4th Edition Alignment: What is it good for?

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This was just something I had thought about a few weeks ago and I was just reminded of it while browsing threads and I thought I'd see what you all have to think about it:


In 4th edition, is alignment is largely a tool for NPCs and monsters and not players?


The first thing that made me think this was the fact that there is very little alignment-based functionality in 4th Edition D&D. Classes have been alignment generalized so that you can have lawful good barbarians and chaotic evil paladins if you want to, magic circle has become bounded to creature type rather than alignment, and (as far as I can recall) there are no powers or items that are relevant to alignment itself. Of course, DMs are always free to add their own material that's alignment specific, like saying that certain creature-typed powers also work on evil creatures or that a healing spell from a good-aligned divine healer won't work on a chaotic evil entity, but these are player-created-content rather than part of the system. (The difference can be measured in the number of hours it takes to incorporate the alignment-sensitive system into the game, its effectiveness, and the players' willingness to learn the new rules and incorporate them.)


Deities are divided along alignment lines, but these alignments are largely prescribed with no basis in morality (D&D religions have always been more about philosophies of life or purposeful goals rather than moral exactitudes anyway). If you want proof, read an article on the "white man's burden" before worshiping Erathis.


Exacerbating this situation is the fact that the 4th edition PC side is somewhat more neutral+ in focus than previous editions, which is not to say that evil and chaotic evil alignments aren't accessible to players or that skilled players can't successfully incorporate such characters into games (even good-aligned ones), but as a general rule neutral+ characters tend to be the norm. The Player's Handbook and the Dungeon Master's Guide both engender this covertly (by omitting the evil deities from the PH) or overtly (recommending that DMs run games where characters are neutral, good, or lawful good). The cutting of most good and lawful good monster manual entries is another big step in this direction (though, as a DM, this is a decision that I was thankful for since, as the creators said when they were discussing their philosophy of design, they wanted to have a Monster Manual full of creatures the players would likely be endeavoring to defeat rather than wasting space on those which might occasionally get in the way but were otherwise benign).


Which brought me to my second thought: Is that such a bad thing?


Alignment has always been a subjective entity, which is what it should be: There are no cut-and-dry alignments in real life. It's a sliding scale based on perspective, circumstance, and a few hard-to-nail-down unversal moralities (i.e. a sentient creature has the right to live without his or her own will being impinged on by another sentient creature), which are further complicated by the diverse range of sentient life in the D&D universe. Is a demon truly chaotic evil if it is born to that alignment and has no possibility of ever being anything else? What is the difference between a cat or dog that chases down smaller animals for fun and a demon that murders commoners because it is its nature to do so? Is a hard neutral character evil if he chooses to not act against evil out of apathy or self-interest? Is a murderer who was violently abused throughout his childhood a villain or a victim or both?


Certain entities (the afforementioned demons and angels of deities of the various alignments) have always represented the extremes of the alignment chart (or line, as it is now), but the borders between neutrality and extremity have always been up to the players and DM to decide. (Order of the Stick has a funny bit on this subject with regard to stick-in-the-mud paladins and their more moderate counterparts.) By hanging mechanical gameplay elements on subjective functions


My final question was: If they aren't for players, what function do alignments have for DMs?


My conclusion was that it seems that alignment in 4th edition exists less as a moral stance and more as a shortcut predictor for behavior for creatures. Even this behavioral shortcut can easily be accomplished through the flavor text (and, more often than not, it is required anyway due to the many ways in which good and evil can manifest in behavior and social order). More to the point, intelligent creatures of any species are (generally) capable of being of any alignment, with the only exceptions being those which are expressly incapable of being any other. Even regardless of their base stat block alignment, if a creative DM wants two creatures to be buddies (or enemies) he could probably find a way to make it happen. Common goals, shared enemies, or even a passing interest in one-another might lead two alignment-incompatable creatures to work together towards a single purpose.


So even this conclusion is tenuous. Really, there doesn't seem to be any purpose for alignment anymore other than as a means of dividing religous beliefs along morally ambiguous lines. Flavor text is more functional in terms of defining NPC and monster behavior and it is considerably more multifaceted and exacting to boot. Players tend to be better at defining alignment through actions rather than labels, and the flexibility of the alignment lines tends to make such labels all but useless anyway.


I'd love to read what others have to say on the subject, but at the moment, my final conclusion is: Absolutely nothing.


Maybe it's not such a big deal worth making a point about. Then again, maybe we would have gotten a few more stat blocks in the Monster Manual if we'd dropped alignment altogether, or perhaps had more dynamic, fleshed-out creature motivations for various species (distinguishing orcs from gnolls or kobolds from goblins in more significant ways than the manner in which they rampage or the interchangable higher powers they revere). Laughing


Sorry if this bit at the end got less refined: I'm sleepy and I may not be representing my argument as well as I was when I started. Oh well.

Alignment!  Huh!  Good god, y'all!  What is it good for?


 


ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.


Which is as it should be.  I don't even use it in my games.  I do wish this particular sacred cow had become a tasty cheezburger that I can has.

Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.

Alignment isn't really good for anything, especially now that its importance to the mechanics has basically been removed completely. I just wish they'd done away with it completely instead of just stripping it down like they did.

Its true, alignment was a clunky and often nonsensical behavioral straightjacket for players, and has therefore essentially been removed from the game in any mechanically meaningful sense.


But that doesn't mean that you can't lend morality any weight in-game. You just have to do so in a more organic and interesting way.


Take a look at artifacts for instance. In previous editions, they were explicitly linked to a certain alignment. But in this edition they just have personalities, which have goals much more specific and interesting than merely being "aligned", and the mechanical features that might once have been tied to rigid adherance to a specific alignment now work on a sliding scale of adherance to the artifact's goals. An artifact might be a relic of a people wholly devoted to trade and commerce, and would reward its bearer for engaging in trade, but punish them if they merely hoarded all of their possessions or if they used thievery to bypass honest commerce. IMO thats a much more interesting approach to introducing some sort of moral standard into the game than merely declaring an item "good" and saying it will only work with "good" people. What does good mean, anyway? Does an orc shaman who has spent his life healing those of his tribe think of himself as "evil"? A specific artifact or person or god might have an idea of what is good, but there is no universal absolute, which is the way it should be.


In one of my campaigns the dm has houseruled that the ability to use domain feats to boost at-wills is tied to how well the player is serving their god--deviate too far from the teachings of one's god, and you may lose the ability to use those domain feats temporarily. But those godly teachings are never so broad and simplistic as merely being "lawful good" or "chaotic evil". Instead, each god has highly specific goals and things they care about. Bahumut, for instance, cares a great deal about order and justice and guarding the helpless, and he expects his paladins to uphold those values. But in a recent campaign, one of our adventures involved a lord whose daughter had fled an impending marriage to be with her true love, a member of a rival nation. The lord asked us to get her back, but when we reached her, she offered us a different reward to help her and her beloved flee. A few in our party were all for helping her escape to be with the one she loved...but not our Paladin of Bahumut. He figured that Bahumut values order over mere passion and emotion, and would never approve of forsaking a promise like a betrothal in order to follow the whims of one's heart--the noble thing to do would be to suck it up and try one's best to fulfill the promise even if it made one unhappy. We ended up hauling her back kicking and screaming. On the old alignment scale, this might have prompted a long argument over which course of action was the closest to "lawful good" behavior. But in this game, that wasn't relevant, only one god's particular interpretation of "good", which didn't necessarily conform to our modern conceptions.

all sorts of goodness


That, in my opinion, is how it should work :D

Through the ages, many would wonder "Does art imitate life or does life imitate art?" I wonder "Does the art of discourse on the internet imitate the art of discourse in life or does the art of discourse in life imitate the art of discourse on the internet?"

I completely disagree that it is useless or a straightjacket.


I think at one time aligment was used as the first introduction to the concept that this game was more than a tactical table top strategy simulator.


Someone completely new to roleplaying games (and go back thirty years and everyone was.. that's a basic date, not specific.. please don't waste time correcting me) reads through the book and says. "Wow, this game is about numbers and min/maxing so I can stay alive against an enemy set of numbers with a name ascribed to it. But wait.. "


Then they read about alignement and say. "Wait, my character is supposed to act a specific way? He's supposed to have a personality? Well, that's different." And that's what sets RPGs apart from it being a Tabletop MMO Game. The fact that you tell stories, pretend to be characters, and make decisions based on that characters ideals.


