Second survey: alignment and spells

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I am a fan of alignment. But spells that reveal alignment or hurt beings of a certain alignment create huge problems for the DM and the players. By this I mean, it will become more difficult to create scenarios or solutions that incorporate interesting plot turns that involve infiltration, treason and so on... It seriously limits the options available for both the player and the DM in this regard. I won't even bother to present any examples; certainly everyone can imagine what I'm talking about. In a world where alignment means you can be detected/hurt because of it, all sides will naturally have spell casters armed to the teeth with spells of this sort. It is as if the cold war era had a "detect communist/capitalist" spell.

I think alignment is a great tool for role playing, but in my opinion it shouldn't have anything to do with spells whatsoever.
That's why they have hide alignment spells.

No but I get your point for intrigue styles games.

I'd say they are very useful for creating cleric flavor in a more good vs evil in the field style game.

To me it is entirely a playstyle choice.

Edition wars kill players,Dungeons and Dragons needs every player it can get.

It is as if the cold war era had a "detect communist/capitalist" spell. 


It did... just ask Joseph McCarthy. (kidding)

The only alignment-based spell I ever really liked was situational, and that is Protection Against _____. I think of Protection Against Evil, I think of summoning demons and devils and other other planar outsiders. There I think it has value, but...

But yeah, I'm not a big fan of the detect alignment spells or paladin ability. I don't exclude them from the game, because there are ways to work with them, it just takes a little more effort than I'm willing to spend sometimes.
What's the matter, you dissentious rogues, That rubbing the poor itch of your opinion Make yourselves scabs?
I didn't vote for those spells.  I didn't vote for the buff spells either.  I felt the others were more iconic and important.  But it's an easy fix houserule wise to remove detect alignment spells if they don't offer that option.  I get the impression they will.
I would like to see a mechanic where anyone can make an wisdom vs charisma check to determine a creature's alignment. All else being equal, it should be a pretty hard check, and it should normally require interacting with the character in some significant way. If you fail the check, you can get an incorrect reading on the target's alignment.

Then the detect alignment spells could allow a check without any interaction, and perhaps with some bonus to the check.

I think this would allow alignment to be a real thing in the world with some mechanical impact, but without making alignment-based magic overpowered. It also makes it easily adjustable... if you want to keep a particular creature's alignment secret, give them a bonus on the Cha check. If you want to nerf the ability to determine alignment in general, give everyone a bonus on the Cha check.
I'm fine with alignment detection or damage spells... so long as they only interact with alignment subtypes/auras (i.e., devils, demons, angels, aberrations, outsiders, and so on), not run-of-the-mill mortal alignments. A paladin should be able to sense if you're possessed by a demon or a succubus in disguise, but a power-mad corrupt king shouldn't blip on his radar unless he also consorted with dark powers.
That works for me.

Edition wars kill players,Dungeons and Dragons needs every player it can get.

I'm fine with alignment detection or damage spells... so long as they only interact with alignment subtypes/auras (i.e., devils, demons, angels, aberrations, outsiders, and so on), not run-of-the-mill mortal alignments. A paladin should be able to sense if you're possessed by a demon or a succubus in disguise, but a power-mad corrupt king shouldn't blip on his radar unless he also consorted with dark powers.



I feel a bit uncertain about that... Maybe that's something a very high level cleric or paladin could do in my campaign. Clearly above the level the PCs would be near in any campaign if I had the say. That is the domain of would be saints and aspiring demon lords if I have any say in the matter.

When I say that alignment spells are a problem, I mean a problem for everyone. The good characters trying to infiltrate the evil stronghold dressed in orc armor? Toast as soon as they meet the cleric of Gruumsh who does the daily round casting 'know alignment' on everyone. The good clerics have it - so why shouldn't they?

When I say that alignment spells are a problem, I mean a problem for everyone. The good characters trying to infiltrate the evil stronghold dressed in orc armor? Toast as soon as they meet the cleric of Gruumsh who does the daily round casting 'know alignment' on everyone. The good clerics have it - so why shouldn't they?

Powerful clerics have better things to do with their time.  Lesser clerics have very few spell slots.  I guess it really depends on how common casters are in your setting, though.

If the players are going undercover for more than a day, though, and they start arousing suspicions?  If someone has a reason to prepare and cast that spell?  Of course, sic the inquisition on them.  Just casting spells for no reason, though, or because you're paranoid and have no real justification, is a good way to get on your deity's "over-dependent" list.

The metagame is not the game.
When I say that alignment spells are a problem, I mean a problem for everyone. The good characters trying to infiltrate the evil stronghold dressed in orc armor? Toast as soon as they meet the cleric of Gruumsh who does the daily round casting 'know alignment' on everyone. The good clerics have it - so why shouldn't they?

Powerful clerics have better things to do with their time.  Lesser clerics have very few spell slots.  I guess it really depends on how common casters are in your setting, though.

If the players are going undercover for more than a day, though, and they start arousing suspicions?  If someone has a reason to prepare and cast that spell?  Of course, sic the inquisition on them.  Just casting spells for no reason, though, or because you're paranoid and have no real justification, is a good way to get on your deity's "over-dependent" list.


