Chris Perkins' GM Experience Article: "Moral Compass" & D&DNext Alignment Concerns

While Mr. Perkins didn't go into alignment concepts in D&DNext, I always love reading his 4e GM Experience articles. I his "Moral Compass" article he brings up, imo, a really good point and one i would like to discuss in regards to D&D Next: the much maligned concept of Alignment in D&D.

Moral Compass

So far the only real hints we have for alignment in D&DN are Mike Mearls' statements that the nine point alignment system is likely to make a comeback, and we may see something like an honor mechanic as a module down the line.

I personally like both these ideas. But that's not my main concern today. So, for discussion:

1. I would like to see alignment in the core system defined much as it has always been, giving GMs the the latitude to either ignore it completely or integrate it into their campaign in a manner they like. I know some people hate it, but if it is defined much like it has been in all previous editions, GMs can choose to effectively ignore it or use it to their liking.

2. I would also like to see a better defined module, separate from the core rules, that expands alignment and makes PCs accountable for the alignment which they have chosen. A mechanic where GMs can award experience or other tangible rewards (like honor awards) for alignment based play, or xp deductions (or other tangible punishments--like honor hits) for deviations from alignment. The old mechanic for plotting alignment shifts would work perfectly for this. And I would like to see well defined rules for what happens to each class as they change alignment--which should be a major deal, mostly negative or at the least traumatic. Perhaps at least temporarily working in the charts for emotional and psychological disorders. Honor of course would work perfectly into this scheme if it is included as a later module as well. I make no excuses for being from the school, that while the GM is not the party's moral compass, the GM most certainly is responsible for enforcing the alignment which the player chose for his or her PC.

Now, please keep in mind I am not opening a discussion on what alignment is or isn't here, or that it should "die a horrible burning fiery death" as some have espoused. Let's try and avoid those discussions. And please no lengthy moral debates on what is or is not evil or good or neutral or chaotic or lawful. Those would need to be defined by the rules themselves, and perhaps the module would have to go into greater detail with examples and the like. So let's not open the ethical argument can of worms here. For the purposes of this discussion I'm interested in the viability of including such a module in Next for those who would so wish it.

--discuss away!
"The worthy GM never purposely kills players' PCs. He presents opportunities for the rash and unthinking players to do that all on their own." --Gary Gygax
Link?

Also, I'll say what I've said before on Alignment: "Unaligned" must exist. It never made sense that a Druid of Balance, a Rogue whose main motivator was enlightened self-interest, and an unintelligent animal all shared the "Neutral" alignment. 
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Thanks Reyemile. I added the link to my OP.

And I could live with unaligned, but only if it too existed in the alignment module with similar constraints as the other alignments.

You can imagine for instance an "unaligned" rogue, that is shown by alignment mapping to be generally trending towards the axis of good. In other words making decisions that may not be solely out of self interest but for the greater good as a whole. And that he ends up facing an alignment change towards the good end of the spectrum.

The associated emotional turmoil that results as he ponders his life to that point, and the sum of all the decisions he has made would be troublesome to say the least. Now, believing that good is the preferred and "right" place to exist he analyzes all of his "mistakes" made up to that point. How he hurt others and may have worked against the common good. The resulting anxiety, self doubt, and guilt will certainly define his character--at least for a time.

This is the sort of thing I'm talking about.
"The worthy GM never purposely kills players' PCs. He presents opportunities for the rash and unthinking players to do that all on their own." --Gary Gygax
I don't really use alignment in most of my games, but I do agree with Reyemile that "Unaligned" is a much better designation than "Neutral" or "True Neutral," if only for semantic reasons.  There's also the weird conceit of some earlier editions that "Neutral" characters were somehow caught up in "balancing the forces of good and evil, so that neither gained ascendance," which is a silly bunch of nonsense, IMO, partially caused by the semantic problems of the word "Neutral."  I would say, drop the language of "Neutral" all together, and have "Unaligned" -- or "none" -- be the midpoint of the axes, and the "nine alignments" might be as follows:

Lawful Good
Good
Chaotic Good
Lawful
Unaligned
Chaotic
Lawful Evil
Evil
Chaotic Evil

So a "Good" character is not aligned on the Law-Chaos axis: morally upstanding but taking no stance on ethical/legal questions, e.g. "We should make sure the poor are fed, but I don't care whether we raise taxes to feed the poor or exempt temples from taxes so they can feed the poor."  A "Lawful" character is not aligned on the "Good-Evil" axis: wanting things to be organized (especially for their benefit) but not overly invested in grander matters of morality, e.g. "I'm not concerned with feeding the poor, but we should raise taxes to build more roads."  An "Unaligned" character takes no stance on any of these things: "Raise taxes, lower taxes, feed the poor, don't feed the poor, whatever -- as long as it doesn't inconvenience me, I'm fine."

