Alignment, Actions vs Intent

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The Sage on a mountain thread has prompted some interesting alignment-based conversation lately.
There is one teeny tiny aspect of it that i would like to expound on, and have decided to start a new thread to do it.



The name basically says it all, in your games, how do you dictate alignment?

Do actions speak louder than words? 
Or does it all come down to the reasons they do what they do?
Is it some combination? If so, which weighs more heavily? 


Essentially, i'm looking to collect as many opinions as possible (i'd do a poll if i could) so feel free to give a relatively short answer with an explanation.



Also, i expect there to be some explanation and discussion, but please keep it friendly. Remember, the main goal here is to see how other people view this aspect of the game, not to criticise it (for better or for worse).

Thanks.

FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis
I don't dictate alignment. Characters can be any alignment they want and act in any way they see fit, regardless of edition. If their choices make their fellow players uncomfortable, there will be a discussion, but alignment won't enter into it.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Is it some combination? If so, which weighs more heavily?

Intent weighs more heavily.

But ultimately: it's one's own perception (rather than the DM's or other players') of proper alignment behavior that counts most.

'the code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules'
I don't dictate alignment. Characters can be any alignment they want and act in any way they see fit, regardless of edition. If their choices make their fellow players uncomfortable, there will be a discussion, but alignment won't enter into it.



I think i was unclear. I did not mean to suggest the dm's should choose/limit the alignments of the pc's (that is a great topic for a different discussion though!).



What i meant to ask was more along the lines of what the character actually does.
For example, say you create an NPC, who walks around with thoughts of commiting horrible, evil, depraved acts. He wants to commit them, but (for whatever reason) he never does.

Some DM's say he is evil, because of the simple fact that he wants to commit evil.
Some DM's say he isn't evil, because of the simple fact that he never commits evil acts.
At some point a Detect Evil spell is cast on him, what does it read?

I'm tryting to see if the general populace believes that actions speak louder than words, or if the characters true desires are the bigger factor...
FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis
say you create an NPC, who walks around with thoughts of commiting horrible, evil, depraved acts. He wants to commit them, but (for whatever reason) he never does.

Some DM's say he is evil, because of the simple fact that he wants to commit evil.
Some DM's say he isn't evil, because of the simple fact that he never commits evil acts.
At some point a Detect Evil spell is cast on him, what does it read?

His actual alignment... which may or may not be evil, but is not necessarily dictated by his acts or his desires.

I don't dictate alignment. Characters can be any alignment they want and act in any way they see fit, regardless of edition. If their choices make their fellow players uncomfortable, there will be a discussion, but alignment won't enter into it.



Just as a serious question regarding this, this means someone can right Lawful Good on their sheet then **** & murder orphans whilst setting fire to old folks homes as a daily occurence and still lift the "Sword of Holy Righteousness"?

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

I don't dictate alignment. Characters can be any alignment they want and act in any way they see fit, regardless of edition. If their choices make their fellow players uncomfortable, there will be a discussion, but alignment won't enter into it.

What i meant to ask was more along the lines of what the character actually does.
For example, say you create an NPC, who walks around with thoughts of commiting horrible, evil, depraved acts. He wants to commit them, but (for whatever reason) he never does.

I assumed you were discussing PCs. My mistake.

Some DM's say he is evil, because of the simple fact that he wants to commit evil.
Some DM's say he isn't evil, because of the simple fact that he never commits evil acts.
At some point a Detect Evil spell is cast on him, what does it read?

Good. All my NPCs have the Good alignment, especially the villains. Villains with the evil alignment woudn't last very long. Sadly, neither would saints with the evil alignment.

I'm tryting to see if the general populace believes that actions speak louder than words, or if the characters true desires are the bigger factor...

Neither. Alignment has no more impact on or connection to a character's behavior than that character's eye color or, more to the point, race. It might, however, have a major impact on how the world reacts to that character.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

say you create an NPC, who walks around with thoughts of commiting horrible, evil, depraved acts. He wants to commit them, but (for whatever reason) he never does.

Some DM's say he is evil, because of the simple fact that he wants to commit evil.
Some DM's say he isn't evil, because of the simple fact that he never commits evil acts.
At some point a Detect Evil spell is cast on him, what does it read?

His actual alignment... which may or may not be evil, but is not necessarily dictated by his acts or his desires.





So what actually dictates it then? 
FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis
I don't dictate alignment. Characters can be any alignment they want and act in any way they see fit, regardless of edition. If their choices make their fellow players uncomfortable, there will be a discussion, but alignment won't enter into it.

What i meant to ask was more along the lines of what the character actually does.
For example, say you create an NPC, who walks around with thoughts of commiting horrible, evil, depraved acts. He wants to commit them, but (for whatever reason) he never does.

I assumed you were discussing PCs. My mistake.

Some DM's say he is evil, because of the simple fact that he wants to commit evil.
Some DM's say he isn't evil, because of the simple fact that he never commits evil acts.
At some point a Detect Evil spell is cast on him, what does it read?

Good. All my NPCs have the Good alignment, especially the villains. Villains with the evil alignment woudn't last very long. Sadly, neither would saints with the evil alignment.

I'm tryting to see if the general populace believes that actions speak louder than words, or if the characters true desires are the bigger factor...

Neither. Alignment has no more impact on or connection to a character's behavior than that character's eye color or, more to the point, race. It might, however, have a major impact on how the world reacts to that character.



I am confused a bit. All your NPCs have the Good alignment? Your Evil NPCs have the Good alignment?

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

The name basically says it all, in your games, how do you dictate alignment?



Alignment pretty much never comes up in my games. The farthest we'll go about it is "This girl is a goody-two-shoes" or "This guy's an ***hole". We, as a group, have found that alignment descriptors just don't serve any useful purpose. We can't agree on what most of them mean, so we found it better to not even bother. That way, we can stay friends and not bicker whenever the subject comes up.


If I had to use some sort of alignment rules, it would be D20 Modern's Alliegiance. It is more comprehensive, serves the character's background and motivations better and can provide more interesting hooks for stories than a two-word descriptor ever could, IMO.

For my games, intent matters more than actions in most circumstances. I love the concepts involved in the Gray Guard paragon path:

"Do whatever it takes to get the job done, and worry about the moral questions later."

A good-aligned paladin of Pelor might be justified in committing murder, if the reason he did so is to prevent a great atrocity from occuring. Similarly a chaotic evil blackguard might make a series of charitable acts, if his intent for doing so is to maneuver into a position where can wreak much greater havok.

