Alignment - Your Thoughts?

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Even if the creators of Dungeons and Dragons intended for alignment to affect a character personality - it is the end-user who carries the burden. After character creation alignment restricts what a character can and can't do to the extent that much of their action is scripted in a general direction. My point is to take alignment out.

My very first D&D experience was very cliche considering I rolled a Paladin (Lawful Good of course). Anytime someone was in trouble or the city five days ride away was under attack, I would charge forth and try to save them! After investigation we came across the thief who had murdered two children, the mother, and father. A Lawful Good character would turn him into the law of course. However, I told them I wanted to attack him with my longsword. Needless to say your lawful good you can't do that.

I believe however, alignment is just a general guideline and there should be things such as "gray" characters. For instance an "evil" character who cherishes the life of women and children because they develop that bond growing up. So could care less if they kill a man, they actively despise those who harm women or children. Instead of creating characters that are cut and dry evil or good make an individual who seems good at times while at other times seems evil. I believe there to be four things that influence how an individual will behave in a number of situations.

Instinct
   This is the natural reaction of the indvidual without factoring in intelligence. For instance, a misquito searching for blood, a fly gravitating toward a food source, or you blocking a bright light from shining into your eyes. Some species fight for territory while others flee when confronted. Some defend their offspring to the death while others could care less. It varies from species to species - however, the instinct to survive is present in nearly all species....

Intelligence
    This determines whether or not the individual is even capable of reasoning or deception. Nuff said

Personality
    First of all in order to have a personality you must have at least a little intelligence. A personality is developed by personal experiences, preferences (such as religion, an idol that is looked up to, etc.), and education (self-education counts too). A dog has a personality and can be educated. A personality is generally similar to those around it. If the culture is to have and treat slaves badly it will normally think capturing slaves and using them is ok.

Alignment
    Alignments are dictated by moral guidelines of mainstream society. In most cultures cannibalism, murdering at random, lying, and stealing is not acceptable and considered evil. However, in that particular culture maybe it is acceptable to participate in such acts. So in their eyes they are not "bad" but doing what they believe is their right. Alignment as dictated by the game factors GREATLY into their personality.  This is each alignment as described by Baldur's Gate which uses AD&D 2ed.

  • Lawful Good - Characters of this alignment believe that an orderly, strong society with a well-organized government can work to make life better for the majority of the people. To ensure the quality of life, laws must be created and obeyed. When people respect the laws and try to help one another, society as a whole prospers. Therefore, lawful good characters strive for those things that will bring the greatest benefit to the most people and cause the least harm. An honest and hard-working serf, a kindly and wise king, or a stern but forthright minister of justice are all examples of lawful good people.


  • Neutral Good - These characters believe that a balance of forces is important, but that the concerns of law and chaos do not moderate the need for good. Since the universe is vast and contains many creatures striving for different goals, a determined pursuit of good will not upset the balance, it may even maintain it. If fostering good means supporting organized society, then that is what must be done. If good can only come about through the overthrow of an existing social order, so be it. Social structure itself has no innate value to them. A baron who violates the order of his king to destroy something he sees as evil is an example of a neutral good character.


  • Chaotic Good - Chaotic good characters are strong individualists marked by a streak of kindness and benevolence. They believe in all the virtues of goodness and right, but they have little use for laws and regulations. They have no use for people who "try to push folk around and tell them what to do." Their actions are guided by their own moral compass which, although good, may not always be in perfect agreement with the rest of society. A brave frontiersman forever moving on as settlers follow in his wake is an example of a chaotic good character.


  • Lawful Neutral - Order and organization are of paramount importance to characters of this alignment. They believe in a strong, well-ordered government, whether that government is a tyranny or a benevolent democracy. The benefits of organization and regimentation outweigh any moral questions raised by their actions. An inquisitor determined to ferret out traitors at any cost or a soldier who never questions his orders are good examples of lawful neutral behavior.


  • True Neutral - True neutral characters believe in the ultimate balance of forces, and they refuse to see actions as either good or evil. Since the majority people in the word make judgements, true neutral characters are extremely rare. True neutrals do their best to avoid siding with the forces of either good or evil, law or chaos. It is their duty to see that all of these forces remain in balanced contention. True neutral characters sometimes find themselves forced into rather peculiar alliances. To a great extent, they are compelled to side with the underdog in any given situation, sometimes even changing sides as the previous looser becomes the winner. A true neutral Druid might join the local barony to put down of evil gnolls, only to drop out or switch sides when the gnolls were brought to the brink of destruction. He would seek to prevent either side from becoming too powerful. Clearly, there are very few true neutral characters in the world.