In regards to a module with alignment-based mechanics, it might be interesting to see an honor mechanic, or alternatively, a "shame" mechanic: a good-aligned character feels shame for a heinous act commited in a fit of rage, an evil-aligned character feels shame for weakness displayed in a rare moment of compassion.

"I want 'punch magic in the face' to be a maneuver." -- wrecan

Wow. I, umm kind of really like that idea Souldoubt. You can tell I'm hesitant, because dropping neutral is a really big step for me, but ... it seems really cool on the surface. I'll have to give that some more thought. Right off I really dig how it harks back to the Law-Chaos axis which was part of the basic set, and the foundation for the Elric series. I like this. I think ...

Oh, but what about the rare character that _is_ concerned with balancing all the forces in the universe? What alignment would fit for her?
"The worthy GM never purposely kills players' PCs. He presents opportunities for the rash and unthinking players to do that all on their own." --Gary Gygax
That's lawful evil.

Stagnation corruption and the extinguishing of hope for a better tomorrow. 
Link?

Also, I'll say what I've said before on Alignment: "Unaligned" must exist. It never made sense that a Druid of Balance, a Rogue whose main motivator was enlightened self-interest, and an unintelligent animal all shared the "Neutral" alignment. 



Eh, really?  Batman is Lawful Good and so is Superman.  A given alignment allows a wide range of behaviors.  One really has to look at them as a "best fit" system rather than some straightjacket of behaviors.

There are different ways to express neutral, and it isn't surprising that an extremely stupid neutral being like an animal is going to look a lot different than a more intelligent being.  Nor is it any surprise that two different philosophies could both be neutral even though that advocate differing behaviors in the same circumstance sometimes.

Take your "Good" example in your second post.  You could have two such characters with very different opinions on how the poor should be fed.  They might have personal issues clouding things or genuinely disagree on what method is more efficient/effective or serves the long-term good of the people.

Given your definition of Lawful, I don't see where Judge Dredd would fit in here or any similar character who favored absolute obedience to the law.  Certainly not good, and I don't think evil fits well either.

I think one thing to keep in mind is that alignments don't define moral courage or intellectual investment.  A Lawful Good character obeys the law and would help a stranger, but that doesn't mean all lawful good people go out of their way to do these things.  It doesn't mean they've thought through how governments should be run or the best way to do good.  Alighnment just provides a general guideline for some aspects of behavior.

For this reason a Lawful Neutral character could be heavily invested into the Law and maintaining order, being part of the neighborhood watch, advocating the enforcement of all laws, and contacting the authorities when they notice their neighbor has violated the guidelines of the community about front yard flower arrangement.  On the other hand, it could just be someone that likes things organized and systematic, and doesn't pay much attention to the workings of government or legalities of arranging flowers.  They might shake their head at the messiness of a neighbor's yard (though that doesn't preclude a close friendship with that neighbor).  What do these characters have in common?  They are unlikely to go out of their way to help strangers and they both like order.
Batman is Lawful Good


But Batman is every alignment.
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Yes, I am expressing my opinions (even complaints - le gasp!) about the current iteration of the play-test that we actually have in front of us. No, I'm not going to wait for you to tell me when it's okay to start expressing my concerns (unless you are WotC). (And no, my comments on this forum are not of the same tone or quality as my actual survey feedback.)
A Psion for Next (Playable Draft) A Barbarian for Next (Brainstorming Still)
It seems to me that playing alignments like the 9 points requires the whole group on board.

For example my groups don't traditionally make a big deal about alignment because we're all wannabe intellectuals and trying to enforce the 9 points is like trying to herd caffeinated cats.

I mean personally speaking I'd classify most deities as evil, and that includes Pelor.

It seems a horrible system for the DM to enforce on the players, but if everyone agrees to it that'd be .... well it wouldn't be my problem since I'd never play in that kind of game. 


Eh, really?  Batman is Lawful Good and so is Superman.  A given alignment allows a wide range of behaviors.  One really has to look at them as a "best fit" system rather than some straightjacket of behaviors.



If you go through the 3e alignment descriptions, Batman fits fully 4-5 alignments simultaneously.   


Eh, really?  Batman is Lawful Good and so is Superman.  A given alignment allows a wide range of behaviors.  One really has to look at them as a "best fit" system rather than some straightjacket of behaviors.



If you go through the 3e alignment descriptions, Batman fits fully 4-5 alignments simultaneously.   



If one picks different comics from different continuities, sure.  If we go by the past 30 years or so of Batman, and stick to the main continuity (such as it is), then he's definitely Lawful, and it is really hard to argue that he isn't Good.  I think the best fit for Batman is easily Lawful Good.  Again, an action or even a couple dozen actions over 30 years that aren't Lawful Good doesn't mean he isn't Lawful Good.  Alignments aren't straightjackets....one must take a best-fit approach.