That being said, there are some "absolute" good and evil acts that I will ask players to change alignment for, regardless of intent. Mostly those involve dealing with souls, either permanently destroying them (absolute evil act), enslaving them (absolute evil act), or sacrificing one's own to accomplish something (absolute good act).

I frequently introduce moral grey areas into games; devils that aren't "pure" evil and work alongside good-aligned parties, angels that have destructive views on what doing "good" means, and so forth.
I don't dictate alignment. Characters can be any alignment they want and act in any way they see fit, regardless of edition. If their choices make their fellow players uncomfortable, there will be a discussion, but alignment won't enter into it.



This is pretty much how I handle alignment.  If a player says the character is "good" the character is "good".  I don't really care what the player does as long as it isn't disruptive to the other players.

As far as NPCs go well I play 4th edition so I don't have to worry about a detect evil spell.  I really don't even write down the alignment on most of my NPCs.  Just what they are motivated by.  What they have to offer the PCs, who they are connected to.  How they might react to being asked certain important questions if I have something planned.  Usually I'm winging it so there is just an NPC name.  I might have just been writing it down as I introduced him to. 
Since you're collecting opinions, I'll reply, though mine isn't very useful to the discussion you're looking to have. 

The name basically says it all, in your games, how do you dictate alignment? 

Do actions speak louder than words? 
Or does it all come down to the reasons they do what they do?
Is it some combination? If so, which weighs more heavily? 


Essentially, i'm looking to collect as many opinions as possible (i'd do a poll if i could) so feel free to give a relatively short answer with an explanation.


I don't dictate alignment, neither on PCs or NPCs. Alignment has no mechanical impact in my games (I only play 4E), so I don't find the concept of "having an alignment" useful at all.

Characters have wishes, goals and are willing to take certain actions to achieve them. What those are depends on their background, like upbringing and personal history (orcs raised in a community devoted to Gruumsh for example want to gain wealth and status through violence, while a Waterdhavian lord who was born wealthy wants to keep the city peaceful and civilized so he can live a life of luxury). Others may find these wishes, goals and actions laudable or despicable, based on their own background. But because backgrounds can be so different, I don't think there are any absolutes when determining alignment. 

In fact, I would go so far as to say the alignment system is silly in D&D because it's based on our own society's perceptions of good and evil.
Stealing is evil? Only because it's illegal by our own, modern laws. The orcs in the example wouldn't bat an eye if they saw another orc steal something (assuming it didn't belong to the orcs themselves).
Saving a soul from destruction is an act of goodness? Only because we, as decent folk, like the idea of an afterlive over oblivion. But someone who spent his life killing and raping isn't looking forward to an afterlife in the Nine Hells. He'd probably choose oblivion, and would actually consider someone who saved his soul from oblivion evil. 

This also makes the very idea of a Detect Evil spell silly. What if a savage orc (or someone with a similar background) cast detect evil on another orc? Would the outcome be evil? If so, then the spell is useless to anyone but the people who fit the exact background for the spell's intent. If not, then what the orc considers evil, another person considers good, and the spell should be renamed to "Detect If Someone Has A Similar Moral Background As You". 

Also, this discussion is probably as old as the game itself. Is the horse dead yet?
We have a fighter that constantly wars against his own nature, being a hero and being perceived as a villain. He makes terrible mistakes and comes from a family of knee-breakers and thieves, yet he saves people and sacrifices himself in ways the general populace will never realize. He also hates being a hero and wishes nothing more than to just be left alone.

Right now he is being accused of carrying an "evil" weapon, of being the thrall of a green dragon and of bringing pain and misery to the city he calls home. In his mind he has kept that evil weapon out of the hands of a group of necromancers, made a deal with a dragon to save his friends and has constantly put himself in harms way to defend the city he calls home.

He is unaligned. The player can play him however he wants. I really doubt he would be as complex and interesting of a character if he was pinned by an alignment.

In my games every action has a consequence. Being a hero is just as tough as being a villain.
Action v. intent is one of the biggest reasons why alignment is a problem, imo.  A lawful good paladin who subscribes to a more utilitarian framework for her/his morals wouldn't see an issue with depriving someone of their property if it served a greater good.  Likewise, utilitarian arguments could be made for slavery or any number of things that appear to be morally bereft.  A character who subscribes to Kant's categorical imperative on the other hand would have moral issues doing any number of things that one could argue are necessary or just given the specific circumstances.  With NPCs I tend to first start with their motivations, then work toward the methods that individual would likely use.  My PCs have a listed alignment, but I don't pay a whole lot of attention to it.  the party's fighter is listed as good, but has been known to use some questionable methods if he sees a higher good in them.  I think alignment *can* be useful for a player to understand their character's world view, but that's about it.
I really find it staggering how many people don't understand that in heroic fantasy good & evil are not subjective. I think that's the core problem with people dealing with understanding alignment in D&D. Metal Gear 3 does a great job of discussing moral relativism...but in actuality, the message is that such thinking is USELESS if someone becomes lost in the web of it and can no longer recognize what actually is good or evil. That is the failing of a character like Big Boss (for anyone that is familiar with Metal Gear)...he got lost in the concept of "greater goods" and such and, in doing so, became evil.

Anyway...Evil races consider themselves evil. It is their deal.

If an orc shaman casts detect evil and all his buddies light up (assuming they are high enough level to register on the spell) then that means all is right in Orcopolis. Hell, even most evil people that have it cast on them would say "Of course I'm evil. It's the best way to be in the world" or some other equally evil justification. Seriously just look at a character like Skeletor gleefully reveling in his own evil. That's heroic fantasy evil.

In my game, evil is a definitive force of the universe and several races are evil, know it, embrace it and love it. At the same time, plenty of other beings are evil as well without ever worshipping evil. They're just bad people. Most would never light up on a Detect Evil spell because they're not high enough level to radiate palpable evil. However, detecting their alignment directly would tell you they're evil. This has an actual, reasonable impact on society...those that can cast this spell or learn the results of it can use that information about someones alignment. Generally though even without it it's fairly obvious in their nature.

A paladin or cleric or whatever, knows they can't just denounce people and slay them for being a Lawful Evil pawnbroker that preys on the vulnerable. Are they evil? Yeah they have evil in their hearts. But they aren't worshipping evil...they aren't a physical manifestation of evil...they're a person with flaws. After all, most of the major religions in my setting also believe in redemption and the importance of not rushing to judgement. It is in this way that paladins are such special people...they're entrusted with the ability to make those sorts of judgements. They are both secularly and sacredly charged with the legal and holy ability to make those judgement calls.