  • Chaotic Neutral - Chaotic neutral characters believe that there is no order to anything, including their own actions. With this as a guiding principle, they tend to follow whatever whim strikes them at the moment. Good and evil are irrelevant when making a decision. Chaotic neutral characters are extremely difficult to deal with. Such characters have been known to cheerfully and for no apparent purpose gamble away everything they have on the roll of a single die. They are almost totally unreliable. In fact, the only reliable thing about them is that they cannot be relied upon! This alignment is perhaps the most difficult to play. Lunatics and madmen tend toward chaotic neutral behavior.


  • Lawful Evil - These characters believe in using society and its laws to benefit themselves. Structure and organization elevate those who deserve to rule as well as provide a clearly defined hierarchy between master and servant. To this end, lawful evil characters support laws and societies that protect their own concerns. If someone is hurt or suffers because of a law that benefits lawful evil characters, too bad. Lawful evil characters obey laws out of fear of punishment. Because they may be forced to honor an unfavorable contract or oath they have made, lawful evil characters are usually very careful about giving their word. Once given, they break their word only if they can find a way to do it legally, within the laws of society. An iron-fisted tyrant and a devious, greedy merchant are examples of lawful evil beings.


  • Neutral Evil - Neutral evil characters are primarily concerned with themselves and their own advancement. They have no particular objection to work with others or, for that matter, going it on their own. Their only interest is in getting ahead. If there is a quick and easy way to gain a profit, whether it be legal, questionable, or obviously illegal, they take advantage of it. Although neutral evil characters do not have the every-man-for-himself attitude of chaotic characters, they have no qualms about betraying their friends and companions for personal gain. They typically base their allegiance on power and money, which make them quite receptive to bribes. An unscrupulous mercenary, a common thief, and a double-crossing informer who betrays people to the authorities to protect and advance himself are typical examples of neutral evil characters.


  • Chaotic Evil - These characters are the bane of all that is good and organized. Chaotic evil characters are motivated by the desire for personal gain and pleasure. They see absolutely wrong with taking whatever they want by whatever means possible. Laws and governments are the tools of weaklings unable to fend for themselves. The strong have the the right to take what they want, and the weak are to be exploited. When chaotic evil characters band together, they are not motivated by the desire to cooperate, but rather to oppose powerful enemies. Such a group can be held together only by a strong leader capable of bullying his underlings into obedience. Since leadership is based on raw power, a leader is likely to be replaced at the first sign of weakness by anyone who can take his position away from him by any method. Bloodthirsty buccaneers and monsters of low intelligence are fine examples of chaotic evil personalities.


Now would you rather keep your character in a box and choose an alignment or be free from the shackles? Oh and on a sidenote please DM's start using intelligent combat tactics for those creatures who are capable. I get so bored with the generic creature attacks and attacks and attacks mindlessly running at you with no tactics whatsoever. He is near death but still attacks - instead of fleeing like a creature with a drop of intelligence would. I have seen this for even intelligent creatures sadly.

It makes it so much more fun when you make the party use tactics and their brains as well. Even sometimes making them retreat and get no loot because they did some stupid things during the encounter. For instance the fighter just running out in the open in front of 3 melee and in view of 2 ranged guys and gets his butt handed to him.
To me I have always seen the "Grey" as the forms of nutraility.There is a reason why your Lawful Good paladin couldnt kill the murderer.Because he is bound by the law.Honestly you didnt even need to be a paladin for that,you could of been a fighter or a ranger it was your attachment to law that stayed your blade.But honestly Alignment is one of the most heated topics in D&D,and will continue to be that way as long as so many diffrent minded poeple continue to play it.
I understand the reason I couldn't kill the murderer but I think it would increase the flavor if Alignment rules were more generalized or taken out. What I ended up doing was in fact being stripped of my Paladin title and re-rolling as a Fighter who was neutral good and tied it into the story-line.
I like the idea of alignment.  I have played many "grey" characters in the course of my RPG time, and I have always had fun with them.  Some had been True Neutral, others were Chaotic Good, even some were Neutral Good, but most had some flavor of "ends justify the means" to them.