Now, fast forward to a time when "veterans", in all their sophomoric wisdom, feel they have crashed through every story character ever invented (and, of course, every roleplayer is the BEST roleplayer) and alignment seems like wasted space.


"Of course I don't need to know that RPing is about telling stories and making a character personality. I've only done this since.. like.. 1977. I'm so amazing at the RPing games that these two - three pages of suggestion really annoy me and have no place in my veteran gaming table. This is such a crutch.. blah.. de, blah.. blah blah."


At my table, we discuss things we don't have all the answers to. Good, Evil, and scumbag.. I mean Unaligned. It's likely, at my table, we're all just dumb.. not having every answer to what it is to be good, or evil.. but they say ignorance is bliss. I feel bad for those who know everything about the words used for alignments. It must be hard being so wise. 


Alignment is a suggestion, and I DO support it moving toward a non-mechanic aspect of the game. (read that part again, it might save you a whole angry rebuttal post.) It can elevate the game beyond borish self-indulgent escapism. Though, admittedly.. for literalists, and those unimaginative enough to break the descriptions presented in the books, it can also be a restraint.


Good direction in 4th - and I'm glad it remains.

Maybe it's just my analytical personality, but I've always rather like D&D alignment.  You have the two axis, with neutral in the middle, 9 total alignments - 10 if you made a distinction between the philosophical 'preserve the blance' True Neutral and the 'who cares/animal intelligence' nuetral-by-default.  The law/chaos axis covers ethics and a collectivist/individualist dichotomy.  The good/evil axis covers morality.  All neat and tidy.  And, in a world where the gods walk among us, evil artifact darkly radiate palpable evil, and touching a wrongly-aligned item, /hurts/, it makes sense to have an objective system of morality to model your conformance with the gods' dictates & magic's various moral/ethic detecting/affecting powers.


With alignment purged of mechanical effects, you no longer have that kind of world - and you no longer really need alignment.  There was no need to lobotomize it, by pretending to do away with the 'confusing' CG and LE (in fact, still in the game as Good and Evil, respectively, it's NE and NG that are gone), just jetisoning the whole system would've been fine.  Similarly, leaving the whole system as an 'option,' with a few rituals or artifacts - equally optional - to give it teeth, would have been fine.

 

 

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Personally, I rather dislike alignment as I view morality as subjective in real life, therefore nailing it down in a game is just going to prompt arguments.


If I were to DM, I would ask for for alignment, but that's really just to understand what our group is going to be doing. I normally just break it up in unaligned, good and evil. It also helps when trying to figure out plots for the characters.


As a player, it helps when creating characters at first so we don't wind up with characters that will end up pvping each other.


I did once think of instead adding in Lawful and Chaotic, ideas that my party NEVER agree on, with instead listing an archetype. For instance, the paladin mentioned about is 'Good (Champion of Order)'. Someone who wants the princess to marry for love is 'Good (Individualist)'.


I would perfer to use campaigns where alignments don't matter, so listing an archetype is really just to help me understand what the character is and some idea of what to expect.

I mostly use it as a simple way for the players to basically state their intentions.  Basically a quick reference on their actions.  In the end it all depends on the characters actions to determine what their true alignment is.

The primary purpose for alignment, as i see it, is to excuse 'heroic' players from attacking certain monster types just because of their race.

The world is a mess, I just need to... rule it.

As I stated in another thread: It's a property of the character.  One that can be incorporated into the game (whether by design or by table) as it will.  You'll note, there are mechanical implecations to the property.(see ED: Harper of Legend, uses alignment, skills, and background).


edited: typo

Through the ages, many would wonder "Does art imitate life or does life imitate art?" I wonder "Does the art of discourse on the internet imitate the art of discourse in life or does the art of discourse in life imitate the art of discourse on the internet?"


Alignment isn't really good for anything, especially now that its importance to the mechanics has basically been removed completely. I just wish they'd done away with it completely instead of just stripping it down like they did.




alignment has never been "useful" in D&D, except that in earlier versions there were restrictions because of choosing alignment, which does not accurately reflect alignment, as you have stated. Alignment is now where it should be. It IS in fact a roleplaying element, since a law good paladin should still be making decisions based on their deity's beliefs. But people always metagame, cry about their PC dying and how the DM "screwed them over", as if their character is themselves. Characters are their own entities, and if they have an alignment and personal goals that other players might derisively call "chaotic stupid", remember, there are people in the world like that, and disliking a player that plays that way is the worst ignorance of actual roleplaying that I can think of. In fact, thats called metagaming, which is not roleplaying.


Now that mechanical restrictions have been removed, alignment choice has become a more powerful roleplay element, since people can now freely choose what to be, and not take it and then do the opposite, simply because a mechanic needs them to take that alignment in order to get a certain class or race. What this means is that now people will focus on alignment solely for making decisions with their character, and the meta/powergaming bull will start settling down.


This leads to the possibility of PCs and DMs actually understanding roleplaying characters better, with better policing of players that choose, for example, choose not to steal something, as while it may be in the PCs nature and indeed what the PC would do, mechanically, it would bring harm to the group or something, so the player runs the PC differently than their alignment or nature. This is a clearcut example of metagaming and power playing, the antithesis of actual roleplay.


I welcome this change.

Personally, I rather dislike alignment as I view morality as subjective in real life, therefore nailing it down in a game is just going to prompt arguments.


I confuse people on that score because I maintain that the subjectiveness of morality, like any percieved conflicts between people's rights, comes entirely from incomplete understanding and/or insufficient data.


(The usual response to that assumes that I hold my own understanding and data to be complete - which assumption is false.)


I like the concept of alignment as it was originally drafted. Definitely not the implementation, which in my opinion was a diamond rather than a square: Lawful Good at the top, Lawful Evil and Chaotic Good at the side corners and roughly even with each other, and Chaotic Evil at the bottom.


Aside from that, count me among those who always wished that alignment had mattered more.


I did once think of instead adding in Lawful and Chaotic, ideas that my party NEVER agree on, with instead listing an archetype. For instance, the paladin mentioned about is 'Good (Champion of Order)'. Someone who wants the princess to marry for love is 'Good (Individualist)'.


Archetypes is more or less the way Rifts and World of Darkness handle the issue. They are more flexible than alignment. However they are pretty much just guidelines to the player for how to play his character, with no mechanical support at all.


And that approach works too.

"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

Id have preferred if they stripped out the chapters from all the books on alignment, and backgrounds and simply devoted that space to a section on "How to roleplay a character" the core book can go into general ideas "pretend you are our character, act how they would" along with some basic ideas. "A gruff war veteran might make an interesting character, what war were you in? where was it fought? against who? did you agree with the war?" and the campaign setting books could include info like "Characters from ___ come from an area with a wizards college nearby. How would that affect their daily lives? be sure to think about this when making a character."


Instead we got the old alignment from previous editions thrown in the front of the book, which leads people to ideas like "The DM Should mandate an alignment change for that" or "You are supposed to be a good character?" or even the old alignment traps of old "What do you do with the baby kobolds Mr. LG, how about the prisoners on the battlefield?" followed by people complaining "My DM changed my alignment, and I don't think it was right, magically fly through the computer and erase that off my character sheet and write my old one in!"


Then we have sections on backgrounds, which grant bonuses to skills, so you've got two groups of people. The ones who say "A character from that desert sounds cool" and the ones who say "Oh, I need an endurance bonus, I am from the desert now". One would be from the desert anyway, and the other just wants that extra stat boost.

"In a way, you are worse than Krusk"                               " As usual, Krusk comments with assuredness, but lacks the clarity and awareness of what he's talking about"

"Can't say enough how much I agree with Krusk"        "Wow, thank you very much"

"Your advice is the worst"                                                  "I'd recommend no one listed to Krusk's opinions about what games to play"


Id have preferred if they stripped out the chapters from all the books on alignment, and backgrounds and simply devoted that space to a section on "How to roleplay a character" the core book can go into general ideas "pretend you are our character, act how they would" along with some basic ideas. "A gruff war veteran might make an interesting character, what war were you in? where was it fought? against who? did you agree with the war?" and the campaign setting books could include info like "Characters from ___ come from an area with a wizards college nearby. How would that affect their daily lives? be sure to think about this when making a character."


Instead we got the old alignment from previous editions thrown in the front of the book, which leads people to ideas like "The DM Should mandate an alignment change for that" or "You are supposed to be a good character?" or even the old alignment traps of old "What do you do with the baby kobolds Mr. LG, how about the prisoners on the battlefield?" followed by people complaining "My DM changed my alignment, and I don't think it was right, magically fly through the computer and erase that off my character sheet and write my old one in!"