As I once told my Paladin when he had questions about paladin-ness (its his first time playing D&D and his first exposure to full on paladinhood) I told him not to be afraid of situations where evil is being furthered as a concept. When you walk into a room and someone is worshipping in front of an altar to an evil diety and you detect evil and they radiate it...well..."The charge: Consorting with evil forces allied against all that is good & right. The evidence: overwhelming. The verdict: Death by holy steel and divine mercy. Seek redemption in your next life" And bam...Smite 'Em.

I also use alignment as a great way to allow people to make meaningful choices. For instance my players had managed to subdue a couple orcs...now, some orcs in my world are wild, vicious and nasty...and some actively worship an evil quasi-diety. The players know this. Since the orcs had surrendered and were not worshippers of evil as a concept (they were believers in the Neutral Evil god Rom who is all about conquest and warfare...but not all about Eeeeevil) the Paladin felt no need to destroy them, especially since they also weren't strong enough to radiate evil. He knew they were of an evil alignment and disposition but he let them live to assist them in a good task...kinda press-ganging them into it. He had no problem with this because the orcs are, in many ways, too stupid to understand good/evil in the way that the paladin does. He did make it clear to them however that if they committed evil in his presence or that if he learned of evil they'd done, he'd have no problem in bringing that evidence to bear and would, if necessary, destroy them.

The orcs were smart enough to stay in line. Well, until one tried to get clever but that's a longer story...

The wizard of the group however REALLY wanted to just kill them when he found out there were orcs (he was seperate at the time) with the party. He literally just wanted to murder them because he hates orcs. I let him know he could feel free but that doing so to surrendered, helpless foes would be an evil act.

Did I care if he did it? Nope, not one bit. I just gave him information to work with...that it would be an evil act because unprovoked murder (the orcs had never so much as threatened the party) is an evil act. Would it have shifted his alignment to evil? Heck no. It's just a sin on the great tally board of life. He'd decide where to go from there. So he spoke to the paladin and the paladin did an excellent job of giving a bit of a sermon to the wizard...and the wizard agree. His agreement was hilarious in that he actually took the stance that in "his infinite intellect" he would use the orcs as a test to see if "such creature" could be "rehabilitated like dogs being trained". He didn't feel the need to commit evil and lower himself to the level of the kind or orcs he hated so much (vicious evil murderous ones). That, to me, is a great choice...not because it's a good choice...it just has great reasoning behind it. Could he just as easily chosen the evil route and would the choice have also been just as great? Yup probably.

So that is what I use alignment for...it creates situations where the players and NPCs can be allowed to make INTERESTING CHOICES that wouldn't otherwise be so well defined.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

Action v. intent is one of the biggest reasons why alignment is a problem, imo.  A lawful good paladin who subscribes to a more utilitarian framework for her/his morals wouldn't see an issue with depriving someone of their property if it served a greater good.  Likewise, utilitarian arguments could be made for slavery or any number of things that appear to be morally bereft.  A character who subscribes to Kant's categorical imperative on the other hand would have moral issues doing any number of things that one could argue are necessary or just given the specific circumstances.  With NPCs I tend to first start with their motivations, then work toward the methods that individual would likely use.  My PCs have a listed alignment, but I don't pay a whole lot of attention to it.  the party's fighter is listed as good, but has been known to use some questionable methods if he sees a higher good in them.  I think alignment *can* be useful for a player to understand their character's world view, but that's about it.



A "lawful good" paladin who "subscribes to a more utilitarian framework" is lawful neutral.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

Since you're collecting opinions, I'll reply, though mine isn't very useful to the discussion you're looking to have. 


I don't dictate alignment, neither on PCs or NPCs. Alignment has no mechanical impact in my games (I only play 4E), so I don't find the concept of "having an alignment" useful at all.

[snip]

In fact, I would go so far as to say the alignment system is silly in D&D because it's based on our own society's perceptions of good and evil.
Stealing is evil? Only because it's illegal by our own, modern laws. The orcs in the example wouldn't bat an eye if they saw another orc steal something (assuming it didn't belong to the orcs themselves).
Saving a soul from destruction is an act of goodness? Only because we, as decent folk, like the idea of an afterlive over oblivion. But someone who spent his life killing and raping isn't looking forward to an afterlife in the Nine Hells. He'd probably choose oblivion, and would actually consider someone who saved his soul from oblivion evil. 

[snip]

This also makes the very idea of a Detect Evil spell silly. What if a savage orc (or someone with a similar background) cast detect evil on another orc? Would the outcome be evil? If so, then the spell is useless to anyone but the people who fit the exact background for the spell's intent. If not, then what the orc considers evil, another person considers good, and the spell should be renamed to "Detect If Someone Has A Similar Moral Background As You". 

Also, this discussion is probably as old as the game itself. Is the horse dead yet?




Thanks for poppin in!
A lot of the points you bring up are relatively valid, and have certainly been the target of much discussion. But whether you agree with the concepts or not, 3.x has hard coded rules for the implication of alignments: certain classes require you to be a certain alignment, certain spells affect specific alignments different way, some monsters (demons in particular) only take full damage from "good aligned" weapons. 
The rules assume that your alignment is sorta governed by a set of universal rules...

Yes, it's easy enough to handwave these things in 3.x, and as you mentioned 4e drops those concepts entirely.  I'm not trying to start an edition war or anything, but i know both alignment systems and believe each has it own merits (and problems).


For what it's worth, i'm an old school player/dm (started way back in 1st) and currently DM 2 weekly 4e games. One game is with newer players and we pretty much ignore alignment. The other game is an ongoing campaign that started 7 years ago (in 3.5) and last year we converted it to 4e, but we kept the 3.5 style alignments since a major part of the campaign involves the Blood War (the war between devils and demons). I'm about to oversimplify it, but Devils are LE and Demons are CE, this basically makes the war one between the forces of Law and Chaos. In 4e the war still exists but that dynamic of what started it sorta lost in the translation.

 
Anyway, what i'm actually trying to do is a bit of a fresh take; collect as many opinions on various "small" things related to alignments as possible. Not specifically the alignments themselves, but how people view and use the concept - if they use them at all. Things like Intent vs Action, or Absolute vs Subjective, even things like if the DM restricts alignments, or varies that restriction on a game by game basis (things like Evil Campaigns certainly do exist...).




