How to properly use Alignment, How not to...

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Alignment seem to be one of hottest debate.  I don't quite understand why.  I can only assume those who are anti had really bad experience implementing it.  Those who are not, not so bad experience.  Instead of arguing the "nature" of alignment or it's necessity, discussing how to properly use it in game and how not to use it seems to me the fruitful discussion for DM's and Players combined.

Lets start with this basic agreement:  Alignment is part of DND (not as an absolute statement).  Players didn't invent them.  DND book did.  I rarely hear of alignment in any other game except DND, nor defined in such great detail.  I think DND invented the word "Alignment".  I never heard the word used except in DND.  Probably because DND has it's own Patheons that are intimately tied to it's world setting, which in turn expands that world setting into numerous different planes.

Players & DM's may not want it, like it, or hate it, or feel it's totally useless.  And that is alright.  You are not wrong.  You are right.  But it exists, and I can't fantom how one can play DND in it's world setting (Pantheon based) and be able to completely cut out alignment and it's effects.

We all implement "alignment" to a certain degree.  I am sure of it.  Unless your game completely ignores any interaction with the existing Patheons or their followers.  But that wouldn't be DND world.  It would be a home-brewed world.

To ignore is easy.  To properly implement and add flavor of salt to the game as it was intented instead of poison...that takes insightful DMs and players alike.

Instead of debating definition of "good" or "evil" or "Alignment in game is useless & bad", why not discuss, How to properly use it, and how not to?

I will start with one method on how a DM and Players can make alignment work w/out causing DM/Player arguments.  I think there is a misunderstanding how "alignment" suppose to work in the game if it causes arguments:

How a pc defines his/her alignment is not important to the "game".  It's only important to the player.  How the world around the pc, defines the pc's alignment is the crux.   The world is represented by the DM.  Then how the DM defines the players alignment based on his/her continued beliefs, actions & intentions through out the games, defines the players alignment...when alignment matters.  The player can believe whatever he/she wants to believe and behave how ever he/she wants to behave regardless what alignment he/she believes he/she is.  That's not important.  It's how the world around the pc perceives the pc's alignment that really is the crux when it comes to "alignments".

As with everything else in the game, in a way that is interesting and creative, rather than punitive and controlling. Some D&D rules can be interpreted as specifically telling the DM and players they're allowed to be punitive and controlling, but fortunately nothing requires it.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

You are a saint for bringing this topic out of the darkness and into the light. It has been too long since we last discussed alignment on these forums. Thank you!

I will get us started with some new territory that has never been discussed: How do we correctly interpret Batman's alignment?
You are a saint for bringing this topic out of the darkness and into the light. It has been too long since we last discussed alignment on these forums. Thank you!

I will get us started with some new territory that has never been discussed: How do we correctly interpret Batman's alignment?



No no.  I think we already answered that one.  Batman is "lawful"....whatever in his own mind.

Its not a argument over Batman's alignment or "need for an alignment" or definition of good and evil, or anything like that.

"How to use alignment properly", & "How not to use..."  is the insightful, DM and Player dicussion I would like to see. 
It is not an argument over what Batman's alignment is. If there is a way to use alignment properly, then everyone should know what alignment Batman is. This means there is concensus and fact about Batman's alignment that is not subjective interpretation. I believe it is true. Nobody disagrees about what alignment Batman is, right?
Please.. no arguments about anything other then:

Dungeon Masters:

How to use alignments properly.
How not to use alignments. 

Do's and Don'ts.  Thats worthy of sharing based on individual DM's experience.

If you don't use alignments at ALL... then there is no need to post. 
It is not an argument over what Batman's alignment is. If there is a way to use alignment properly, then everyone should know what alignment Batman is. This means there is concensus and fact about Batman's alignment that is not subjective interpretation. I believe it is true. Nobody disagrees about what alignment Batman is, right?

I hate to say it, Yokel, but you're the one escalating things here. Throttle back.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

oh good lay down the ground rules, now there's no way the thread can go off the tracks in another horrible derailment
It is not an argument over what Batman's alignment is. If there is a way to use alignment properly, then everyone should know what alignment Batman is. This means there is concensus and fact about Batman's alignment that is not subjective interpretation. I believe it is true. Nobody disagrees about what alignment Batman is, right?

I hate to say it, Yokel, but you're the one escalating things here. Throttle back.



I don't understand. Maybe I say it differently: If Batman is a character in a game, how does the DM use his alignment properly?
It is not an argument over what Batman's alignment is. If there is a way to use alignment properly, then everyone should know what alignment Batman is. This means there is concensus and fact about Batman's alignment that is not subjective interpretation. I believe it is true. Nobody disagrees about what alignment Batman is, right?

I hate to say it, Yokel, but you're the one escalating things here. Throttle back.

I don't understand. Maybe I say it differently: If Batman is a character in a game, how does the DM use his alignment properly?

Nah. Try another approach. They're prepared for this one.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

You are making this very hard Centauri. Okay let me think,,,

You know me. I'm a real blocker.

Batman wants to burn down a brothel in the game. What happens to his alignment if the DM is using alignment properly?

I'm pretty sure I read that issue, and I'm pretty sure something awesome resulted from it. And that's all a DM has to do, for alignment or anything else: find the awesome. It might take talking to the players to figure out what possible awesome there is, but it's almost certainly in there. If it's not, everyone's wasting everyone else's time and should go do something else, probably with other people.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

Instead of arguing the "nature" of alignment or it's necessity, discussing how to properly use it in game and how not to use it seems to me the fruitful discussion for DM's and Players combined.



This looks to be fun.

Lets start with this basic agreement:  Alignment is part of DND.



Alright.  Alignment is a part of D&D.  I can agree to that.

How a pc defines his/her alignment is not important to the "game".  It's only important to the player.  How the world around the pc, defines the pc's alignment is the crux.   The world is represented by the DM.  Then how the DM defines the players alignment based on his/her continued beliefs, actions & intentions through out the games, defines the players alignment...when alignment matters.  The player can believe whatever he/she wants to believe and behave how ever he/she wants to behave regardless what alignment he/she believes he/she is.  That's not important.  It's how the world around the pc perceives the pc's alignment that really is the crux when it comes to "alignments".



I accept the paragraph above as a very good thing.  It's what I do.

When players make their characters, if they want to have an alignment they can pick it, otherwise they don't, I don't care whether they do or don't.

I, as the DM (and as the "world around the PC"), then base what I believe their alignment is upon what they do or don't do.  I'm the metaphoric St Peter keeping the books for Judgment Day, so to speak.  I don't consult with my players as to what is Right or Wrong — nobody knows the Universal Truths anyway, without consulting directly with the divine, why would my players' characters?  As mortals in the Real World, we each have our own opinions — based on experience, or learning, or instinct, or whatever each individual draws upon.  Same with the characters.  Their characters might think they are fodoing Good but are actually doing Evil; or vice versa.   Why in the world should they be priviledged enough to see the balance sheet before they needed to?

Now, if they had a direct talk with a deity who was honest with them about it?  I'd probably tell them.  If they asked what their culture thought?  I'd tell them that (though actually, now, I'd probaby be more likely to ask them what they think their culture thinks).  Otherwise, its for them to think one way and me to think another.  Maybe they're right about some things, maybe they're wrong.  They won't know unless/until it actually matters — which it probably won't, but you never know.
You are making this very hard Centauri. Okay let me think,,,

Batman wants to burn down a brothel in the game. What happens to his alignment if the DM is using alignment properly?