I would make up my character's personality as complete as I could, and then decide which alignment fit it best.  Then, if I ever had trouble in roleplaying them, I would just use the tenets of the alignment to guide my actions.  Ultimately, there are many facets of my characters' personalities that I couldn't fathom until the moment came for me to make a decision, and alignment would give me a general direction in which to head.

The only thing that ever bothered me were throwing alignment restrictions on certain classes or feats.  For instance, in 3.5, I would have made a character of mine an assassin...but it required an Evil alignment.  My character was Chaotic Good, and you could argue that "Good" implies you never kill without being threatened.  However, "Good" would be served by assassinating an evil tyrant while he slept.  He would do all the "wrong" things for the right reasons, and that was interesting to me.  You could still classify that character as "Good", IMO.  And there are plenty of examples of "Good" assassins in movies and video games.

I think alignment adds a helpful mechanic for characters like Paladins, Clerics, and other "morality-based" classes which strive to fight all of those that oppose their wills.  Plus, deities tend to have very specific domains and alignments, so as long as a character follows the tenets of their deity (seeing as how their powers derive from their deities), it shouldn't matter.  So, I don't think that alignment should be done away with, but I do think that perhaps there should be less emphasis on alignment-based character development (i.e. don't restrict a character's "build" choices based on alignment).

I think, however, that in the case of your ex-paladin, if you struck at the murderer after he surrendered, you deserved to lose your powers (he was giving up and helpless).  If you had struck at him because he was not going to come peacefully, then, IMO, you got cheated.  No Law or Good would be served in letting a murderer escape just because he didn't want to fight you.
I like the idea of alignment.  I have played many "grey" characters in the course of my RPG time, and I have always had fun with them.  Some had been True Neutral, others were Chaotic Good, even some were Neutral Good, but most had some flavor of "ends justify the means" to them.

I would make up my character's personality as complete as I could, and then decide which alignment fit it best.  Then, if I ever had trouble in roleplaying them, I would just use the tenets of the alignment to guide my actions.  Ultimately, there are many facets of my characters' personalities that I couldn't fathom until the moment came for me to make a decision, and alignment would give me a general direction in which to head.

The only thing that ever bothered me were throwing alignment restrictions on certain classes or feats.  For instance, in 3.5, I would have made a character of mine an assassin...but it required an Evil alignment.  My character was Chaotic Good, and you could argue that "Good" implies you never kill without being threatened.  However, "Good" would be served by assassinating an evil tyrant while he slept.  He would do all the "wrong" things for the right reasons, and that was interesting to me.  You could still classify that character as "Good", IMO.  And there are plenty of examples of "Good" assassins in movies and video games.

I think alignment adds a helpful mechanic for characters like Paladins, Clerics, and other "morality-based" classes which strive to fight all of those that oppose their wills.  Plus, deities tend to have very specific domains and alignments, so as long as a character follows the tenets of their deity (seeing as how their powers derive from their deities), it shouldn't matter.  So, I don't think that alignment should be done away with, but I do think that perhaps there should be less emphasis on alignment-based character development (i.e. don't restrict a character's "build" choices based on alignment).

I think, however, that in the case of your ex-paladin, if you struck at the murderer after he surrendered, you deserved to lose your powers (he was giving up and helpless).  If you had struck at him because he was not going to come peacefully, then, IMO, you got cheated.  No Law or Good would be served in letting a murderer escape just because he didn't want to fight you.






I must disagree and agree with you.



    
I dont believe there can be a "Good" assassian,To me anyone who would take murder up as a profession couldnt be good (I would say CN/CE or even true N if you had the right story line) I mean that is what your doing,murder.I mean you may very well have the very best intentions (isint that what the road to hell is paved with?) but in the end,to me a good person wouldnt come up with a plan to end someones life.But that is where the debate comes in,and I have seen it played out many diffrent ways over the years.A good counter points has always been "whats the diffrence between killing a evil human noble hiding inside the walls of his home.And killing a villians bugbear who does the samething only in a cave.....yet thats called adventuring". 



Now if you lost your paladinhood because you tried to kill the murderer after a lawful surrender,yeah I can see that.Any other reason (other then actually killing him) seems quite unfair,though I have seen it happen sometimes even DM's make terrible calls.