Greatfrito, the thing about most of those quotes, is that they avoid context and don't pin down an alignment.  They are more meant to be funny than anything else.

Would we prefer **** Grayson for Lawful Good instead?  Will that get me fewer arguments?  I thought it better to stick to someone everyone was familiar with.  How about Spiderman?  Hmm, he might be Neutral Good.
I've seen the batman pic before (and belive me if wan't up when I got here it would've been when I left).  Ignoring of course that Batman has been handled by many writers over the years, it does illustrate a very good point. People (and by extension PC's) are for more complex than any one choice on the alignment system could dictate. Even if you had a more graduated scale (my character is 3 lawful, 2 good) it would be difficult to pinpoint exactly where his moral compass points.

Arguments over alignments ruin games, some times even irepairably. at least with 4E we coul all just pick unaligned and played our character how we liked.
I've seen the batman pic before (and belive me if wan't up when I got here it would've been when I left).  Ignoring of course that Batman has been handled by many writers over the years, it does illustrate a very good point. People (and by extension PC's) are for more complex than any one choice on the alignment system could dictate. Even if you had a more graduated scale (my character is 3 lawful, 2 good) it would be difficult to pinpoint exactly where his moral compass points.

Arguments over alignments ruin games, some times even irepairably. at least with 4E we coul all just pick unaligned and played our character how we liked.



It's not hard to pin Batman down.  He clearly fights for good and is altruistic.  That's shown many, many times.  He has a great respect for life and never kills.  Good, good, good.  He's highly discipline, has a strongly developed code of honor and behavior, lives an extremely orderly life (as much as he can make it), and that's Lawful right there.  That's the core of his being and the essential elements of his personality and character.

You can only argue he isn't lawful good by pretending exceptions to his normal behavior are his normal behavior.  But that's a perverse way of viewing things.  Again, alignment should be considered as a "best fit" system, not a straightjacket of allowed behaviors.  Batman could kill the Joker in his next fight with him, and assuming no radical and lasting personality changes result, would remain Lawful Good despite committing an arguably chaotic and/or evil act (depending on the circumstances).

Batman is an easy case though.  People like to pretend it is confusing for some reason.

The tricky characters are ones that are good towards who they define as people/persons, and treat others as animals.  Neutral seems like a somewhat poor fit, but evil seems worse.  Good is right out, I think.  Though, I guess you might make a distinguishment regarding their ignorance on the people they consider subhuman and/or whether they'd change their behavior if confronted with facts that the others really were people.
Looking at Batman's alignments, he's only smiling when he's Lawful. 

I think that says absolutlely nothing about D&D.
Talking about the actual article:

I fully disagree with everything Chris Perkins said.  Which is odd, because usually I agree with everything he says.

But a mature group is entirely capable of playing PCs who are shady or outright evil without it falling apart.  Most groups aren't, of course.  But whether or not the group is capable of it, it's not my job (as the DM) to metagame to punish them for their choices.

If their choices come back to bite them in the ass, it should be because that's what that choide would do, not because I as a person agree or disagree with them.  Similarly, if they let Kefka (the epitome of crazy CE bastard) go without watching him or making any effort to stop him from doing more evil, I'm not going to say 'well, it was a good-aligned act, he doesn't do what his character would do'.  No.  He's going to keep being evil because that's who he is.

In D&D, there is such a thing as true evil which cannot be nogotiated with, only defeated.  And if you show mercy to your demonic prisoners, they're a ****ing demon.  They'll turn on you as soon as they get the chance.  On the evil side, if you assassinate the mayor and put the blame on the captain of the guard, and you do it right, I'm not going to have a deity come down and reveal your duplicity.  Every character will react the way that they would react to the stimulus (which means basically that the people who like the captain will try to prove he was framed, while the ones who dislike him will believe it immediately, and so on).  As the DM, it is not my job to judge how well a solution works based on its morality.  It is my job to judge how well it works based on the game world and the characters therein.
The difference between madness and genius is determined only by degrees of success.


In D&D, there is such a thing as true evil which cannot be nogotiated with, only defeated.  And if you show mercy to your demonic prisoners, they're a ****ing demon.  They'll turn on you as soon as they get the chance.



Dependent upon game world and play style.  I believe firmly that what you are has no bearing on who you are, so that isn't a given in any game I'm running.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.


If one picks different comics from different continuities, sure.  If we go by the past 30 years or so of Batman, and stick to the main continuity (such as it is), then he's definitely Lawful, and it is really hard to argue that he isn't Good.  I think the best fit for Batman is easily Lawful Good.  Again, an action or even a couple dozen actions over 30 years that aren't Lawful Good doesn't mean he isn't Lawful Good.  Alignments aren't straightjackets....one must take a best-fit approach.