Batman does not "want to" do something.
Batman does it.
Instead of arguing the "nature" of alignment or it's necessity, discussing how to properly use it in game and how not to use it seems to me the fruitful discussion for DM's and Players combined.



This looks to be fun.

Lets start with this basic agreement:  Alignment is part of DND.



Alright.  Alignment is a part of D&D.  I can agree to that.

How a pc defines his/her alignment is not important to the "game".  It's only important to the player.  How the world around the pc, defines the pc's alignment is the crux.   The world is represented by the DM.  Then how the DM defines the players alignment based on his/her continued beliefs, actions & intentions through out the games, defines the players alignment...when alignment matters.  The player can believe whatever he/she wants to believe and behave how ever he/she wants to behave regardless what alignment he/she believes he/she is.  That's not important.  It's how the world around the pc perceives the pc's alignment that really is the crux when it comes to "alignments".



I accept the paragraph above as a very good thing.  It's what I do.

When players make their characters, if they want to have an alignment they can pick it, otherwise they don't, I don't care whether they do or don't.

I, as the DM (and as the "world around the PC"), then base what I believe their alignment is upon what they do or don't do.  I'm the metaphoric St Peter keeping the books for Judgment Day, so to speak.  I don't consult with my players as to what is Right or Wrong — nobody knows the Universal Truths anyway, without consulting directly with the divine, why would my players' characters?  As mortals in the Real World, we each have our own opinions — based on experience, or learning, or instinct, or whatever each individual draws upon.  Same with the characters.  Their characters might think they are fodoing Good but are actually doing Evil; or vice versa.   Why in the world should they be priviledged enough to see the balance sheet before they needed to?

Now, if they had a direct talk with a deity who was honest with them about it?  I'd probably tell them.  If they asked what their culture thought?  I'd tell them that (though actually, now, I'd probaby be more likely to ask them what they think their culture thinks).  Otherwise, its for them to think one way and me to think another.  Maybe they're right about some things, maybe they're wrong.  They won't know unless/until it actually matters — which it probably won't, but you never know.



This is what I am talking about.  Absolutely correct.  Now to use this to answer Yokel's questions about batman & burnt brothel.  Batman may think he is lawful good whatever.  In Yagami's world setting as the DM, he will define Batman to be Lawful good, so in his world, everyone may interact with the Batman in such a way.  In Yokel's world setting as the DM, he may define that to be evil, and in Yokel's world setting, everyone may interact with Baman in such a way.  Neither is wrong.  What can't be argued is whoever is playing the "batman", how he/she should feel about his/her charactor, the batman's alignment.  He/she can decide it to be anything, & it don't matter.  Only matters to the player, not to the World Setting. 

What alignment the player chooses & how the player behaves is in the Players Realm.
How the world around the pc interacts with the player regarding players behavior & beliefs is in the DM's Realm.

These two realm shouldn't at all clash.  When the DM starts to mess around with the Players Realm, and vice versa, then you got arguments.


What alignment the player chooses & how the player behaves is in the Players Realm.
How the world around the pc interacts with the player regarding players behavior & beliefs is in the DM's Realm.

These two realm shouldn't at all clash.  When it does, then you got arguments. 


I will agree to the above with one exception: Saul of Tarsus, George Bailey, and similar tropes of that sort.

There may be some reason — the player actually wants it, or the character happens to have an audience with some deity where it comes up — that some sort of "seeing the light" sort of thing occurs.  Maybe it's someone who thought he was doing Good and discovers he wasn't (Saul of Tarsus).  Or maybe it's someone who thought he'd been doing Bad, and discovering all the Good he's done (George Bailey).  Or maybe its simply an affirmation that they're on the course the want to be on (couldn't think of any off the top of my head).

This sort of Revelation, in my mind, would be the only valid time for a character — or a player, for that matter — to "know" that line.  (Though I'll also note that each individual deity might have different points of view on the subject; what Avandra thinks is Good and what Bane thinks is Good are too different things.)  Otherwise, not their concern what I think. 
So one of the first "how not to"..

DM shouldn't force players to play according to whatever player alignment he/she chose.  That's players realm.

Players shouldn't argue with the DM why the DM's world (including the panteon) is responding to them in a way that may be contrary to what they think the world & pantheon should respond because of their "choice" of alignment... That's DM's realm.
Isn't that where the argument come from though? Player think one thing, DM think another? NPCs start to act like my PC is evil when I don't think I did anything evil?
Isn't that where the argument come from though? Player think one thing, DM think another? NPCs start to act like my PC is evil when I don't think I did anything evil?



But it is the DM's world setting.  Just as the DM shouldn't tell a player how to play the PC.  Player really shouldn't tell the DM how to play their NPC.  If the player wants the DM to change how the npc responds to them.. then equally the DM can tell the player how the player should respond with the world.  Both is bad.

This is true in RL as well.  A person may think he/she should be luved by everyone because he/she thinks he/she is "perfect" to them.  But reality is everyone may not luv the person, because everyone else don't think he/she is "perfect"...matter of factly they may feel he/she is narcisstic.

There shouldn't be any conflict when Players and DM's don't try intervene into each other's Realm.

 
What alignment the player chooses & how the player behaves is in the Players Realm.
How the world around the pc interacts with the player regarding players behavior & beliefs is in the DM's Realm.

These two realm shouldn't at all clash.  When it does, then you got arguments. 


I will agree to the above with one exception: Saul of Tarsus, George Bailey, and similar tropes of that sort.

There may be some reason — the player actually wants it, or the character happens to have an audience with some deity where it comes up — that some sort of "seeing the light" sort of thing occurs.  Maybe it's someone who thought he was doing Good and discovers he wasn't (Saul of Tarsus).  Or maybe it's someone who thought he'd been doing Bad, and discovering all the Good he's done (George Bailey).  Or maybe its simply an affirmation that they're on the course the want to be on (couldn't think of any off the top of my head).

This sort of Revelation, in my mind, would be the only valid time for a character — or a player, for that matter — to "know" that line.  (Though I'll also note that each individual deity might have different points of view on the subject; what Avandra thinks is Good and what Bane thinks is Good are too different things.)  Otherwise, not their concern what I think. 



Absolutely.  So the DM controls the deity.  Diety is the npc.  The DM can determine how this npc responds to the pc based on DM's interpretation of PC's actions, intentions throughout the game/s in his world setting, compared to the deity's charactor and portfolio and respond accordingly.  How the PC responds to the deity, is totally up to the pc.  The pc can fling a middle finger and tell the diety to shove it... or decide to kiss up to get what the pc wants.  

Another How Not to:  Players should'n't use alignment to demand certain rights or response from npc's based on his/her definition of his actions.   I mean... we can't do that in RL.  When do we ever go into a store and tell the clerk, I am such a good person, I help the poor alot, do all these good things make all these sacrifices (this can be totally true).... I demand you respect me and show me favors, and let me have this ham sandwich.  Do we get mad when clerk denies us?
I don't think that everyone who is against alignment has had problems implementing it, nor have they necessarily had bad experiences.  I personally have found that I just don't want alignment hard-coded into certain rules because in previous editions (not 4e, obviously) it precluded many fantasy archetypes that I feel should have been perfectly viable.  It is also an attempt to make absolutes out of concepts that have potential grey areas, and those grey areas make it hard not to end up coloring them with one's personal interpretation of "is this good or evil?"  There are some parts of alignment that can be objective, but there are equal numbers of subjective points that can result in problems when dealing with older editions' rules that effectively allow the DM to say that a player is suddenly deprived of class powers, ability to level up in their chosen class, or their ability to use certain spells, magic items, etc.