EDIT - partially ninja'd! 
FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis
Action v. intent is one of the biggest reasons why alignment is a problem, imo.  A lawful good paladin who subscribes to a more utilitarian framework for her/his morals wouldn't see an issue with depriving someone of their property if it served a greater good.  Likewise, utilitarian arguments could be made for slavery or any number of things that appear to be morally bereft.  A character who subscribes to Kant's categorical imperative on the other hand would have moral issues doing any number of things that one could argue are necessary or just given the specific circumstances.  With NPCs I tend to first start with their motivations, then work toward the methods that individual would likely use.  My PCs have a listed alignment, but I don't pay a whole lot of attention to it.  the party's fighter is listed as good, but has been known to use some questionable methods if he sees a higher good in them.  I think alignment *can* be useful for a player to understand their character's world view, but that's about it.



A "lawful good" paladin who "subscribes to a more utilitarian framework" is lawful neutral.

I don't know that I buy that.  Utilitarianism is a pretty well-respected philosophical system in which the goal is to produce "good."  Let's say your character is in the middle of a town square filled with "innocents."  He only has time to take one action.  He can 1. move out of the way himself, 2. let the bomb explode without taking any actions, or 3. hurl the bomb where it will only kill one "innocent" in an alleyway.  If he takes action 3 -- something I think a lot of characters would do, he's using a utilitarian framework and committing what he would see as a "good" act.  While most people into philosophy don't consider themselves utilitarians -- myself included -- utilitirian bias is pretty ubiquitous.    

The issue that I'm trying to get at here, is that players come with their pre-conceived notions of good and evil.  Even if evil is a palpable and real thing in the fantasy universe, the notions of what is good and evil will be informed by the players' beliefs as to what good and evil is.   
Action v. intent is one of the biggest reasons why alignment is a problem, imo.  A lawful good paladin who subscribes to a more utilitarian framework for her/his morals wouldn't see an issue with depriving someone of their property if it served a greater good.  Likewise, utilitarian arguments could be made for slavery or any number of things that appear to be morally bereft.  A character who subscribes to Kant's categorical imperative on the other hand would have moral issues doing any number of things that one could argue are necessary or just given the specific circumstances.  With NPCs I tend to first start with their motivations, then work toward the methods that individual would likely use.  My PCs have a listed alignment, but I don't pay a whole lot of attention to it.  the party's fighter is listed as good, but has been known to use some questionable methods if he sees a higher good in them.  I think alignment *can* be useful for a player to understand their character's world view, but that's about it.



A "lawful good" paladin who "subscribes to a more utilitarian framework" is lawful neutral.

I don't know that I buy that.  Utilitarianism is a pretty well-respected philosophical system in which the goal is to produce "good."  Let's say your character is in the middle of a town square filled with "innocents."  He only has time to take one action.  He can 1. move out of the way himself, 2. let the bomb explode without taking any actions, or 3. hurl the bomb where it will only kill one "innocent" in an alleyway.  If he takes action 3 -- something I think a lot of characters would do, he's using a utilitarian framework and committing what he would see as a "good" act.  While most people into philosophy don't consider themselves utilitarians -- myself included -- utilitirian bias is pretty ubiquitous.    

The issue that I'm trying to get at here, is that players come with their pre-conceived notions of good and evil.  Even if evil is a palpable and real thing in the fantasy universe, the notions of what is good and evil will be informed by the players' beliefs as to what good and evil is.   



You forgot action 4. Smother the bomb with his own body and it kills no one except for, maybe, himself. Seriously this exact example is in the Captain America movie.

That's the heroic, fantastic action to take in THAT situation.

I'll also point out, again, that if a DM creates a situation where the ONLY answer is a morally ambiguous one, that is not heroic fantasy. Heroes of heroic fantasy thrive and succeed through their heroism. Not relativism.

EDIT: Just as an addendum...consider why you never thought of (or didn't post) the option 4 I gave as an answer. It is worth thinking about and/or discussing.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

So maybe it's best that everyone sits down during the first game session and says:
This is how good/evil work in this game.

Yagami has some good points, that i also mentioned, the default 3.5 setting implies absolute universal concepts of good and evil as they relate to specific game mechanics.  Some people misinterpret it, or flat out ignore it, but it's there


Outside of that rule setting (especially when people try to describe their real-life self with a game mechanic) opinions start to vary greatly.
That's why this thread is here. 
 
FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis
So maybe it's best that everyone sits down during the first game session and says:
This is how good/evil work in this game.

Yagami has some good points, that i also mentioned, the default 3.5 setting implies absolute universal concepts of good and evil as they relate to specific game mechanics.  Some people misinterpret it, or flat out ignore it, but it's there


Outside of that rule setting (especially when people try to describe their real-life self with a game mechanic) opinions start to vary greatly.
That's why this thread is here. 
 



That's why people don't understand alignment or struggle deeply with it. They immediately try to bolt it onto reality...they'd have a better chance of figuring out what CLASS they are in real life.

It's a game. It's make-believe. Not the real world.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

Most of us are commoners, experts, or aristocrats.
FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis
Hey Onikani,

Very interesting thread. I would venture to say it is up to you to determine if an NPC is of evil alignment, but not detract from the story or game itself. Perhaps if there was a psychologist class, they could "detect mental instability" in which someone who has evil thoughts would pop up on their radar, but actions do speak louder than words- in game and IRL.

Generally, there are more advanced evil-doers and agents of chaos that pull the attention of the group that have a signifigant impact on the story. That's kind of the circular nature of the game. You can't always prevent evil and there is a level in which a PC or NPC becomes evil. Again, it's up to you as the DM to determine that threshold. To move the game along, we do come across a**holes and b*tches, but refrain from detecting evil on them and focus on the bigger picture. Only once has that bit us in the bum, but it was a great story twist and we all enjoyed the encounter.

Nicely done on maintaining your group for so long and encouraging new players. I'm sure you understand keeping the balance better than most.


-Mamatron  
Most of us are commoners, experts, or aristocrats.



Some of us are crazy sorcerors.

I am reminded of someone asking Grant Morrison at a comic convention "How old is Batman?"...and the reply was perfect. "It's not real! It doesn't matter!"

