Alignment: Truths and Misconceptions

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Alignment is a hot topic when it comes to D&D. Some people love it, some people hate it, and everyone has their reasons.


What I'd like to talk about here is actual facts regarding alignment. What alignment really is, and what it is not.


For purposes of this discussion, any and all claims made about alignment, if presented as a “fact” must be backed up with evidence. This is how logic and debate rules work. If you make a claim, you either back it up, or cede the point. If someone you are arguing with says “prove your claim”, don't get butthurt and whine that “I don't have to” or “you don't have the right to make demands of me”, because that is incorrect. In debate, your opponent ABSOLUTELY has the right to ask that you back up your claims.


Because of this emphasis on what is fact and what is not, your own personal experiences and anecdotal references do not constitute valid fact. Alignment gets misused and abused, by players and Dms alike, all the time. That has no bearing on the facts of alignment. Since D&D is frequently houseruled, and there is no objective manner in which to cover and account for every given houserule, only RAW (Rules As Written) is considered valid fact.


I fully expect that 3.5e, as the most recent edition to have the “9 alignment grid” and concrete alignment mechanics, will be the most discussed system of alignment and alignment mechanics. If you are discussing a different edition, make that clear in your points, please.


I hear alignment detractors all the time cite this or that reason why alignment limits them, but the truth is this: Nothing about alignment limits one's creativity, or the actions of one's character. The RAW explicitly state that alignment is NOT a straightjacket (3.5e PHB page 103). Therefore, any statement to the contrary is objectively false.


Another point alignment detractors like to focus on is the claim that “alignment cannot work because morality and ethics are subjective”. While it is true in the real world that morality and ethics are subjective (after all, what one culture perceives as good, another might view as abominable), in D&D there is an objective scale. The 3.5e RAW, for example state : “Good and Evil are not philosophical concepts in the D&D world. They are the forces that define the cosmos.” (page 103). Dungeons and Dragons is FANTASY, and because it is so, things like objective values of Good and Evil may exist. While an individual may believe that his/her actions are justified, or “for the greater good”, there is an objective scale by which that individual is judged. That person's place on that scale is his or her alignment. The RAW presents the definitions of Good/Evil/Law/Chaos, and while an individual DM might impose his/her own moral/ethical values on that in his/her ruling on the matter, if that ruling is not compatible with RAW, then it is a houserule.


Others say “when you use alignment, you are playing an alignment, and not a personality”. The RAW also state that each alignment covers a broad range of personality types and personal philosophies (3.5e PHB, pg 103), and that just because someone has a greed streak, or a short temper, does not mean that said person is not Lawful Good.


One of my main points is this: ALIGNMENT IS NOT AN ABSOLUTE BAROMETER OF ACTION OR AFFILIATION. A Chaotic person is not obliged to break laws or disobey authority. An Evil person is not incapable of selfless action. Being Lawful may or may not have anything at all to do with civil law or authority. Being Good does not mean never doing things to your own advantage.


Have DMs all over the world forced a PC's action because “your alignment is x, you can't do that”? Of course, you hear about it all the time. But that kind of DM overbearingness is not supported by RAW, and is therefore a houserule. Have players been disruptive or combatative to the other members of their party and used alignment as an excuse for bad behavior? Certainly, but nothing about alignment RAW encourages or even allows that. The fact is, that those kinds of DMs and players are the problem. You could run a game without alignment, and a DM could still find a way to try and railroad you, or force your character's actions. A player in a game without alignment could write up a detailed character background and personality, and still act contrary to it, and be just as disruptive.


In 100% of the examples I have ever been presented with about why alignment is bad, the issue is a player or DM deviating from RAW. Not once has an alignment detractor presented a situation that can show, objectively, that alignment, when properly used in accordance with RAW, has caused problems in their games.


People are certainly entitled to their opinions. If you don't like alignment, don't use it. Far be it from me to tell you you're “doing it wrong”. D&D is a game that thrives on individuality and customization. If you prefer to run a game and throw alignment out the window, and you and your players have fun playing, more power to you. But don't claim falsehoods about what alignment is and is not. Your opinion, while valid for you, does not hold objective weight if you can't support your points with direct quotes from RAW.


I absolutely welcome the alignment detractors to post here if they will support their points with actual facts taken directly from RAW. I love a good debate. But showing up and posting short, blanket statements such as “alignment is crap, it should be thrown out of the game, and no one should use it ever” is trolling, and I will report your post as such.


Also, no personal attacks. If I catch anyone on either side of the fence on this argument making ad hominem attacks, I will report your post myself. To that point, if someone attacks your argument, be an adult about it, and don't complain that they are attacking YOU.

Another hot issue in regards to alignment has been alignment restrictions on certain classes. In particular, the ones most presented are the monk, the barbarian, and the paladin.


The 3.x D&D Monk is meant to represent a specific fantasy archetype, that of a disciplined, monastic wuxia-style martial artist who attains not only martial mastery, but physical and spiritual enlightenment and, eventually, perfection. Some people seem to be unable to grasp the concept that the monk isn't just a guy who learned kung-fu. If you want that, you could be a fighter and take Imporved Unarmed Strike.


The developers wanted the class to reflect that ONE ARCHETYPE. The archetype is of someone who not only practice martial arts, but meditate, read philosophy, and follow a SPECIFIC discipline towards a goal of enlightenment. In that archetype is the idea that it requires CONSTANT dedication to the path in order to achieve the desired result. So, to the developers, all members of the monk class were these disciplined warriors, and to reflect that, members would have to maintain a lawful alignment to continue advancing.

Does that mean that other wuxia martial-arts concepts are not feasible? Of course not. But the class features, like Still Mind, and so on, were meant to reflect that one archetype.


What's key here, is that the developers were making a game to appeal to THOUSANDS of people, and the character archetypes they chose to represent were the ones that would appeal to the most people. A Chaotic Monk could very well be a valid character concept, or a "Barbarian", who is a disciplined warrior who goes into a cold-burning state of heightened battle awareness (kind of overlaps the Sohei, but whatever). The oppressive, dark knight champion of the god of Tyranny? Absolutely valid.


But, the people who want character concepts that are SO WILDLY DIFFERENT from the archetypes of the classes are, statistically, in the minority. From the point of view of the developers, who are making a game that ultimately needs to SELL to make money to keep making more game products, the classes should represent the archetypes that resonate with the most people.


Same goes for the paladin. If you look up the definition of “paladin”, in addition to references of the Peers of Charlemagne, you will get something to the effect of “an honorable knight”. Even today, high ideals of honor, virtue, and justice are referred to as “paladian”. The Lawful Good alignment, along with a strict Code of Conduct to adhere to, best represents the ideal of that particular archetype. Again, this is an issue of the designers' intent to mechanically reflect a particular archetype in the game.


Nothing about “paladin”, in it's original vernacular, has anything to do with being a champion of a deity, but rather it was the way the knight acted and what he championed that made him a paladin. And so, many people on the pro-alignment side often claim that you cannot have a Chaotic Evil paladin or what have you.


Gonna be a traitor to my own side here and make this point. Dungeons and Dragons has re-appropriated the word “paladin” to mean “knight of x polytheistic faith”. Especially with the advent of 4e. Given that, in a D&D context, a “paladin” of the god of slaughter, or undeath, or tyranny, could absolutely be feasible. But that's only because D&D's definition of “paladin” has come to be a deviation from what the word classically means in our language. 


So does that mean that people who want other concepts are out of line, or just SOL? They certainly should not be. But being in the minority, it shouldn't be too difficult to just ask for your DM to make a houseruled exception for you. If it's a compelling character concept, he should allow it. Best DM advice I have ever heard given to a rookie DM was this:
"It is both a GAME and a STORY. If the two conflict, err on the side of cool"
For example, when I first started DMing in 3.0, I eliminated favored classes and multiclassing XP penalties in favor on instituting some race/class restrictions for what I thought would be better in keeping with my idea of what the campaign world was like. Half-Orcs, for example, were not allowed to me paladins. But even then, I had a standing rule that story trumps everything. If someone came to me with a great character concept for a half-orc paladin, I would make an exception. (side note: I have since learned to not be as restrictive, I consider my implementation of more restrictions the mistake of a newbie DM).

The issue with alignment isn't one of facts or objectivly argued points.  The issue with alignment is that it simply doesn't add any value to the expressions of morality that it it trying to model.  Not only does it not add value but in many cases it can take value away by being overly simplistic.  Take for example this rather simple scenario.

"The world is going to be destroyed by a caticlysmic force.  The only way to stop this force is to kill an innocent child.  This action must be taken in order to save the world."

The question is where on the morality scale does this sit.  Is it a good action because you are saving the world and everyone in it from destruction.  Or is it bad because you are killing an innocent who didn't do anything wrong.  Well the truth is that there isn't any one answer, there is a plethora of  different answers that are all equally correct.  Each person is going to view that situation a little differently and each person can find a well reasoned philosophy to prove their point.  This becomes an issue when alignment is tied up in mechanics.  

Say the person confronted with the above choice is a Paladin.  The DM thinks that killing the child was an evil action, The player thinks it was a good or neutral action because it was to save the world.  Another player thinks that it was an evil action but that the situation was such that it had to be done and the paladin shouldn't be punished.  None of this would be an issue if Paladins didn't have alignment restrictions.

Morality is complex and by and large has no right or wrong answers.  Pretending that it does is by and large disengenious.
 
Philosophers have been struggling and failing to adequately define good, evil, order, chaos and all that jazz for millenia.  Gamers sure as heck ain't gonna do it.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
The issue with alignment isn't one of facts or objectivly argued points.  The issue with alignment is that it simply doesn't add any value to the expressions of morality that it it trying to model.  Not only does it not add value but in many cases it can take value away by being overly simplistic.  Take for example this rather simple scenario.

"The world is going to be destroyed by a caticlysmic force.  The only way to stop this force is to kill an innocent child.  This action must be taken in order to save the world."