Then we have sections on backgrounds, which grant bonuses to skills, so you've got two groups of people. The ones who say "A character from that desert sounds cool" and the ones who say "Oh, I need an endurance bonus, I am from the desert now". One would be from the desert anyway, and the other just wants that extra stat boost.




I like the "old alignment system", liked it when it was 9, like it now as 5. I don't think facile philisophical arguments can put to rest the notion that there is actual ultimate good and ultimate bad (socrates and plato argued these and couldnt come to the conclusion in their lifetime, although they pointed towards the truth).


alignment, when chosen, is like a leash to keep you from breaching your roleplay.


Lets face it, most people dont change that much, if at all, past a certain stage in their life, and usually only solidify internalized values that they already have. So if you have a chaotic good, they should always behave that way (and good is not feeding on baby kobolds or tying them up to starve and die, and releasing prisoners or paying attention to their bodily needs somehow, not gutting them like a fish after torturing them for information, the latter is skirting evil indeed), so a chaotic good should not suddenly go berserk and kill his group for their gold, ever. The only roleplay waey is that they become chaotic evil, either through mental illness, or a slow slide into it from repeated experiences that completely invalidate their internalized beliefs on a regular basis, until they crack/slide.


If leashes are bad things, why is multiclassing so limited in 4e compared to the rampant munchkinizing of 3e? Why can a person not just stab and kill another PC for their stuff, and everyone just get over it? Constraints are what make the world, in real life and in the game, so learn to love limiting factors as challenges to freedom, not as annoyances to going CE on your party for no good reason.


we have examples of good in the world, buddha, jesus, etc. we have examples of evil, such as hitler. The reasons are not just because of what they do, but why they do it. take that as you will.


 


 


P.S. Im finding the auto paragraph functions works like crap.

I guess mostly I feel like 9 is not nearly enough options when choosing an alignment. Really they need ~4000, and since that is like 3 books on its own, it is just easier to ignore it.

"In a way, you are worse than Krusk"                               " As usual, Krusk comments with assuredness, but lacks the clarity and awareness of what he's talking about"

"Can't say enough how much I agree with Krusk"        "Wow, thank you very much"

"Your advice is the worst"                                                  "I'd recommend no one listed to Krusk's opinions about what games to play"

Its telling that the examples given for alignment in the real world are people like Gandhi and Buddha, or Hitler and Charles Manson, i.e. incredibly extreme examples of either saints and monsters who completely embody their ideals (or personality disorders) to a degree far, far beyond anyone most of us interact with in everyday life. Because once you get even slightly less extreme than that, things become almost impossible. And I'm not even just talking about the everyday folks we pass on the street each day. I mean even among larger than life individuals it is almost impossible to nail down a single alignment for any of them.


What alignment, for example, would JFK be? Does his noble rhetoric, heroic behavior during WW2, and support for landmark legislation like the Civil Rights Act make him good (and if so, is that good lawful, neutral or chaotic)? Does his rampant infidelity, apalling and possibly criminal mishandling of the bay of pigs, and the fact that he and his family essentially stole the presidency by voting the cemetaries in Chicago make him evil? Do you split the difference and call him neutral? Where does his early engagement in Vietnam fall into the spectrum? And what about his brother Teddy, who was just eulogized by half of Washington as an American hero, but who spent much of his life trying to overcome a scandal that saw him fleeing the site of the death of an innocent girl caused in large part by his behavior? Is he good or evil? Lawful or chaotic?


Try to apply the alignment issue to any figure in history who isn't hopelessly mythologized (i.e. not Lincoln, Genghis or Jesus), and you invariably run into issues like this. People's behavior is a complex jumble of idealism and self-interest, refracted through a thousand different personal beliefs and biases, and every time we judge them we do so through our own, highly subjective experiences. Life is not a morality play. Unless your D&D campaign is purely about Disneyesque moral paragons running around killing Nazi Demon serial killers, its probably not going to be a straightforward morality play either, and mechanics that try to pretend otherwise are just going to result in lots of stupid and nonresolvable arguments.

I have always enjoyed and implemented the classic alignment matrix as a wonderful descriptive tool.  The problem with alignment in every prior edition (and a few throwbacks in this one) is that it was used as a prescriptive tool.  Alignment should be wholly detatched from mechanics in the rules, because there's no telling whose fun it'll step on.  A blanket statement like 'all barbarians are chaotic' might seem safe, but between reflavouring and different interpretations, a lot of people wanted to be Lawful Barbarians.  Now, I think alignment restrictions are all right in the DM's game in particular, because it's a prescription being made at the level of play it's going to effect for the players it's intended to effect.  Indeed, if alignment is being used as a descriptor, and everyone agrees that Adam's character Jayne is Neutral at best, then the DM can comfortably say 'Thou art not sufficiently Good to wield the Goodhammer of Goodie-Goodness. because zie knows Jayne isn't worthy and is better off sticking to his bastard sword, Vera.

In short, classic alignment is a great way to throw out a vague, shorthand sketch of a character's general world view.  The folly is in using a vague, shorthand sketch as a hard-and-fast rule, particularly when it could result in something as contentious as the insta-nerfing of a Paladin.  Good riddance to the rules significance of alignment.  Now if we could just get them to switch back to the L-C/G-E scale, we'll really be cooking with gas.

(I employ zie/zie/zir as a gender-neutral counterpart to he/him/his. Just a heads-up.) Essentials definitely isn't for me as a player, and I feel that its design and implementation bear serious flaws which fill me with concern for the future of D&D, but I've come to the conclusion that it isn't going to destroy the game that I want to play. Indeed, I think that I could probably run a game for players using Essentials characters without it being much of a problem at all. Time will tell, I suppose.

I have always enjoyed and implemented the classic alignment matrix as a wonderful descriptive tool.  The problem with alignment in every prior edition (and a few throwbacks in this one) is that it was used as a prescriptive tool.  Alignment should be wholly detatched from mechanics in the rules, because there's no telling whose fun it'll step on.  A blanket statement like 'all barbarians are chaotic' might seem safe, but between reflavouring and different interpretations, a lot of people wanted to be Lawful Barbarians.  Now, I think alignment restrictions are all right in the DM's game in particular, because it's a prescription being made at the level of play it's going to effect for the players it's intended to effect.  Indeed, if alignment is being used as a descriptor, and everyone agrees that Adam's character Jayne is Neutral at best, then the DM can comfortably say 'Thou art not sufficiently Good to wield the Goodhammer of Goodie-Goodness. because zie knows Jayne isn't worthy and is better off sticking to his bastard sword, Vera.

In short, classic alignment is a great way to throw out a vague, shorthand sketch of a character's general world view.  The folly is in using a vague, shorthand sketch as a hard-and-fast rule, particularly when it could result in something as contentious as the insta-nerfing of a Paladin.  Good riddance to the rules significance of alignment.  Now if we could just get them to switch back to the L-C/G-E scale, we'll really be cooking with gas.

(I employ zie/zie/zir as a gender-neutral counterpart to he/him/his. Just a heads-up.) Essentials definitely isn't for me as a player, and I feel that its design and implementation bear serious flaws which fill me with concern for the future of D&D, but I've come to the conclusion that it isn't going to destroy the game that I want to play. Indeed, I think that I could probably run a game for players using Essentials characters without it being much of a problem at all. Time will tell, I suppose.

I don't see why the alignment system has to be only extremes though. A player leveling his case for remaining Lawful Good in the face of a DM's declaration that his aligment has changed due to his actions elevates this game in my opinion.


- A bad DM is unbending in enforcing his/her view of alignment. This is NOT a problem of the alignment system, but a DM problem that is seen in anything from alignment to skill use.


Discussion about right and wrong is something this game needs more of, not less. I am very sorry that a lot of people's games have ground to a halt due to bull headed egoism. Mine has never done that. We discuss it, come to a common ground, and agree extremely fast.


- People turning discussions about the game into real life fights based on personal bias is NOT a problem of the alignment. It's a problem with the human species.


As I stated before, the alignment system is a tool. Tools can be used poorly and it sounds like many people have experienced the poor use of alignment. I understand that it makes people feel comfortable to state that "Morality can never be explained, so it should never be explained." That's easy.. and makes the game easy. For those people, you can remove it from your game. For those of us who enjoy it, and what it suggests/entails.. it would be far more difficult to have invented it from scratch (though not impossible).