He is consistently through the comics a highly individualistic loner who breaks the law in order to do good.  That's CG.  He also consistently does good without regard to law or chaos.  NG.  He consistently fits LN very well, also. 

Batman's also a guy who genuinely enjoys causing extreem physical physical pain for its own sake - not just taking criminals in, but hurting them for fun.  His enjoyment of thier suffering has been shown several times under several different writers.  And when faced with a corrupt system - or even one that while not corrupt simply doesn't seem to be doing as good a job as he'd like - immediately opts to ignore, subvert, or even actively fight against that system outright rather than attempt to work with it.  Merely support the beleaguered police department with his immeasurable wealth and personal expertise and hanging up the illegal nightime prowling never once entered any Batman's mind, even after he's taken down all the corrupt elements and trustworthy people like Gordon are in charge.

One could very, very easily make the case that he's, well not evil, but neutral at least on the good/evil axis, since he loves to hurt and frighten people, and his utter disregard for the law - even when it's enforcers aren't corrupt, hardly speaks to a purely Lawful outlook, either.

So yeah, even an iconic figure that hardly even counts as a character most of the time doesn't easily fit into alignment boxes.


Regardless of whether they bring the grid back or not, I sincerely hope I'll still be able to just write 'unaligned' and play my character according to their motivations and not according to tic tac toe board.  I hope it doesn't dominate the fluff any more than the mechanics.  I don't need the universe defined by that hassle, either.
I have a similar view to is as SoulDoubt expressed - the "neutral" alignment is the tricky aspect, and honestly the part that makes the least sense.  For me, particularly in the law-chaos axis.  I'd like to see something like the following --


Lawful Good - The champion of good and light.  King Arthur, Hercules, Gandalf, Luke Skywalker.

Chaotic Good - The rebel hero.  Robin Hood, William Wallace, Han Solo.

True Neutral - Objects of the natural order.  Non-supernatural animals and plants.  Elementals.  Treebeard, Radagast, Hades.

Lawful Evil - Evil that either seeks to twist law for self service or evil that thinks its methods will achieve good.  Denethor, Morgan La Fey, Darth Vader.

Chaotic Evil - Inherent evil that seeks torture, cruelty and malice for its own enjoyment or enrichment.  Sauron, Emperor Palpatine.
   

  

I'd trade it all for a little more! Grognard? Is that French for awesome?

And yet "twisting law for self service" is more or less the sum total of Emperor Palpatine's gimmick.  Even ditching those pesky grey area neutral spots for the extremes still doesn't make it possibly to easily slap an alignment label on an actual character's actions and motivations, even one as one dimensional as Palpatine.
so here is how alignment works.

All of your actions are water droplets and each of the alignments is a glass.

As you take actions and make decisions review each one and decide which glass it should go into.  Put the water droplet into a glass on both the law-chaos axis and on the good-evil axis.  If you can't make a decision of which of the two extremes the droplet should fall into then put it in the neutral glass for that axis.  After a long enough time one of the glasses on each axis will have more water in it than the other glasses.  By combining these two glasses you can determine your alignment.  

Actions determine alignment.  Alignment never outright determines actions.  It can inform future decisions but it does not ever determine what your character can and can't do.

Especially with this system you can determine which is more important to you within your alignment.  which is more important the lawfulness or the goodness.  If the good glass is clearly more full than the lawful glass you can use your alignment to further inform your future decisions.  You can look at your current alignment and say, "generally I favor good over the law so I won't mind if the rules bend a little bit in order to make sure the goodness is served". You could also look at your alignment and say, "something terrible just happened to me, I'm done with law altogether.  Lets start working towards the chaos".  

Now the big question comes with how big each water droplet is.  Because for some burning down an orphaage and accidentally squishing a bug aren't even in the same ballpark when it comes to the weight of the evil act. 
so here is how alignment works.

All of your actions are water droplets and each of the alignments is a glass.

As you take actions and make decisions review each one and decide which glass it should go into.  Put the water droplet into a glass on both the law-chaos axis and on the good-evil axis.  If you can't make a decision of which of the two extremes the droplet should fall into then put it in the neutral glass for that axis.  After a long enough time one of the glasses on each axis will have more water in it than the other glasses.  By combining these two glasses you can determine your alignment.



Got it.  So if my character's good glass is most of the way full, my character can murder 20 or 30 innocents without affecting his alignment.  20-30 drops in the evil glass won't affect it at all.  Good to know.
About the Batman stuff...well, needless to say, I think you guys are really, really wrong.  That said, it isn't the point of this thread and is rather off-topic, so I don't want to derail the thread by further discussing it here.  If one of you really wishes to talk about it, make a thread and I'll join in.  I don't QUITE want to talk about it enough to make a thread myself for various reasons.