You've already failed as a DM if you are presenting a RAW game of D&D in the vein of heroic fantasy especially if you are presenting this situation to a Paladin.  That's the point. Alignment doesn't do that. Why? Because alignment doesn't do what it doesn't say it does. D&D's default is heroic fantasy...and heroic fantasy with OBJECTIVE good and evil. If you present a situation with no objectively good or evil outcome (or one where Evil is the only option) you are failing your players as a DM. Your player's are playing rugby and you're penalizing them for rules in football.

Also, as a solution to your problem...my paladin kills himself. "Child" is a subjective term, hence a paladin would be a "child" to countless beings, especially things like gods and if a paladin still has their powers then they are innocent. Loophole achieved. Paladin kills himself, cataclysmic force is averted and then his god resurrects the paladin or reincarnates him as a reward for his righteous behavior.

The argument "Alignment doesn't work when you play a different sort of game than what it's attached to and specifically create situations to screw over a players character!" is ridiculous. It is like saying Mages are a worthless class in the game because you think the common expectation is that every campaign world is 99% covered in Anti-Magic fields.
I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it. #SuperDungeonMasterIITurbo My blog and stuff http://dmingtowin.blogspot.com/ 100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.
Philosophers have been struggling and failing to adequately define good, evil, order, chaos and all that jazz for millenia.  Gamers sure as heck ain't gonna do it.



Thankfully, in the context of D&D, the game itself defines these things for us along the standard measures of heroic fantasy.
I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it. #SuperDungeonMasterIITurbo My blog and stuff http://dmingtowin.blogspot.com/ 100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.
The specific example isn't what is important, it is just a model that showcases the issue well.  There are plenty of situations that are just as viable for showing issues with alignment.

You can't just say that alignment works by telling us that anything we do to break alignment is doing the game wrong.  In fact I am sure that is some sort of logical fallacy.  "It works fine so long as you don't do anything that breaks it."  Is that ringing bells for anybody but me?

Also D&D should be what the DM and the players choose to make it, it is a Fantasy RPG sure but within that genre it should be able to encompass any sort of High Fantasy fiction.  I am not failing as a DM if I introduce moral complexity into the system, the system is failing me and my fellow gamers when it limits that freedom for no good reason.  And this failure isn't a corner case or only something that happens when you are activly trying to break the system.  It is something that happens often, to a broad swath of gamers, completley accidentaly.  Issues with alignment make up a big portion of what we try to deal with on these forums when we aren't doing the whole edition war dance, this is the reason so many of the long time posters are so set against alignments inclusion in the RAW.  Morality is inherently complex and somewhat subjective.  Any attempt to cut it down to a simple 3x3 grid is going to throw people off and cause contention among them when their personal beliefs about morality inevitably clash.

And RAW D&D doesn't do nearly so good a job of creating a clear understanding of how alignment works as you posit it does.  What you have done is project onto the structure of alignment your own understanding of morality.  Everybody who uses alignment does this and it is why very few of the people who do use alignment can actually agree on how it is implemented or how it acts.  There simply are no right answers when it comes to alignment.
..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />Also D&D should be what the DM and the players choose to make it, it is a Fantasy RPG sure but within that genre it should be able to encompass any sort of High Fantasy fiction.



I find it supports the Force and lightsabers very poorly as they aren't in the core rules. This is a huge ommission since my players and I choose to use D&D for the fantasy setting of Star Wars.

Why is it not encompassing Star Wars?
I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it. #SuperDungeonMasterIITurbo My blog and stuff http://dmingtowin.blogspot.com/ 100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.
The first question to ask yourself is, "why?" Why did that paladin break the bard's leg? Is he breaking some rule? Has he converted to some sort of anti-paladin.?

No, the most likely reason for such an action is that the bard's leg was healing wrong and needs to be re-set. But before you can re-set a badly healing bone you need to re-break it. That hurts plenty bad, but it's the choice between someone who can walk normally, and someone who limps badly.

True, there is magical healing, but what about situations where magic is not available? The Cleric might be unavailable, the paladin has used up all his healing. Never assume that magic well always be around to make the boo-boo better.

Be aware of motivation, for that kindly old stranger could be working to make those street urchins dependent on him, and so more willing to commit crimes for him.
One dagger is a plot point. A thousand daggers is inventory. Thank you for disrailing this thread.
Any argument that amounts to "alignment is great but 90% of D&D players are doing it wrong" is, to me, utterly bogus.

If 90% of D&D players are doing it wrong, it SUCKS.

Exactly how and why it sucks is still open to debate. Maybe it is a good idea presented incredibly badly, so what it is supposed to be doesn't get through to people.

On that line, I have suggested that perhaps one might try keeping the 3.5E alignment system but getting rid of four words (and their derivatives). Those four words are: Good, Evil, Law, and Chaos. Replace them with terms that are more value-neutral and more clearly defined in common usage.
"The world does not work the way you have been taught it does. We are not real as such; we exist within The Story. Unfortunately for you, you have inherited a condition from your mother known as Primary Protagonist Syndrome, which means The Story is interested in you. It will find you, and if you are not ready for the narrative strands it will throw at you..." - from Footloose
The issue with alignment isn't one of facts or objectivly argued points.  The issue with alignment is that it simply doesn't add any value to the expressions of morality that it it trying to model.  Not only does it not add value but in many cases it can take value away by being overly simplistic.  Take for example this rather simple scenario.

"The world is going to be destroyed by a caticlysmic force.  The only way to stop this force is to kill an innocent child.  This action must be taken in order to save the world."

The question is where on the morality scale does this sit.  Is it a good action because you are saving the world and everyone in it from destruction.  Or is it bad because you are killing an innocent who didn't do anything wrong.  Well the truth is that there isn't any one answer, there is a plethora of  different answers that are all equally correct.  Each person is going to view that situation a little differently and each person can find a well reasoned philosophy to prove their point.  This becomes an issue when alignment is tied up in mechanics.  



Yagami handled this nicely, but I want to drive the point home.

Alignment doesn't create this kind of scenario.  A terrible, terrible DM does.

Nothing about USING alignment mechanics is, in the RAW, supported in crafting a "no-win" scenario.  DMs craft the scenarios.

Say the person confronted with the above choice is a Paladin.  The DM thinks that killing the child was an evil action, The player thinks it was a good or neutral action because it was to save the world.  Another player thinks that it was an evil action but that the situation was such that it had to be done and the paladin shouldn't be punished.  None of this would be an issue if Paladins didn't have alignment restrictions.


This is why I said only a terrible DM would create this scenario.  This scenario is specifically crafted to screw over the player.  Any DM who intentionally sets things up to be contrary and adversarial to his players is a Bad DM.

And what was my thesis earlier?  That DMs and players are the problems, not alignment.  Thank you for illustrating my point.

And as far as paladins having alignment restrictions, I refer you to post #2, above.

Morality is complex and by and large has no right or wrong answers.  Pretending that it does is by and large disengenious.
 



You didn't read the whole OP, did you?  Real-Life morality is complex and subjective.  I'm not "pretending" anything.  You're failing to adhere to one of the core assumptions of the D&D fantasy world.  That Good and Evil are not differing philisophical concepts.  They are the forces which shape the cosmos (3.5e PHB, page 103).

Dungeons and Dragons is FANTASY.  And in FANTASY, such a thing as objective moral weight can exist, even though it cannot in the real world.  You can accept wizards, dragons, magic, and gods that walk the earth, but objective forces of Good and Evil is just too much?  You're inconsistent.  If you don't like objective forces of Good and Evil, you can easily houserule that away.  And, if you read my OP, I say more power to you.  But please understanding that you are altering one of the core assumptions of the D&D world, and that doing so will have cascading effects in other areas.  One of which will be alignment.  As soon as you throw out that core assumption, a couple of other things lose their foundational support.

This is why I am attempting to limit discussions to RAW.  Your points are only correct and valid if we ASSUME a deviation from RAW.  That being, non-objective Good and Evil.  Since this viewpoint is not supported by RAW, the rest of your argument to that point, however well-reasoned, falls out.

Bottom Line: This is not a valid indictment of alignment rules, because it requires a deviation from RAW.

And, to humor you: The RAW answer is that killing an innocent child is an Evil act.  Doing so for objectively Good ends is overall Neutral, at best.  However, you are correct that a 3.5e paladin would lose his paladinhood, because the act itself is still Evil.  But being willing to commit acts of Evil for Good ends is overall pretty Neutral, and is a slippery slope.  Indeciciveness indicates Neutrality (3.5e DMG, page 134).  Someone who was truly Good would try and exhaust every other option.

Philosophers have been struggling and failing to adequately define good, evil, order, chaos and all that jazz for millenia.  Gamers sure as heck ain't gonna do it.


Fortunate for us, that, as gamers, we are dealing with a fantasy world that can operate on whatever laws and principles the designers lay out.

Which includes objective definitions of law/chaos/good/evil.  And because it's fantasy, then whatever those developers set down in the rules REALLY IS what defines those concepts within the context of said world.

The specific example isn't what is important, it is just a model that showcases the issue well.  There are plenty of situations that are just as viable for showing issues with alignment.


Okay, please present one that isn't an example of an adversarial DM trying to hose his players, and we can discuss that.

You can't just say that alignment works by telling us that anything we do to break alignment is doing the game wrong.  In fact I am sure that is some sort of logical fallacy.  "It works fine so long as you don't do anything that breaks it."  Is that ringing bells for anybody but me?


Let me re-phrase that for you, in a manner that would be more correct. "It works fine when used in accordance with RAW.  But when scenarios are SPECIFICALLY CRAFTED in a manner INTENDED to break it, and such scenario either would not happen in a game-or would only happen in a game where the DM was a complete douchebag who wanted to adversly affect his players and their fun-it breaks down."
You can't claim that a system is flawed because of a situation you craft EXPLICITLY to make that sytem not work.  Yagami made an excellent analogy.  That would be like claiming magic sucks and is flawed because you can craft a campaign setting that is entirely within an anti-magic zone.  That situation does nothing to highlight any actual flaws in the system of magic.

Also D&D should be what the DM and the players choose to make it, it is a Fantasy RPG sure but within that genre it should be able to encompass any sort of High Fantasy fiction.  I am not failing as a DM if I introduce moral complexity into the system, the system is failing me and my fellow gamers when it limits that freedom for no good reason.