I'd be interested in finding out how many people who want alignment removed with one side of their mouth... say "More options are better." out of the other.

I think the game could function perfectly well without alignment, ala just about every other RPG system out there. In fact it may make things better, adding that more complicated element of flexible morality. But for the moment I agree with Chimerasame - alignment is a good excuse for "good" PCs to ramraid the "evil" goblin warren, kick butt and loot up. Yeehaar!!

Alignment in 4e is about choosing a side (or not).


At one end you have Law which is the purview of dieties. It's the side of the astral plane. On the other side you have chaos. Law is "good" only in the sense that it is the dieties that are largely responsible for the creation of mortals and keeping the prime material plane geared towards their survival. The forces of chaos have no use for it.


This goes back to the old D&D days pre ad&d when alignment was simply lawful -neutral-chaos.


Characters either choose a side, or remain unaligned. It's possible for a character to follow most of the "good" precepts without going so far as to serve law. It's also possible for a character to follow most of the evil precepts without serving chaos.


For campaigns that verge towards the high fantasy end of the spectrum this is a useful narrative/plotting tool.


It's not meant to limit the characters in how they act. It may serve to create dramatic tension in the hands of a creative DM.


Its telling that the examples given for alignment in the real world are people like Gandhi and Buddha, or Hitler and Charles Manson, i.e. incredibly extreme examples of either saints and monsters who completely embody their ideals (or personality disorders) to a degree far, far beyond anyone most of us interact with in everyday life. Because once you get even slightly less extreme than that, things become almost impossible. And I'm not even just talking about the everyday folks we pass on the street each day. I mean even among larger than life individuals it is almost impossible to nail down a single alignment for any of them.


What alignment, for example, would JFK be? Does his noble rhetoric, heroic behavior during WW2, and support for landmark legislation like the Civil Rights Act make him good (and if so, is that good lawful, neutral or chaotic)? Does his rampant infidelity, apalling and possibly criminal mishandling of the bay of pigs, and the fact that he and his family essentially stole the presidency by voting the cemetaries in Chicago make him evil? Do you split the difference and call him neutral? Where does his early engagement in Vietnam fall into the spectrum? And what about his brother Teddy, who was just eulogized by half of Washington as an American hero, but who spent much of his life trying to overcome a scandal that saw him fleeing the site of the death of an innocent girl caused in large part by his behavior? Is he good or evil? Lawful or chaotic?


Try to apply the alignment issue to any figure in history who isn't hopelessly mythologized (i.e. not Lincoln, Genghis or Jesus), and you invariably run into issues like this. People's behavior is a complex jumble of idealism and self-interest, refracted through a thousand different personal beliefs and biases, and every time we judge them we do so through our own, highly subjective experiences. Life is not a morality play. Unless your D&D campaign is purely about Disneyesque moral paragons running around killing Nazi Demon serial killers, its probably not going to be a straightforward morality play either, and mechanics that try to pretend otherwise are just going to result in lots of stupid and nonresolvable arguments.




 simple, you oversimplified the thing. remember, its bout actions AND intentions, and you likely omitted thinking about the last part. And we could say that the civil rights act, his "heroic" (read: probably lies) behavior, and so on were all forms of PR to get more public approval. Isnt it interesting how people trot out their service records to be voted in, despite having horrid country managing skills? Now, couple that selfshly involved intent with the cemetary voting, etc etc, hes as close to evil as a person can be without being a murderer for the enjoyment. IF you really believe the positive spins, yes that would put him as neutral "marked neither by beneficence, nor by malice, or both in equal amounts." Most people in the world fall under the neutral category, by what they want to appear to be seen as by the outside world, i.e. their coworkers and management, or subordinates, family members, community members, etc etc.


Remember, we're working with a framework of good and evil, and many things believed evil in midieval times were a lot of the time, simply mental disorders, such as schizophrenia or split personality disorder (this is where devil posession comes from). So you have to argue to yourself, what is the definition of evil and good in a world like this, even though you may be educated enough to spot a personality disorder from miles away and diagnose it before even talking to the person?


Extreme examples are measuring devices, nothing more. They dont tell us what ultimate good or ultimate evil, they simply give us some bearings, but the truth is you have to determine for yourself. Or you could just make a list of all the things you think are good or evil (without context) and then decide.


 


Example of good: giving money to a charity, if you believe it goes to a good cause, even if the money donated goes to fund terrorists.


Example of evil: giving money as a charity to terrorists, willfully and with full knowledge. (ok, these aren the best examples because the heroes of today can be maligned as the terrorists of tomorrow if it suits politicians purposes, we know this)


Example of good: Protecting many people's lives if one person threatens to end them all.


Example of evil: Protecting many people's lives by the person you hired to try to kill them to look like a hero and win public approval and accolades and loyalty by using the body of your hireling as a stepping stone/ Joining in with the murderer to slaughter all those people.


Example of good, from above: killing or incapacitating all these people if they are a roving band of mass murderers and have their next victims in sight.


 


hopefully this will elucidate that its both intent and action that measure into it, and that the casting vote is that which is more negative cancelling out any of the positive in it.


 


 

I actually would have liked "Lawful" and "Chaotic" to stay. (And they do, in the form of LG and CE) These two seemed to have a more terrestrial definition attributed to them and because of that caused the most discussion at the table.


I saw Lawful and Chaotic as "Obedience" and "Free Will". Once put into those terms all the players at my table responded to them quite well.


Good/Neutral/Evil were always "Absolutes". Humans didn't decide what they were, the gods didn't decide, the nebulous thing beyond everything (represented by the DM) decided. Now, of course, the DM him/herself should never, ever be the sole deified rule enforcer of the game. That ruins most people's fun because the DM becomes an a-hole (absolute power corrupts absolutely and all that) But as the Storyteller, he is the singular force behind the game world that drives these absolutes on.


Lawful (Obedience) and Chaotic (Free Will) always seemed to me to be human rules systems that modified their view of what it was to be Good or Evil. "Obedient" Good was like a Muslim who serves God and lives under a strict system of rules. "Chaotic" Good was like a Christian who is told to choose to serve God and do as he requests. One does it because the rules dictate, the other, because it is his/her choice to. ((The examples are maleable and both religions have factions and inidividual examples of the concept. Just an illustration folks.))


Anyway, Good/Evil Lawful/Chaotic system can be complex and fullfill the needs of complex moral thinking IF it is so desired by the players at the table to make it part of the game. Hmm.. maybe I'll put the whole thing back in.


DM: "The noble lord has demanded that you slay the goblins that threaten his people."


LG Player: "Excellent, I serve the state and the law of the state.. let's go kick some goblin arse. 


CG Player: "Woah, hold up. "Demanded"? This dude just wants to save his profits, he doesn't care about the people."


NG Player: "That's likely true, but helping the people is all that matters. This noble's own persuits are irrellevant until they conflict with the people's well being.


And every variation in between. Doesn't seem so impossible to understand.. and suggests three distinct and complex personalities.

I liked the 9, but i didn't like the mechanics.  4e need a few more alignments (yes there should be 4million or so, but rounding down to 9 was pretty reasonable).  Still i'd rather have less alignments with less impact then more alignments with more impact.

guides
List of no-action attacks.
Dynamic vs Static Bonuses
Phalanx tactics and builds
Crivens! A Pictsies Guide Good
Power
s to intentionally miss with
Mr. Cellophane: How to be unnoticed
Way's to fire around corners
Crits: what their really worth
Retroactive bonus vs Static bonus.
Runepriest handbook & discussion thread
Holy Symbols to hang around your neck
Ways to Gain or Downgrade Actions
List of bonuses to saving throws
The Ghost with the Most (revenant handbook)
my builds
F-111 Interdictor Long (200+ squares) distance ally teleporter. With some warlord stuff. Broken in a plot way, not a power way.

Thought Switch Higher level build that grants upto 14 attacks on turn 1. If your allies play along, it's broken.

Elven Critters Crit op with crit generation. 5 of these will end anything. Broken.

King Fisher Optimized net user.  Moderate.

Boominator Fun catch-22 booming blade build with either strong or completely broken damage depending on your reading.

Very Distracting Warlock Lot's of dazing and major penalties to hit. Overpowered.

Pocket Protector Pixie Stealth Knight. Maximizing the defender's aura by being in an ally's/enemy's square.

