neutral character and will even get a bonus to their roll for trying to convince a Chaotic character). Alignment-conscious spells are similar.

    As to forcing repercussions? Eh, not really unless you're a religious-focused character and it's important. I also give my players forewarning when they are on a path that contradicts their stated alignment so they can reconsider. Call it the voice of god reminding them that this may not be in their best interest.

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  8. Barely pay attention to it. To the extent that I do, it is more as a world-building tool than anything else. I consider character alignment to be a declaration of "metaphysical allegiance" -- not a personality profile. The consequences for transgressions are minimal to none, unless you are a cleric, paladin, etc.

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  9. I'm only strict about classes that are dependent on alignment, like clerics or paladins.
    I hate alignment and prefer to go the route of alignment-as-cosmic-allegience.

    I like Palladium's alignment system because it offers a behavioral guide, rather than the GM's personal moral beliefs becming cosmic law by which the PCs must abide.

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    1. "the GM's personal moral beliefs becming cosmic law by which the PCs must abide. " is why I prefer Law-Neutral-Chaos and leave good and evil for supernatural creatures or ignore them.

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  10. We consider alignment to be a part of the game, like armor class or saving throws. The descriptions are broad enough that, with a little leeway, work just fine here. It's another challenge, so to speak, to playing the game. It seems like a lot of people react to such challenges by finding reasons to remove or modify them, rather than by trying to meet and overcome them. Which is fine, I suppose, as long as you realize that past a certain point, such a "house-ruled" game changes so many things that you are no longer playing the original game.

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  11. Alignment only matters for clerics and other types who get powers from deities and have to toe the official line of whichever deity if they want to keep on his good side. Otherwise it isn't used at all. And even then it's more behavior than alignment. You could be a real a-hole but still be considered Lawful Good in the eyes of your deity as long as you adhere to his rules.

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  12. the function of alighnment is to cause fights
    better than real religious fighting in games, abstractified and silly
    i love is to much i have Balanced nuetral (between law and chaos) and midde nuetral (between good anf evil) and no alighnment options
    i give aliment fanatics extra powers if they take oath every level
    thus i have wizards of law, paladin wariors or law & Good plus thieves of chaos possible
    priests have to be extremists

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  13. Anything that gives anyone the opportunity to say "uh but your character wouldn't do that" has got to go.

    I use something close to lotfp where magic detects as Chaos, god-magic detects as Law, and everyone else shows up neutral.

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  14. Include it but handwave it. I don't think I've ever forced a player to change alignment in 30+ years as a DM (except with curses).

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  15. I wouldn't call myself strict, but I do emphasize it. Luck (DCCRPG) is rewarded solely on actions based on alignment, especially actions that are selfless (for lawful folks) and selfish (for chaotics). Neutral folks get the short end because neutral is for weenies.

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    1. What does selflessness have to do with Lawfulness? And selfishness with Chaos?

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  16. Depends on the age of my players.

    For my 5 - 9 year-old group Lawful-Neutral-Chaotic is a nice shorthand for broad factions and "lawful" becomes linked to "loyal" (to the party anyway). It isn't "enforced" but rather used as a reference point (e.g. "Yes, he is right to be afraid of the ghouls, but his friends are trapped down there. Do you think he'd want to help them?").

    For my 11-14 year-old group we don't use alignment at all -- 80% of them would classify as Chaotic Neutral anyway, and the game is largely defined by whether we along PvP or not.

    For my men-with-beards homebrew sandbox group, we use the nine alignments as a shorthand to identify trends in choices as they emerge over time and through play, but my players don't have any alignment listed on their character sheets. I DO use the nine alignments on the index cards that I use for my campaign NPCs (about 60 different ones) along with a few notes about habits, motives, and accents to help me play them consistently at a moment's notice.

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  17. I take a different approach than the majority of responses here indicate: deities are always watching. Characters can do anything and, as referee, I'll never tell a player "your character wouldn't do that." Characters, especially Clerics, will be judged if they repeatedly violate the tenets of Law, depending upon severity and frequency. This is not a death sentence, more often taking the form of a quest or requirement of a "special offering" in gold and magic to the church.

    Thus, alignment is present in the campaign and a running background thread, but certainly not a straitjacket to player creativity and freedom.

    I've never had a player complaint about it (though I'm reasonably certain I'm about to get flamed in this venue).

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    1. More or less what I do except my deities only give an eff if you're an adherent or supposed adherent.

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