  
Edit: lol, I had a long response to your post, and then came to the realization that we could talk about just this topic for days, being that it is a philosophical discussion on the concepts of good and evil.  So, I apologize for removing it, but I wanted to stay on track with the topic =).

Suffice it to say that you have mostly covered the counter-points I mentioned before I pared things down.  Though, I think you underestimate how often a "good" character plans to kill something considering at least half of the adventures I've ever been on have specifically consisted of trying to put sharp metal objects into a living creature's chest.  I would just say that, IMO, a tool/skill/training is not inherently evil, it is what the person does with them that matters.

Ultimately, I was trying to say with my previous post that I don't think there should be alignment restrictions on feats and classes, but that the concept of alignment should still exist for the benefit of the "alignment-based" classes like Paladin and Cleric.
Ultimately, I was trying to say with my previous post that I don't think there should be alignment restrictions on feats and classes, but that the concept of alignment should still exist for the benefit of the "alignment-based" classes like Paladin and Cleric.


Total agreement. I like the flavor and tradition of using alignments, but hinging an entire class's abilities/progression on following a certain vaguely-defined standard is too much. Instead of adhering to the abstract concept of "lawful good," I'd rather see the game's religions each with their own codes and morals. Those codes must be well-defined, like "Always give aid & comfort to an injured person, whether or not they were once your enemy." That might be a good or even neutral action, it doesn't matter. However, if your paladin willingly and knowingly failed to follow that code, that inaction might be grounds for some kind of roleplaying punishment: excommunication, loss of background traits, etc. Only if the player continues down that dark path should class privileges be revoked. Even then, as a DM, I would say, "Time to retrain as a fighter with some divine magic feats!"

It's certainly possible to be a lawful evil priest working for a good deity ("I've been such a good follower that I'm entitled to my misdeeds and pleasures!"), or a neutral follower who rationalizes his worship of an evil god (Pascal's wager, anyone?). Maybe it's just because I enjoy grayer, less well-defined moral dilemmas, but in the end alignment should help guide roleplay, not hinder or limit it.
KILL IT.
KILL IT.

“Nuke it from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure.”

knowyourmeme.com/photos/39016

 

If anyone ever tells you that you are unable to take an action because of your alignment, find a new DM.

Alignment is a reflection of your character's philosophy more than it is a mechanical burden. There are few instances outside of class restrictions and powerful aligned items that alignment comes into play for a character.

Alignment should be considered fluid rather than strict. If a good character takes up assassination, they're on the ROAD to evil. As time goes on, their alignment might shift to neutral and finally to evil. This is character development and should be embraced rather than feared.

Let's say you catch an assassin as a paladin and he lays down his arms and begs for mercy, but you lop his head off. At no point does the universe tell you 'your character wouldn't do that.' There is no rule for what your character would and would not do beyond the player behind them. However, there may be consequences. Their deity may scold them in a dream and give them a task to redeem themselves and learn the errors of their ways. They may lose their paladin powers for a short time and require ritual consecration and meditation to regain them.

The point of alignment is not to TAKE AWAY play, but to GUIDE and CREATE it. An evil character reforming towards good may have occasional slip-ups. A good character who gets too caught up in bloodshed may shift towards neutral. These things should not make players angry, but should TELL A STORY. A hero of justice slaughters an entire village on a quest for vengeance, only to look upon the chaos they created and quake in fear at what they have become, causing them to have to choose between the path they've stepped on and curtailing themselves to become who they wanted to be. (Yes, that is Anakin Skywalker)

The real key to alignment is that it DESCRIBES characters, it does not DICTATE them. Having to keep a certain alignment for your class should CREATE stories, not end them. A monk breaks their lawful code and seeks to harden their mind against indescretion in the future. An assassin decides that their target is too innocent to kill, and must choose between becoming a monster they despise or throwing away their profession.

As I said, if your DM ever says 'your character wouldn't do that,' your response should be 'yes they would, I just said they would. WHAT HAPPENS?' 
Well said, Nevrus.  In the end, I would rather keep some of the mechanical aspects of alignment specifically for abilities like "Smite " or "Detect ", but would rather they keep alignment itself out of character building.
Maybe I've been lucky, but I've never found alignment to be a problem in the games I've played.