The system is not failing you at all, that's what you don't see.

Let me explain: You are coirrect in that D&D should be what the DM and the players make it.  I made that same point in my OP.  D&D thrives on houserules and customization.  But, the core rules are still clearly defined for those people who do not wish to use many-if any-houserules.  And the core assumption is objective morality.  It's in the RAW, supported in black and white, I have quoted in numerous times in this thread alone.  This is an objective fact.

You want to have moral subjectivity in your game?  Great.  I hope your game is better for you and your players.  But understand that doing so is a houserule.  And that when you make that houserule, some of the other pieces may not fit as well as they did in a strict RAW setting.  I bolded a few points in your statement above, to highlight that, even in your own words, you acknowledge that you are deviating from the base, core assumptions.

This is why, in my OP, I made it clear that only core-rules RAW were valid for discussion on the pros and cons of alignment.  It is impossible for us, or anyone, in any kind of debate, to account for all possible houserules.

You don't like objective morality in D&D.  That's fine, but that is your opinion.  You are welcome to it, and I have no wish to change your mind and tell you that you are "doing it wrong".  HOWEVER, what you have failed to do is objectively prove that there is a flaw with the alignment system when it is used RAW.

This is why Yagami told you that you failed as a DM.  He was adhering to what I pointed out in my OP, that only RAW should be discussed.  What you didn't make clear was that you wanted a deviation from RAW.  My only suggestion to you is that when you DM, make sure your players know about any houserules that are in place.  Because players have a right to know which rulesets are being used, and which are being ignored.

And this failure isn't a corner case or only something that happens when you are activly trying to break the system.  It is something that happens often, to a broad swath of gamers, completley accidentaly.  Issues with alignment make up a big portion of what we try to deal with on these forums when we aren't doing the whole edition war dance, this is the reason so many of the long time posters are so set against alignments inclusion in the RAW.

 
Here's what you, and a lot of the other alignment detractors who think that everyone thinks like they do fail to see:
There are THOUSANDS of gamers out there who never have these problems.

And there is no way to accurately understand how widespread these "problems" might be.  Not without polling every gamer in existence.  And it really would take that, because-and this is key-the forums do not represent an accurate cross-section of D&D players.
Shocking, I know.  I have been playing D&D for 14 years.  I have played in 4 states, with multiple groups in each state, on a Navy Aircraft Carrier with Sailors and Marines from all over the country, at Cons (including 5 consective years as an RPGA judge at Origins and GenCon Indy), at local game stores, in groups at college, and in private homes.  My experiences have been varied, to say the least.  And in all that time, I have never met, in person, someone who frequents these forums.  I have also not encountered anyone with such a vitriolic hate for the alignment system that they wanted it torn down.  Sure, I've heard people with horror stories about this or that situation, but all of them recognized the problem as being with the DM or player in question, and did not blame the alignment system.

Back to my point. The forums do not represent an accurate cross-section of D&D players.  Furthermore, even IF they did, you'd be hard-pressed to show that a majority of people on the forums have problems with alignment.  People often come to the forums when they have questions to be answered or complaints to make.  Most people that don't have an issue with it aren't going to say anything about it, one way or another.  but people with complaints will be vocal.  Hence, the gross misconception that "so many" people are opposed to the inclusion of alignment in RAW.

What this thread is purposed for is to show the actual FACTS about alignment rules.  Because D&D is so subject to houseruling, as we both have pointed out, many people have not experienced strict RAW play.  If the people who play with the RAW don't have the same issues, then the RAW aren't the problem, are they?  That's simple logic, which I am sure you can agree with.  I understand your point about "so many" people having issues, but if those issues stem from a lack of complaiance with the RAW, then, from an objective and logical standpoint, the RAW themselves are not the problem.

To that end, I ask for alignment detractors to show support for their cases.  Please show me, with support from RAW, how alignment is detrimental.  If you cannot, then simply admit that your stance on it is merely your opinon on alignment.  You are certainly welcome to your opinon, as you are welcome to run your game however is best for you and your players.  And anyone who tells you that you are wrong for houseruling whatever you wish is, themself, wrong.   Just please realize that your personal preference does not hold objective weight.

Morality is inherently complex and somewhat subjective.  Any attempt to cut it down to a simple 3x3 grid is going to throw people off and cause contention among them when their personal beliefs about morality inevitably clash.


Once again, [b]within the context of the FANTASY world of D&D[/b], there are objective, and quantifiable definitions of Good/Evil/Law/Chaos.  I know that the real world is different, but the RAW explicitly states that the core assumption of the D&D world is different.  And the RAW clearly outlines those definitions.
Your personal preference is for a more complex and vague moral system.  This does not mean that there is any kind of flaw in the rules regarding alignment, because those rules are set up to be in compliance with the core assumptions of RAW.  Do you get where I'm coming from?

And RAW D&D doesn't do nearly so good a job of creating a clear understanding of how alignment works as you posit it does.  What you have done is project onto the structure of alignment your own understanding of morality.  Everybody who uses alignment does this and it is why very few of the people who do use alignment can actually agree on how it is implemented or how it acts.  There simply are no right answers when it comes to alignment.


Believe it or not, one thing I am VERY good at is removing my own personal bias and being coldly objective.  My wife criticizes my lack of empathy and apparent indecisiveness, because I am constantly trying to evaluate both sides of any given issue without allowing the prejudices I was raised with influence my decisions.
I have supported my claims with quotes from RAW.  I am not imposing my own judgement on morality on the structure of alignment.  I am attempting to show, objectively, that most problems people have with alignment stem from deviations from RAW by the people they played with.  In 100% of the examples I have seen from alignment detractors, there is a deviation from RAW.  If only deviations from RAW create problems, no matter how common those deviations ahppen to be, then the RAW are not the problem.
Op you have jacked up control over the discussion(or you have tried), you assume a lot and lack and open mind. You will take things people say as personal attacks that aren't, again trying to control the conversation.

I may post a blog and thread on this very soon, so I can communicate this without a rope around my neck.



Prefacing a post by saying only facts supported by evidence count as a valid argument method is not trying to take control of the discussion, at least not in the way you're trying to make it out to be.



Nov 18, 2012 -- 7:49PM, warrl wrote:

Any argument that amounts to "alignment is great but 90% of D&D players are doing it wrong" is, to me, utterly bogus.

If 90% of D&D players are doing it wrong, it SUCKS.

Exactly how and why it sucks is still open to debate. Maybe it is a good idea presented incredibly badly, so what it is supposed to be doesn't get through to people.

On that line, I have suggested that perhaps one might try keeping the 3.5E alignment system but getting rid of four words (and their derivatives). Those four words are: Good, Evil, Law, and Chaos. Replace them with terms that are more value-neutral and more clearly defined in common usage.






There is a problem with the organization of information, as all of the actual alignment RAW is spread across no less than 5 books, with to 30%-sized chunks being located in the PHB and DMG, respectively. I have also always said that much of the contention about alignment would vanish over night if they were renamed to life, death, stasis, and change, as that is exactly what they are. Technically the way the current words are being used, they are just synonyms for the "new" words anyway.

At absolute worst, it is a poor presentation that causes problems, but really, as I have had my level 2 wizard's spells taken away by epic level magic because I didn't join a guild that the DM wanted me too, I can say that Chiba is right in that DM's don't need alignment to railroad players. Yes, that's anecdotal, but it is at least proof of concept.


While I'm here, I want to talk a bit about the source material for the idea of alignment itself. See, original D&D only used Law and Chaos, as the idea was drawn from Michael Moorcock's Multiverse, which made heavy use of the powers of law and chaos. Now, it was much more rare, but the Multiverse did have the powers of good and evil as well.


There is a quote from Elric in one the Tales of the White Wolf short stories, where he muses on how long ago his family wed the power of chaos to the power of evil. There are also cases where the power of law has been seen tainted by evil. There are also cases where chaos and good merge to create a new force called harmony. Which is incidentally represented as an incredibly hot naked chick. I'll let that one sit for a while.


So, we see these powers being merged and played with. Well, what's interesting, is that Moorcock didn't actually come up with them himself either. He drew the concepts from Joseph Campbell's, "The Hero with a Thousand Faces." To summarize, its a work about the monomyth, the underlying super-structure that all myths across all stories follow. Joseph Campbell identifies a few major powers, and then attaches them to key monomythical figures.


The first is Holdfast, the tyrant. Holdfast is identified as a preserver, someone who freezes the cycle of life, holds it in stasis, and orders the world. But Holdfast is also a creature of death, because it is the power of death that he uses to do this. He brings an end to growth and change. The hero is called a being of fluidity and transformation, and is seen as the champion of creative life, who no longer fears death. Joseph Campbell here identifies the classic evil villain as a being of law and evil, stasis and death. The hero is a being of chaos and good, change and life.


At the end of his book, Campbell makes a bold statement when he says all the heroes in all the stories are really just metaphors for and examples of the real hero, us. So, what does this mean for alignments, heroes, morality, and us? Campbell doesn't so much attach any kind of moral value to these forces, but rather, treats them as driving instincts. Heroes wish to grow, to change, to rebel against their fathers (He goes on a really long shpeil about some very Freudian ideas in that particular section) while Tyrants want to freeze time, to organize, and to control. The cosmic forces that alignments represent in D&D are likewise merely metaphors for the desires that we have.


While in D&D alignments are secondarily indicitive of morality, it should be noted that the PHB is clear that they are not philosophical concepts. At the end of each alignment, the PHB assigns mutually exclusive value judgments to them. "X alignment is the best you can be for y reasons." Even in the face of objective morality, personal value judgments don't disappear, they just occur in a different context. But apart from anyone's value judgments, the desires are there, and with the alignments, heroic fantasy is doing what it does best, using fantastical forces as metaphors to express very real parts and ideas of human nature.

Any argument that amounts to "alignment is great but 90% of D&D players are doing it wrong" is, to me, utterly bogus.

If 90% of D&D players are doing it wrong, it SUCKS.