I see your point. But in a situation when I'm in an actual session, and the party casts "know alignment" on every NPC they meet who wants to join them or help them, its a little more down to earth than that. I don't imagine low level player characters as being that different from most other beings who have a desire to make some sort of differance in my campaign world. Those spells would be well understood by all parties, certainly?
It's a matter of if you pull a knife, I pull a knife the way I see it.
I'm fine with alignment detection or damage spells... so long as they only interact with alignment subtypes/auras (i.e., devils, demons, angels, aberrations, outsiders, and so on), not run-of-the-mill mortal alignments. A paladin should be able to sense if you're possessed by a demon or a succubus in disguise, but a power-mad corrupt king shouldn't blip on his radar unless he also consorted with dark powers.



I feel a bit uncertain about that... Maybe that's something a very high level cleric or paladin could do in my campaign. Clearly above the level the PCs would be near in any campaign if I had the say. That is the domain of would be saints and aspiring demon lords if I have any say in the matter.

When I say that alignment spells are a problem, I mean a problem for everyone. The good characters trying to infiltrate the evil stronghold dressed in orc armor? Toast as soon as they meet the cleric of Gruumsh who does the daily round casting 'know alignment' on everyone. The good clerics have it - so why shouldn't they?


I entirely sympathize with what you're saying.  I once had an adventure chopped down to a single encounter just because the party cast detect evil, figuring out who the bad guy was long before they should have.  My opinion is that any creature that is capable of hiding it's true form (like shapeshifted succubi, or what-have-you) should also get a free cloaking of their alignment from detection spells.  Of course, that really is my backup position, becuase I just don't like detection spells.  If we're going to include detection spells, I'd rather they be a ritual, that shapeshifted beings are cloaked from them, and that the creature being detected becomes aware of the detection attempt; like in a submarine flick where one is hiding from the other, and the detection spell is like active sonar that reveals the location of the detecting sub.
There are a great many problems that can be circumvented by players and DMs having a mature discussion about what the game is going to be like before they ever sit down together to play.

 

The answer really does lie in more options, not in confining and segregating certain options.

 

You really shouldn't speak for others.  You can't hear what someone else is saying when you try to put your words in their mouth.

 

Fencing & Swashbuckling as Armor.

D20 Modern Toon PC Race.

Mecha Pilot's Skill Challenge Emporium.

 

Save the breasts.

Imho, it should work like this.

1.  Normal people have alignments, but they don't have ALIGNMENTS.  You need to be able to radiate an aura to be detectable or even affected by any sort of alignment-based alignment.  So even a lot of outsiders don't necessarily fall into this category (elementals, for instance, would generally not, nor with Githyanki and a lot of others).  Devils, demons, angels, and so forth would, however.

2.  Things that CAN radiate an alignment aura, don't have to.  Without any effort you can suppress this aura.  This doesn't make such a being immune to alignment spells, but they no longer are wearing a big disco ball that screams "nasty corrupting, corruption" or "untouchable pure pureness", etc.  When the aura is on, then anyone can feel it, no check required.  Such an aura has to be up in order for certain aura effects to work (e.g. fear auras 'cause the horribly evil being gives you the willies).

3.  There are spells and magical effects that can shut down or conceal one's aura.  The former are much more effective, but you can't use your aura or aura-based abilities until they wear off.  The latter can be turned off at will.  Such effects should probably be related to some act that is appropriate for the alignment to be concealed.  So a CE outsider might have to go and kill someone and use their warm blood in a ritual every 24 hours.  In other words, it should leave clues behind suitable for use in an adventure.

4.  Detecting, warding, and so forth against alignments isn't easy.  It's equivalent to a ritual (e.g. takes time).  You can't just do it in a round.  It's generally worthless against beings using point (3) and possibly ones passively concealing their aura can make a check to resist.  Warding an area of any significant size (like a city) is essentially impossible (e.g. artifact/plot level work).  And, of course, it has no effect against the standard citizen.

5.  Some magical items that can only be used by those with a certain alignment is ok to me.  Though I'd lean towards saying anyone within 1 step of the ideal alignment is ok.  I don't think this HAS to require the user be able to have an aura of said alignment.  Though with some items, like a Holy Avenger, that might be quite appropriate.

Something like that, anyhow.  I definitely think there's a place for alignments.  They provide a good way to classify some elements of the game world (in this case, the sort of psychic aura beings might radiate and magical item use).  Properly implemented, how they work can make adventures more fun and interesting.
If we're going to include detection spells, I'd rather they be a ritual, that shapeshifted beings are cloaked from them, and that the creature being detected becomes aware of the detection attempt; like in a submarine flick where one is hiding from the other, and the detection spell is like active sonar that reveals the location of the detecting sub.



I think how a given detection spell works should vary.  Some might tell the being being scanned they've been detected, some might not.  Hmm, perhaps if you have an item or part of the person you are detecting then it doesn't ding.
Those spells would be well understood by all parties, certainly?

Again, it really depends on how pervasive magic is within the setting.  For most worlds I've played in, most people are unaware that divine casters have a supernatural ability to determine whether somone is good or evil - at most, they might chalk it up to the local cleric being perceptive and wise.  It would completely re-shape civilization if commoners knew that the people in charge had Santa-vision.