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

@yagamifire, I didn't list number 4 because I perceived the bomb to be too big for him to smother.  Also, the same basic framework can be applied to lots of different scenarios: does one flip a switch that will stop a train from hitting a bus of nuns only to have it run over 1 pick-pocket?  I give the train example in my COMP II class, and I always really like the responses.  Usually most of the class says that it's moral to flip the switch, and I usually get one student who says that the moral thing is not to touch the switch: they didn't set the course for the train, so it would immoral for her to change it, since then she would be the one committing murder.  

I'll also say that moral ambiguity doesn't necessarily relate to moral relativism.  I like questions of moral ambiguity, and I think they offer a lot of RPing opportunities.  I haven't thought much of how moral ambiguity would ruin the "heroic" aspects of a fantasy game, though.  That's some food for thought.  

Even though the game may have clearly delineated ideas of what constitutes good and evil, that doesn't mean that the players will come from the same set of biases, and I believe it would be unfair to penalize a player for having different ideas.  This doesn't excuse moral relativism, it just leaves the room open for interpretation.  This is precisely the reason why I use alignment specificially as a way for the players to understand the lense through which their characters see the world.

 
Yagami, have you considered that your viewpoint might just be how YOU see good/evil?

your stance of "you're doing it wrong" if you include morally ambiguous choices is clearly not universally held.  I'm sure nearly every DM in these forums can give examples....several examples, in which moral ambiguity served a better campaign choice than would have been presented with a straight "THIS is the heroic choice.  A hero would do only THIS or something equally heroic."

Wizards themselves have put out campaigns that THRIVE on moral ambiguity.  The popular Eberron trope of "here is a murder mystery set in Sharn"  from the original adventure in the back of the 3.5 campaign setting all the way up to the "Dead for a Spell" campaign recently released in a dungeon magazine, all throw numerous semi-evil, semi-good NPCs and organizations at the party, many of which result in choosing one side or the other, or even setting the entire story around helping out a member of a morally ambiguous organization (such as the Aurum, or a similar group).

You use the captain america example as an example of "pure heroism" but in those same movies, the bad guys often THRIVE on setting morally ambiguous choices in front of the hero.....Look at the spiderman movies (i think the second one), where spiderman is given the choice of saving his girlfriend or a tram car full of civilians.....morally ambiguous.  Through the magic of movie writing, heroes are often spared the results of those choices (stupid overly happy endings)....but a great example of one of those choices gone RIGHT (for the villain) is in batman, with the joker's 2 victims, 2 warehouses, a bomb in each and only time to get to one of them.

So right there are perfectly legitimate examples of morally ambiguous choices both in the superhero movies used as previous examples, and in the "high-fantasy" settings which you say don't include moral ambiguity.       
@yagamifire, I didn't list number 4 because I perceived the bomb to be too big for him to smother.  Also, the same basic framework can be applied to lots of different scenarios: does one flip a switch that will stop a train from hitting a bus of nuns only to have it run over 1 pick-pocket?  I give the train example in my COMP II class, and I always really like the responses.  Usually most of the class says that it's moral to flip the switch, and I usually get one student who says that the moral thing is not to touch the switch: they didn't set the course for the train, so it would immoral for her to change it, since then she would be the one committing murder.  

I'll also say that moral ambiguity doesn't necessarily relate to moral relativism.  I like questions of moral ambiguity, and I think they offer a lot of RPing opportunities.  I haven't thought much of how moral ambiguity would ruin the "heroic" aspects of a fantasy game, though.  That's some food for thought.  

Even though the game may have clearly delineated ideas of what constitutes good and evil, that doesn't mean that the players will come from the same set of biases, and I believe it would be unfair to penalize a player for having different ideas.  This doesn't excuse moral relativism, it just leaves the room open for interpretation.  This is precisely the reason why I use alignment specificially as a way for the players to understand the lense through which their characters see the world.

 



I believe we actually see alignment very much the same.

I should clarify my point: When players are given an alignment axis, and the universe works on that axis (as it is assumed to do by default), throwing moral curveballs and having them relate to that axis, is disingenuous.

Oh it seems terribly clever...but it's not. It's easy to make situations that screw people over. It's easy to set up things to suck the "heroic" out of the heroic fantasy style. In fact, I think it's ages of that that has made so many people have so many issues with alignment...they've been getting screwed over by DMs that think they're terribly clever when really they're just closet sadists combined with amateur novelists.

It's like comic book writing...there's a reason certain things DO an DON'T work. There's a reason things like Civil War over in Marvel was UNSUSTAINABLE...because the nature of a comic book with super heroes hinges on an amount of suspension of disbelief and the belief in good and evil as THINGS. When that is broken down and examined like a specimen of bacteria, it shatters. It is not pointing out the emperor has no clothes...it is ACTIVELY running up and ripping off the emperors clothes and then pointing and screaming "See! The Emperor never had clothes!"

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

Hey Onikani,

Very interesting thread. I would venture to say it is up to you to determine if an NPC is of evil alignment, but not detract from the story or game itself. Perhaps if there was a psychologist class, they could "detect mental instability" in which someone who has evil thoughts would pop up on their radar, but actions do speak louder than words- in game and IRL.

Generally, there are more advanced evil-doers and agents of chaos that pull the attention of the group that have a signifigant impact on the story. That's kind of the circular nature of the game. You can't always prevent evil and there is a level in which a PC or NPC becomes evil. Again, it's up to you as the DM to determine that threshold. To move the game along, we do come across a**holes and b*tches, but refrain from detecting evil on them and focus on the bigger picture. Only once has that bit us in the bum, but it was a great story twist and we all enjoyed the encounter.

Nicely done on maintaining your group for so long and encouraging new players. I'm sure you understand keeping the balance better than most.


-Mamatron  




Thanks!
And i fully agree, there needs to be a "detect mental instability" spell!
And yes, i agree the DM makes the call (or works with the players to make a call) on how those elements work in his game. The trick is finding out how other DM's make those decisions.

As for my ongoing game, it hasn't been the smoothest ride, but thanks for the compliments
We started with 6 players (and a DM). Over time life has happened and the player base has changed a bit. We currently hae 5 players,  2 of which are original, one of them even has his original character. 
All in all i can't really complain.
 
FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis
Yagami, have you considered that your viewpoint might just be how YOU see good/evil?

your stance of "you're doing it wrong" if you include morally ambiguous choices is clearly not universally held.  I'm sure nearly every DM in these forums can give examples....several examples, in which moral ambiguity served a better campaign choice than would have been presented with a straight "THIS is the heroic choice.  A hero would do only THIS or something equally heroic."