Yakuza NinjIntimiAdin: Perma-stealth Striker that offers a little protection for ally's, and can intimidate bloodied enemies. Very Strong.

Chargeburgler with cheese Ranged attacks at the end of a charge along with perma-stealth. Solid, could be overpowered if tweaked.

Void Defender Defends giving a penalty to hit anyone but him, then removing himself from play. Can get somewhat broken in epic.

Scry and Die Attacking from around corners, while staying hidden. Moderate to broken, depending on the situation.

Skimisher Fly in, attack, and fly away. Also prevents enemies from coming close. Moderate to Broken depending on the enemy, but shouldn't make the game un-fun, as the rest of your team is at risk, and you have enough weaknesses.

Indestructible Simply won't die, even if you sleep though combat.  One of THE most abusive character in 4e.

Sir Robin (Bravely Charge Away) He automatically slows and pushes an enemy (5 squares), while charging away. Hard to rate it's power level, since it's terrain dependent.

Death's Gatekeeper A fun twist on a healic, making your party "unkillable". Overpowered to Broken, but shouldn't actually make the game un-fun, just TPK proof.

Death's Gatekeeper mk2, (Stealth Edition) Make your party "unkillable", and you hidden, while doing solid damage. Stronger then the above, but also easier for a DM to shut down. Broken, until your DM get's enough of it.

Domination and Death Dominate everything then kill them quickly. Only works @ 30, but is broken multiple ways.

Battlemind Mc Prone-Daze Protecting your allies by keeping enemies away. Quite powerful.

The Retaliator Getting hit deals more damage to the enemy then you receive yourself, and you can take plenty of hits. Heavy item dependency, Broken.

Dead Kobold Transit Teleports 98 squares a turn, and can bring someone along for the ride. Not fully built, so i can't judge the power.

Psilent Guardian Protect your allies, while being invisible. Overpowered, possibly broken.

Rune of Vengance Do lot's of damage while boosting your teams. Strong to slightly overpowered.

Charedent BarrageA charging ardent. Fine in a normal team, overpowered if there are 2 together, and easily broken in teams of 5.

Super Knight A tough, sticky, high damage knight. Strong.

Super Duper Knight Basically the same as super knight with items, making it far more broken.

Mora, the unkillable avenger Solid damage, while being neigh indestuctable. Overpowered, but not broken.

Swordburst Maximus At-Will Close Burst 3 that slide and prones. Protects allies with off actions. Strong, possibly over powered with the right party.


DM: "The noble lord has demanded that you slay the goblins that threaten his people."


LG Player: "Excellent, I serve the state and the law of the state.. let's go kick some goblin arse. 


CG Player: "Woah, hold up. "Demanded"? This dude just wants to save his profits, he doesn't care about the people."


NG Player: "That's likely true, but helping the people is all that matters. This noble's own persuits are irrellevant until they conflict with the people's well being.


And every variation in between. Doesn't seem so impossible to understand.. and suggests three distinct and complex personalities.




Sure, but the problem arises when you get into morally ambiguous situations, and despite the simplistic and rather trite responses of one or two of the previous posters there ARE indeed such situations. They happen all the time. Not only that but it is highly simplistic to assign some one clear and unambiguous motive to a real person. Heroic characters can get away with being cardboard cutouts personality-wise but even so they will run into these ambiguous situations.


Is it OK to torture the guard in order to find out where the BBEG is? What if the guard isn't evil? Why would a guy who isn't evil be guarding the BBEG? Well, maybe because he was threatened or payed a lot of money or he thought it was his duty to follow the law, etc. This is just a fairly trivial example, but these are exactly the kinds of situations PCs will run into constantly in their adventuring careers.


The alignment system was (I suspect) included in the game at the start in order to make it fairly easy to distinguish the "bad" guys from the "good" guys. It also served as a bit of an RP crutch. You assign an alignment to your character and that does give you some idea of what their personality and motivations may be like. Its not a very nuanced way of doing it, but it seems to me it can provide some players with a bit of something which is on their character sheet that gives them an idea of how they will react in different situations and what their goals might be.


Once you actually get to a reasonably sophisticated level of role playing alignment stops really being all that useful. It still can serve as a way to flag who's a designated bad guy in simple cases, but no 1 or 2 words is going to adequately describe what a character believes or how they will act except in such a generalized way as to be practically useless to someone who's really getting into their character's head.


Overall I don't see anything particularly wrong with having alignment in the game. I'm glad it doesn't have explicit overt game mechanical significance anymore since that was really just unnecessarily limiting, but its OK if a DM wants to use it as a reasonable way to decide if a PC can pick up Ye Olde Sword of Badguy Smiting or whatever. Its OK if players want to have it listed on their character sheet and I'd expect them to be consistent with that decision, but its never going to be possible to say if every given action a PC takes is good or evil etc. Just don't worry about it. If you want to leave it out of the game, big deal. If you want to use it, then do so. Depending on who you play with and how the campaign works either decision might be a good one. Frankly though I don't see it as any kind of big issue.

That is not dead which may eternal lie

Alignment is more of a roleplaying thing than a mechanical thing. It stands as the most general principles of the character. It's the starting point for developing a personality, and a key part of your interactions with other players, and npcs.


There are a few mechanical attributes to alignment. Clerics and their Dieties have to be of the same alignment, or unaligned. For example, you can worship Pelor only if you're good, or unaligned. Never if you're evil, chaotic evil, or lawful good (Source: PHB page 62.)


So, Alignment is not entirely useless, it's just not used that often. Neither is how your character looks, but every now and then, it might come up.

Name: Johnathan Allen Characters: Roeth Larelynn, Lhoen Lathanen, Mallorie Blackwolf, Allen Blackwolf, Jacob Ravencrest, Johnathan Quick, Nathan Quick, Garret Quick, Isaac Macgilovicz, Ivan Macgilovicz, Cadence Arthur, and Lady Ashen'vari Grasswhisper. Classes: Ranger, Paladin, Rogue, Bard.

Seriously, why complain about the lack of the nine alignments when adding them would be refluff/flavor and wouldn't even be considered a house rule?


Is it something prohibited by the RPGA or something?

Seriously, why complain about the lack of the nine alignments when adding them would be refluff/flavor and wouldn't even be considered a house rule?

Is it something prohibited by the RPGA or something?


So newbies play (or at least think about) a 2-dimentional character instead of a 1-dimentional one.  Having them think about the differences between good/lawfull and chaotic/evil helps them put more detail into their character.  It's still a crutch, but it get's you thinking about having more then 1 motive.  Personaly i think it would of helped the preception of 4e alot if they kept it, instead of just listing the options of being a very shiney, slightly shiney, or regular hero.

guides
List of no-action attacks.
Dynamic vs Static Bonuses
Phalanx tactics and builds
Crivens! A Pictsies Guide Good
Power
s to intentionally miss with
Mr. Cellophane: How to be unnoticed
Way's to fire around corners
Crits: what their really worth
Retroactive bonus vs Static bonus.
Runepriest handbook & discussion thread
Holy Symbols to hang around your neck
Ways to Gain or Downgrade Actions
List of bonuses to saving throws
The Ghost with the Most (revenant handbook)
my builds
F-111 Interdictor Long (200+ squares) distance ally teleporter. With some warlord stuff. Broken in a plot way, not a power way.

Thought Switch Higher level build that grants upto 14 attacks on turn 1. If your allies play along, it's broken.

Elven Critters Crit op with crit generation. 5 of these will end anything. Broken.

King Fisher Optimized net user.  Moderate.

Boominator Fun catch-22 booming blade build with either strong or completely broken damage depending on your reading.

Very Distracting Warlock Lot's of dazing and major penalties to hit. Overpowered.

Pocket Protector Pixie Stealth Knight. Maximizing the defender's aura by being in an ally's/enemy's square.

Yakuza NinjIntimiAdin: Perma-stealth Striker that offers a little protection for ally's, and can intimidate bloodied enemies. Very Strong.

Chargeburgler with cheese Ranged attacks at the end of a charge along with perma-stealth. Solid, could be overpowered if tweaked.

Void Defender Defends giving a penalty to hit anyone but him, then removing himself from play. Can get somewhat broken in epic.

Scry and Die Attacking from around corners, while staying hidden. Moderate to broken, depending on the situation.

Skimisher Fly in, attack, and fly away. Also prevents enemies from coming close. Moderate to Broken depending on the enemy, but shouldn't make the game un-fun, as the rest of your team is at risk, and you have enough weaknesses.