Nobody said that, you are using Strawman Fallacy to try and make your point.  Debate honestly, please.

There is no objective way to show how many people are deviating from RAW.  And deviating from RAW isn't "doing it wrong", because D&D has always had "Rule 0", or whatever you wish to call it, and DMs accross the world houserule things every day.  But when you houserule a system, and problems arise from that system, then that system itself may not, objectively, to blame for those problems.  When the people who DO use said system in accordance with RAW and do not have the same problems, then the system is clearly NOT objectively to blame.

Like I said in the above post, there is no way to accurately poll how many people actually have problems with alignment.  Nobody in my game has, but logic tells me that my personal experiences do not hold objective weight.  So any claims as to how widespread the "problem" is are flawed, because none of us has access to that kind of data, nor could we obtain it, because even the forums do not represent an accurate cross-section of D&D players.

Exactly how and why it sucks is still open to debate. Maybe it is a good idea presented incredibly badly, so what it is supposed to be doesn't get through to people.


It gets through to some people just fine.  I have encountered dozens of people who have no confusion regarding the rules.  And if the problem is not universal, then it not objectively true.
For alignment detractors to show that "it sucks", they need only to do so in a logical fashion.  Provide proof, from RAW, that alignment has the flaws they claim it does.  So far, no one has EVER furnished proof that alignment does any of the negative things they claim.  And that's because those problems are caused by the PEOPLE involved and NOT the rules.  Controlling DMs will be so without alignment if you take it out of the rules.  Disruptive players will be so in games where alignment has been removed.  Adversarial DMs will find other ways to torment their players.
Blaming alignment for their issues would be like blaming cars for drive-by-shootings.

On that line, I have suggested that perhaps one might try keeping the 3.5E alignment system but getting rid of four words (and their derivatives). Those four words are: Good, Evil, Law, and Chaos. Replace them with terms that are more value-neutral and more clearly defined in common usage.


More clearly defined than Good and Evil?
Furthermore, D&D defines what those words mean in the context of D&D.  Just like D&D has re-defined "paladin" from what it means in common usage (see post #2, above).  Those definitions work, when used in accordance with the RAW.  Why fix what isn't broken?
Good stuff from Chiba and Yagami both. Sorry I didn't get here sooner, I had stuff going on.
Op you have jacked up control over the discussion(or you have tried), you assume a lot and lack and open mind. You will take things people say as personal attacks that aren't, again trying to control the conversation.

I may post a blog and thread on this very soon, so I can communicate this without a rope around my neck.



Prefacing a post by saying only facts supported by evidence count as a valid argument method is not trying to take control of the discussion, at least not in the way you're trying to make it out to be.


This, yes.
Thank you, Zaramon.
At absolute worst, it is a poor presentation that causes problems, but really, as I have had my level 2 wizard's spells taken away by epic level magic because I didn't join a guild that the DM wanted me too, I can say that Chiba is right in that DM's don't need alignment to railroad players. Yes, that's anecdotal, but it is at least proof of concept.


Right.  I left a friend's game because he was the kind of controlling DM who took the spotlight away from his players and railroaded them.  He presented epic-level enemies (players were level 6 or so), that only his epic-level NPC could come in and defeat.  Then said epic-level NPC forced the players to do his bidding, by infecting them all-including the paladin-with lycanthropy.  As she was subject to his will, any questionable acts she commited did not cause a loss of paladin powers (nevermind the question of her supposed immunity to lycanthropy in the first place).  He never used their alignments to control them.  But he was controlling, nonetheless.

Anecdotal, yes.  But it helps to illustrate the point that the problem is, in fact, with controlling DMs, and not the alignment system. 
Any argument that amounts to "alignment is great but 90% of D&D players are doing it wrong" is, to me, utterly bogus.

If 90% of D&D players are doing it wrong, it SUCKS.



Aside from the fallacy committed here I'll point out that something like 99% of people say "Have your cake and eat it too" when that saying makes no sense. It's actually "Eat your cake and have it too". People just started screwing it up and stuck to it.

Never underestimate the ability of a lot of people to do something entirely wrong.

Also I'll point out that I've never said alignment is perfectly explained. It should have entire CHAPTERS devoted to it. Doesn't change the fact that I doubt many people would bother to read it. People aren't big on learning, in my experience.
I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it. #SuperDungeonMasterIITurbo My blog and stuff http://dmingtowin.blogspot.com/ 100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.
..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />Also D&D should be what the DM and the players choose to make it, it is a Fantasy RPG sure but within that genre it should be able to encompass any sort of High Fantasy fiction.



I find it supports the Force and lightsabers very poorly as they aren't in the core rules. This is a huge ommission since my players and I choose to use D&D for the fantasy setting of Star Wars.

Why is it not encompassing Star Wars?



Hehe, hilariously enough the alignment system as a whole, just working with good and evil, works perfectly for The Living Force. For The Unifying Force, the spells that aren't tied to alignment work just fine. Interestingly enough, many of the divine spells that aren't tied to alignment deal with similar ideas as the techniques in The Unifying Force. The same is true of the aligned spells and The Living Force. Funny how that works out.
Personally I don't care either way. It is a useful tool to aid in roleplaying, especially for the DM, as long as people stick to RAW and don't enforce it too strictly. Alignment does not define personality, one act does not change an alignment and the DM does not set up situations such as the child sacrifice one.

One thing that alignment fails in though is in the fact that it can actually be detected all too easily. It makes some of the more traditional heroic fantasy tropes of the traitor and hidden corruption a lot harder to implement without some convoluted methods by the DM to keep the evil hidden. I am not even talking about true mystery adventures since ultimately D&D RAW is not well suited to such a mechanism. The traditional evil cult hidden in the city is also a lot harder to implement if a 1st level PC can simply detect evil at will unless petty evil is pretty common (which in my opinion lowers the significance of evil as a force) or every evil cultist has a hidden alignment spell active (which would be removing the toys of the PCs). 
Personally I don't care either way. It is a useful tool to aid in roleplaying, especially for the DM, as long as people stick to RAW and don't enforce it too strictly. Alignment does not define personality, one act does not change an alignment and the DM does not set up situations such as the child sacrifice one.

One thing that alignment fails in though is in the fact that it can actually be detected all too easily. It makes some of the more traditional heroic fantasy tropes of the traitor and hidden corruption a lot harder to implement without some convoluted methods by the DM to keep the evil hidden. I am not even talking about true mystery adventures since ultimately D&D RAW is not well suited to such a mechanism. The traditional evil cult hidden in the city is also a lot harder to implement if a 1st level PC can simply detect evil at will unless petty evil is pretty common (which in my opinion lowers the significance of evil as a force) or every evil cultist has a hidden alignment spell active (which would be removing the toys of the PCs). 



In a world where Detect Evil exists on a large scale, precautions against it would be common-place and expected. If you give an easy button and don't do anything about it, that's a DM decision. My games paladin gets PLENTY of use out of Detect Evil but it hasn't ruined a single "mystery" mostly because I don't go in with the intent of creating a mystery...I just make a situation. I don't care how it gets resolved because I am not crafting a story for my players.

Additionally, Detect Evil is subject to the edition...for instance, if it detects ANY evil then a Paladin has to accept that there is evil and then there is EVIL...in that, there are petty lawyers or corrupt guards that have evil in their hearts because they are who they are. In the edition I use, Detect Evil doesn't register for people that aren't high enough level unless they actively are empowered by Evil. This works quite well also because minions work wonderfully for it. That and patsies. Actually, patsies work great for the first edition example as well.

Also there's a reason evil cults put their gathering places far out of the way and hidden...far outside the range of Detect Evil coming from level 1 characters.
I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it. #SuperDungeonMasterIITurbo My blog and stuff http://dmingtowin.blogspot.com/ 100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.
Personally I don't care either way. It is a useful tool to aid in roleplaying, especially for the DM, as long as people stick to RAW and don't enforce it too strictly. Alignment does not define personality, one act does not change an alignment and the DM does not set up situations such as the child sacrifice one.



This pretty much sums it up.

Don't be a jerk DM and things don't go wrong.
I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it. #SuperDungeonMasterIITurbo My blog and stuff http://dmingtowin.blogspot.com/ 100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.
In your objectively good and evil world, when your objectively good god tells the paladin he must save the world by killing this innocent child, the act must be objectively good.  There is no moral grey and the paladin is doing good, by doing the bidding of his good god.  He would not lose powers and it should not be an issue.

On the other hand if his good god tells him not to kill the child and to do something else, well if he then kills the child he must be doing an evil act, because he is going against the wishes of his good god.  That direct contrast to the wishes of his god I would then say could lead to the stripping of his powers.
Topics like this inevitably bring a lot of philosophical issues into the mix.

I won't pretend to have a thorough grasp of the metaphysics of that, nor do I think any can or should.

Instead, I will try to speak in more applicable terms.   The first thing that needs to happen, is because this is such an opinionated topic, that the players and DM of a group need to set an acceptable consensus on alignment.   That discussion might be much like this one, but a group agreement needs to be arrived at.

Once that is done, as a DM, if I see a player acting contrary to his or her stated alignment compared to what the group decided at the outset, I will let them know, preferably in context.   If the player continues in this contrary manner, I will have that character's alignment change.   That may or may not bring consequences for that character.


I have no problem with alignment as a descriptor for general character motivations and predispositions.  My only problem is alignment mechanics in which shifts in alignment have negative consequences for the character.

My problem with this is manifold:


  • Campaign-Specific: It is a very specific campaign setting feature that is inappropriate for many campaigns.  It is, in fact, a very D&D specific mechanic.  Even the literary inspirations for alignment -- the Elric series and Three Hearts and Three Lions -- did not have a character who lost class abilities or opportunities due to alignment change, and very very few literary works have alignment based abilities or spells outside the genre of fantasy works based on D&D worlds.

  • Plot-Wrecking: Alignment-based spells and abilities can very much hamper certain plotlines.  It is difficult to have infiltration without going through hoops to avoid alignment-detection.  