Wizards themselves have put out campaigns that THRIVE on moral ambiguity.  The popular Eberron trope of "here is a murder mystery set in Sharn"  from the original adventure in the back of the 3.5 campaign setting all the way up to the "Dead for a Spell" campaign recently released in a dungeon magazine, all throw numerous semi-evil, semi-good NPCs and organizations at the party, many of which result in choosing one side or the other, or even setting the entire story around helping out a member of a morally ambiguous organization (such as the Aurum, or a similar group).

You use the captain america example as an example of "pure heroism" but in those same movies, the bad guys often THRIVE on setting morally ambiguous choices in front of the hero.....Look at the spiderman movies (i think the second one), where spiderman is given the choice of saving his girlfriend or a tram car full of civilians.....morally ambiguous.  Through the magic of movie writing, heroes are often spared the results of those choices (stupid overly happy endings)....but a great example of one of those choices gone RIGHT (for the villain) is in batman, with the joker's 2 victims, 2 warehouses, a bomb in each and only time to get to one of them.

So right there are perfectly legitimate examples of morally ambiguous choices both in the superhero movies used as previous examples, and in the "high-fantasy" settings which you say don't include moral ambiguity.       



This (the bolded part) is where your prejudice shows.

Moral ambiguity CAN be included...but the ONLY ANSWERS can't be morally ambiguous. That is the point.

If you don't want to have something that is heroic fantasy where players thrive on their own heroism and can make the right answers (because there ARE right answers), that is your perogative. Feel free. I recently played a game of Mutants & Masterminds exactly like that and it was great.

However, you can't do that and then rail against alignment "Not working right" or being hard to understand or whatever. That is my point. When you are told how to use a bicycle and then you knock it over on its side and start jumping up and down on it your opinion of the bikes usefulness is deeply skewed towards "absolutely useless".

As long as you ALLOW A RIGHT CHOICE all you have is created is the illusion of a morally ambiguous choice. Then the player gets to be a hero and make the right choice according to what they understand frames the universe (alignment). If that means they pick Evil...cool. If they want to pick Good though, there NEEDS to be a Good answer.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

@yagamifire, I didn't list number 4 because I perceived the bomb to be too big for him to smother.  Also, the same basic framework can be applied to lots of different scenarios: does one flip a switch that will stop a train from hitting a bus of nuns only to have it run over 1 pick-pocket?  I give the train example in my COMP II class, and I always really like the responses.  Usually most of the class says that it's moral to flip the switch, and I usually get one student who says that the moral thing is not to touch the switch: they didn't set the course for the train, so it would immoral for her to change it, since then she would be the one committing murder.  

I'll also say that moral ambiguity doesn't necessarily relate to moral relativism.  I like questions of moral ambiguity, and I think they offer a lot of RPing opportunities.  I haven't thought much of how moral ambiguity would ruin the "heroic" aspects of a fantasy game, though.  That's some food for thought.  

Even though the game may have clearly delineated ideas of what constitutes good and evil, that doesn't mean that the players will come from the same set of biases, and I believe it would be unfair to penalize a player for having different ideas.  This doesn't excuse moral relativism, it just leaves the room open for interpretation.  This is precisely the reason why I use alignment specificially as a way for the players to understand the lense through which their characters see the world.

 



I believe we actually see alignment very much the same.

I should clarify my point: When players are given an alignment axis, and the universe works on that axis (as it is assumed to do by default), throwing moral curveballs and having them relate to that axis, is disingenuous.

Oh it seems terribly clever...but it's not. It's easy to make situations that screw people over. It's easy to set up things to suck the "heroic" out of the heroic fantasy style. In fact, I think it's ages of that that has made so many people have so many issues with alignment...they've been getting screwed over by DMs that think they're terribly clever when really they're just closet sadists combined with amateur novelists.

It's like comic book writing...there's a reason certain things DO an DON'T work. There's a reason things like Civil War over in Marvel was UNSUSTAINABLE...because the nature of a comic book with super heroes hinges on an amount of suspension of disbelief and the belief in good and evil as THINGS. When that is broken down and examined like a specimen of bacteria, it shatters. It is not pointing out the emperor has no clothes...it is ACTIVELY running up and ripping off the emperors clothes and then pointing and screaming "See! The Emperor never had clothes!"


I do not think that DMs should throw moral curve-balls at players in order to mess them up. I think that kind of action undermines the trust of the DM and limits the amount of fun to have at the table.  I do not advocate this.

That said, I think morally tough situations breed the same kind of thinking and challenge that tactically challenging situations do.  I think that increases the amount of fun at the table, and I like to use them.  Granted, my game is a little on the grittier side, but we are still what I would consider "high fantasy." 
Alignment is a decent rule of thumb for on-the-fly judgments, but doesn't hold up well under rigorous analysis by just about anyone who has passed an undergraduate-level philosophy course.

As for the OP issue of intention  v. action, it really depends on what framework you use to assess the world. If you're a consequentialist, intentions are irrelevant. If you're a non-consequentialist, intention matters a great deal. For the sake of keeping a game rolling though I tilt towards a consequentialist perspective (even though I myself am a non-consequentialist) because in the heat of the moment parsing what an orc "truly believes" isn't worth my mental energy.

If I want to develop a morally complex antagonist (such as a paladin commanding an invading army) then I will play with the non-consequentialist perspective a bit more. After all, Abraham Lincoln sure seems like a Neutral Evil dictator if you're a Confederate soldier circa 1864.  Alignment is really only as useful as your narrative requires, but it can be fun to occasionally turn expectations on their heads (even if on the whole I tend to veer away from labelling things as good or evil).
I really find it staggering how many people don't understand that in heroic fantasy good & evil are not subjective.



I... think that's as far as that diatribe needed to go. Someone on the first page did say (Centauri - I checked) "regardless of edition," which isn't correct.

In previous editions, alignment was an objective, universal force. There was a plane of Law. And a plane of Evil. Intent really didn't have a place, in older editions, just the action.

But that's how you also got the goblin baby and mom Paladin Dilemma. Oh, and toddler-plate mail. Things in the game broke (usually players) with such an axiomatic system of alignment. (I think I used that word right...) It made as many things as fun as it did not fun, and often just penalized people who played certain alignments.

4e fantasy is heroic fantasy, but the system has become a lot omre grey, and you don't see the trap moral choices like you used to. Well, not ones that would strip you of your powers on a DM whim, anyway. And it's probably better.