This is the aspect that makes many people say "This rule system inhibits my/my players' freedom to create interesting, organic characters, or inhibits players from doing what they truly want to do/what's according to the PC's personality, because they don't want to risk their powers."

Also, even the OP's statement that alignment might be the result of D&D's pantheons tied to their settings doesn't really hold water in my view; although there are alignments tied to the deities, there is also a strong description of the deities' behavior and nature that can often do more to interpret how a PC should express themselves as a follower of that deity, or what makes up the worship of that deity.  It is, as I pointed out, a far more organic character development to focus on how the player interprets the description of the deity's beliefs and nature rather than simply "this god is good, this goddess is evil."  That's only a very tiny aspect of the deity's being.  In 3.x Ed., I honestly felt that even their chosen weapon could help define more about the deity than their alignment ever did.

In 4e, there are full descriptions of the various deities' tenets of the faith, which basically says that this is what a worshipper of this deity does to express their faith.  Doing things counter to these tenets--particularly on a repeat basis--is likely to result in you being viewed as a heretic, and get the church turned against you.  Easily handled, without needing to drag alignment into the picture.  It's not a matter of an "evil" action turning a "good" deity's church against you.  As an example: "you became an oppressive tyrant who crushes the freedom of others, so the church of Avandra has excommunicated you and wants you dealt with in some fashion for abusing power they once gifted you with in the name of their goddess and her faith."

Also, to the OP...I think you do not understand the meaning of "homebrewed world," based upon the context of how you use it.  A homebrewed world is simply any setting that the DM (often with input from their players) has created for their players to interact with as opposed to a published setting (Forgotten Realms, Ebberon, Dark Sun).  It is still a D&D world, because it uses the D&D rules system to implement actual play.  If we were to use your definition (a world with no interactions with a pantheon of deities or their followers) then by that statement, Dark Sun wouldn't be D&D.  You are perhaps thinking of a homebrewed system, which may build off the baseline of D&D, but in the end is nothing like its starting base.  There have been homebrew worlds created by D&D players for ages that have no/low magic, or no divine classes/deities, or do not allow certain races, or completely rewrite class or race descriptions until nothing remains but their stats/abilities, and yet they are still D&D worlds.  It's just that they are singular to each individual gaming group.

I will agree that alignment only matters in how the world around the PC views it.  The issue is, the world is defined by the DM, and as the DM is only human, they can't help but have at least some of their own lens defining how they view the smaller, more mutable aspects of good and evil.  Thus, as opponents of alignment will argue, they may pick up on small things that the player does not, and inform the player that they are not meeting up to the DM's interpretation of their alignment.  This was potentially a much more severe issue in previous editions, naturally, because this could suddenly render a PC of a certain class entirely powerless, or make them lose a level, or be unable to level, etc.

It is not truly an issue of the player not being able to play the character as they want, although as some have pointed out, it could indeed result in players who refused to act as they'd described their PC's mannerisms might lead them to out of fear that it would result in their alignment being changed as a result.  It is an issue of the DM having the power to strip a PC's power due to their interpretation of good and evil trumping the players'.  The idea that "players and DMs shouldn't try to intervene in each other's Realms" is problematic, because if the players don't have some say into how things like good and evil in the DM's setting are interpreted, then they don't know what actions could potentially devastate their PC.

I see alignment as a guideline for roleplaying purposes only.  It's akin to picking a race, the book can give advice but it's not nor should be a straightjacket for the player in question.  It is suggested that someone playing a dwarf has certain cultural beliefs and opinion, but it's not absolute.  That player can change these believes as they see fit.  In some ways it can make their character more interesting to others. 


Example: I have an RPGA character that is an Half-Orc Avenger who was found and raised by those who pray to Corellon.  So people initially see an half-orc until he speaks to them in perfect elven tongue, acts like an Elf in many regards and has a seething hatred for Orcs and those to pray to Gruumsh.  I gave him some half-orc traits that I view as inherit but his culture is elven.  I view Avengers as beings who do the dirty work of the deity they choose to serve, so I selected his alignment as Unaligned.


I find the problem isn't of people own opinions of alignment in the game, its when these opinions don't agree and each person attempts to enforce ther opinion on someone else that the problem arises.  Also if a DM has in-game consequences for certian types of actions this can be intrepretated as punishing a player's character for their alignment selection.


Example: A DM creates a kingdom.  That DM designes this kingdom with a culture, economy, government, laws etc.  By having laws  and government it also has a means to enforce those laws should they be broken.  If a character breaks those laws while in that kingdom are they subject to the penalty?  If a DM chooses an basic alignment for that kingdom, is that DM punishing that character in-game for their own alignment selection when enforcing consequences on breaking the rules of that kingdom laws?


To some this might seem cut and dry but to other it may not.  I ask this question because I see this as a potential issue.


How do we correctly interpret Batman's alignment?


If I had to chose an alignment for Batman in the confines of Dungeons & Dragons alignments, I would probably choose Lawful NeutralThis is due to my inprepretation of alignments.  Batman adheres to his own personal code of justice.  This code allows him to work with those who work within the system of the law as well as for himself to work outside that same system.  He is a symbol of order to many.  Also if you intrepret the Joker is Chaotic Neutral then they are opposing each other.


If you don't agree with my opinion on Batman's alignment that is cool.   It's merely my opinion, nothing more.  I'm not looking for an argument on tihs one, just trying to help

So one of the first "how not to"..

DM shouldn't force players to play according to whatever player alignment he/she chose.  That's players realm.

Right.

Players shouldn't argue with the DM why the DM's world (including the panteon) is responding to them in a way that may be contrary to what they think the world & pantheon should respond because of their "choice" of alignment... That's DM's realm.

Not quite true. Or anyway, not worth relying on to be true.

Isn't that where the argument come from though? Player think one thing, DM think another? NPCs start to act like my PC is evil when I don't think I did anything evil?

But it is the DM's world setting.

You didn't answer the question, and the answer is "Yes, this is where the argument comes through, because that's how DMs try to control and punish players."

Just as the DM shouldn't tell a player how to play the PC.  Player really shouldn't tell the DM how to play their NPC.  If the player wants the DM to change how the npc responds to them.. then equally the DM can tell the player how the player should respond with the world.  Both is bad.

No, that symmetry does not exist. NPCs are not the same as PCs. Each player generally gets only a single NPC, and traditionally that's their only way to interface with the world. Therefore, we let the player have free rein with their character. Traditionally, the DM has all the NPCs and the entire rest of the world to run, and so giving up some of that control does not appreciably impact the DM's contribution.

The issue here is what this set up. It's giving the DM a loophole: they can't control the character, but they're "allowed" to control everything else around the character. They can't make the player play the character's alignment, but they can make the player miserable for not doing so.

This is wrong. There should be consequences for actions, but these always need to be creative and interesting, and never punitive and controlling.

There shouldn't be any conflict when Players and DM's don't try intervene into each other's Realm.