In these discussions on the forums (here and elsewhere), most concerns about alignment seem to boil down to either (a) poor decision-making by a DM or (b) intolerable, fun-ruining behavior by a player or players. The first sort seems to come up more often than not with alignment-restricted classes and with peculiar or at least unshared moral visions between player and DM. At its worst, the DM punishes a player for being Lawful Good, for example (e.g. always having defeated enemies which have been shown mercy stab the players in the back). The second sort involves people playing either good-restricted classes or good-aligned characters murder, lie, ****, pillage, blaspheme, and the rest. This may be a kind of passive aggressive acting out about something else, but it seems as though it would kill everyone else's fun.

In any event, I don't see how getting rid of alignment precisely helps in the above cases. If a DM decides that standard PC/heroic activity is evil and will be punished in-game, alignments or not, then the problem is the DM. If another player runs his character as a horrid person who kills all NPCs on sight, then lacking an alignment system doesn't make this any more tolerable.

For the most part, alignment has always been descriptive. However, since this is a fantasy game, and it is a not uncommon trope in folklore and (some) fantasy that there are (generally positive) consequences for being good-hearted, and likewise some things which, in doing/using them, irrevocably draw the charatcer into the thralldom of wickedness, having the player declare his intended alignment does not seem a bad idea. If the player is playing consistently against alignment (which does not include a good character behaving badly occasionally, if the character is properly repentent), the DM can let the player know he will treat him, should it ever mechanically matter, as the alignment of his actual behavior, I don't see why this should be too much trouble.

My 2 cents, anyway.
Alignment can change and there may be consequences for it changing.  Generally though, I hold true that a character's alignment guides the player's decisions.  Ultimately, what the player wants to do is not necessarily what the character wants to do.  I view the player as an actor and the character is the role the player plays.  As such, the character's alignment should guide the player's decision.  That is not to say that the character must adhere perfectly to the alignment; the character is still fallible and prone to err.  When the character violates his alignment, have some consequences associated to it.  People who are aware of its activities treat them differently, alliances break, the guards are after him (or investigating the crime), etc.  If the character continues down that path, the alignment changes and more consequences follow with old allies not commenting that the character has changed (perhaps distrusting him).
I tell my players to play how they want to but I have them write down their allignments based on how they are going to roleplay that charaters moral compass, Sometimes I throw party members together so the allignment is needed because my friend playing a LG palladin would not party with a CE assassin. I always viewed it as a quick tool for the players to get a feel for how each of their companions will make their decisions.
Ultimately it is up to the player to play their charater how they want if half way through a campaign my LG fighter is leaning CN I just think of it as the character himself/herself chhanging their world views.


Some of the basic questions about
using paladins as player characters
involve what sort of things should be
approved of, what should be avoided, and
what kinds of actions constitute evil or
chaotic acts. Perhaps the greatest enemy
of paladins in the game is cultural relativity.
Maybe anthropologists can study a
tribe of cannibals and find their culinary
practices reasonable, at least for the cannibals,
but paladins of any religion
would have to disapprove. The killing
and eating of human beings or any other
intelligent beings, even ores, is not a good
act by AD&D standards. It at least borders
on being evil, depending on the situation.
----------


Associating with evil characters in any
way in a friendly manner is EVIL.
Period. If a paladin character becomes
aware (hat one of the party members is
actually evil in alignment, then a confrontation
is inevitable. The paladin will be required to have nothing to do with
the evil person(s), with the possible
exception of taking someone into custody
if that person commits an evil act.


---------


Please remember, too, that this is a game, and it postulates the existence of fundamental absolutes like Good and Evil, Law and Chaos. There are few "gray areas." Smoking or taking hallucinogenic substances, indulging in casual sex, and going against the grain of society, regardless of what the person playing the paladin thinks of those actions, are in no way a part of the world of paladinhood in the game. They shouldn't be, no matter who is the DM, either. Using hallucinogens destroys the clarity of the mind and its attachment to reality, leaving the paladin open to inadvertently committing an evil or chaotic act, or being unable to deal with an emergency.