1-3x (objective) -- action > intent
4e (subjective) -- motivation = action

58286228 wrote:
As a DM, I find it easier to just punish the players no matter what they pick, as I assume they will pick stuff that is broken. I mean, fight after fight they kill all the monsters without getting killed themselves! What sort of a game is this, anyway?

 

An insightful observation about the nature of 4e, and why it hasn't succeeded as well as other editions. (from the DDN General Discussions, 2014-05-07)

Rundell wrote:

   

Emerikol wrote:

       

Foxface wrote:

        4e was the "modern" D&D, right?  The one that had design notes that drew from more modern games, and generally appealed to those who preferred the design priorities of modern games.  I'm only speculating, but I'd hazard a guess that those same 4e players are the ones running the wide gamut of other games at Origins.

       
        D&D 4e players are pretty much by definition the players who didn't mind, and often embraced, D&D being "different".  That willingness to embrace the different might also mean they are less attached to 4e itself, and are willing to go elsewhere.

    This is a brilliant insight.  I was thinking along those lines myself.  

 

    There are so many tiny indie games that if you added them all together they would definitely rival Pathfinder.   If there were a dominant game for those people it would do better but there is no dominant game.  Until 4e, the indie people were ignored by the makers of D&D.

 

Yep. 4E was embraced by the 'system matters' crowd who love analyzing and innovating systems. That crowd had turned its back on D&D as a clunky anachronism. But with 4E, their design values were embraced and validated. 4E was D&D for system-wonks. And with support for 4E pulled, the system-wonks have moved on to other systems. The tropes and traditions of D&D never had much appeal for them anyway. Now there are other systems to learn and study. It's like boardgamegeeks - always a new system on the horizon. Why play an ancient games that's seven years old?

 

Of course, not all people who play and enjoy 4E fit that mould. I'm running a 4E campaign right now, and my long-time D&D players are enjoying it fine. But with the system-wonks decamping, the 4E players-base lost the wind in its sails.

I do not think that DMs should throw moral curve-balls at players in order to mess them up. I think that kind of action undermines the trust of the DM and limits the amount of fun to have at the table.  I do not advocate this.

That said, I think morally tough situations breed the same kind of thinking and challenge that tactically challenging situations do.  I think that increases the amount of fun at the table, and I like to use them.  Granted, my game is a little on the grittier side, but we are still what I would consider "high fantasy." 



It DEFINITELY seems like we are on the same exact page.

Morally tough and morally ambiguous are very different. Morally ambiguous (with no "right" answer) actually implies a complete lack of answer that corresponds to the alignment system that governs the game universe. This ist the equivalent of a DM creating a "no win" situation as much as anything else placed there to screw over players for playing the game.

My games have lots of morally tough decisions...but not morally ambiguous. Like you said, it's a challenge.

A DM presenting a challenge where there is no actual "right" answer...or any real answer at all...is not a challenge. It is a jerk-move. At least as it applies to alignment. So, again, if you are using alignment you can't be giving situations that ONLY have morally ambiguous answers...if you are using situations that ONLY have morally ambigious then you cannot use alignment. I just stand by the fact that that is not a problem with the alignment system. It just is what it is. One doesn't bring a knife to a gun fight then complain when they can't shoot their opponent.

(Note I'm just using "you" generally, not towards you rednblack...like I said, I think we are actually on pretty much the same page)

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

1. i never railed against alignment, or said it was not working right.  I'm on the "its pointless" bandwagon.  I don't give a crap if you're chaotic evil or lawful good.  You work with the party.  If your choices start working at odds with what the rest of the group wants in a game, we have a timeout and fix it.  Alignment never enters the field.

2.  you took the "overly happy ending" in a way i didn't intend it....not your fault at all, i just didn't initially want to type out what i meant.  The basic idea that D&D should play out like a superhero (or even just "hero") story/movie fails to the fact that often thse stories are written by one person....this one person knows EXACTLY what the heroes will do, whether or not they'll make it in time, what choices will be presented to them, etc.  this one person knows this stuff because he is the sole author AND its being planned out ahead of time...ALL the roles, not just the villain's and bystander's roles.  boy it sure was convenient that spider-man was JUST fast/clever enough to save everyone involved....if that wasn't critting a few roles, i don't know what would be.  Its always SO SURPRISING (note the sarcasm) that the hero just happens to be lucky/good enough to thwart the entire idea of villains offering a choice between 2 drawbacks and having the hero choose one.  

If a red dragon is terrorizing the countryside, stealing livestock, occasionally burning to the ground a farmstead....with all farmhands inside.  And the party confronts said dragon.  Now, the PCs may very well beat the dragon, but the devastation of this climactic battle will kill countless more innocents.  The dragon (being an evil, yet intelligent being) offers the PCs a compromise.  Something like sacrificing an innocent every month and he will leave humanity alone (other than the once-a-month snack).

This situation is CLASSIC high-fantasy....to the extreme.  Do you see a soltuion with no evil at all?
If the party leaves the dragon alone, it continues preying on the town
If the party fights, a large number of people will likely be killed, but probably only once, assuming the PCs win.
If the party accepts the bargain, they sacrifice innocents
If the party tries to stall for time, evacuate the town, or otherwise fight the dragon on less-risky turf, they subject the town to more attacks in the meantime, plus possibly devastating results if the dragon deduces what they're doing.

THIS IS A CLASSIC HIGH-FANTASY SITUATION
removing the OPTION of a "choose the lesser evil" choice, which is VERY subjective, removes an entire sweeping playstyle from the game, which has been a staple of the genre since it's inception.            
I don't use alignment, it's a crappy system.

1) It constrains player choices especially when mechanics are involved.  It pidgeonholes them into a constraining, ill defined, annoying moral structure.  If a player is being punished by the mechanics for having their character do something that they think that character would do then that is anti-RP and we don't need any of that crap in the game.  

2) It causes arguments at the table.  At least in any campaign where any sort of moral ambiguity isn't immediatly being quashed by folks like Yagami.  Everybody has their own ideas about what is good or evil.  Any and all atempts to create a list of good and evil actions has failed miserably.  when the game puts lables onto good and evil then each person is going to argue that their own lables are the ones that should be enforced.