But there is, because there is allowed to be.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

I don't think that everyone who is against alignment has had problems implementing it, nor have they necessarily had bad experiences.  I personally have found that I just don't want alignment hard-coded into certain rules because in previous editions (not 4e, obviously) it precluded many fantasy archetypes that I feel should have been perfectly viable.  It is also an attempt to make absolutes out of concepts that have potential grey areas, and those grey areas make it hard not to end up coloring them with one's personal interpretation of "is this good or evil?"  There are some parts of alignment that can be objective, but there are equal numbers of subjective points that can result in problems when dealing with older editions' rules that effectively allow the DM to say that a player is suddenly deprived of class powers, ability to level up in their chosen class, or their ability to use certain spells, magic items, etc.

This is the aspect that makes many people say "This rule system inhibits my/my players' freedom to create interesting, organic characters, or inhibits players from doing what they truly want to do/what's according to the PC's personality, because they don't want to risk their powers."

Also, even the OP's statement that alignment might be the result of D&D's pantheons tied to their settings doesn't really hold water in my view; although there are alignments tied to the deities, there is also a strong description of the deities' behavior and nature that can often do more to interpret how a PC should express themselves as a follower of that deity, or what makes up the worship of that deity.  It is, as I pointed out, a far more organic character development to focus on how the player interprets the description of the deity's beliefs and nature rather than simply "this god is good, this goddess is evil."  That's only a very tiny aspect of the deity's being.  In 3.x Ed., I honestly felt that even their chosen weapon could help define more about the deity than their alignment ever did.

In 4e, there are full descriptions of the various deities' tenets of the faith, which basically says that this is what a worshipper of this deity does to express their faith.  Doing things counter to these tenets--particularly on a repeat basis--is likely to result in you being viewed as a heretic, and get the church turned against you.  Easily handled, without needing to drag alignment into the picture.  It's not a matter of an "evil" action turning a "good" deity's church against you.  As an example: "you became an oppressive tyrant who crushes the freedom of others, so the church of Avandra has excommunicated you and wants you dealt with in some fashion for abusing power they once gifted you with in the name of their goddess and her faith."

Also, to the OP...I think you do not understand the meaning of "homebrewed world," based upon the context of how you use it.  A homebrewed world is simply any setting that the DM (often with input from their players) has created for their players to interact with as opposed to a published setting (Forgotten Realms, Ebberon, Dark Sun).  It is still a D&D world, because it uses the D&D rules system to implement actual play.  If we were to use your definition (a world with no interactions with a pantheon of deities or their followers) then by that statement, Dark Sun wouldn't be D&D.  You are perhaps thinking of a homebrewed system, which may build off the baseline of D&D, but in the end is nothing like its starting base.  There have been homebrew worlds created by D&D players for ages that have no/low magic, or no divine classes/deities, or do not allow certain races, or completely rewrite class or race descriptions until nothing remains but their stats/abilities, and yet they are still D&D worlds.  It's just that they are singular to each individual gaming group.

I will agree that alignment only matters in how the world around the PC views it.  The issue is, the world is defined by the DM, and as the DM is only human, they can't help but have at least some of their own lens defining how they view the smaller, more mutable aspects of good and evil.  Thus, as opponents of alignment will argue, they may pick up on small things that the player does not, and inform the player that they are not meeting up to the DM's interpretation of their alignment.  This was potentially a much more severe issue in previous editions, naturally, because this could suddenly render a PC of a certain class entirely powerless, or make them lose a level, or be unable to level, etc.  It is not truly an issue of the player not being able to play the character as they want, although as some have pointed out, it could indeed result in players who refused to act as they'd described their PC's mannerisms might lead them to out of fear that it would result in their alignment being changed as a result.  It is an issue of the DM having the power to strip a PC's power due to their interpretation of good and evil trumping the players'.



I agree.  Excellent insight.  I think we can broaden the how to's and how not to's.  I truly think it's the DM's job to use alignments properly & insightfully, more then players.  Alignment as a tool going sour.. it's really our fault DM's, more then players.  Lets take responsibility.

1. Players shouldn't try to change the DM's perception of alignment.  Dm shouldn't try to change the players perception of alignment.  Perceptions will greatly differ between individuals.  Even in RL we all differ.  It don't require that Dm and Players all come into a unanimous agreement for it to work, so we shouldn't try.

Alignment is really a tool.. a tool of "response" mechanism by npc's in their respective world setting towards the pc's.  DM only controls the npc responses.  Player only controls the player responses.  Thats it.  Simple.   

2.  DM shouldn't use punishments in regards to alignment that interferes with the over-all enjoyment of the game by the player.  Stripping one's power away as "punishment" which is not the core plot of the campaign and ruin's the player's fun is vindictive & baaad Dm'ing.  It should never be used as a personal out-of-game punishment dished out in-game in an attempt to change a player's perception.  Absolutely never.

  


1. Players shouldn't try to change the DM's perception of alignment.  Dm shouldn't try to change the players perception of alignment.  Perceptions will greatly differ between individuals.  Even in RL we all differ.  It don't require that Dm and Players all come into a unanimous agreement for it to work, so we shouldn't try.

I don't think this will do enough. When a player "needs" a target to be of a certain alignment, the player can and should make a case for why the target is of that certain alignment. In 3.5, its as much as robbing a paladin of smite evil for the DM to get technical with the player's idea of evil. 4e gave radiant vulnerability to targets that are the paladin's traditional targets, and this mechanic works no matter how the target behaves.

Alignment is really a tool.. a tool of "response" mechanism by npc's in their respective world setting towards the pc's.

This doesn't hold water. Alignment is not necessary for a DM to figure out how an NPC will react toward a PC, and anyway an NPC generally wouldn't know a PC's alignment (though in a world with alignment, knowing that about someone would be so vitally important that you'd think people would just evolve it. There's already some indication that humans have evolved ways to detect "evil" individuals.)

DM only controls the npc responses.  Player only controls the player responses.  Thats it.  Simple.

Too simple. This has known issues. Anyway, there's clearly some range of minor NPC response that PCs can handle without the DM. Other DMs can expand on this as they see fit.

2.  DM shouldn't use punishments in regards to alignment that interferes with the over-all enjoyment of the game by the player.  Stripping one's power away as "punishment" which is not the core plot of the campaign and ruin's the player's fun is vindictive & baaad Dm'ing.  It should never be used as a personal out-of-game punishment dished out in-game in an attempt to change a player's perception.  Absolutely never.

Correct. The guiding light should be "interesting consequences." If a player thinks it would be interesting for their character to lose their alignment, then that's certainly what should happen, but if they don't then it's the DM trying to be punitive and controlling, and it has become an issue that needs to be handled outside the rules.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

1. Players shouldn't try to change the DM's perception of alignment.  Dm shouldn't try to change the players perception of alignment.  Perceptions will greatly differ between individuals.  Even in RL we all differ.  It don't require that Dm and Players all come into a unanimous agreement for it to work, so we shouldn't try.

I don't think this will do enough. When a player "needs" a target to be of a certain alignment, the player can and should make a case for why the target is of that certain alignment. In 3.5, its as much as robbing a paladin of smite evil for the DM to get technical with the player's idea of evil. 4e gave radiant vulnerability to targets that are the paladin's traditional targets, and this mechanic works no matter how the target behaves.