Indestructible Simply won't die, even if you sleep though combat.  One of THE most abusive character in 4e.

Sir Robin (Bravely Charge Away) He automatically slows and pushes an enemy (5 squares), while charging away. Hard to rate it's power level, since it's terrain dependent.

Death's Gatekeeper A fun twist on a healic, making your party "unkillable". Overpowered to Broken, but shouldn't actually make the game un-fun, just TPK proof.

Death's Gatekeeper mk2, (Stealth Edition) Make your party "unkillable", and you hidden, while doing solid damage. Stronger then the above, but also easier for a DM to shut down. Broken, until your DM get's enough of it.

Domination and Death Dominate everything then kill them quickly. Only works @ 30, but is broken multiple ways.

Battlemind Mc Prone-Daze Protecting your allies by keeping enemies away. Quite powerful.

The Retaliator Getting hit deals more damage to the enemy then you receive yourself, and you can take plenty of hits. Heavy item dependency, Broken.

Dead Kobold Transit Teleports 98 squares a turn, and can bring someone along for the ride. Not fully built, so i can't judge the power.

Psilent Guardian Protect your allies, while being invisible. Overpowered, possibly broken.

Rune of Vengance Do lot's of damage while boosting your teams. Strong to slightly overpowered.

Charedent BarrageA charging ardent. Fine in a normal team, overpowered if there are 2 together, and easily broken in teams of 5.

Super Knight A tough, sticky, high damage knight. Strong.

Super Duper Knight Basically the same as super knight with items, making it far more broken.

Mora, the unkillable avenger Solid damage, while being neigh indestuctable. Overpowered, but not broken.

Swordburst Maximus At-Will Close Burst 3 that slide and prones. Protects allies with off actions. Strong, possibly over powered with the right party.


So newbies play (or at least think about) a 2-dimentional character instead of a 1-dimentional one.  Having them think about the differences between good/lawfull and chaotic/evil helps them put more detail into their character.  It's still a crutch, but it get's you thinking about having more then 1 motive.  Personaly i think it would of helped the preception of 4e alot if they kept it, instead of just listing the options of being a very shiney, slightly shiney, or regular hero.




I suppose you've played some other RPGs other than D&D through the years, like many of us here. Tell me, where did you witness most roleplaying and interesting characters; in D&D with its nine alignment incarnation or in any other system that lacks this type of system?


For my part, I've seen so much more in the latter, where you only had your characters personality to build your motives on.

Johnnii,


I assume you're an opponent to the alignement system. Taking that into consideration, I have to thank you for posing a really valid question instead of the usual ranting about alignment hate that's usually spewed on the forums.


Is the alignment system enough to encourage roleplay when compared with other systems.


---------


White Wolf's: World of Darkness system tries to base itself around roleplay (potentially being the exact opposite of D&D that seems to concentrate more on combat).


      - The Merit/Flaw system works well under supervision of a DM (Flaws are supposed to be enforced by DMs, otherwise it turns into Min/Max).


      - Virtues and Vices give RP guidelines and also reward players for acting consistently.


------


Palladium's: Rifts offers a variation on the alignment system. They go into Do's and Don't of the alignment and they ALSO state clearly that characters are only "LIKELY" to act in a certain way. The use of that word would have likely stopped a lot of literalists from hitting a road block on the D&D alignment system.


------


Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay takes a different approach. They don't offer any in depth "How To" on the roleplaying angel. However, the "Character" system is in depth in that playing things like "Charcoal Burner" is, in and of itself, developed as a character.. progressing from that, to say.. Hunter, and then Bounty Hunter is a rags to riches progression of storyline.


------


Shadowrun tries a similar approach in a very in depth storyline. Reputation and Notoriety try to bring a game mechanic to the actions of the characters and states clearly that "This is how NPC's percieve you, not God almighty."


-----


There are MANY other systems, but I think this shows fairly well that alignment might actually be the weakest (I tried to be brief with my explinations of the different games) of the "Roleplay encouragement systems."


Someone might say. "I don't need RP encouragment." Well, that's great.. congratulations.. you're either deluded, a liar, or the most amazing RPer ever (which means you're either deluded or a liar).


Personally, I don't need game mechanics nearly as much as I could use some solid constructs on how to RP within a system. The RP system of an RPG sets the entire tone for me. World of Darkness' tone is about "Being Human" and losing that humanity, finding it, or perserving it whereas Shadowrun is about making your way through the shadowy underbelly of a corrupt system.. gaining rep in the runner world while keeping out of the limelight of the latest trid news.


What D&D is "about" has now started to come from its rule system for combat. It is 'about' fighting monsters. Really? No, not my games, but I can see a LOT of newcomers believing that D&D is no more than a table top version of an major MMO. It's an incorrect assumption, but 4th Edition hasn't really put itself out there as something more. 


Yes, veterans know that MMOs copied RPGs and not the other way around, but it's the newcomers - likely drawn in by those very same MMOs - that look to the books for examples of "How is this different from Game X?"


To this end, I hope the DMG 2 is really meeting my expectations. (I don't have it yet.) It seems to promise a LOT of storytelling implements and that excites me to no end. I really enjoy 4th Edition, but I think there is a lot that can be done to bring the RPing back to RPGs.


All of this, to say.. alignment is the first intro to "This game is something more." It's the first hint a player gets that they have to "act" a certain way. It's a spring board, an extremely important one, and I hope it remains part of D&D for every edition. Actually, I hope it gets majorly expanded upon in 5th Edition. (Perhaps with something similar to Virtues and Vices from White Wolf games. Act your alignment and regain your Action Point.. hmmm... food for thought.)  

Relating to what Medhia_Nox said, if I had to think of a more satisfying alternative, I would say that I rather liked the Worlds of Darkness system, particularly Vampire the Masquerade's list of basic starter ideas for character traits summed up as keywords (i.e. "capricious and sensual"= bon vivant) so that the player can use those ideas as "seeds" for creating a fleshed out personality rather than a vaguely defined archetype of morality. Most individuals don't live their lives based on their morality, or rather, their core of their being lies elsewhere and their actions in pursuing that core interest are often shaped to conform to moral standards. In Vampire, a character picks a personality trait that represents their internal motivation and one that represents their external appearance and (often) behavior.


I also liked Krusk's idea of having a chapter devoted to role playing. The 4th Edition DMG did a good thing by addressing the more meta aspects of the game environment, such as dealing with personality clashes at the table and how to structure a game so that it's rewarding for your players. I personally owe part of my breaking of the "me versus the players" mentality of DMing to that book (granted it was only a quiet voice that flared up when the players would get riled up at me for my NPCs' actions, but still). Including a chapter that addresses the player side of things (i.e. role playing ettiquette, group dynamics, characterization, etc.) in the PHB--even briefly--would have been a nice touch.


I'll just step out of the way again now.

I also liked Krusk's idea of having a chapter devoted to role playing. The 4th Edition DMG did a good thing by addressing the more meta aspects of the game environment, such as dealing with personality clashes at the table and how to structure a game so that it's rewarding for your players. I personally owe part of my breaking of the "me versus the players" mentality of DMing to that book (granted it was only a quiet voice that flared up when the players would get riled up at me for my NPCs' actions, but still). Including a chapter that addresses the player side of things (i.e. role playing ettiquette, group dynamics, characterization, etc.) in the PHB--even briefly--would have been a nice touch.

Supposedly the DMG 2 has alot of advice on this.  Perhaps not from the Player point of view, but about weaving a story with characters rather then just makeing a dungone with for dice.

guides
List of no-action attacks.
Dynamic vs Static Bonuses
Phalanx tactics and builds
Crivens! A Pictsies Guide Good
Power
s to intentionally miss with
Mr. Cellophane: How to be unnoticed
Way's to fire around corners
Crits: what their really worth
Retroactive bonus vs Static bonus.
Runepriest handbook & discussion thread
Holy Symbols to hang around your neck
Ways to Gain or Downgrade Actions
List of bonuses to saving throws
The Ghost with the Most (revenant handbook)
my builds
F-111 Interdictor Long (200+ squares) distance ally teleporter. With some warlord stuff. Broken in a plot way, not a power way.

Thought Switch Higher level build that grants upto 14 attacks on turn 1. If your allies play along, it's broken.

Elven Critters Crit op with crit generation. 5 of these will end anything. Broken.

King Fisher Optimized net user.  Moderate.