3) No two people who defend alignment think it works in the same way.  Seriously if nobody can even decide how it should work in the first place why is it hardcoded into the games rules?  Yagami is a pretty obvious example of someone who a lot of the alignment defenders on this forum and others like ENworld would point to as "Doing it wrong." Is he doing it wrong?  No of course not.  Because there is no way to do it right so there can be no ways of doing it wrong.

4) It adds nothing to the game.  If I want to have a really black and white, good vs evil campaign then I can run that just as easily without alignment rules. If I want a more realistic and ambigious moral campaign then alignment rules activly get in the way.  And plenty of proponents of alignment in general are against the alignment mechanics like the detect spells.  

5) Alignment based spells and restrictions are the worst thing to happen to the game ever. They can break campaigns of intrigue or mystery very easily. Or piss off players if DMs allow players to take them then don't allow them to do what it says on the tin, i.e. actually detect somebodies alignment. and this all makes things crappy.
I really find it staggering how many people don't understand that in heroic fantasy good & evil are not subjective.



I... think that's as far as that diatribe needed to go. Someone on the first page did say (Centauri - I checked) "regardless of edition," which isn't correct.

In previous editions, alignment was an objective, universal force. There was a plane of Law. And a plane of Evil. Intent really didn't have a place, in older editions, just the action.

But that's how you also got the goblin baby and mom Paladin Dilemma. Oh, and toddler-plate mail. Things in the game broke (usually players) with such an axiomatic system of alignment. (I think I used that word right...) It made as many things as fun as it did not fun, and often just penalized people who played certain alignments.

4e fantasy is heroic fantasy, but the system has become a lot omre grey, and you don't see the trap moral choices like you used to. Well, not ones that would strip you of your powers on a DM whim, anyway. And it's probably better.

1-3x (objective) -- action > intent
4e (subjective) -- motivation = action



Let's just clear one thing up...

You do realize any goblin babies & moms were placed there by someone, right?

There is NOTHING about alignment that causes those situations. **** with people is what causes those situations. Presenting no-win scenarios in a HEROIC fantasy game is what causes those situations. It has nothing to do with alignment and everything to do with the person setting up the situation doing so for their own jollies to screw with people.

NOTHING broke. Nothing is broken. This is the equivalent of saying, by design, knifes are going to stab people. It is the nature of knives. Nope, definitely doesn't have anything to do with a person using that knife. Nah.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

I mostly lurk, but I had to jump in because these alignment threads are coming up a ton lately. So I figured maybe I'm missing out on something because we don't use alignment currently in our game. Why do we need alignment in the game? What will it do to make our game better?
1. i never railed against alignment, or said it was not working right.  I'm on the "its pointless" bandwagon.  I don't give a crap if you're chaotic evil or lawful good.  You work with the party.  If your choices start working at odds with what the rest of the group wants in a game, we have a timeout and fix it.  Alignment never enters the field.

2.  you took the "overly happy ending" in a way i didn't intend it....not your fault at all, i just didn't initially want to type out what i meant.  The basic idea that D&D should play out like a superhero (or even just "hero") story/movie fails to the fact that often thse stories are written by one person....this one person knows EXACTLY what the heroes will do, whether or not they'll make it in time, what choices will be presented to them, etc.  this one person knows this stuff because he is the sole author AND its being planned out ahead of time...ALL the roles, not just the villain's and bystander's roles.  boy it sure was convenient that spider-man was JUST fast/clever enough to save everyone involved....if that wasn't critting a few roles, i don't know what would be.  Its always SO SURPRISING (note the sarcasm) that the hero just happens to be lucky/good enough to thwart the entire idea of villains offering a choice between 2 drawbacks and having the hero choose one.  

If a red dragon is terrorizing the countryside, stealing livestock, occasionally burning to the ground a farmstead....with all farmhands inside.  And the party confronts said dragon.  Now, the PCs may very well beat the dragon, but the devastation of this climactic battle will kill countless more innocents.  The dragon (being an evil, yet intelligent being) offers the PCs a compromise.  Something like sacrificing an innocent every month and he will leave humanity alone (other than the once-a-month snack).

This situation is CLASSIC high-fantasy....to the extreme.  Do you see a soltuion with no evil at all?
If the party leaves the dragon alone, it continues preying on the town
If the party fights, a large number of people will likely be killed, but probably only once, assuming the PCs win.
If the party accepts the bargain, they sacrifice innocents
If the party tries to stall for time, evacuate the town, or otherwise fight the dragon on less-risky turf, they subject the town to more attacks in the meantime, plus possibly devastating results if the dragon deduces what they're doing.

THIS IS A CLASSIC HIGH-FANTASY SITUATION
removing the OPTION of a "choose the lesser evil" choice, which is VERY subjective, removes an entire sweeping playstyle from the game, which has been a staple of the genre since it's inception.            



Your situation is GOOD. In that it is a good, meaty situation to sink teeth into.

What answer do you want to the situation? The Lawful Good one?

Here's a great Lawful Good solution to that problem. "Fine, beast. We will deliver to you ONE innocent a month. You will not harm anyone else. Deal?" The dragon agrees to this (as per your situation)...the PCs walk out. Everyone else is surprised by the LAWFUL GOOD Paladin agreeing to such terms and he replies, angrily, "-I- will be the innocent the party delivers next month. We have a month to get strong enough or smart enough to slay this monster...or, at the very least, when it eats me, I'll stick in its throat and choke it to death"

There. Bad situation. Lawful Good action taken. No Evil.

Hell, my answer even lets the paladin keep his word even though he's under no obligation to do so to an evil monster.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

I mostly lurk, but I had to jump in because these alignment threads are coming up a ton lately. So I figured maybe I'm missing out on something because we don't use alignment currently in our game. Why do we need alignment in the game? What will it do to make our game better?



It can give you the opportunity to present interesting decisions to your players in a more tangible context. It allows them to ask things like "Would X be Good if I did it?" or it allows you to say "So you know, Y is an Evil act". As long as you present no expectations to the players about what THEIR characters would do it can give them an extra layer to their choices. For some people that is very fun because it lets them counter balance impulse and/or their characters personal quirks.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

It can give you the opportunity to present interesting decisions to your players in a more tangible context. It allows them to ask things like "Would X be Good if I did it?" or it allows you to say "So you know, Y is an Evil act". As long as you present no expectations to the players about what THEIR characters would do it can give them an extra layer to their choices. For some people that is very fun because it lets them counter balance impulse and/or their characters personal quirks.



I see. We have these kinds of discussions anyway and don't use alignment rules. How do the rules or mechanics help make it better?
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