What the player "needs" or "wants" and what the player actually "gets" is a seperate thing.  I can need or want this job... whether I end up getting it is not up to me.  Nor should I expect a guarentee that I get this job regardless what I feel my qualifications are.  It's up to the person hiring me.  

Same way, just because pc's alignment is same as the npc's alignment does not = pc gets what he wants or needs out of the npc everytime pc asks.  This is how alignment can be misdefined, misused & mishandled like a cookie cutter decision maker by both players and the DMs.  

Players realm:  Player chooses he is lawful good, feels have done lawful deeds in line with his lawful deity, and comes to the LG npc cleric of same diety and "needs" something from him.  It's all true to the player.  

Dm realm:  Response of the npc LG cleric.  He heard some acts pc did that he is not too happy about.  Tells the pc what they are, and for the moment denies the pc what he "needs".

Bad Player Response:  PC argues with the DM why this npc feels this way.  Based on alignment alone, pc expects this npc should give him what he "needs" (interfering into DM's realm).  I can also argue with the person hiring me for my job too after I'm denied... don't mean I get it.  Expecting it 100% based on just my perspective probably = I need medication.

Good Response:  PC takes that for whatever its worth.  Makes the necessary skill checks, DC set by the DM, to change this npc's decision.  Makes the checks, wins him over.  Does not make the checks, don't win him over.  PC is serious about his actions so confides in the npc cleric what he can do to atone for those supposed actions... takes npc's advice for whatever it's worth to the pc, or PC decides... f'u cleric and takes what he "needs" by force.

PC's actions, decisions are in the players realm.  Dm's handling of npc's responses in his world setting towards the players and their actions & decisions is in the Dm's realm.  Both should respect each other's realm.

What the player "needs" or "wants" and what the player actually "gets" is a seperate thing.

I'm not talking about characters getting their way. Characters can and should fail, but the failure still needs to be interesting, for the sake of the player.

  I can need or want this job... whether I end up getting it is not up to me.  Nor should I expect a guarentee that I get this job regardless what I feel my qualifications are.  It's up to the person hiring me.

Alright, look: D&D isn't real life, it's a game, and what a player "needs" or "wants" is to have fun with the time they're spending. So, okay, fine, the player doesn't control the DM's characters, but the DM should consider the players' fun when deciding to how to control the NPCs. This can and sometimes should reach the point of the player essentially stating how the NPC reacts.

Dm realm:  Response of the npc LG cleric.  He heard some acts pc did that he is not too happy about.  Tells the pc what they are, and for the moment denies the pc what he "needs".

I get that this is an example, but it's a worrisome one. It's an example of a block, and alignment "mechanics" are the excuse for it so it's easy to blame alignment for an uninteresting game.

Bad Player Response:  PC argues with the DM why this npc feels this way.  Based on alignment alone, pc expects this npc should give him what he "needs" (interfering into DM's realm).  I can also argue with the person hiring me for my job too after I'm denied... don't mean I get it.  Expecting it 100% based on just my perspective probably = I need medication.

If a player objects, on any basis, that the DM's choice for the NPC is boring, the DM should listen to that, because it should never be the DM's intention to contribute boring results to a game.

PC's actions, decisions are in the players realm.  Dm's handling of npc in his world setting towards the players and their actions & decisions is in the Dm's realm.  Both should respect each other's realm.

No. This is old-fashioned, problematic thinking. It's useless as a guiding principle, because it excuses atrocious, boring behavior in games.

"Yes, and..." is a guiding principle. Collaboration is a guiding principle. Trust is a guiding principle. "This is yours and this is mine" is playground justice of the most unproductive kind.

(Okay, ideally we can all sustain a little boredom if we trust the other person for something interesting in the long run, but how long that run can be needs to be carefully considered, and not lightly exceeded.)

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

I agree.  Excellent insight.  I think we can broaden the how to's and how not to's.  I truly think it's the DM's job to use alignments properly & insightfully, more then players.  Alignment as a tool going sour.. it's really our fault DM's, more then players.  Lets take responsibility.

1. Players shouldn't try to change the DM's perception of alignment.  Dm shouldn't try to change the players perception of alignment.  Perceptions will greatly differ between individuals.  Even in RL we all differ.  It don't require that Dm and Players all come into a unanimous agreement for it to work, so we shouldn't try.

Alignment is really a tool.. a tool of "response" mechanism by npc's in their respective world setting towards the pc's.  DM only controls the npc responses.  Player only controls the player responses.  Thats it.  Simple.   

2.  DM shouldn't use punishments in regards to alignment that interferes with the over-all enjoyment of the game by the player.  Stripping one's power away as "punishment" which is not the core plot of the campaign and ruin's the player's fun is vindictive & baaad Dm'ing.  It should never be used as a personal out-of-game punishment dished out in-game in an attempt to change a player's perception.  Absolutely never.



The problem with your second point, Ghost007, is that this was previously hard-coded into the game rules that if players of certain classes deviated too far, too often, from what the DM decided was the behavior of the alignment the class required that they be, and therefore made the DM believe that their alignment needed to change, they would suffer in-game consequences.  I believe 2e would have the PC go down a level at the very least (this is second-hand information I'm working from, and my source tends to conflate information from the various editions he has books for), and depending upon the class in 3.0/3.5e, it could range from being stripped of some or all of one's class powers (Barbarian, Druid, Paladin) to simply no longer being able to progress and gain levels and abilities in your chosen class (Bard, Monk).  While Paladin had the most restrictive alignment restraints (only LG), the other classes in 3.x were still confined to a relatively small concept as a result of alignment.  Furthermore, by 3.x rules, a Druid could lose their powers by other means, such as "ceasing to revere nature," or by teaching the Druidic language to a non-Druid.  Paladins and Monks could also not multiclass without becoming unable to ever again raise their levels as a Paladin/Monk.  There were a lot of restrictions on those classes, including a majority centered on alignment.

Let me reiterate: alignment was not merely a "response mechanism" to define how the world/the NPCs reacted to the PCs.  It was a mechanic that was used to restrain certain classes to a particular single archetype, while other classes had free rein because they could pick and choose alignments as they wanted, and suffering an alignment change did nothing to them mechanically.  Furthermore, in 3/3.5e at least, there were many Cleric spells and Paladin abilities that centered around alignment--Detect, Protection From-, Magic Circle Against-, Dispel Evil/Good/Law/Chaos, Aura of Good, Smite Evil, Blasphemy, Dictum, Holy Word, Word of Chaos, Holy/Unholy Aura, Cloak of Chaos/Shield of Law,--all spells that target or specifically react to certain alignments.  This makes it extremely difficult to remove alignment from the game, as you're also removing some of the principle abilities of a Paladin, and cutting out a fair number of spells available to Clerics.

Also, I feel that there is a requirement for the players and DM to come to some sort of accord as to how alignment--the specific forces of good and evil, as well as the subjective nature of good and evil--work in the setting they are playing in, especially in a setting created by the group.  If the DM knows the ways the players view the natures of these concepts, and vice-versa, then they can come up with a point they can agree on while discarding the more awkward points.  This makes it easier to avoid the disagreements when in actual play, and it sets forth a precedent for how the game world views such things.  This is a preventative, pre-emptive measure to keep argument, "punishment", and other such issues to a minimum.  If the group as a whole knows that actions X, Y, and Z are evil in the setting, it becomes easier to interpret alignment in that setting, and play a Paladin or what-have-you in that world.