If the problem is specifically with the player party, then that's another issue entirely.  There are ways to restrict them.  Their deity can feel like you're unfairly judging people on their thoughts rather than their actions, and refuse to grant your spell request (instead substituting something like cure, or mend, or something more appropriate to what you should be doing).  It's a bit harder if you've got an arcane caster, but you could always play up how the party is shunned by NPCs because the players discriminate against mostly-decent folk for no real reason.  Of course, you shouldn't have to go to such extents, so if it's really an issue it looks like you might have to Rule Zero it.

Just because a spell has been in the book since day 1 doesn't mean it's necessarily iconic.  I didn't select any of the alignment-based spells during the survey, because they've never been essential to my play experience.  (We pretty much have always agreed to never open up that can of worms, even back in AD&D.)

The metagame is not the game.
I'm inclined to view the alignment spells as being specific to divine magics.

I do recognize their disruptive capability, but detections can be easily removed from the game. -- Protections, wards, circles, etc, are all good though.  

Danny

I'm a fan of the Detect Evil Intent concept from 2e.    For that reason I really don't have a problem with detect spells.     

Here is how 2e explains how the paladin's detect evil ability works.    

Show


Detect Evil Intent


   The paladin, so thoroughly aligned with the forces of good, can experience the mere presence of evil as a physical sensation. Although similar to the detect evil spell, the paladin's sensitivity to evil essentially functions as a sixth sense. But, like the spell, this ability doesn't work automatically. The player must make it clear that the paladin is attempting to detect evil; only then will the DM reveal the relevant information.


Use and Limitations


   Unlike other senses, the detection of evil works only when the paladin concentrates for one full round, remaining still and taking no other actions. Often, paladins close their eyes, lower their head, and clear their minds by focusing on their own breathing. Some paladins extend their palms, touch their foreheads with their fingers, or sweep their hands slowly in front of them. Details of the concentration routine vary from paladin to paladin, and each is free to come up with a unique routine. Once settled on a routine, the paladin should always execute it the same way.


   If attacked, distracted, or otherwise disturbed while concentrating, the paladin fails to detect evil. He may try again in subsequent rounds.


   The paladin may target an individual or group up to 60 feet distant, in an area about 10 feet wide, or a location where an individual or group might be hiding, such as a clump of bushes or a concealed alcove. The paladin must face the indicated individual, group, or location, but need not see the target. If blindfolded or in thick fog, for example, the paladin can target an individual by voice or movement, or just take a guess. In a shadowed corridor, the paladin's detect-evil ability can determine if anyone—or anything—with strong evil intent lurks in the darkness.


Eligible Targets


   A paladin can detect evil radiated by characters and monsters; undead created by evil magic; Negative Plane influences; evil artifacts; certain enchanted swords; and other intelligent objects that radiate evil. The ability can't detect cursed objects or traps, nor does it work on creatures of Animal intelligence or less (Intelligence 0 or 1), such as centipedes or carnivorous plants.


   The paladin's sensitivity to evil responds to the target's intention to commit an evil act. The ability doesn't reveal the precise nature of the intended act, nor does it reveal the target's actual alignment. Characters who are strongly aligned, who do not stray from their faith, and are of at least 9th level might radiate evil if intent upon appropriate actions. For instance, if the paladin uses this ability on a suspicious nonplayer character, the paladin may sense that the NPC radiates evil, but not that the NPC is neutral evil, or that the NPC plans to ambush and kill the paladin. If an NPC recently murdered a passerby, the paladin might pick up evil emanations from the NPC but cannot determine the nature of the crime. Creatures such as the rakshasa, who disguise themselves with illusions, may conceal their appearances but not their evil intentions.


   A high-level character unshakably committed to an evil alignment may radiate evil even when not specifically planning an evil act or thinking evil thoughts. Powerful evil monsters, such as red dragons and hill giants, also radiate evil uncontrollably. A paladin can always detect the presence of these types of evil beings, unless unusual conditions are in effect. For instance, in some evil strongholds or planes, everything reads evil, effectively negating the paladin's evil-sensing ability.


   Subject creatures may not make saving throws to resist a paladin's attempt to sense evil. However, undetectable alignmentand similar spells cast on a target temporarily prevent the paladin from sensing the target's evil emanations. But as soon as the spell ends, the paladin is free to make another attempt.


   A paladin can't detect an evil presence through 3 feet or more of wood, 1 foot or more of stone, or 1 inch or more of metal. A thin coat of lead also prevents the use of this ability. A paladin perceives such barriers as nonspecific obstructions, without knowing their composition or widths.


Interpreting the Results


   If an attempt at sensing evil fails, or if there's no evil present, the paladin feels nothing out of the ordinary. If evil is present, the paladin might experience an unmistakable physical sensation. Though the type of sensation varies among paladins, a given paladin always has the same reaction. Typical reactions include tingling in the fingertips, a warm flush, a cold chill, or a dull throb behind the eyes; the DM can make up sensations. Usually the sensation lasts only a moment.


   If the paladin scans a crowd of people, tingling fingers won't pinpoint the character responsible for the evil emanations. If scanning a pool of murky water, throbbing eyes won't reveal the number or species of evil creatures lurking below the surface. However, the paladin may determine the degree of evil from the intensity of the sensation. Table 11 lists four general degrees and examples of sources. Two ways that a paladin might experience the corresponding sensations also appear. In an encounter, the DM describes only the sensation when a paladin successfully detects evil; the player must interpret the meaning of the sensation.