Now....

Talking about the actual article:

I fully disagree with everything Chris Perkins said.  Which is odd, because usually I agree with everything he says.

But a mature group is entirely capable of playing PCs who are shady or outright evil without it falling apart.  Most groups aren't, of course.  But whether or not the group is capable of it, it's not my job (as the DM) to metagame to punish them for their choices.

If their choices come back to bite them in the ass, it should be because that's what that choide would do, not because I as a person agree or disagree with them.  Similarly, if they let Kefka (the epitome of crazy CE bastard) go without watching him or making any effort to stop him from doing more evil, I'm not going to say 'well, it was a good-aligned act, he doesn't do what his character would do'.  No.  He's going to keep being evil because that's who he is.

In D&D, there is such a thing as true evil which cannot be nogotiated with, only defeated.  And if you show mercy to your demonic prisoners, they're a ****ing demon.  They'll turn on you as soon as they get the chance.  On the evil side, if you assassinate the mayor and put the blame on the captain of the guard, and you do it right, I'm not going to have a deity come down and reveal your duplicity.  Every character will react the way that they would react to the stimulus (which means basically that the people who like the captain will try to prove he was framed, while the ones who dislike him will believe it immediately, and so on).  As the DM, it is not my job to judge how well a solution works based on its morality.  It is my job to judge how well it works based on the game world and the characters therein.



I largely agree, but I think the key thing you Perkins are missing in your points is DISCUSSION.

DMs need to talk to your players.  Players need to talk to their DMs.  Everyone has their own quirks, desires for the campaign and characters, etc, etc.  If this isn't talked about and the group doesn't reach a roughly common frame of reference, then it is easy to have problems in the group.

Me? I don't like running a game with an evil party.  I enjoy running when the PCs are good guys.  So I've been upfront when I DM about this.  I also ask the players what they'd like to see in the campaign and what they'd most enjoy.  Then I do my best to make a campaign that combines these elements.  If I'm not sure what a player means or if there are conflicts in what multiple players want, then we talk it out.

For instance, I'm putting together a campaign now.  One of the players asked for "gray morality", which I felt was a bit unclear...especially after bit of chaotic goblin torture/release/killing and some players making comments about the casual murder of infants of goblinoid races.  So we discussed it in email extensively.  There was confusion over whether I was being serious with hypothetical scenarios (I think I'm the only one whose taken classes in ethics), and some concern that I'd act against the players if they didn't do what I thought was right, hence cheapening moral quandaries.  We also talked about how big of a focus we wanted difficult ethical problems to be in the game (a minor focus, it ended up, but present from time to time) and how best to handle them.  It was also made clear that some players wanted an evil race that could be killed with abandon (and I don't want baby-killing)

All this is quite doable of course.  The evil race, for example, won't reproduce in the customary manner of humanoid races.  There are a few ways to do this, and I will probably make multiple pure evil races for this purpose.

Of course, if we hadn't had a long discussion, the campaign would undoubtedly of had a lot of heated arguments and rage based on misunderstandings.
so here is how alignment works.

All of your actions are water droplets and each of the alignments is a glass.

As you take actions and make decisions review each one and decide which glass it should go into.  Put the water droplet into a glass on both the law-chaos axis and on the good-evil axis.  If you can't make a decision of which of the two extremes the droplet should fall into then put it in the neutral glass for that axis.  After a long enough time one of the glasses on each axis will have more water in it than the other glasses.  By combining these two glasses you can determine your alignment.



Got it.  So if my character's good glass is most of the way full, my character can murder 20 or 30 innocents without affecting his alignment.  20-30 drops in the evil glass won't affect it at all.  Good to know.

it helps if you read his full post, and to quote.

Now the big question comes with how big each water droplet is.  Because for some burning down an orphaage and accidentally squishing a bug aren't even in the same ballpark when it comes to the weight of the evil act.

 
Got it.  So if my character's good glass is most of the way full, my character can murder 20 or 30 innocents without affecting his alignment.  20-30 drops in the evil glass won't affect it at all.  Good to know.



If a player views things this way rather than trying to have some level of sense and consistency to his character, then THAT'S a problem that isn't solved in the game.  You have to talk to the player about it.
Well, tho the conversation may have drifted into what is and is not alignment x, perhaps this is helpful. Given the wide difference of opinion already expressed in this thread on what constitutes a given alignment, would such a module even be possible? How well defined would the alignments have to be in order for a GM and a group of players to agree, that yes you have deviated from your alignment? I think it would be obviously necessary to establish a strong pattern of alignment deviations in order to enforce an alignment change, but what constitutes a deviation?