Let me reiterate: alignment was not merely a "response mechanism" to define how the world/the NPCs reacted to the PCs.  It was a mechanic that was used to restrain certain classes to a particular single archetype, while other classes had free rein because they could pick and choose alignments as they wanted, and suffering an alignment change did nothing to them mechanically.  Furthermore, in 3/3.5e at least, there were many Cleric spells and Paladin abilities that centered around alignment--Detect, Protection From-, Magic Circle Against-, Dispel Evil/Good/Law/Chaos, Aura of Good, Smite Evil, Blasphemy, Dictum, Holy Word, Word of Chaos, Holy/Unholy Aura, Cloak of Chaos/Shield of Law,--all spells that target or specifically react to certain alignments.  This makes it extremely difficult to remove alignment from the game, as you're also removing some of the principle abilities of a Paladin, and cutting out a fair number of spells available to Clerics.

Also, I feel that there is a requirement for the players and DM to come to some sort of accord as to how alignment--the specific forces of good and evil, as well as the subjective nature of good and evil--work in the setting they are playing in, especially in a setting created by the group.  If the DM knows the ways the players view the natures of these concepts, and vice-versa, then they can come up with a point they can agree on while discarding the more awkward points.  This makes it easier to avoid the disagreements when in actual play, and it sets forth a precedent for how the game world views such things.  This is a preventative, pre-emptive measure to keep argument, "punishment", and other such issues to a minimum.  If the group as a whole knows that actions X, Y, and Z are evil in the setting, it becomes easier to interpret alignment in that setting, and play a Paladin or what-have-you in that world.



Yah earlier DnD versions on alignment was restrictive.  I'm glad 4e took the mechanical restrictions out.  I totally agree with the requirement for players and dm to come to basic accord.. so players know what to expect from the dm and the dm knows what to expect from the players.

I'm not talking about characters getting their way. Characters can and should fail, but the failure still needs to be interesting, for the sake of the player.

"Yes, and..." is a guiding principle. Collaboration is a guiding principle. Trust is a guiding principle. "This is yours and this is mine" is playground justice of the most unproductive kind.

(Okay, ideally we can all sustain a little boredom if we trust the other person for something interesting in the long run, but how long that run can be needs to be carefully considered, and not lightly exceeded.)



I totally agree.  You and Rogue have brought up two additional points we can add to "How to and How not to"

*Discuss and collaborate before the game how players and dms want alignment to be interpreted and implemented, or even completely ignored.  

*Make sure it's a fun aspect of the over-all game play.  Fun is the name of the game.  Alignment should be a salt that flavors the game, not poison that ruins it.  I am totally sold to Centauri's idea of getting player's input involved at every level.  Although i feel Cenauri takes it to an extreme but...never the less, its great.  Also interesting success and interesting failure is dm's prime directive.  Thats another point Centauri often makes that I am sold to.

If the debate can not be kept civil then this thread will be locked for VCL review. Please do not make this our only option or recourse in this matter. We actively applaud thougthful debate, but when it begins to get personal and attacking it is an issue. 

Remember this is all based on a GAME, one which can be molded and changed at a person's whim and desire. Just because someone doesn't agree with you it doesn't mean that you are wrong and they are right or vice versa.

Try to respect one another please. 
Good thread idea despite the detritus that has already been spewed into it by the usual suspects.

An important thing to never use alignment as in-game is as a means to constrain the players inalienable right to play their character how they see fit. That is entirely their domain. The phrase "But that's against your alignment!" is ridiculous because it is about as meaningful as saying "But that's not how elves act!" because both are formed by an agenda on the DM's part and both infringe on the players right to play their character how they want. It is one of the most insidious uses of ANY rule or character-quality in the game.

This basically rolls up to the fact that alignment, in no way, determines character actions. Instead, character actions determine their alignment and players are free to have those characters shift alignment if they take actions different from their current alignment.

That ALSO brings up the other issue that there is nothing wrong with changing alignment and that can actually be a great tool for character development. As an example, in my current game my wife's Oracle is Neutral Good. She just wants to help people. However, after several exposures to one of the prevailing religions in the area she is getting a STRONG dislike for such things...and for organizations in general. This might lead her to becoming Chaotic Good as she repeals thoughts of dogmatic religion in general. We will see. She's also mused that she might consider the path the Paladin in the group follows and become MORE organized but do it better than the church of Gol (the church she doesn't like).

Similarly, the rogue in my group is now armed with a weapon that is more powerful in the hands of those that are attuned to Chaos. He is also Neutral Good. What he's facing now is a decision, both in and out of character, to potentially start acting more Chaotically. It is a decision he is weighing and thoroughly enjoying it because he is using it to embrace a bit more spontaneity.

It is things like that that are a great "DO" for alignment. People thinking about their characters, their characters motivations and the weight of their various decisions is a good thing and when alignment can help support that it becomes a great tool.

And that is where that tool should lay most of the time: in the players hands.

Too often DMs think of it as a tool for themselves to judge things and to try and influence things...and so they calculate it into the agenda they have...their "story"...their "narrative". Toxic notions. Absolutely toxic. They try to use alignment to get players "in line" with their own way of thinking or to predict what characters SHOULD do based on their alignment. This is all very bad because it thrusts expectations on the players. It diminishes their own decision-making importance because the DM is holding their expectation equal-to OR HIGHER than player agency in terms of importance. It is one of the major reasons I advocate DMs divesting themselves of narrative desire and reducing narrative influence because story should be a result of the game, not a plan put into place before sitting down.

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.

If I may compile and start a list based on insights and inputs Swmabie, Rogue Elendae, Centauri, Yagami, and Grimli have made, as well as myself.  Please tell me if it sounds about right.  Lets think of new DM's out there that may be reading this.

1.  Alignments are a guideline for Roleplaying purpose only... from the perspective of the players and the npcs (dm).

2.  Players and Dm should collaborate & come to an accord on how or how much it should or shouldn't impact the game play.  (Preferably pre-game dicussion)

3. Dm should never use pc alignment or his actions as a justification for  "punishment" or "roadblock" on the players when it takes the "fun" out of the game.  As Centauri mentioned, it should be interesting & fun outcomes created by the DM for the players either way.

4. Dm & Players shouldn't try to change each others individual RL view on "good" or "evil" alignments or it's definitions, but respect each others differences and similarities on their views and definitions.

5.  Dm shouldn't restrict or force players to behave certain way based on Dm's perception of alignments.

6. Players shouldn't restrict or force the Dm to make npc's behave certain way based on player's perception of alignments.

7.  Dm and Player should respect each other's role at the table, especially when it comes to pc & npc interactions based on alignments;  Players role to have fun RP'ing their charactors however they see fit with whatever alignment they pick & however they want to define it.  Dm's role to provide a fun RP'ing experience  as the ultimate game arbitrator for the players based on what his/her players hopes, expects & wants.

8. Allow alignment to be fluid, subject to change. ( I personally think this used correctly like how Yagami is allowing it in his table, can seriously add some flavor.)  If I may also add to this.. not drastically.  One action shouldn't change one's alignment viewed by the npc's.  It should be series of actions.


The basic agreement from which we must start is that alignment is not intrinsic to DnD, but can be a compelling and beneficial element to certain stories.