   At the DM's option, the paladin may discover the general nature of the evil as well as its degree. A pickpocket may radiate an expectant evil, a vampire's evil may be malignant. The DM may use the sensations suggested in Table 11 to indicate the nature of evil (the paladin experiences an expectant evil as an itch on his fingertips), or may employ a different set of sensations (a warmth in the chest indicates expectant evil).


Table 11: Degrees of Evil






















































































Degree



Typical Sources



Sensations



Faint



Pickpocket;



Slight itch on tips of



nonevil bully



fingers; light throb



behind eyes



Moderate



Mugger; skeleton



Tiny pinpricks



created by evil



along fingers;



cleric; imp;



dull pounding



typical orc



behind eyes



Strong



Mass murderer;



Pinpricks over



ghoul; vampire



entire surface of



hands; intense



pounding hurts



eyes



Over-



Venerable red



Sharp pain in



whelming



dragon; lich;



hands; agonizing



vampire mage



headache



   Ambiguous situations produce ambiguous results. If a vampire waits behind a 3-inch-thick stone wall fortified with 2 feet of wood, a paladin may detect a moderate or strong sensation of evil, rather than an overwhelming one. If a murderer hides behind a window with a coat of flaking lead paint, a paladin may detect a moderate instead of a strong sensation.


   If the DM can't decide which category in Table 11 to use, it's acceptable to give the paladin mixed signals. If a vicious mugger hides in a closet, but plans to surrender rather than fight if discovered, a paladin may detect both faint and moderate sensations (fingertip itches alternating with pinpricks).


 


I'm a fan of the Detect Evil Intent concept from 2e.    For that reason I really don't have a problem with detect spells.     

Here is how 2e explains how the paladin's detect evil ability works.    

Show


Detect Evil Intent


   The paladin, so thoroughly aligned with the forces of good, can experience the mere presence of evil as a physical sensation. Although similar to the detect evil spell, the paladin's sensitivity to evil essentially functions as a sixth sense. But, like the spell, this ability doesn't work automatically. The player must make it clear that the paladin is attempting to detect evil; only then will the DM reveal the relevant information.


Use and Limitations


   Unlike other senses, the detection of evil works only when the paladin concentrates for one full round, remaining still and taking no other actions. Often, paladins close their eyes, lower their head, and clear their minds by focusing on their own breathing. Some paladins extend their palms, touch their foreheads with their fingers, or sweep their hands slowly in front of them. Details of the concentration routine vary from paladin to paladin, and each is free to come up with a unique routine. Once settled on a routine, the paladin should always execute it the same way.


   If attacked, distracted, or otherwise disturbed while concentrating, the paladin fails to detect evil. He may try again in subsequent rounds.


   The paladin may target an individual or group up to 60 feet distant, in an area about 10 feet wide, or a location where an individual or group might be hiding, such as a clump of bushes or a concealed alcove. The paladin must face the indicated individual, group, or location, but need not see the target. If blindfolded or in thick fog, for example, the paladin can target an individual by voice or movement, or just take a guess. In a shadowed corridor, the paladin's detect-evil ability can determine if anyone—or anything—with strong evil intent lurks in the darkness.


Eligible Targets


   A paladin can detect evil radiated by characters and monsters; undead created by evil magic; Negative Plane influences; evil artifacts; certain enchanted swords; and other intelligent objects that radiate evil. The ability can't detect cursed objects or traps, nor does it work on creatures of Animal intelligence or less (Intelligence 0 or 1), such as centipedes or carnivorous plants.


   The paladin's sensitivity to evil responds to the target's intention to commit an evil act. The ability doesn't reveal the precise nature of the intended act, nor does it reveal the target's actual alignment. Characters who are strongly aligned, who do not stray from their faith, and are of at least 9th level might radiate evil if intent upon appropriate actions. For instance, if the paladin uses this ability on a suspicious nonplayer character, the paladin may sense that the NPC radiates evil, but not that the NPC is neutral evil, or that the NPC plans to ambush and kill the paladin. If an NPC recently murdered a passerby, the paladin might pick up evil emanations from the NPC but cannot determine the nature of the crime. Creatures such as the rakshasa, who disguise themselves with illusions, may conceal their appearances but not their evil intentions.


   A high-level character unshakably committed to an evil alignment may radiate evil even when not specifically planning an evil act or thinking evil thoughts. Powerful evil monsters, such as red dragons and hill giants, also radiate evil uncontrollably. A paladin can always detect the presence of these types of evil beings, unless unusual conditions are in effect. For instance, in some evil strongholds or planes, everything reads evil, effectively negating the paladin's evil-sensing ability.


   Subject creatures may not make saving throws to resist a paladin's attempt to sense evil. However, undetectable alignmentand similar spells cast on a target temporarily prevent the paladin from sensing the target's evil emanations. But as soon as the spell ends, the paladin is free to make another attempt.


   A paladin can't detect an evil presence through 3 feet or more of wood, 1 foot or more of stone, or 1 inch or more of metal. A thin coat of lead also prevents the use of this ability. A paladin perceives such barriers as nonspecific obstructions, without knowing their composition or widths.


Interpreting the Results


   If an attempt at sensing evil fails, or if there's no evil present, the paladin feels nothing out of the ordinary. If evil is present, the paladin might experience an unmistakable physical sensation. Though the type of sensation varies among paladins, a given paladin always has the same reaction. Typical reactions include tingling in the fingertips, a warm flush, a cold chill, or a dull throb behind the eyes; the DM can make up sensations. Usually the sensation lasts only a moment.