And as an aside, though I know this can be a contentious issue, D&D players have always been better educated, or at least better read and informed than the average Joe. Establishing such a mechanic and using it in play really requires we educate ourselves in the field of Ethics, and the philosophical underpinnings that define Ethical logic. Adding such a mechanic to a game, though not essential, can certainly deepen a campaign. But, and I can't state this enough--you don't need alignment to play D&D. I'm not forcing anything on anyone here.
"The worthy GM never purposely kills players' PCs. He presents opportunities for the rash and unthinking players to do that all on their own." --Gary Gygax
so here is how alignment works.

All of your actions are water droplets and each of the alignments is a glass.

As you take actions and make decisions review each one and decide which glass it should go into.  Put the water droplet into a glass on both the law-chaos axis and on the good-evil axis.  If you can't make a decision of which of the two extremes the droplet should fall into then put it in the neutral glass for that axis.  After a long enough time one of the glasses on each axis will have more water in it than the other glasses.  By combining these two glasses you can determine your alignment.



Got it.  So if my character's good glass is most of the way full, my character can murder 20 or 30 innocents without affecting his alignment.  20-30 drops in the evil glass won't affect it at all.  Good to know.



Except for that whole wieght of the water droplets bit later in the post.  Here is the fun part.  The better you are as a person the heavier those evil acts are.  If your good glass is filled to the tippy top killing that one innocent is heavier than it would be for someone with completely empty glass's.  This isn't to say the death of one innocent will irrevicobly taint your character either.  Making amends, atoning, and feeling remorse(or at least pretending like you do as this is a game of make believe), go a long way to reducing the weight of these things. However filling the good glass then going on a psycho murder spree for the fun of it does in fact change your alignment pretty quick.  However filling the good glass then being a party to breaking into a house and stealing (technically an evil act) the map to the castle dungeon. Doesn't instantly change your alignment.
Well, tho the conversation may have drifted into what is and is not alignment x, perhaps this is helpful. Given the wide difference of opinion already expressed in this thread on what constitutes a given alignment, would such a module even be possible? How well defined would the alignments have to be in order for a GM and a group of players to agree, that yes you have deviated from your alignment? I think it would be obviously necessary to establish a strong pattern of alignment deviations in order to enforce an alignment change, but what constitutes a deviation?



"What is an Alignment?" talks tend to be boring and non-productive.  As much as the books say an alignment is a guideline, allows a wide range of behavior, and isn't a straight-jacket, the people who hate alignments never seem to take this into account.  So some quirks that seem like an example of another alignment are then taken as proof that alignment doesn't work and the person as an undefinable alignment.  It doesn't matter if they really are just quirks and the broad and ethically important behavior of a character is quite consistent.

Unfortunately, this makes it impossible to talk about the sorts of behavior the alignment system really doesn't cover that well at all.

And as an aside, though I know this can be a contentious issue, D&D players have always been better educated, or at least better read and informed than the average Joe. Establishing such a mechanic and using it in play really requires we educate ourselves in the field of Ethics, and the philosophical underpinnings that define Ethical logic. Adding such a mechanic to a game, though not essential, can certainly deepen a campaign. But, and I can't state this enough--you don't need alignment to play D&D. I'm not forcing anything on anyone here.



Good luck with that.  Most people don't really like to think about ethics in detail.  In my experience, anyhow.

It would be interesting to have an alignment system based on ethical philosophies though.  It would get quite complicated, however....and I'm not sure how many people it would appeal to.
it helps if you read his full post, and to quote.



Now the big question comes with how big each water droplet is.  Because for some burning down an orphaage and accidentally squishing a bug aren't even in the same ballpark when it comes to the weight of the evil act.

 


Whoops!  Missed that.  Good.  I was hoping he would say that, because NOW we get into waters so muddy even Aquaman wouldn't swim there.  Without knowing how big those drops of water are, the glass analogy might as well not even exist.  There's no way to fill any cup accurately without the exact measurement of every act possible.
The better you are as a person the heavier those evil acts are.  If your good glass is filled to the tippy top killing that one innocent is heavier than it would be for someone with completely empty glass's.



So now, not only do we not know the weight of any given act, but the weight changes based on how full the glass is that we can't fill because we don't know the weight of anything

 
However filling the good glass then being a party to breaking into a house and stealing (technically an evil act) the map to the castle dungeon. Doesn't instantly change your alignment.



We can't ever fill any of the glasses because we don't have any way to measure the weight of any given act or counter act.
it helps if you read his full post, and to quote.



Now the big question comes with how big each water droplet is.  Because for some burning down an orphaage and accidentally squishing a bug aren't even in the same ballpark when it comes to the weight of the evil act.

 



Whoops!  Missed that.  Good.  I was hoping he would say that, because NOW we get into waters so muddy even Aquaman wouldn't swim there.  Without knowing how big those drops of water are, the glass analogy might as well not even exist.  There's no way to fill any cup accurately without the exact measurement of every act possible.
Only if you are trying to purposefully ruin and screw over the system.  Or trying to do something so convoluted that it requires you to purposefully break a system.