I know this might sound strange, but perhaps it might help if we take a step backward and actually define what is meant by "Alignment?"  I won't attempt to do so just yet — need to think about it — but perhaps before we actually decide if it's a part of the game or not, maybe we need to come to agreement as to what it actually is, in easily definable terms?
If I may compile and start a list based on insights and inputs Swmabie, Rogue Elendae, Centauri, Yagami, and Grimli have made, as well as myself.  Please tell me if it sounds about right.  Lets think of new DM's out there that may be reading this.



Absolutely feel free to make such a list with what I write. Sounds cool.

1.  Alignments is a guideline for Roleplaying purpose only... from the perspective of the players and the npcs (dm).

2.  Players and Dm should collaborate & come to an accord on how or how much it should or shouldn't impact the game play.  (Preferably pre-game dicussion)

3. Dm should never use pc alignment or his actions as a justification for  "punishment" or "roadblock" on the players when it takes the "fun" out of the game.  As Centauri mentioned, it should be interesting & fun outcomes created by the DM for the players either way.

4. Dm & Players shouldn't try to change each others individual RL view on "good" or "evil" alignments or it's definitions, but respect each others differences and similarities on their views and definitions.

5.  Dm shouldn't restrict or force players to behave certain way based on Dm's perception of alignments.

6. Players shouldn't restrict or force the Dm to make npc's behave certain way based on player's perception of alignments.

7.  Dm and Player should respect each other's role in the table, especially when it comes to pc & npc interactions based on alignments;  Players role to have fun RP'ing their charactors however they see fit with whatever alignment they pick & however they want to define it.  Dm's role to provide a fun RP'ing experience  as the ultimate game arbitrator for the players based on what his/her players hopes, expects & wants.

8. Allow alignment to be fluid, subject to change. ( I personally think this used correctly like how Yagami is allowing it in his table, can seriously add some flavor.)  If I may also add to this.. not drastically.  One action shouldn't change one's alignment viewed by the npc's.  It should be series of actions.



Your addendum on 8 is spot on AND reminds me that I forgot to add that to my original post.

One action should never change a players alignment. That is just silly. Agreed 100%. it should definitely be a series of actions and those actions should be recognized by both the player and the DM through discussion.

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 basic agreement from which we must start is that alignment is not intrinsic to DnD, but can be a compelling and beneficial element to certain stories.


I know this might sound strange, but perhaps it might help if we take a step backward and actually define what is meant by "Alignment?"  I won't attempt to do so just yet — need to think about it — but perhaps before we actually decide if it's a part of the game or not, maybe we need to come to agreement as to what it actually is, in easily definable terms?



Alignment is the idea that people are metaphysically tied to always warring and usually abstract cosmic forces. Fundamentally, these forces are Law and Chaos. Some other stories add good and evil, but most fiction with alignment-centric themes sticks to Law and Chaos because good and evil are already done in basically all other stories. The most popular current examples of alignment-centric stories would probably be the Shin Megami Tensei and Mass Effect games.

So to boil it down, a story about alignment is a story in which the battle between Law and Chaos is
1. metaphysically real
2. central to the plot and themes of the particular story.

To claim that alignment is intrinsic to DnD is to claim that every story that can be told with DnD meets those criteria.


The basic agreement from which we must start is that alignment is not intrinsic to DnD, but can be a compelling and beneficial element to certain stories.



Agreed.  One of things I love about the DnD world setting.. it's versatility.  I think my statement that alignment is part of DnD as an aboslute is in error.

I can tell from reading some of your posts on the forum that you are very knowledgable and insightful with the DnD mechanics, and as a whole.

If say, a new DM wants to run a campaign with the DnD structured pantheons and "alignments" what would some of your advice be to make that go smooth for both dms and players? Common pit falls, mistakes to avoid etc.?  The amount of Dm experience in the forum is awesome I think.  Everyone's insight compiled can be extremely helpful for old & new dm's.
Heh. Kinda hard to answer that when he and Yagami just ate bans for arguing with each other.
Heh. Kinda hard to answer that when he and Yagami just ate bans for arguing with each other.



Yes I don't want this post to turn into an argument post. Topic is simple enough.  Every DM who is worth a dime has an insightful point about this subject.  I would love to hear them how it can be "implimented" well.  Also for many new dm's who come to forum seeking answers may find them useful.

I would like to also add another misconception (improper implementation) about alignments or "how not to" handle in game by both Dm and players:

Misconception:  Same alignment can't be in conflict.  Opposite alignment must be in conflict. Same alignment must always agree with each other...about everything.  Opposite alignments must disagree with each other about everything.  Dms and players seem to want to define alignment as a broad and restrictive behavior.  This is definitely a improper implementation of alignment to the game.

They sure in hell can be in conflict and disagree.  Two LG npc's or two LG pc's or LG pc and LG npc can be in conflict or disagree with each other to the point of violence, neither of which requires a change of alignment.  Both can even serve the same deity even.  Opposite aligned people can certainly agree on many things, and don't have to gut each other on sight.  

If one holds to this misconception it can lead to; DM expects the players to "behave" certain way towards equally aligned or opposite aligned npc or pc (dm butting into player realm).  Players too vice versa expect of the same from DM's npc (player butting into dm realm), or players gets all confused about how they should deal with another pc who is opposite aligned... do we gut him in sight??  Disagree with everything "evil" pc says???  Or dictate how another player should behave (player butting into another player).

Hell no.

Two perfectly good players or npc's can disagree about something so severely that it can lead to violence, or all out open war.  Two perfectly opposite players or npc's can agree about something and hold hands to help each other out.

Can a paladin of Pelor work hand in hand with a demon?  Sure!  If they both are seeking the same goal requiring cooperation, "enemy of my enemy is my friend".  It certainly is possible.  Ofcourse as the pc paladin of pelor, I wouldn't trust the demon entirely, espcially when the goal is achieved.
 
It don't take "alignment" to get into conflict or "alignment" to solve disagreements.  To implement alignment in such a restrictive manner... IMO one of how not to use alignments in the game.  

Alignment wasn't meant to replace individuality and choice. 

 This is true in RL.  Good people can get into fights or disagree with one another (One of them doesn't have to be labeled "bad"...maybe right or wrong but not "bad" or "evil").  Good & bad people can also work together for a common goal (It don't require one of them to turn into the other.)  Same people following same type of principles (like us Americans & our constitution) don't mean they are not individuals with individual differences & opinions.   So is such with "alignments" in the dnd game.
They sure in hell can be in conflict and disagree.  Two LG npc's or two LG pc's or LG pc and LG npc can be in conflict or disagree with each other to the point of violence, either of which requires a change of alignment.  Both can even serve the same deity even.  Opposite aligned people can certainly agree on many things, and don't have to gut each other on sight.


Dragonlance Chronicles (the first trilogy, anyway) is absolute best example in a D&D-style universe.  Since I'm probably the last person around here to get around to reading them.  Good bickered with Good, to the point of nearly going to battle against each other.  Evil turned against Evil.  In the end, Evil used Good to defeat their other Evil enemies....

Also, remember:  Just like people of the same Alignment can be against each other, so can followers of the same Gods.  Factions and Schisms and Heresies run rampant with organized religion.  In Birthright, the fewest organized religions any of the gods have is 3, one of them has a dozen, IIRC, and most of aren't fond of each other.