  • Concept-Limiting: Traditionally, alignment has been a way to limit cross-classing.  You are discouraged from making bard-monk multiclass characters by virtue of the fact that bards could not be lawful and monks must be lawful.  DMs are often hesitatnt to ignore these limitations (even if they otherwise ignore alignment) for fear that the combo has not been vetted and thus may be unbalanced.  And yet, thereis really no reason one couldn't devise a perfectly valid and entertaining bard-monk character.

  • Unbaking Difficulties: Traditionally, it has been difficult to "unbake" alignment mechanics from a system.  Some games assume that paladins and many clerics will get an ocassional bonus when attacking creatures of an opposed alignment.  Eliminating these abilities will underpower these classes.  Making these abilities universal (i.e., working on all foes regardless of alignment) can overpower them.  Trying to create workarounds for all of these mechanics is beyond the time, patience, and experience of many DMs.


Again, I have no problem with using alignment as a character-building tool.  I do have a problem with alignment mechanics.  
Concept-Limiting: Traditionally, alignment has been a way to limit cross-classing. 



That's four-fold ;).

Good points all around.   Let me touch on this one.   Take the typical scenario of a paladin acting in an unpaladin-like manner.   I see a paladin as a knight of his chosen god.   He could be a good-aligned paladin worshipping a good god (good in DnD-defined terms).   But he could also be an evil paladin worshipping an evil god.   Since (as I see it) his powers are granted to him through that worship, as long as he acts in a manner conducive to his gods' wishes, he is fine.   It is only when he acts in a manner contrary to that that he might incur penalties, like the loss of lay on hands.

My point is that the player can be whatever he wants to be, and doesn't need to be limited to a narrow concept.

In your objectively good and evil world, when your objectively good god tells the paladin he must save the world by killing this innocent child, the act must be objectively good.



Assuming this god is the one who is the arbiter of what is good and what is evil, then yes. However, since we know differently, that good and evil are by default cosmic forces, then not even the gods get to decide how they function. They just function. And according to how good works in RAW, the deity would actually be commiting an evil act. 
That's four-fold ;).


Oops!  Fixed Smile
Any good god wants my paladin to kill any child, he'd better have a damn good reason.
One dagger is a plot point. A thousand daggers is inventory. Thank you for disrailing this thread.
I have no problem with alignment as a descriptor for general character motivations and predispositions.  My only problem is alignment mechanics in which shifts in alignment have negative consequences for the character.

My problem with this is manifold:


  • Campaign-Specific: It is a very specific campaign setting feature that is inappropriate for many campaigns.  It is, in fact, a very D&D specific mechanic.  Even the literary inspirations for alignment -- the Elric series and Three Hearts and Three Lions -- did not have a character who lost class abilities or opportunities due to alignment change, and very very few literary works have alignment based abilities or spells outside the genre of fantasy works based on D&D worlds.

  • Plot-Wrecking: Alignment-based spells and abilities can very much hamper certain plotlines.  It is difficult to have infiltration without going through hoops to avoid alignment-detection.  

  • Concept-Limiting: Traditionally, alignment has been a way to limit cross-classing.  You are discouraged from making bard-monk multiclass characters by virtue of the fact that bards could not be lawful and monks must be lawful.  DMs are often hesitatnt to ignore these limitations (even if they otherwise ignore alignment) for fear that the combo has not been vetted and thus may be unbalanced.  And yet, thereis really no reason one couldn't devise a perfectly valid and entertaining bard-monk character.

  • Unbaking Difficulties: Traditionally, it has been difficult to "unbake" alignment mechanics from a system.  Some games assume that paladins and many clerics will get an ocassional bonus when attacking creatures of an opposed alignment.  Eliminating these abilities will underpower these classes.  Making these abilities universal (i.e., working on all foes regardless of alignment) can overpower them.  Trying to create workarounds for all of these mechanics is beyond the time, patience, and experience of many DMs.


Again, I have no problem with using alignment as a character-building tool.  I do have a problem with alignment mechanics.  



Excellent post wrecan.  I agree with all of the points you've raised here.  I would also add the beaten to death DM using alignment to control or limit the roleplay / actions of a player, but that's part of the bad DM argument which has already been stated numerous times over the dozens of threads pretty much like this one.
"Non nobis Domine Sed nomini tuo da gloriam" "I wish for death not because I want to die, but because I seek the war eternal"

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Personally I don't care either way. It is a useful tool to aid in roleplaying, especially for the DM, as long as people stick to RAW and don't enforce it too strictly. Alignment does not define personality, one act does not change an alignment and the DM does not set up situations such as the child sacrifice one.


Well said.  But I disagree a bit on the "as long as [they] don't enforce it too strictly", because if people are sticking to RAW and actually roleplaying their characters-that they created-enforcement needn't play into it at all. You can be enforcing it very strictly, according to RAW, and never see a mechanical "punishment" in the game.

I enforce alignment rules, and I've never had a paladin player DO anything to fall from grace, because he was roleplaying.  In fact, the only time I have EVER forced an alignment change was on a TN rogue who icked up a piece of the Rod of Seven Parts (knowing full well what it was-an artifact of Law), and rolled a 1 on his Will save.  The party barbarian refused to touch it.  Although why they didn't have the LG cleric in the party be the only one ot handle it is beyond me...

One thing that alignment fails in though is in the fact that it can actually be detected all too easily. It makes some of the more traditional heroic fantasy tropes of the traitor and hidden corruption a lot harder to implement without some convoluted methods by the DM to keep the evil hidden. I am not even talking about true mystery adventures since ultimately D&D RAW is not well suited to such a mechanism. The traditional evil cult hidden in the city is also a lot harder to implement if a 1st level PC can simply detect evil at will unless petty evil is pretty common (which in my opinion lowers the significance of evil as a force) or every evil cultist has a hidden alignment spell active (which would be removing the toys of the PCs). 



At last! A valid indictment of the alignment mechanics of the game!

This may surprise some people, but I agree with Madfox11 here.  Alignment detection spells, as they existed in previous editions, made it way too easy to detect "everyday evil" in people's hearts, and could ruin some storylines involving traditional fantasy tropes.

Now, in my personal games, I always make it clear to my players what alignment is and is not, that being that alignment is not an absolute barometer of action nor affiliation.  They know that a bartender who registers as evil may just be a selfish, miserly old man.  But, if trying to have an NPC who is secretly a priest of Nerull (who would have to be some kind of evil) infiltrating a Good organiztion, only convoluted and somewhat trite means (like a ring of mind shielding) would keep that a secret, and that kind of thing, while okay on a limited basis, becomes overdone.

However, I am not in favor of removing alignment detectino either.  Because another classic fantasy trope would be the paladin entering a place of strong demonic activity and being able to palpably detect the "stink" of evil in the place.  Or being able to sense something "a little off" about the captain of the guard when he is being possessed by a devil.

My propsed fix?  That alignment detection spells in future editions only be able to detect SUPERNATURAL entities of that alignment.  So a Chaotic Evil bandit king, or a disguised assassin would not register at all, but a demon or a vampire would.  Mortals, regardless of alignment, would be undetectable.  Clerics of evil deities are kind of iffy.  I liked how 3.x handled the idea that divine characters resonate more powerfully on detection scales than other mortals, but they are still mortal.  I'm not sure how I would rule that.

Thank you Madfox, for bringing up a legitimate defect in the alignment system.  Believe it or not, I REALLY DO welcome that kind of criticism of the system.

In your objectively good and evil world, when your objectively good god tells the paladin he must save the world by killing this innocent child, the act must be objectively good.  There is no moral grey and the paladin is doing good, by doing the bidding of his good god.  He would not lose powers and it should not be an issue.

On the other hand if his good god tells him not to kill the child and to do something else, well if he then kills the child he must be doing an evil act, because he is going against the wishes of his good god.  That direct contrast to the wishes of his god I would then say could lead to the stripping of his powers.


Zaramon covered this point.  The deity's alignment is not decided by the deity.  The objective forces of Good and Evil do not differentiate between gods and mortals.  Killing an innocent is an evil act.  Period.  No discussion there.  Now, as we know one act does not change alignment, it is indeed possible that someone (let's go with non-paladin for just a moment) of a Good alignment could-not seeing any other option-decide to go ahead and kill the child, in order to act for the "greater good".  Even a deity could make that call.  However, that does not redeem the act in any way, because the deity is not the final arbiter of the morality of that act.  It remains an evil act, even if commited for Good ends.  "The ends justify the means" is a slippery slope, and paladins are held to a higher standard, to never set foot on that slope.

Topics like this inevitably bring a lot of philosophical issues into the mix.

I won't pretend to have a thorough grasp of the metaphysics of that, nor do I think any can or should.

Instead, I will try to speak in more applicable terms.   The first thing that needs to happen, is because this is such an opinionated topic, that the players and DM of a group need to set an acceptable consensus on alignment.   That discussion might be much like this one, but a group agreement needs to be arrived at.

Once that is done, as a DM, if I see a player acting contrary to his or her stated alignment compared to what the group decided at the outset, I will let them know, preferably in context.   If the player continues in this contrary manner, I will have that character's alignment change.   That may or may not bring consequences for that character.


That's all well and good, but what we're discussing is if the "agreed upon" consensus is the RAW on alignment.  I absolutely agree that if the DM is going to deviate from RAW that the players should be made aware of this decision and have a consnesus on what the alignment descriptors mean in that game.  But since accomodating for houserules is beyond the scope of this discussion, I'd like to keep it to RAW.
I have no problem with alignment as a descriptor for general character motivations and predispositions.  My only problem is alignment mechanics in which shifts in alignment have negative consequences for the character.

My problem with this is manifold:


  • Campaign-Specific: It is a very specific campaign setting feature that is inappropriate for many campaigns.  It is, in fact, a very D&D specific mechanic.  Even the literary inspirations for alignment -- the Elric series and Three Hearts and Three Lions -- did not have a character who lost class abilities or opportunities due to alignment change, and very very few literary works have alignment based abilities or spells outside the genre of fantasy works based on D&D worlds.