Boominator Fun catch-22 booming blade build with either strong or completely broken damage depending on your reading.

Very Distracting Warlock Lot's of dazing and major penalties to hit. Overpowered.

Pocket Protector Pixie Stealth Knight. Maximizing the defender's aura by being in an ally's/enemy's square.

Yakuza NinjIntimiAdin: Perma-stealth Striker that offers a little protection for ally's, and can intimidate bloodied enemies. Very Strong.

Chargeburgler with cheese Ranged attacks at the end of a charge along with perma-stealth. Solid, could be overpowered if tweaked.

Void Defender Defends giving a penalty to hit anyone but him, then removing himself from play. Can get somewhat broken in epic.

Scry and Die Attacking from around corners, while staying hidden. Moderate to broken, depending on the situation.

Skimisher Fly in, attack, and fly away. Also prevents enemies from coming close. Moderate to Broken depending on the enemy, but shouldn't make the game un-fun, as the rest of your team is at risk, and you have enough weaknesses.

Indestructible Simply won't die, even if you sleep though combat.  One of THE most abusive character in 4e.

Sir Robin (Bravely Charge Away) He automatically slows and pushes an enemy (5 squares), while charging away. Hard to rate it's power level, since it's terrain dependent.

Death's Gatekeeper A fun twist on a healic, making your party "unkillable". Overpowered to Broken, but shouldn't actually make the game un-fun, just TPK proof.

Death's Gatekeeper mk2, (Stealth Edition) Make your party "unkillable", and you hidden, while doing solid damage. Stronger then the above, but also easier for a DM to shut down. Broken, until your DM get's enough of it.

Domination and Death Dominate everything then kill them quickly. Only works @ 30, but is broken multiple ways.

Battlemind Mc Prone-Daze Protecting your allies by keeping enemies away. Quite powerful.

The Retaliator Getting hit deals more damage to the enemy then you receive yourself, and you can take plenty of hits. Heavy item dependency, Broken.

Dead Kobold Transit Teleports 98 squares a turn, and can bring someone along for the ride. Not fully built, so i can't judge the power.

Psilent Guardian Protect your allies, while being invisible. Overpowered, possibly broken.

Rune of Vengance Do lot's of damage while boosting your teams. Strong to slightly overpowered.

Charedent BarrageA charging ardent. Fine in a normal team, overpowered if there are 2 together, and easily broken in teams of 5.

Super Knight A tough, sticky, high damage knight. Strong.

Super Duper Knight Basically the same as super knight with items, making it far more broken.

Mora, the unkillable avenger Solid damage, while being neigh indestuctable. Overpowered, but not broken.

Swordburst Maximus At-Will Close Burst 3 that slide and prones. Protects allies with off actions. Strong, possibly over powered with the right party.

Alignment's biggest hindrance as a game mechanic was that it made too many games based around intrigue into completely useless ventures with a wave of the cleric's hand. "I cast detect evil. I cast discern lies. I cast protection from evil."


Alignment does have a place in 4E, specifically to help direct players' and monsters' actions. If a player declares his character to be good, and then goes around doing atrocious things, you don't find yourself stuck in a battle of wills with this player, and he doesn't feel persecuted for not conforming. Instead, you simply state that your campaign doesn't have evil-aligned heroes, and that he should sort out his character's morality or make a new one. Allowing alignment to remain in the game lets people dispassionately turn down sick ideas without having to directly conflict with another player.


In addition, the alignment system is set up to detail "whose side" the creature would be on should the Dawn War restart – mostly. It also explains how creatures view the world. Even though the titans serve the primordials, they're more concerned with creating their own domains than with wanton destruction, so they're Evil. Demons are chaos and evil embodied, and any creature similar to them – that is, desiring not just to destroy, but to cause as much pain and suffering as possible – is Chaotic Evil instead.

The original core books said that this was our game too. It doesn't feel like that anymore.


In addition, the alignment system is set up to detail "whose side" the creature would be on should the Dawn War restart – mostly. It also explains how creatures view the world. Even though the titans serve the primordials, they're more concerned with creating their own domains than with wanton destruction, so they're Evil. Demons are chaos and evil embodied, and any creature similar to them – that is, desiring not just to destroy, but to cause as much pain and suffering as possible – is Chaotic Evil instead.




Actually, according to MotP, most primordials are/were Unaligned and the minority Evil and Chaotic Evil and even one of them were Good (I think).  Just like the different gods are. There opposal to gods are more on the thing of Order (not as lawful though). The Primordials were desatructive, impulsive and fickle, but they liked to create as well as destroy, in an endless cycle of destruction and creation. The gods on the other hand, liked the stasis of order that represent life as we know it today (well, except Tharizdun perhaps). That is mostly their differences, not based on alignment, but how the mashinery of the worlds should be run.



Of course, your campaign world does not have to be this way. It's just what it's said in the default PoL-setting.

I suppose you've played some other RPGs other than D&D through the years, like many of us here. Tell me, where did you witness most roleplaying and interesting characters; in D&D with its nine alignment incarnation or in any other system that lacks this type of system?


I've never played in another game that had an alignment system that closely paralleled D&D's, but most of them have something resembling alignment. The best characters I've seen, and the most fun characters I've played, were mostly (probably 10 out of the top dozen) heavily alignment-driven.


For my part, I've seen so much more in the latter, where you only had your characters personality to build your motives on.


You see alignment as somehow separate from personality?


Maybe that's why it feels like we're talking past each other.

"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


I've never played in another game that had an alignment system that closely paralleled D&D's, but most of them have something resembling alignment. The best characters I've seen, and the most fun characters I've played, were mostly (probably 10 out of the top dozen) heavily alignment-driven.



And the most fun character I've seen (not played since I DM) was in a swedish fantasy RPG that has no resemblance of an alignment system whatsoever.


You see alignment as somehow separate from personality?

Maybe that's why it feels like we're talking past each other.



Yes, what I've seen it doesn't end as you expect when trying to base morale and ethics on a personality and vice versa. Especially when trying to come up with interesting NPCs.

I think alignment is pretty weak and oversimplified as an rp tool, and it doesn't match the tone of my campaigns at all.


In my campaigns, nearly every being with more than a basic level of intelligence has a motivation--and that motivation is hardly ever that they want to be "good" or "evil". I mean, the occasional demon or drow lich might revel in their own depravity, but most beings, even of supposedly "savage" races, aren't like that. This is purely because most people aren't like that, and its a lot easier for me to effectively roleplay characters who act in a manner and with a motivation that I can understand.


I'm not interested in a guard who mindlessly attacks the pcs because he's on the evil side, I'm interested in a guard who serves a lord whose actions might be considered evil, but who himself just wants a paycheck to keep food on his family's table and tries to be a nice and reasonable person in his day to day job. I'm not interested in the impecabbly virtuous cleric who heals the pcs because its the good thing to do, I'm interested in the cleric who seems impecabbly virtuous, but also relentlessly pursues political power for her church and so extracts certain favors for healing--which of course to her is a "good" action, because she believes her god to be good. I'm not interested in a "good" nation at war with an "evil" empire, I'm interested in two competing countries, each with some legitimate grievances and made up of many diverse people, good and bad. I'm less interested in easy moral "questions" like "should we kill the evil guy?" with clearcut answers like "hell yes", than I am in posing legitimate dilemnas like, "should we help out these settlers in wiping out the orcs who've been raiding their village, even though the settlers themselves drove the orc from their ancestral homeland to make their village?"


Of course, I like political, intrigue and rp-heavy campaigns. If one was to play 4e as simply a progression of fights with a thin veneer of roleplaying gloss, I could see how alignment might be necessary to inject any flavor whatsoever. But once you go deeper than that, I think alignment is fairly limiting. Certainly, I'm glad its not really a mechanic anymore.


I think alignment is pretty weak and oversimplified as an rp tool, and it doesn't match the tone of my campaigns at all.


In my campaigns, nearly every being with more than a basic level of intelligence has a motivation--and that motivation is hardly ever that they want to be "good" or "evil". I mean, the occasional demon or drow lich might revel in their own depravity, but most beings, even of supposedly "savage" races, aren't like that. This is purely because most people aren't like that, and its a lot easier for me to effectively roleplay characters who act in a manner and with a motivation that I can understand.