   If the paladin scans a crowd of people, tingling fingers won't pinpoint the character responsible for the evil emanations. If scanning a pool of murky water, throbbing eyes won't reveal the number or species of evil creatures lurking below the surface. However, the paladin may determine the degree of evil from the intensity of the sensation. Table 11 lists four general degrees and examples of sources. Two ways that a paladin might experience the corresponding sensations also appear. In an encounter, the DM describes only the sensation when a paladin successfully detects evil; the player must interpret the meaning of the sensation.


   At the DM's option, the paladin may discover the general nature of the evil as well as its degree. A pickpocket may radiate an expectant evil, a vampire's evil may be malignant. The DM may use the sensations suggested in Table 11 to indicate the nature of evil (the paladin experiences an expectant evil as an itch on his fingertips), or may employ a different set of sensations (a warmth in the chest indicates expectant evil).


Table 11: Degrees of Evil






















































































Degree



Typical Sources



Sensations



Faint



Pickpocket;



Slight itch on tips of



nonevil bully



fingers; light throb



behind eyes



Moderate



Mugger; skeleton



Tiny pinpricks



created by evil



along fingers;



cleric; imp;



dull pounding



typical orc



behind eyes



Strong



Mass murderer;



Pinpricks over



ghoul; vampire



entire surface of



hands; intense



pounding hurts



eyes



Over-



Venerable red



Sharp pain in



whelming



dragon; lich;



hands; agonizing



vampire mage



headache



   Ambiguous situations produce ambiguous results. If a vampire waits behind a 3-inch-thick stone wall fortified with 2 feet of wood, a paladin may detect a moderate or strong sensation of evil, rather than an overwhelming one. If a murderer hides behind a window with a coat of flaking lead paint, a paladin may detect a moderate instead of a strong sensation.


   If the DM can't decide which category in Table 11 to use, it's acceptable to give the paladin mixed signals. If a vicious mugger hides in a closet, but plans to surrender rather than fight if discovered, a paladin may detect both faint and moderate sensations (fingertip itches alternating with pinpricks).


 



I've read quiiiiiite a few 2E books DMGorgon, but I don't think I've stumbled into that description before.  May I ask where you got that from?  That looks like a good read.

"Lightning...it flashes bright, then fades away.  It can't protect, it can only destroy."

If I have some evil baddie whispering in the king's ear creating all kinds of havoc he's smart enough to be wearing a Conceal Alignment ring (or something similar). In a world where everyone knows that Paladins can detect evil at will and Clerics can cast Know Alignment, the smart ones are going to be concealing themselves. However, you run into the problem of...

Player: "My cleric casts Know Alignment on the king's adviser."
DM: "The adviser gives off no alignment."
Player: "Oh man, he must be evil if he's trying to conceal his alignment. I smite him!"  
Check out my Dungeons and Dragons Blog It's +4 to all awesome rolls.
Swede1985 is right.  It makes no sense to go 'here's an incredibly broken ability ... and now we'll give the DM tools he must use to keep it from breaking his game, thus neutering the ability and making it pointless'.  There's no reason for the ability to even exist at that point.  'Here's an ability, but you'll never get to use it' is bad design.

Alignment needs to die, once and for all, and take Detect Evil/Good/Law/Chaos, Know Alignment, and all related effects with it into oblivion.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
Swede1985 is right.  It makes no sense to go 'here's an incredibly broken ability ... and now we'll give the DM tools he must use to keep it from breaking his game, thus neutering the ability and making it pointless'.  There's no reason for the ability to even exist at that point.  'Here's an ability, but you'll never get to use it' is bad design.

Alignment needs to die, once and for all, and take Detect Evil/Good/Law/Chaos, Know Alignment, and all related effects with it into oblivion.



That's like saying magic users need to die because of just one broken ability that uses magic.  Or giving fighters the ability to kill anything in one blow (no save, auto-hit) and then saying melee combat needs to die because of it.

There are proper and good ways for alignment to be implemented and used.
If I have some evil baddie whispering in the king's ear creating all kinds of havoc he's smart enough to be wearing a Conceal Alignment ring (or something similar). In a world where everyone knows that Paladins can detect evil at will and Clerics can cast Know Alignment, the smart ones are going to be concealing themselves. However, you run into the problem of...

Player: "My cleric casts Know Alignment on the king's adviser."
DM: "The adviser gives off no alignment."
Player: "Oh man, he must be evil if he's trying to conceal his alignment. I smite him!"  


That problem is fixed once you allow "unaligned" as an option.
What I always did was make clear that "evil" is not a proof of guilt. There were a lot of people who were evil, and they were probably colossal ****es, but that didn't mean that they've actually commited some evil act.

Like that merchant. Yeah, he's evil. Probably pours water in the wine. But he hasn't actually hurt anyone, because he's a crappy little level 0 peseant, who can't win an opposed strength check to squish a fly.

Or the village blacksmith. Yeah, he's evil too. Would kill a person without a second thought if he could gain from it. But he never did, because he never needed to do that, because he lives a normal, usual life.