Okay, this is easily addressed in what I mentioned before.  Houserules.  If alignment mechanics and their consequences are a problem for your campaign, then don't use them.  I have never once advocated forcing people to use alignment, or told anyone that NOT using alignment is "wrong".  However, to wit, it is also VERY appropriate for many OTHER campaigns.  One of those is the "default" or "core" setting.  Does that in any way reflect a negative value judgement on campaigns that deviate from that?  No, of course not.  But neither does it reflect a negative value judgement on the core rules, either.




  • Plot-Wrecking: Alignment-based spells and abilities can very much hamper certain plotlines.  It is difficult to have infiltration without going through hoops to avoid alignment-detection.  



I addressed this in my above post.  This is, indeed, a valid indictment of alignment mechanics, and something that (from what was posted in an earlier Ro3) is being addressed in D&DN.



  • Concept-Limiting: Traditionally, alignment has been a way to limit cross-classing.  You are discouraged from making bard-monk multiclass characters by virtue of the fact that bards could not be lawful and monks must be lawful.  DMs are often hesitatnt to ignore these limitations (even if they otherwise ignore alignment) for fear that the combo has not been vetted and thus may be unbalanced.  And yet, thereis really no reason one couldn't devise a perfectly valid and entertaining bard-monk character.



I think this is a matter of opinion that concept-limiting was the PURPOSE of alignment restrictions.  In my second post I addressed some of the alignment-based restrictions on some classes.  They are there to make the classes adhere to specific classic fantasy archetypes.

It is my personal opinion, however, that the bard one doesn't make sense.  I can absolutely concieve of a Lawful Bard, and posted a concept of such on an earlier alignment thread (I can go dig it up if anyone's even remotely interested).  The bard is the one example of class-alignment restrictions that didn't resonate with me at all.  That is, however, only my opinion.



  • Unbaking Difficulties: Traditionally, it has been difficult to "unbake" alignment mechanics from a system.  Some games assume that paladins and many clerics will get an ocassional bonus when attacking creatures of an opposed alignment.  Eliminating these abilities will underpower these classes.  Making these abilities universal (i.e., working on all foes regardless of alignment) can overpower them.  Trying to create workarounds for all of these mechanics is beyond the time, patience, and experience of many DMs.


Again, I have no problem with using alignment as a character-building tool.  I do have a problem with alignment mechanics.  


Wrecan, I am unfamiliar with what mechanics give clerics and paladins bonuses when attacking creatures of opposed alignment, with the exception of smite evil, which, if that's the only one, should be an easy fix for anyone "unbaking" alignment mechanics.

Wait...were you talking about spells like Holy Smite and Holy Word and all that?  I rarely see players take the Good domain.  And those alignment related spells were taken off the generic cleric spell list and restricted to the domain list of those alignments (Good, Law, etc.).  If one is removing alignment mechanics, I'd say the alignment domains would be among the first things to go, ne?  Shouldn't that eliminate the problem?


Good points all around.   Let me touch on this one.   Take the typical scenario of a paladin acting in an unpaladin-like manner.   I see a paladin as a knight of his chosen god.   He could be a good-aligned paladin worshipping a good god (good in DnD-defined terms).   But he could also be an evil paladin worshipping an evil god.   Since (as I see it) his powers are granted to him through that worship, as long as he acts in a manner conducive to his gods' wishes, he is fine.   It is only when he acts in a manner contrary to that that he might incur penalties, like the loss of lay on hands.

My point is that the player can be whatever he wants to be, and doesn't need to be limited to a narrow concept.


Did you read post#2?  I'm not being snarky or sarcastic, but I addressed the paladin-as-LG-only thing earlier.  Traditional paladins, in the original meaning of the word paladin, had nothing to do with being a knight of a chosen deity, even in D&D.
In recent years, D&D has re-appropriated the word to mean that, but please understand that this is a RECENT thing.  A lot of people still have it ingrained that the word paladin implies honorable and just behavior, and high ideals.
And the "narrow concept" of the pre-4e classes with alignment restrictions didn't stop at the paladin.  Several classes had alignment restrictions to keep them in the confines of specific archetypes. 

And RAW D&D doesn't do nearly so good a job of creating a clear understanding of how alignment works as you posit it does.  What you have done is project onto the structure of alignment your own understanding of morality.  Everybody who uses alignment does this and it is why very few of the people who do use alignment can actually agree on how it is implemented or how it acts.  There simply are no right answers when it comes to alignment.


Believe it or not, one thing I am VERY good at is removing my own personal bias and being coldly objective.  My wife criticizes my lack of empathy and apparent indecisiveness, because I am constantly trying to evaluate both sides of any given issue without allowing the prejudices I was raised with influence my decisions.
I have supported my claims with quotes from RAW.  I am not imposing my own judgement on morality on the structure of alignment.  I am attempting to show, objectively, that most problems people have with alignment stem from deviations from RAW by the people they played with.  In 100% of the examples I have seen from alignment detractors, there is a deviation from RAW.  If only deviations from RAW create problems, no matter how common those deviations ahppen to be, then the RAW are not the problem.



Niether lack of Empathy nor indecisiveness showcase objectivity.  You have imposed your own morality to your judgments, I know this because it impossible for humans not to do this.  If you say you are then you are either lying to us or lying to yourself, I have no idea which.  I challenge you to read the forums and the posts by other pro alignment people and see how far their definitions of the 9 differ from your own.  Each person thinks that what they see is the RAW and each of them is in a sense wrong because the RAW is specificaly written open enough for people to inject their own moral system (within the broader western civ norms).  Of course if you went and did this now I am sure you would end up shifting and jiving in order to arrive at matching views that you wouldn't otherwise endorse in order to "prove" your point.  You talk a good game about RAW but the thing is that RAW really doesn't provide a solid moral map because it is a super simplified Model.  

D&D also shouldn't assume an objective morality any more than it should assume that all druids should be elves or all women should have less strength then men.  Objective Morality is a huge issue simply because it isn't the way that humans comprehend or interact.  That is where the issue with alignment is coming from, people subconciously form their own moral guidelines and when they are shown an "objective" morality system they simply impose their own subjective moral guidelines as the basis for the objective morality.  When peoples moral guidelines differ and they are faced with those differences at the table it causes argument.  Moral guidelines are one of the most difficult parts of a human personality to change or adapt.

Also you have this huge appeal to tradition fallacy in your post.  Even if the RAW system worked as you said it did (a thesis I simply cannot accept with the data that I have seen) it would still be something open to challenge, just because that is the way it is doesn't mean that is the way it should be.

You make the argument that the cross section of people on these forums is a tiny fraction of the player base (this is true) and then you turn right around and use the people that you play with as a sampling to support your own case.  Can you not see how ridiculous this is?  Your sampling of people you have played with is probably smaller then the active members of this board and each person here has had their opinions and experiences shaped by the people they have played with.  In fact many of the people here have been playing far longer than you have and have probably played with many times the number of people you have (I will admit that I am not one of those people, I have been playing for around as long as you have).  In order to discount the board sampling as evidence you have to have more evidence from a source with larger authority, and no single person on this board could bring that sort of evidence to bare unless they were working for WotC.

As it stands the boards are one of the big places that people go to when they are having problems in their games.  By far and away the biggest, most difficult and devisive questions are the ones about alignment.  If a system causes a lot of problems then that system needs to be looked at critically.

I like to use the Pinto analogy whenever people bring up the idea that only "Bad DM's" ever cause alignment issues (another thing I disagree with).  Even if what you say is true, alignment still shouldn't be used.  It is like a Pinto, only people who get in crashes (specifically rear end colisions) would ever have an issue with the Pinto's tendancy to explode.  So the Pinto explodes when bad drivers get into crashes (because if you get into a crash you are obviously a bad driver, or at least that is what your arguing is the case for DM's and alignment).  It is still taking a minor incident (rear end colision / morality disagreement) and turning it into a major incident (fiery death / game implosion). 


Niether lack of Empathy nor indecisiveness showcase objectivity.  You have imposed your own morality to your judgments, I know this because it impossible for humans not to do this.  If you say you are then you are either lying to us or lying to yourself, I have no idea which.  I challenge you to read the forums and the posts by other pro alignment people and see how far their definitions of the 9 differ from your own.  Each person thinks that what they see is the RAW and each of them is in a sense wrong because the RAW is specificaly written open enough for people to inject their own moral system (within the broader western civ norms).  Of course if you went and did this now I am sure you would end up shifting and jiving in order to arrive at matching views that you wouldn't otherwise endorse in order to "prove" your point.  You talk a good game about RAW but the thing is that RAW really doesn't provide a solid moral map because it is a super simplified Model.


Perhaps I was unclear with my anecdotalt reference.  And please, I invite you to re-read and note that I said that I am "good at" being objective, not that I was "perfectly objective" in any way.

I'm not trying to "prove" my opinions in any way.  Nor am I in any way promoting "my" view of the alignments.  What this thread is for is to discuss the actual fact regarding the rules of alignment, and the misconceptions regarding those rules.  For example, the statement "alignment is a straightjacket" is objectively false regarding alignment RAW, because the RAW expressly state that it is not.  My intent is to point out that many of the problems that stem from alignment stem from people deviating from what the RAW actually say.  Not my interpretation.

D&D also shouldn't assume an objective morality any more than it should assume that all druids should be elves or all women should have less strength then men.


I'm cutting into this paragraph to highlight something you said here.  You start with "shouldn't" (your opinion), and proceed from there with a value judgement on the issue of objective morality.  Whether you like objective Good and Evil or not, and whether or not you choose to implement such in your game is irrelevant.  That is the default assumption of the core rules, and it is supported by the RAW.  This thread is an attempt to address the facts of alignment RAW, and not houserules or value judgements.
 Objective Morality is a huge issue simply because it isn't the way that humans comprehend or interact.  That is where the issue with alignment is coming from, people subconciously form their own moral guidelines and when they are shown an "objective" morality system they simply impose their own subjective moral guidelines as the basis for the objective morality.  When peoples moral guidelines differ and they are faced with those differences at the table it causes argument.  Moral guidelines are one of the most difficult parts of a human personality to change or adapt.