However, if on the other hand you are trying to play in a group..with people who you don't want to give a huge headache too..and you arn't out to just trying to proove how one system out of a hundred can have its faults.

Well it becomes much easier...it really helps when all the players are tryin to play the game and be nice to each other..and not attempting to just game the system and/or give other players a headache.
it helps if you read his full post, and to quote.



Now the big question comes with how big each water droplet is.  Because for some burning down an orphaage and accidentally squishing a bug aren't even in the same ballpark when it comes to the weight of the evil act.

 



Whoops!  Missed that.  Good.  I was hoping he would say that, because NOW we get into waters so muddy even Aquaman wouldn't swim there.  Without knowing how big those drops of water are, the glass analogy might as well not even exist.  There's no way to fill any cup accurately without the exact measurement of every act possible.



Sure there is. it's called having a moral compass or at least a working knowledge of ethics.  The only person who couldn't ballpark it for the extreme cases (such as the mass murdering of innocents) is a hardcore sociopath.  Even they can determin it though (This is a guy that has known a sociopath that easily grasped alignment).  The cups don't need to be filled acurately because alignment isn't science.  You just need to be able to look at the actions your character has taken, define them, and then make the determination of what your alignment is based upon those actions.  You, and possibly your group if it is a group exercise at your table, can weight the actions as you see fit.  Far be it for me to determine morality for you and yours.  I wouldn't even wish to define it for me and mine.  I can only define morality for my self.  Now this does open the floor to debate at some points but morality always does.  Possibly scheduling alignment check nights where moral debate is in fact the mode of the evening could be fun for some, but generally my group would just tack it on during the breaks and or end of game chillin out, or during the game in the extreme cases where people aren't seeing beyond their noses as to why an action would be evil (hey I just thought setting the river on fire would be awesome I forgot it would kill hundreds of people and probably explode a mine and completely destroy and blight the landscape for decades to come).
Though I could generally get behind the idea that more acts or droplets define what you are in terms of alignment, there is no such thing as 'just a little genocide' for example.

Some acts are heinous enough that when weighted against all the other acts of a lifetime that person would rightly be observed as being a burden to the world, a net negative, and simply put a bad person.

In terms of the game, alignment is mostly to give a framework for a person to act in.  It really isnt meant to be all inclusive.  But in order for it to work within the campaign it would generally have to be arbitrated by the GMs sense of what constitutes that alignment not the players.  On the flip side of that, the GM should not look to spring a trap on a player for a moral decision 'Ah ha!  That violates my code for the Paladin and you lose your powers sucker!!'.  If such a major decision is about to occur and the morality is reasonably questionable, the player and GM should consult FIRST, discuss what the proposed action and direct alignment consequence would be, and then the player makes the decision to either perform that action or choose another.

I'd trade it all for a little more! Grognard? Is that French for awesome?

it helps if you read his full post, and to quote.



Now the big question comes with how big each water droplet is.  Because for some burning down an orphaage and accidentally squishing a bug aren't even in the same ballpark when it comes to the weight of the evil act.

 



Whoops!  Missed that.  Good.  I was hoping he would say that, because NOW we get into waters so muddy even Aquaman wouldn't swim there.  Without knowing how big those drops of water are, the glass analogy might as well not even exist.  There's no way to fill any cup accurately without the exact measurement of every act possible.

Only if you are trying to purposefully ruin and screw over the system.  Or trying to do something so convoluted that it requires you to purposefully break a system.

However, if on the other hand you are trying to play in a group..with people who you don't want to give a huge headache too..and you arn't out to just trying to proove how one system out of a hundred can have its faults.

Well it becomes much easier...it really helps when all the players are tryin to play the game and be nice to each other..and not attempting to just game the system and/or give other players a headache.


Which is why I just throw out the alignment system completely.  It doesn't work. 
Some acts are heinous enough that when weighted against all the other acts of a lifetime that person would rightly be observed as being a burden to the world, a net negative, and simply put a bad person.



One must make a distinction between someone's character and the effects of their actions, even as a consequentialist.
I think that an alignment module however they designed it would be very difficult to actually play because people just don't agree on most of those middle issues that don't involve baby eating and puppy kicking.

THe problem is primarily that of DM vs. Player and it is not uncommon for two people to disagree completely on what would be a good or evil act. For example It's easy for me to imagine a paladin who sees the any and all gods as tyrants and sociopaths and as such considers their clergy as little more than liars and butchers worthy of nothing but a swift death. The destruction of a monastery dedicated to a god would then be a purifying act of defiance in the face of tyranny. 