I'm not interested in a guard who mindlessly attacks the pcs because he's on the evil side, I'm interested in a guard who serves a lord whose actions might be considered evil, but who himself just wants a paycheck to keep food on his family's table and tries to be a nice and reasonable person in his day to day job. I'm not interested in the impecabbly virtuous cleric who heals the pcs because its the good thing to do, I'm interested in the cleric who seems impecabbly virtuous, but also relentlessly pursues political power for her church and so extracts certain favors for healing--which of course to her is a "good" action, because she believes her god to be good. I'm not interested in a "good" nation at war with an "evil" empire, I'm interested in two competing countries, each with some legitimate grievances and made up of many diverse people, good and bad. I'm less interested in easy moral "questions" like "should we kill the evil guy?" with clearcut answers like "hell yes", than I am in posing legitimate dilemnas like, "should we help out these settlers in wiping out the orcs who've been raiding their village, even though the settlers themselves drove the orc from their ancestral homeland to make their village?"


Of course, I like political, intrigue and rp-heavy campaigns. If one was to play 4e as simply a progression of fights with a thin veneer of roleplaying gloss, I could see how alignment might be necessary to inject any flavor whatsoever. But once you go deeper than that, I think alignment is fairly limiting. Certainly, I'm glad its not really a mechanic anymore.




I approve of this message.

See, I do believe that most real people operate with an alignment at a most basic level.


Only, the majority of human beings do not use Good or Evil as a compass. Most people are Unaligned. Unaligned is a totally self-serving, mercenary attitude. I've broken down the alignment description before, so I won't do it again here. They serve themselves, and thier interests.


It seems, that is how most players and DMs percieve their D&D worlds because that is how they understand real life. "I state I'm good, but all I'm really doing is persuing my own interests."


In truth, the other alignments should be rare (at least for the majority of the populace). Unaligned is a basic, human "I" mentality. It is perfect for modern people searching for "complexity".


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Good, genuine good that is not a mask to veil self-serving motives, is not something most people WANT to achieve... then, even amongst those who do, actually doing it is a long and arduous road.


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Evil is never sought after, it's aquired. Nobody wants to be evil and anyone who makes an evil being who actually wants to be for its own sake, doesn't understand the nature of it (or is following the modern Fantasy principle). Evil people do not believe they are evil. They spend their entire lives creating elaborate excuses for their actions to justify them.


Example 1: It is likely that the character of Lucifer would not percieve himself as evil. He knows what God thinks about him, but he would also likely believe that God is just being selfish, domineering, and cruel. Perhaps Lucifer believes himself to be liberating the world from God's tyranny. He's a flawed being however who really just wants to replace God with himself. His motives are utterly self-serving and evil.


Example 2: The Dark Lord Sauron (LoTR novels only). We do not hear his perspective. From these three novels we cannot tell if he is truly seeking evil for its own sake. We do know what he is willing to do to win. Manipulate, destroy, and violate other's freedoms. However, perhaps the Dark Lord is doing this for "Their own good." It is possible that the Dark Lord believes, wrongly, in his own right to control the world and less in his craven desire to kick puppies and steal candy from babies while twirling his villain's mustache.


Of course, the books are really about The One Ring and "Absolute power corrupting absolutely." The Dark Lord is actually quite a weak figure in the novels.


Example 3: Dracula and Lord Voldomort. I put these two together for simplicities sake because I believe similar pasts drive them. They've both been incredibly hurt in their pasts (Dracula, by God.. Voldomort, by his childhood) and are actually totally pathetic characters. (The book Dracula is NOT the movie Dracula) They are craven, broken beings seeking only to hurt others to stave off their own self-loathing. Even this is not for the sake of being evil. Their worlds have spun out of control.. and they're willing to do ANYTHING to gain back that control. All the while never realizing that the horrible things they're doing are what's causing their loss of control in the first place.


Still, they are all Evil. Saying "They're Evil with complex reasons." Is like saying "Water that is wet." This is not a failure of the alignment system. The complexity of reasons should have been a given since the first edition alignment showed up in.


Heroes and Villains aren't so hopelessly conflicted in their lives that they can't DO anything worth gaining that infamy/fame. They make decisions for right or wrong. They don't waffle in a sea of moral complexities. That's common people. Sitting at their 9 to 5s worrying about cheating on thier taxes, or husbands, or when to get thier next drug fix. Like the statistics, I make their personalities above the average. Heroes/Villains are not common people and I do not create them that way.

I'll warn you all beforehand, this reply gets a bit ramblomatic: I'm sleepy and hungry and I'm a little out of it, but I had a lot stirring in my mind, so please bear with me and I think, somewhere near the bottom, I get to my point.


It seems like this argument has a flaw of cultural bias at its center, or rather, the belief that any one cultural norm of "good" or "evil" is universal to other cultures. Were the Mayan peoples evil because they believed they had to sacrifice countless lives to keep the sun rising anew each day? They were mistaken in their beliefs, yes, but to them their actions were not only necessary, but pivotal to the survival of their people.


The argument to Lucifer is a tenuous one: Are we referring to the Lucifer that is only vaguely referred to in the Christian Bible or the later reinterpretation by Milton in Paradise Lost that later colored all future public perspectives? (I'm not trying to be a show-off (okay, maybe a little) but it's a valid point that speaks to the fact that even a character as widely known as Lucifer/Satan is not as cut and dry as people think.) I'll assume the Miltonian interpretation, since that Lucifer is the most common. Lucifer's sin (in Paradise Lost) was not of self-ordained dominance, but pride: God originally decreed that the angelic choirs not bow to any save Himself, and after creating mankind, He ordered the angels to bow before man, but Lucifer felt that it was a disgrace to God to do so and refused, inciting a rebellion and later lashing out at humanity to try and prove to God that we are unworthy of His praise.


(Similarion and other character-developing works notwithstanding) if Sauron truly was trying to take over because he believed that he was doing so as a benign dictator (a similar theme is central to the film Hero) who had the right to rule, is that truly wrong? The rule of the kingdoms at that time was defined by royalty, which is no more or less "right" than a militaristically won dictatorship. In fact, the film underscores the problems inherent in the royalty of that time: An estranged heir goes missing and then returns, causing one empire to decay in the interim--Does that make Aragorn evil for his passive culpability? In the film adaptation, Gandolf makes an interesting point (paraphrasing): "There are many who live that deserve to die, and there are many who die that deserve life: Can you give it to them?"


I haven't read the entirety of Dracula, so I can't argue that, but a psycho-analytical approach to the character of Voldemort might suggest that he maintained a childlike mentality all his life which he was never able to grow out of. Tom Riddle may never have been exposed to a cultural norm of morality until much later in life, and even then it was tarnished by his experiences. It is also interesting to note that the ability to choose right from wrong based on one's cultural upbringing doesn't develop until later in life (in some models until as old as 12 years of age, and even that is based on an optimal arc of upbringing and psycho-social development). At what point do we condemn a man for the events which birthed him? Is the murder of a dangerous individual for the greater good a necessary act, even if he is incapable of self-determination?


Without moral complexities, non-player characters become cartoons and straw man representations of eurocentric definitions of evil. That said, a constant emphasis on ambiguity would lead to a paralysis of the game: The players would find themselves constantly on their toes trying to decipher who is in the right and who is in the wrong, arbitrating conflict and searching for answers to unsolvable questions instead of duking it out with nasty beasties.


Each approach (low philosophical and high philosophical) has its benefits and flaws, and each speaks to a unique style of gameplay. Is any one better than the other? No. The preferences of the players and the DM should inform the choice of where on the hypothetical scale their gaming should fall: Some players like hack and slash adventures of high heroics where the bad guy is always backlit and the good guys are WASPs (and the occasional "good drow" antihero), while others might prefer a game where the "right" path is a very thin line that is as trecherous and difficult as a red dragon. Ultimately, D&D is a game, an entertainment, an escape. If the players are sick of difficult questions, perhaps a world of moral absolutes will speak to them, give them the release of tension at the end of a sword that is all too difficult to come by in the real world. Others might see the complex arbitration and difficult moral choices as a different flavor of challenge to test their mettle.


Personally, I think that the best games are those that have a mix: The players occasionally hit a rocky point morally, and then get to blow off the steam generated by it. In Heroes of Horror, there's advice that suggests that one way of invoking horror in an RPG is by forcing players into a choice with two options, both of which are bad: By not allowing relief, you create further tension or even horror the point of losing the fun, whereas by creating tension and then an outlet, the player feels a sense of accomplishment and relief. By creating a purely mathematically stimulating experience of absolute evils and goods, one neglects the players' propensity for creativity.

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