Which is why a number os people prefer a more morally ambiguous stance on morality in their games.  They are welcome to it.  But it's a deviation from the core assumption.  Having an objective scale by which Good and Evil can be judged allows for the classic fantasy archetypes of things like Holy weapons being mre effective against demons/undead, etc.

Also you have this huge appeal to tradition fallacy in your post.  Even if the RAW system worked as you said it did (a thesis I simply cannot accept with the data that I have seen) it would still be something open to challenge, just because that is the way it is doesn't mean that is the way it should be.


I have made no such assertation, and I will thank you not to impose one upon me.  The only thing I have stated thus far regarding the future of alignment in D&D was my proposed fix for alignment detection mechanics, which was, as stated, my opinion.  I have not posited anything about "the way it should be".

You make the argument that the cross section of people on these forums is a tiny fraction of the player base (this is true) and then you turn right around and use the people that you play with as a sampling to support your own case.  Can you not see how ridiculous this is?  Your sampling of people you have played with is probably smaller then the active members of this board and each person here has had their opinions and experiences shaped by the people they have played with.  In fact many of the people here have been playing far longer than you have and have probably played with many times the number of people you have (I will admit that I am not one of those people, I have been playing for around as long as you have).  In order to discount the board sampling as evidence you have to have more evidence from a source with larger authority, and no single person on this board could bring that sort of evidence to bare unless they were working for WotC.


I am sorry if I gave the perception that my anecdote was intended in any way to be a showcase of proof.  It was an example meant to highlight my point.  I thought I had said something to the effect of "I know my anecdote does not constitute proof" or something like that, but I guess I omitted to type that. Mea culpa.
I only used it to show that, as someone with a wide variety of gaming experience, in several parts of the country (from the midwest to the west coast, and in military communities), the number of people represented by the forum community is a small percentage.
Again, I do not wish to give the impression that my experiences are in any way proof of universal fact or truth.  It was meant only as an example to illustrate a point.

As it stands the boards are one of the big places that people go to when they are having problems in their games.  By far and away the biggest, most difficult and devisive questions are the ones about alignment.  If a system causes a lot of problems then that system needs to be looked at critically.


Okay, but how many problems is "a lot".  Without an accurate cross-section of the D&D community, or, better yet, and complete poll, we have no way of knowing how widespread the "problems" are.  And IF the problems with the alignment system are, say, only 15% of the D&D community, how big of a problem is it?  And furthermore, if the problems caused by that 15% are only because of deviations from the RAW, then how can one say the RAW are actually the source of the problem.
To be clear, I am not claiming that only 15% of gamers have these issues, I made that number up to illustrate that WE DON'T KNOW how many people of the D&D playing community has an issue with alignment, and to point out that it might not be as widespread as it seems on the forums because the people who DO have those issues are going to be the vocal ones, making the issue seem larger than it is for the community as a whole.

I like to use the Pinto analogy whenever people bring up the idea that only "Bad DM's" ever cause alignment issues (another thing I disagree with).  Even if what you say is true, alignment still shouldn't be used.  It is like a Pinto, only people who get in crashes (specifically rear end colisions) would ever have an issue with the Pinto's tendancy to explode.  So the Pinto explodes when bad drivers get into crashes (because if you get into a crash you are obviously a bad driver, or at least that is what your arguing is the case for DM's and alignment).  It is still taking a minor incident (rear end colision / morality disagreement) and turning it into a major incident (fiery death / game implosion). 


YOU! lol.
I remember your pinto analogy, because I remember having this discussion with you.
So, in your analogy, the Pinto (a car with an inherent design flaw) is Alignment.
Rear-end collisions are the morality disgreements in games.
Fiery explosions that result from rear-end collisions with Pintos are the "game imploding" problems.
And bad drivers are the Bad DMs that cause these incidents.
To sum up your analogy, even a Pinto in the hands of a good and responsible driver will not result in a fiery explosion, but that does not mean that there is not a design flaw with the Pinto.
I just wanted to sum it up, so you know that I fully understand your analogy.

Here's where my point comes in, using your own analogy.
I challenge your base assumption that Alignment is, in fact, a Pinto, and not some other compact car.  I say that it is a car by another manufacturer, and that those rear-end collisions which result in fiery explosions are solely the cause of the people involved.  For example, not only bad drivers, but owners who make alterations to the factory design, by, let's say putting a nitrous oxide tank in the car, or carrying 200lbs of fireworks in the trunk.  When combined with a bad driver who gets into a rear-end collision (which would not ordinarily cause a fiery explosion), a fiery explosion results due to the modifications from factory standard that the owner/driver made.

To wit: I disagree that alignment has these inherent design flaws that lead Bad DMs to cause the "game imploding" problems.  It is solely the responsibility of the Bad DMs.

And here's why: The design flaw of a Pinto is something that can be objectively proven.  You can prove that a Pinto is more liekly than another car with emperical evidence.  You have not, however, furnished similar proof of Alignment's "inherent flaws" that you claim.  If these flaws were in the rules, then the experiences of "fiery explosions" would be a universal result of anyone who ever got into the "rear-end collision" of alignment disagreements.

To bring us back on topic, I invite you to find, in the rules, these design flaws and post about them here.  Bring in quotes from RAW, please, as RAW is the only objective truth we can hold to when discussing rules.  I am more than willing to bend an ear and listen with an open mind to your points.  Also, I will contest them if the RAW do not support what you say, or perhaps we can work together to find out why the RAW could promote that kind of disagreement.

You are a resaonable poster, mestewart, I have addressed your points on your terms, I ask only that you return the favor and address mine as I have asked.

Thank you. 
In your objectively good and evil world, when your objectively good god tells the paladin he must save the world by killing this innocent child, the act must be objectively good.  There is no moral grey and the paladin is doing good, by doing the bidding of his good god.  He would not lose powers and it should not be an issue.

On the other hand if his good god tells him not to kill the child and to do something else, well if he then kills the child he must be doing an evil act, because he is going against the wishes of his good god.  That direct contrast to the wishes of his god I would then say could lead to the stripping of his powers.



God's are not objectively good, first of all. Their alignment is ALSO subject to the rules of alignment. So it'd be an evil act they'd be decree-ing.

Also, Paladin's are not beholden to gods (at least in 2nd and 3rd).

So, basically, a god can't dicate an evil action to be good...so your point is invalidated right there. Paladin's don't HAVE to listen to a god anyway since their powers are tied into the cosmos and their purity, not god-given...so that sorta invalidates it there too.

However, even if those two things WERE correct, if you did that in a game of objective good & evil you're a bad DM that has betrayed your own set-up...uh unless you want your paladin to call out the false-god on their evil decree and take the fight to them. That'd be kinda cool I guess.
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Also...I keep noticing a trend of people claiming Alignment "ruins stories". Hmm...aren't we against railroading players? Doesn't the presumption of a story being "ruinable" necessitate pre-existing expectations thrust on the players? Hmm..
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Did you read post#2?  I'm not being snarky or sarcastic, but I addressed the paladin-as-LG-only thing earlier.  Traditional paladins, in the original meaning of the word paladin, had nothing to do with being a knight of a chosen deity, even in D&D.
In recent years, D&D has re-appropriated the word to mean that, but please understand that this is a RECENT thing.  A lot of people still have it ingrained that the word paladin implies honorable and just behavior, and high ideals.
And the "narrow concept" of the pre-4e classes with alignment restrictions didn't stop at the paladin.  Several classes had alignment restrictions to keep them in the confines of specific archetypes. 



 As far as alignment goes, I'm agreeing with you?  My point about paladins was that they are not-alignment restricted, in the sense that if a player wants to create a good, unaligned or evil paladin, he is free to do so.   I see paladins as knights devoted to their cause, whatever that might be.   As long as the player plays the paladin in a consistant manner, I see no alignment issues.


I just looked up paladin in the dictionary and one defintion was: "any determined advocate or defender of a noble cause."



   If a paladin of any alignment starts acting contrary to what that cause is, then a change might be in order.   That player may then choose to support a different cause, but he might be branded a traitor by some.  



 As far as alignment goes, I'm agreeing with you?  My point about paladins was that they are not-alignment restricted, in the sense that if a player wants to create a good, unaligned or evil paladin, he is free to do so.   I see paladins as knights devoted to their cause, whatever that might be.   As long as the player plays the paladin in a consistant manner, I see no alignment issues.


I just looked up paladin in the dictionary and one defintion was: "any determined advocate or defender of a noble cause."



   If a paladin of any alignment starts acting contrary to what that cause is, then a change might be in order.   That player may then choose to support a different cause, but he might be branded a traitor by some. 


Sorry if I misunderstood you.
4e is a bit iffy when it comes to debating alignment mechanics, since 4e had so few. And alignment itself was essentially optional in 4e.
The "narrow concept" of paladins was, I assumed, in reference to pre-4e paladins, which were meant to adhere to that traditional definition of "paladin".
 

YOU! lol.
I remember your pinto analogy, because I remember having this discussion with you.
So, in your analogy, the Pinto (a car with an inherent design flaw) is Alignment.
Rear-end collisions are the morality disgreements in games.
Fiery explosions that result from rear-end collisions with Pintos are the "game imploding" problems.
And bad drivers are the Bad DMs that cause these incidents.
To sum up your analogy, even a Pinto in the hands of a good and responsible driver will not result in a fiery explosion, but that does not mean that there is not a design flaw with the Pinto.
I just wanted to sum it up, so you know that I fully understand your analogy.

Here's where my point comes in, using your own analogy.
I challenge your base assumption that Alignment is, in fact, a Pinto, and not some other compact car.  I say that it is a car by another manufacturer, and that those rear-end collisions which result in fiery explosions are solely the cause of the people involved.  For example, not only bad drivers, but owners who make alterations to the factory design, by, let's say putting a nitrous oxide tank in the car, or carrying 200lbs of fireworks in the trunk.  When combined with a bad driver who gets into a rear-end collision (which would not ordinarily cause a fiery explosion), a fiery explosion results due to the modifications from factory standard that the owner/driver made.

To wit: I disagree that alignment has these inherent design flaws that lead Bad DMs to cause the "game imploding" problems.  It is solely the responsibility of the Bad DMs.