While the traditional paladin would consider the destruction of a temple of pelor a heinous deed. 
I think that an alignment module however they designed it would be very difficult to actually play because people just don't agree on most of those middle issues that don't involve baby eating and puppy kicking.



I think this is because the vast majority of people have a hard time talking coherently about ethics.  They also have a hard time treating alignments as guideposts rather than a railroad -- especially people that don't like the alignment system.

An alignment module could work just fine.  They should probably have about every other comment be something like "generally speaking", "exceptions exist," "but not every -instert alignment- is exactly like this", etc, etc.  Then provide a web address where character examples are given that show people for each alignment and why, as well as their behaviors that don't fit the Railroad Version of that alignment and why that's not significant enough to worry about.

THe problem is primarily that of DM vs. Player and it is not uncommon for two people to disagree completely on what would be a good or evil act. For example It's easy for me to imagine a paladin who sees the any and all gods as tyrants and sociopaths and as such considers their clergy as little more than liars and butchers worthy of nothing but a swift death. The destruction of a monastery dedicated to a god would then be a purifying act of defiance in the face of tyranny.



Just because you play in the Realms doesn't mean you have to brag about it so.  That said, killing random clergy is questionable, since they are generally dupes.

2. I would also like to see a better defined module, separate from the core rules, that expands alignment and makes PCs accountable for the alignment which they have chosen. A mechanic where GMs can award experience or other tangible rewards (like honor awards) for alignment based play, or xp deductions (or other tangible punishments--like honor hits) for deviations from alignment. The old mechanic for plotting alignment shifts would work perfectly for this. And I would like to see well defined rules for what happens to each class as they change alignment--which should be a major deal, mostly negative or at the least traumatic. Perhaps at least temporarily working in the charts for emotional and psychological disorders. Honor of course would work perfectly into this scheme if it is included as a later module as well. I make no excuses for being from the school, that while the GM is not the party's moral compass, the GM most certainly is responsible for enforcing the alignment which the player chose for his or her PC.


Do we really need a module for this? Haven't some DM's just... you know.... done this on their own?
A few guidelines for using the internet: 1. Mentally add "In my opinion" to the end of basically anything someone else says. Of course it's their opinion, they don't need to let you know. You're pretty smart. 2. Assume everyone means everything in the best manner they could mean it. Save yourself some stress and give people the benefit of the doubt. We'll all be happier if we type less emoticons. 3. Don't try to read people's minds. Sometimes people mean exactly what they say. You probably don't know them any better than they know themselves. 4. Let grammar slide. If you understood what they meant, you're good. It's better for your health. 5. Breath. It's just a dumb game.
I think punishing any deviation from a chosen alignment is a pretty horrible idea.


Sure there is. it's called having a moral compass or at least a working knowledge of ethics.  The only person who couldn't ballpark it for the extreme cases (such as the mass murdering of innocents) is a hardcore sociopath.  Even they can determin it though (This is a guy that has known a sociopath that easily grasped alignment).  The cups don't need to be filled acurately because alignment isn't science.



All this tells us is what is good or evil, and even then only in extreme cases.  Many people consider theft to be evil.  Just as many do not.  

The problem with cups that are filled to wildly innacurate levels is that there is no way to know whether the good cup is more full than the evil or neutral cups.  The same with the lawful and chaotic cups.  We have no way of knowing the weight of any given action, so we can't tell if the 10 "lawful" actions we observe fill the lawful cup more than the 6 chaotic actions.  

You just need to be able to look at the actions your character has taken, define them, and then make the determination of what your alignment is based upon those actions.  You, and possibly your group if it is a group exercise at your table, can weight the actions as you see fit.  Far be it for me to determine morality for you and yours.  I wouldn't even wish to define it for me and mine.  I can only define morality for my self.



Except that mechanics tied to alignment are coming back.  Paladin must be Good and all that jazz.  That means that the DM is the one who will be determining your alignment and mine.  You may have an opinion on whether your Paladin is sticking to his LG alignment, but if the DM doesn't think so you may end up on the short end of the stick.

When nothing is tied to alignment, alignment doesn't matter so you determining your alignment didn't matter, so it was no big deal to let you do it.  

     

Didn't they JUST say the other day that alignment will mostly be fluff in this edition? Like a week ago right?
A few guidelines for using the internet: 1. Mentally add "In my opinion" to the end of basically anything someone else says. Of course it's their opinion, they don't need to let you know. You're pretty smart. 2. Assume everyone means everything in the best manner they could mean it. Save yourself some stress and give people the benefit of the doubt. We'll all be happier if we type less emoticons. 3. Don't try to read people's minds. Sometimes people mean exactly what they say. You probably don't know them any better than they know themselves. 4. Let grammar slide. If you understood what they meant, you're good. It's better for your health. 5. Breath. It's just a dumb game.