Or the crown prince. Yeah, he's evil. Yeah, he orders deaths of dozens of prisoners for his own amusement. Yes, everyone fears him. But did he really order the assassination of the king's advisor? Well, you better prove it, because being evil is not a proof.
Alignment should be a roleplaying aid.  Why there is a game mechanic around it is beyond me.  If it is going to be such an intergral part of the game, then at low levels, it should detect the intentions of individuals at that very moment such as, by detecting evil on a person about to beat someone and steal their money would give you a bad vibe that something bad is going to happen and the perp-to-be is the source.  Whereas the detect evil in its current state should be high level as you are looking into the psyche of the target and seeing a culmination of their actions so far and the probabilities of actions and intents to come.


I've read quiiiiiite a few 2E books DMGorgon, but I don't think I've stumbled into that description before.  May I ask where you got that from?  That looks like a good read.




The Complete Paladin's Handbook.




I've read quiiiiiite a few 2E books DMGorgon, but I don't think I've stumbled into that description before.  May I ask where you got that from?  That looks like a good read.




The Complete Paladin's Handbook.



...I must admit, I didn't even know one existed.  Thank you very much!  Time to hunt down a copy on amazon.

As an aside to the 'alignment' thing.  One thing Pathfinder did was rule that only people with extreme profound personal power (read: 6th level and above) and those devoted to a belief (all clerics) even -had- an alignment aura.  Most people would read as having no alignment at all, thus making the tool still usable somewhat, still open to deception via magic, and usable on those who are actual enemies of consequence.  I found it to be pretty good, and well within the realm of world-character association.

"Lightning...it flashes bright, then fades away.  It can't protect, it can only destroy."

Swede1985 is right.  It makes no sense to go 'here's an incredibly broken ability ... and now we'll give the DM tools he must use to keep it from breaking his game, thus neutering the ability and making it pointless'.  There's no reason for the ability to even exist at that point.  'Here's an ability, but you'll never get to use it' is bad design.

Alignment needs to die, once and for all, and take Detect Evil/Good/Law/Chaos, Know Alignment, and all related effects with it into oblivion.



That's like saying magic users need to die because of just one broken ability that uses magic.  Or giving fighters the ability to kill anything in one blow (no save, auto-hit) and then saying melee combat needs to die because of it.

There are proper and good ways for alignment to be implemented and used.


Actually, I don't believe Salla was connecting the two as much as you think.  Detection and alignment are often very closely linked topics.  Salla and I share the opinion (Salla, please correct me if I'm wrong) that alignment is just a vague character description (and one that can be better achieved through other means), and that giving it mechanical weight is what really needs to die.

Salla is very correct that the devs should be very cautious about giving out abilities that can wreck stories and climactic encounters instead of saying "here's awesome but incredibly broken thing X, and now we give DMs countermeasure Y to throw in the player's face at every alternative until the player is so frustrated they stop using the ability."
There are a great many problems that can be circumvented by players and DMs having a mature discussion about what the game is going to be like before they ever sit down together to play.

 

The answer really does lie in more options, not in confining and segregating certain options.

 

You really shouldn't speak for others.  You can't hear what someone else is saying when you try to put your words in their mouth.

 

Fencing & Swashbuckling as Armor.

D20 Modern Toon PC Race.

Mecha Pilot's Skill Challenge Emporium.

 

Save the breasts.



I've read quiiiiiite a few 2E books DMGorgon, but I don't think I've stumbled into that description before.  May I ask where you got that from?  That looks like a good read.




The Complete Paladin's Handbook.



...I must admit, I didn't even know one existed.  Thank you very much!  Time to hunt down a copy on amazon.





Part of the burgundy softcover series, they're great.


I've read quiiiiiite a few 2E books DMGorgon, but I don't think I've stumbled into that description before.  May I ask where you got that from?  That looks like a good read.




The Complete Paladin's Handbook.



...I must admit, I didn't even know one existed.  Thank you very much!  Time to hunt down a copy on amazon.



IIRC, AD&D 2e released a Complete class book for each class as well as racial books (I specifically recall owning the one race book that covered gnomes and halflings).
There are a great many problems that can be circumvented by players and DMs having a mature discussion about what the game is going to be like before they ever sit down together to play.

 

The answer really does lie in more options, not in confining and segregating certain options.

 

You really shouldn't speak for others.  You can't hear what someone else is saying when you try to put your words in their mouth.

 

Fencing & Swashbuckling as Armor.

D20 Modern Toon PC Race.

Mecha Pilot's Skill Challenge Emporium.

 

Save the breasts.

Why there is a game mechanic around it is beyond me. 


The existance of objective and active "forces" for good and evil is a widespread fantasy trope, it provides all sorts of interesting hooks to hang an adventure on, and I've always found it fun to play with. I would not want to force my prefrences on anyone else so I think this kind of thing should be in a module, but I would be sad if it were discarded entirely.

...I must admit, I didn't even know one existed.  Thank you very much!  Time to hunt down a copy on amazon.


IIRC, AD&D 2e released a Complete class book for each class as well as racial books (I specifically recall owning the one race book that covered gnomes and halflings).


Part of the burgundy softcover series, they're great.