And here's why: The design flaw of a Pinto is something that can be objectively proven.  You can prove that a Pinto is more liekly than another car with emperical evidence.  You have not, however, furnished similar proof of Alignment's "inherent flaws" that you claim.  If these flaws were in the rules, then the experiences of "fiery explosions" would be a universal result of anyone who ever got into the "rear-end collision" of alignment disagreements.
 
To bring us back on topic, I invite you to find, in the rules, these design flaws and post about them here.  Bring in quotes from RAW, please, as RAW is the only objective truth we can hold to when discussing rules.  I am more than willing to bend an ear and listen with an open mind to your points.  Also, I will contest them if the RAW do not support what you say, or perhaps we can work together to find out why the RAW could promote that kind of disagreement.

You are a resaonable poster, mestewart, I have addressed your points on your terms, I ask only that you return the favor and address mine as I have asked.

Thank you. 



Ok well I will start with the analogy,  might go back later and get to the rest of your post but I am kinda strapped for time and this seemed like the fun part. 

The design flaw in alignment rules is at a base level the concept of morality rules itself.  By creating alignment rules what the game is doing is creating an assumption of a single "correct" moral code by which to judge the actions of the characters and their alignments.  This becomes a problem because every person ever creates their own moral code based on their experiences.  This code is intrensic to human nature and each persons is a little bit different.  We can share some views because they are very basic or because our culture finds them important, but there are always differences.

When you impose a set moral guideline (especialy one as ambigious as D&D) people tend to simply take their own moral guidelines and use those as the set moral guideline.  However when you have multiple people doing this you inevitably run into the problem of conflicting ideas.

That is the issue with alignment rules.  It pits each players moral guidelines agaisnt the others in the field of ideas.  The sort of conflict that creates is awesome in a philosophical debate but not neccesarily in a D&D game.  Especially when in game stakes are involved. 


..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />Ok well I will start with the analogy,  might go back later and get to the rest of your post but I am kinda strapped for time and this seemed like the fun part. 

The design flaw in alignment rules is at a base level the concept of morality rules itself.  By creating alignment rules what the game is doing is creating an assumption of a single "correct" moral code by which to judge the actions of the characters and their alignments.  This becomes a problem because every person ever creates their own moral code based on their experiences.  This code is intrensic to human nature and each persons is a little bit different.  We can share some views because they are very basic or because our culture finds them important, but there are always differences.

When you impose a set moral guideline (especialy one as ambigious as D&D) people tend to simply take their own moral guidelines and use those as the set moral guideline.  However when you have multiple people doing this you inevitably run into the problem of conflicting ideas.

That is the issue with alignment rules.  It pits each players moral guidelines agaisnt the others in the field of ideas.  The sort of conflict that creates is awesome in a philosophical debate but not neccesarily in a D&D game.  Especially when in game stakes are involved.



The error in your logic is in assuming that the creators of a game cannot say there is a "correct" moral code for the game they are presenting. They can. It is within their right and power to do so.

As with all other matters, when in doubt, a player should be able to consult their DM since the DM is the final rules arbiter.
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The error in your logic is in assuming that the creators of a game cannot say there is a "correct" moral code for the game they are presenting. They can. It is within their right and power to do so.



Game creators can give a "correct" moral code, however they shouldn't.  It is within their power, in that they are the ones producing the game.  However I wouldn't go so far as to call it a right.  In one sense they have the "right" to publish anything they want, just like Hall had the "right" to publish FATAL.  Should he have?  NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!  should a game company try and arbitrate the morality used in their game?  *much less emphasized* no

People get morality and don't need their hands held on it.  Once again it comes down to the fact that if you don't bring morality up, most often people agree on most things and can reconcile their differences if they don't agree.  the problems come from trying to force the issue by creating the expectation of a single correct answer and tying mechanical benifits to that answer.

Just as many people would take issue with any designer given moral code as take issue with other players moral codes.


As with all other matters, when in doubt, a player should be able to consult their DM since the DM is the final rules arbiter.



I disagree with this, the DM should be the arbitrator of the rules but the rules shouldn't cover things like morality.  If the DM thinks that the people in his world would feel a certain way about the actions the PC's are going to take he should have full right to act on that impetus or warn the palyers about it.  However it has been shown many times over the years (especially in the whats a player to do forums) that people don't like getting their moral code thrown out in favor of another person even if that person is a psuedo authority figure vested power to run a game.


The error in your logic is in assuming that the creators of a game cannot say there is a "correct" moral code for the game they are presenting. They can. It is within their right and power to do so.



Game creators can give a "correct" moral code, however they shouldn't.  It is within their power, in that they are the ones producing the game.  However I wouldn't go so far as to call it a right.  In one sense they have the "right" to publish anything they want, just like Hall had the "right" to publish FATAL.  Should he have?  NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!  should a game company try and arbitrate the morality used in their game?  *much less emphasized* no

People get morality and don't need their hands held on it.  Once again it comes down to the fact that if you don't bring morality up, most often people agree on most things and can reconcile their differences if they don't agree.  the problems come from trying to force the issue by creating the expectation of a single correct answer and tying mechanical benifits to that answer.

Just as many people would take issue with any designer given moral code as take issue with other players moral codes.




I think you're entirely wrong.

For instance, in Knights of the Old Republic the game designers were wrong to build in a morality system? And before you say there is a difference between the two...there really isn't. Both are systems for tracking the moral leanings of a character within the mechanical interactions of the game.

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I disagree with this, the DM should be the arbitrator of the rules but the rules shouldn't cover things like morality.  If the DM thinks that the people in his world would feel a certain way about the actions the PC's are going to take he should have full right to act on that impetus or warn the palyers about it.  However it has been shown many times over the years (especially in the whats a player to do forums) that people don't like getting their moral code thrown out in favor of another person even if that person is a psuedo authority figure vested power to run a game.




And those people are always going to have a problem playing in a game. Period. Until they can swallow their own pride and accept what is being presented to them as the reality of the world they will ALWAYS argue with their DM or disagree with them or take issue with what is going on because they are not ceding control where necessary. They are being contrary.

Morality is no more immutable than gravity or the presence of magic in a fantasy construct.

The person screaming bloody murder that it isn't fair that the DM said they're murdering sociopath can't wield the Sword-Of-Infinite-Righteousness will still scream bloody murder regardless of whether or not alignment exists. And control-freak DMs with an agenda at the table will continue to utilize whatever they can to manipulate or control their players. Blaming alignment is obfuscation just like blaming traps is obfuscation. People have become so over sensitive to the reality that things can be DONE WRONG that they endlessly attack mechanics as if those mechanics have some sort of ill-intent because GOD FORBID they call out someone on poor behavior and call it objectively wrong in the game environment.

As long as the mantra remains "There is no wrong way to play D&D" bad DMs will be bad DMs and bad players will be bad players...and the worst is, now they're getting reinforced because they CAN'T be wrong under the current prevelant meta-game attitude. Ludicrous, but true.
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I think you're entirely wrong.

For instance, in Knights of the Old Republic the game designers were wrong to build in a morality system? And before you say there is a difference between the two...there really isn't. Both are systems for tracking the moral leanings of a character within the mechanical interactions of the game.



And I think your entierly wrong.

I won't argue with you that videogames have been doing the silly bisected morality thing.  Then again that is a really silly game mechanic as well.  For a lot of the same reasons as alignment and for reasons all it's own (causes weak story telling, benifits only complete sociopathy and pure righteousness).  Videogame morality systems are no better than D&D's morality system.  The only difference is we don't really go into most videogames for their good stories or ability to change based on our decisions.  It is a very pleasant suprise indeed to find a video game story that is at the level of midcore pulp fiction.


And those people are always going to have a problem playing in a game. Period. Until they can swallow their own pride and accept what is being presented to them as the reality of the world they will ALWAYS argue with their DM or disagree with them or take issue with what is going on because they are not ceding control where necessary. They are being contrary.

Morality is no more immutable than gravity or the presence of magic in a fantasy construct.


Apparently it is because while some people might have misunderstandings about other facets of rules or even might sometimes argue about them.  However alignment is brought up as a game shattering issue more than any other facet of the rules and possibly all other facets of the rules combined.

Fantasy has long since stepped a fair bit aways from the black and white morality paradigm.  Why should the game limit us to that?


The person screaming bloody murder that it isn't fair that the DM said they're murdering sociopath can't wield the Sword-Of-Infinite-Righteousness will still scream bloody murder regardless of whether or not alignment exists. And control-freak DMs with an agenda at the table will continue to utilize whatever they can to manipulate or control their players. Blaming alignment is obfuscation just like blaming traps is obfuscation. People have become so over sensitive to the reality that things can be DONE WRONG that they endlessly attack mechanics as if those mechanics have some sort of ill-intent because GOD FORBID they call out someone on poor behavior and call it objectively wrong in the game environment.

As long as the mantra remains "There is no wrong way to play D&D" bad DMs will be bad DMs and bad players will be bad players...and the worst is, now they're getting reinforced because they CAN'T be wrong under the current prevelant meta-game attitude. Ludicrous, but true.



You are an interesting case.  You seem to have implicit trust that there are good DMs out there and they are the ones that matter.  The rules shouldn't be designed to help poor DMs and mitigate bad ones. They should be designed to do what you see as benifit and hand power to good ones.  However you seem to take the exact opposite stance on payers.  They are all greedy munchkins who would manipulate the game for their own advantage any way they could.  We should be designing the game to mitigate the bad players even at the expense of confining the good ones.  You might not be trying to but you are coming off as very anti-player.

A good player will either enjoy their sociopath character and not go after the rightious weapon or play a better character to deserve the righteous weapon.  For the most part players are as invested in the story and the world as the DM (perhaps not in the ammount of time spent working on it but in the sense of wanting to see it work).  That is the main issue with DM arbitrated alignment it is marginilizing the players and telling them that we don't trust you to play right and we don't care about what you think is the right way to play.

If a player is being a jerk then the issue should be handled outside of the game.  It is pretty fair to say that the best thing that has come out of evolving ideas around how to run RPG's is the concept that issues with player should under no circumstances be handled in-game.