As far as Law vs Chaos, I think that's perfectly apropos a line of demarcation, too; though to be honest I think that its more of an Eastern Thought vs Western Thought sort of thing (however, I accept that I may be wrong in that).  From my perspective, Good vs Evil tends to be more of a Western concept, and Law vs Chaos tends to be more of an Eastern concept.

Using politic science theory solely as a metaphor:
There's a school of thought that, instead of viewing the political spectrum as a line, it's more accurately described as a circle/square/diamond sort of shape.  (Most simplest example of what I'm talking about is here.)

I realize that D&D already uses the 9 point grid for naming alignments, but perhaps something more... flexible could be conceived of, using that as a model?  Instead of simply defining Lawful Good, why not come up with a series of questions to define how Lawful/Chaotic someone is, and how Good/Evil someone is.  Similar to how 4e has the 9 questions in the character creation process to help define one's personality and style, one can have a dozen or so questions to help figure out where, if anywhere, they might fit in — or to help DM's figure out things as well.  It would have to be modular, to allow for differing opinions from person to person, clearly; I don't want to make it universal.  But it might be good to create something for people to use as a guideline, maybe?

Don't know.

As far as how to work Pantheonic Dissension into the game.... I've had a lot of experience running Vampire/World of Darkness (the original one) and Shadowrun, plus Birthright which has one of the smallest but most well-developed religious affiliations I've seen.  While everyone has their own style and what works for them, here's what I do:

What I suggest is basically sitting down, figuring out who they think the major players might be, coming up with at least three factions.  Two factions is too Black & White.  And they don't necessarily have to be all Deities, either; working in Primordials and Archfey and Demonlords and all that stuff is just more fun to be had.

Define who the powers are.  Pick ones you're comfortable as being figureheads.  Consider if there's any powers behind the throne.  Figure out what their motivations are — the Greeks & Norse showed that there's absolutely nothing wrong with giving the gods human motivations and frailties — lust, power, greed, even among the Good ones.  Sure, there's some that can be Above It All and Pragmatic (a la Paladine/Fizban), but what makes stories interesting is Conflict.  Man vs Man, Man vs Nature, Man vs Himself.

Also, don't worry about figuring out whose side every person is on.  Sometimes you want to improvise those things.  Sometimes the story is more interesting if you, as DM, figure it out as the players do.  Double- and Triple-Agents among the gods are hardly unheard of; so having the major players be vague and uncertain is perfectly fitting.  Some of my best twists have been spur of the moment decisions. 

Don't be afraid to skim ideas off of the players.  In one of my Vampire games, I had a guy playing a Nosferatu who enjoyed trying to figure out what was going on in game, so after sessions he'd tell me what he'd "figured out" while I was doing my post-game cooldown phase; he'd try to read my poker face to see if he was right or wrong.  More than half of the convoluted plots I ended up running were things he thought were already happening that I'd just coopted as my own.

Once I have an idea of who's involved, and why, next is the how.  At low levels, I don't believe in direct contact.  The PCs are Pawns.  The deities/superpowers aren't even pieces — they're the Chess Players.  The most direct might be doing the Fizban thing.  There was an article recently about Divine Intervention; it's not a bad thing.

That's my opinion, anyway.  I have notebooks full of relationship charts, for my major players.  Bane vs Erathis vs Melora; Frost Prince vs Raven Queen vs Vecna vs Orcus; so forth and so on.  Even Dark Sun, without any gods at all; the Sorcer-Kings are the most obvious replacements, but Primordials and Elementals and so on come into play too.
How to properly use alignment: Don't.
Dragonlance Chronicles (the first trilogy, anyway) is absolute best example in a D&D-style universe.  Since I'm probably the last person around here to get around to reading them.  Good bickered with Good, to the point of nearly going to battle against each other.  Evil turned against Evil.  In the end, Evil used Good to defeat their other Evil enemies....

Also, remember:  Just like people of the same Alignment can be against each other, so can followers of the same Gods.  Factions and Schisms and Heresies run rampant with organized religion.  In Birthright, the fewest organized religions any of the gods have is 3, one of them has a dozen, IIRC, and most of aren't fond of each other.


Absolutely.  When alignment is utilized properly, table adventure can and should feel like the novels.

Using politic science theory solely as a metaphor:
There's a school of thought that, instead of viewing the political spectrum as a line, it's more accurately described as a circle/square/diamond sort of shape.  (Most simplest example of what I'm talking about is here.)

I realize that D&D already uses the 9 point grid for naming alignments, but perhaps something more... flexible could be conceived of, using that as a model?  Instead of simply defining Lawful Good, why not come up with a series of questions to define how Lawful/Chaotic someone is, and how Good/Evil someone is.  Similar to how 4e has the 9 questions in the character creation process to help define one's personality and style, one can have a dozen or so questions to help figure out where, if anywhere, they might fit in — or to help DM's figure out things as well.  It would have to be modular, to allow for differing opinions from person to person, clearly; I don't want to make it universal.  But it might be good to create something for people to use as a guideline, maybe?

Don't know.


Only concern I have with the players defining his/her alignment based on answering questions may be restrictive in nature.  I may be wrong.  I never implemented it that way.  Players may answer the questions but then in game act differently, which is fine.  More power to them.  Nothing should restrict how they want to play.

I think it's defintely a workable idea for the DM to use to objectively determine key npc's reactions or view towards the pc and pc's alignment during important moments in the game though.  I never considered it.  The series of questions can be generated with the player's input. Questions can relate to how pc's predominantly interacted with his/her surrounding.  When it matters in the game, the questions can be pulled out, objectively answered, and then determine how the key npc responds or reacts towards the pc  (players deity, high cleric, etc...)  Perhaps that way, there is transparency to how the DM came to his/her conclusion in regards to the npc's reaction to the PC.  Ofcourse its only used for key moments in the game, when npc's judgement of pc's alignment truly matters.

That is actually a workable and excellent suggestion.  I think you are onto something really good...

I realize that D&D already uses the 9 point grid for naming alignments, but perhaps something more... flexible could be conceived of, using that as a model?  Instead of simply defining Lawful Good, why not come up with a series of questions to define how Lawful/Chaotic someone is, and how Good/Evil someone is. 


Yeah, too bad no one's ever done that

Odds are, if 4-6 people can't figure out an answer you thought was obvious, you screwed up, not them. - JeffGroves
Which is why a DM should present problems to solve, not solutions to find. -FlatFoot
Best defense that I've read in favor of having alignment systems as an option
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If some people are heavily benefiting from the inclusion of alignment, then it would behoove those that AREN'T to listen up and pay attention to how those benefits are being created and enjoyed, no? -YagamiFire
But equally important would be for those who do enjoy those benefits to entertain the possibility that other people do not value those benefits equally or, possibly, do not see them as benefits in the first place. -wrecan (RIP)
That makes sense. However, it is not fair to continually attack those that benefit for being, somehow, deviant for deriving enjoyment from something that you cannot. Instead, alignment is continually attacked...it is demonized...and those that use it are lumped in with it.

 

I think there is more merit in a situation where someone says "This doesn't work! It's broken!" and the reply is "Actually it works fine for me. Have you considered your approach might be causing it?"

 

than a situation where someone says "I use this system and the way I use it works really well!" and the back and forth is "No! It is a broken bad system!" -YagamiFire