Yah, I have the 'main 4' + psion...just didn't know they'd ever made any for the subclasses.   And I know they made one for elves...so I'm assuming they made one for halflings?   I had always wondered but never got around to looking for it.  Gah, my money, it goes so fast.  Speaking of which...my replacement copy of FRA should be here by now.  I'mma hafta call these folks up and see where mah book is! Tongue Out

"Lightning...it flashes bright, then fades away.  It can't protect, it can only destroy."

what i used to do to prevent the PC's from finding out the main evil person was to give him a magic item that i created called "Necklace of False Alignment", it had a preset alignment that when detect evil and such spells or abilities used always gave the wrong info of the main baddie and made it much more of a surprise when the villan was revealed
Swede1985 is right.  It makes no sense to go 'here's an incredibly broken ability ... and now we'll give the DM tools he must use to keep it from breaking his game, thus neutering the ability and making it pointless'.  There's no reason for the ability to even exist at that point.  'Here's an ability, but you'll never get to use it' is bad design.

Alignment needs to die, once and for all, and take Detect Evil/Good/Law/Chaos, Know Alignment, and all related effects with it into oblivion.



That's like saying magic users need to die because of just one broken ability that uses magic.  Or giving fighters the ability to kill anything in one blow (no save, auto-hit) and then saying melee combat needs to die because of it.

There are proper and good ways for alignment to be implemented and used.


Actually, I don't believe Salla was connecting the two as much as you think.  Detection and alignment are often very closely linked topics.  Salla and I share the opinion (Salla, please correct me if I'm wrong) that alignment is just a vague character description (and one that can be better achieved through other means), and that giving it mechanical weight is what really needs to die.

Salla is very correct that the devs should be very cautious about giving out abilities that can wreck stories and climactic encounters instead of saying "here's awesome but incredibly broken thing X, and now we give DMs countermeasure Y to throw in the player's face at every alternative until the player is so frustrated they stop using the ability."



I certainly agree how it is used needs to be adjusted.  I made a post on how I thought it should be implemented.  It is, however, part of D&D cosmology, so it does make sense to leave it in though in an altered form.  I do grant it is a somewhat vague description, but it does a fair bit with just two words, so that's pretty nice.  The alignment section probably needs some retooling in how it describes alignments.

Certainly alignment detecting spells need to be sharply retooled.  Imho, it should be done pretty much to the extent that Know Alignment is worthless.  As I said before, they should only work on creatures that radiate an alignment aura.  That includes Paladins and Clerics.  Such creatures should be able to willingly suppress that aura (though it is still detectable via magic then).  When not supressed, anyone should be able to recognize it.  I think you could then link mechanics to such an aura, such as fear, corruption, bravery, etc effects.

Naturally there should be rituals and so forth to conceal alignment further.  These should be designed so that they can leave clues for investigative PCs to discover.  Ritual sacrifice and so forth (obviously neutral and good auras would have to be handled differently, but should leave something that sticks out in a differently aligned society).

Beyond that, I think alignment is useful as a requirement for certain magical items to help give an item moral character without making it intelligent.

Are there other ways to do such things?  Sure.  One could take a page from FATE (or other games) and use a short phrase or the like to indicate the nature of an aura or person and using it like the above.  That doesn't mesh as well into D&D cosmology though.


I've read quiiiiiite a few 2E books DMGorgon, but I don't think I've stumbled into that description before.  May I ask where you got that from?  That looks like a good read.




The Complete Paladin's Handbook.



...I must admit, I didn't even know one existed.  Thank you very much!  Time to hunt down a copy on amazon.



IIRC, AD&D 2e released a Complete class book for each class as well as racial books (I specifically recall owning the one race book that covered gnomes and halflings).



Yes, that one covers the spares.  Well, I suppose the Complete Book of Humanoids did that to a greater extent.
what i used to do to prevent the PC's from finding out the main evil person was to give him a magic item that i created called "Necklace of False Alignment", it had a preset alignment that when detect evil and such spells or abilities used always gave the wrong info of the main baddie and made it much more of a surprise when the villan was revealed


That brings up some interesting questions.  How many of those did the party have by the time they retired?  Did they ever try to seek out the jerk that was making them?
There are a great many problems that can be circumvented by players and DMs having a mature discussion about what the game is going to be like before they ever sit down together to play.

 

The answer really does lie in more options, not in confining and segregating certain options.

 

You really shouldn't speak for others.  You can't hear what someone else is saying when you try to put your words in their mouth.

 

Fencing & Swashbuckling as Armor.

D20 Modern Toon PC Race.

Mecha Pilot's Skill Challenge Emporium.

 

Save the breasts.

what i used to do to prevent the PC's from finding out the main evil person was to give him a magic item that i created called "Necklace of False Alignment", it had a preset alignment that when detect evil and such spells or abilities used always gave the wrong info of the main baddie and made it much more of a surprise when the villan was revealed


That brings up some interesting questions.  How many of those did the party have by the time they retired?  Did they ever try to seek out the jerk that was making them?

they managed to only get the one from the main villan in my last campaign back in the 1990's and they never went in search for the person that was creating them( we had a falling out over personal matters and never went any further)
I use to say to my players that detect evil and magic like it won't work everytime a Paladin/Black Guard/Cleric used it, that there are magic items, spells, feats and character features that allow people to bypass the detection. In a world with people knowing their limitations you have very rare use of the detect magic, paladins don't go through the streets detecting evil because don't work that way. Like someone said above, Good/Evil and Law/Chaos are cosmical forces and the balance between them keep the universe together, so the alignament are usefull and make sense on the world and setting.
If you read 3.X detect evil, you already have diferences between creatures types and classes. And you have seen the 2E paladin's detection.

I posted in other thread that I, as DM, can do a lot of things to handle the detection, if it work or if it doesn't. Like improvised action, depends on people, some are more creative than other and can turn a bad situation for the fun of the table.

So I like to see a guide to alignement, with advises for detection, hide, interaction, and so on rather than take it apart.
When I say that alignment spells are a problem, I mean a problem for everyone. The good characters trying to infiltrate the evil stronghold dressed in orc armor? Toast as soon as they meet the cleric of Gruumsh who does the daily round casting 'know alignment' on everyone. The good clerics have it - so why shouldn't they?


I entirely sympathize with what you're saying.  I once had an adventure chopped down to a single encounter just because the party cast detect evil, figuring out who the bad guy was long before they should have.  My opinion is that any creature that is capable of hiding it's true form (like shapeshifted succubi, or what-have-you) should also get a free cloaking of their alignment from detection spells.  Of course, that really is my backup position, becuase I just don't like detection spells.  If we're going to include detection spells, I'd rather they be a ritual, that shapeshifted beings are cloaked from them, and that the creature being detected becomes aware of the detection attempt; like in a submarine flick where one is hiding from the other, and the detection spell is like active sonar that reveals the location of the detecting sub.



If detection spells are a ritual that a target can then cloak themselves then why bother?

It would be like having a detect invisibiliy spell that did not work becuase the target could cloak themselves from the detection.

How about trying to use a Neutral or Unaligned (or for giggles Good) BBEG instead of RAWR I'm a demon?

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If detection spells are a ritual that a target can then cloak themselves then why bother?

It would be like having a detect invisibiliy spell that did not work becuase the target could cloak themselves from the detection.

How about trying to use a Neutral or Unaligned (or for giggles Good) BBEG instead of RAWR I'm a demon?



Make the cloaking a ritual with unique components and you can leverage the whole situation into a mystery where there are clues to find.
When I say that alignment spells are a problem, I mean a problem for everyone. The good characters trying to infiltrate the evil stronghold dressed in orc armor? Toast as soon as they meet the cleric of Gruumsh who does the daily round casting 'know alignment' on everyone. The good clerics have it - so why shouldn't they?


I entirely sympathize with what you're saying.  I once had an adventure chopped down to a single encounter just because the party cast detect evil, figuring out who the bad guy was long before they should have.  My opinion is that any creature that is capable of hiding it's true form (like shapeshifted succubi, or what-have-you) should also get a free cloaking of their alignment from detection spells.  Of course, that really is my backup position, becuase I just don't like detection spells.  If we're going to include detection spells, I'd rather they be a ritual, that shapeshifted beings are cloaked from them, and that the creature being detected becomes aware of the detection attempt; like in a submarine flick where one is hiding from the other, and the detection spell is like active sonar that reveals the location of the detecting sub.



If detection spells are a ritual that a target can then cloak themselves then why bother?

It would be like having a detect invisibiliy spell that did not work becuase the target could cloak themselves from the detection.

How about trying to use a Neutral or Unaligned (or for giggles Good) BBEG instead of RAWR I'm a demon?



TBH, thats one of my bigger issues with Detect (Alignment) spells/rituals.

They either kill any suspense by pointing out the bad guys will 100% certainty and wreck the game feel, or they're 100% useless because anyone it might be useful finding is guarded from it.
I'd like to second what koba said a couple pages back. Knowing someone's alignment isn't game breaking. It gives you some insight into the NPC's motivations, but it tells you nothing about their actions. The examples he gave were spot on, I think.

In my campaigns, I would have no problem giving my players info about the alignment of everyone they encoutnered if it weren't tedious and lame. If they want to find out if a guy they're interrogating is evil, cool; I'll tell them that. But does that mean that everything he's saying is a lie? Absolutely not. Evil characters are not all pathological liars or deceivers; they're simply selfish. So if my players know that a questgiver is evil, all they know is that she probably will gain (or at least thinks she will gain) something by sending the PCs on a quest.

In my last game, my PCs entered into an all out negotiation with a demon. He was obviously a demon -- horns and red skin and everything -- but the fact that he was clearly evil didn't mean that the party couldn't gain anything from him.

Honestly, if we're worried about plot-breaking mechanics, we should be more concerned with insight checks than we are with Detect Alignment spells.

Edit for clarity: I have no problem with insight as it worked in 4e. I'm only making the point that this is really the culprit of the kind of plot problems that we've been discussing, not alignment-related spells. 
It might be interesting to see "Detect Evil" (and the other alignment detection or protection spells) split and rearranged into what feels like more coherant categories to me. I think that that would not only feel more coherant, but would address some of the ambiguity issues.

So for example, we might have things like:

Detect Undead
Detect Capital-E Evil Outsiders (Or even split this up, depending on how finicky you want to get)
Detect Hostile Intent
Detect Deception
Detect Capital-C Chaos
Detect Aberrant Nature
Pierce Disguise
Detect Arcane Ability
Detect Divine Potency
Detect Curses/Compulsions

Some of those are already spells, too, so there's some precedent.

Then you could have something like Read True Nature that's very universal and difficult to foil, but also really advanced magic.

It would also be nice, in my opinion, if there were non-magical ways to guard (at least partially) against the spells, and also more ways for the spells to have intermediate-level effects.
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