Roger E. Moore (It`s not easy being good - dragon magazine)

There are few grey areas in the alignment system. If there are too much, probably players and dms could not understand the basics of alignment system.
A lawful good paladin catches a murderer that gives up. He then, being a paladin and fundament of justice, holds a trial and finds out that the murderer truly is a murderer. The law says the penalty for murder is execution by beheading. The Paladin beheads the murderer. Where is the problem?
Alignment has always been one of those things that causes in fighting amongst my players. To often it boils down to what you can and can't do. I explain to the players Alignment is moral compass for your Character. You should look at it not as a restriction but simply a way to better place your self into the mindset of your character to ensure your actions are uniform. I always allowed a certain amount of freedom in this department as I believe that Alignment can and will change as players encounter new experiences. For example a Lawful Good character in one game found his morality challenged when he desire to uphold the Kings Law was confronted with the ugly truth. He was ordered as part of the City Guard to round up the vagrants in the shadier part of town. The law stated that those without home or coin who fail to vacate the city after warning shall be imprisioned and fined. They were to remain within the prison till the time they could pay thier fines. It was a catch 22. When he learned of this his lawful nature told him that laws are their to protect the people. In this case the vagrants were spreading sickness from living in the elements and were interfering with the lives of normal folk. However the good in him realized these people were being shafted. He had a brief internal conflict but good won out over Law and he came of with a plan to free the people.

In this scenario he was mocked by other players telling him he would take stiff exp penalties for going against his alignment (They had never played a game I ran.). The player stuck by his guns and did not recieve a penalty. In my view his alignment floated toward Chaotic and he grew as a character. Alignment should never be set in stone as life experiences can always shape our thoughts and feelings. Its very easy for all we know to seem less important in a flash. 
 
Associating with evil characters in any

way in a friendly manner is EVIL.
Period. If a paladin character becomes
aware (hat one of the party members is
actually evil in alignment, then a confrontation
is inevitable. The paladin will be required to have nothing to do with
the evil person(s), with the possible
exception of taking someone into custody
if that person commits an evil act.



Sorry, that's sounds like a boring and uninteresting way of roleplaying, especially given a paladin's ability to detect evil. It's binary and ignores what being good is all about. Sometimes bad people must be consulted or dealt with in the name of the greater good. A good character may also see the good in others and give them a chance for redemption. Casting detect evil and crossing your arms when the magic 8-ball comes up wrong seems like the lamest way to play a paladin. No room for moral ambiguity or choosing the lesser of the two evils.

So yeah, take that, Roger E. Moore.
Personally, I don't like mechanics tying into Alignment nor do I like it as a balancing factor for specific classes. For one, I think it limits too much what a specific class can accomplish in an ordinary adventure, at least compared to other non-alignment based classes. Take the Paladin for example; In 3.X he had the ability to Smite an evil creature 1/day at 1st level. That is, he gets his Cha-modifier to 1 attack roll and adds 1 damage per Paladin level to the attack. At low levels, this is hardly worth a daily resource, doubly so because the narrow focus of such a feature. And if he's ever put into a moral situation where a catch-22 comes into effect, there's the possibility of losing said features (limited as they are) because of his choice. Really, if they're going to make classes with codes and restrictions then they need to make the features granted outstanding and/or more powerful than options for classes without role-playing restrictions. So far, I don't think that's the design process for D&D:Next.

Now with that said, I don't really mind Alignment because I personally use it as a guideline and something that the character use to gauge their moral compass. If a paladin goes off the rails and against his established alignment then there are consequences, but they're not direct nor are they instantaneous. He'll get visions from his god that he's veerying from the path or some minor penalty to a mechanic that still allow that mechanic to work but in a lesser fashion. For example, in my one 4E game were a Paladin to stray from his God's path then he might not get his full damage bonus for Divine Challenge feature (I might go with the hybrid/less-powerful version) until he atones or does some overly Alignment-specific thing. His primary function isn't halted or removed, but he's far less potent than he should be.
If anyone ever tells you that you are unable to take an action because of your alignment, find a new DM.

Alignment is a reflection of your character's philosophy more than it is a mechanical burden. There are few instances outside of class restrictions and powerful aligned items that alignment comes into play for a character.

Alignment should be considered fluid rather than strict. If a good character takes up assassination, they're on the ROAD to evil. As time goes on, their alignment might shift to neutral and finally to evil. This is character development and should be embraced rather than feared.

Let's say you catch an assassin as a paladin and he lays down his arms and begs for mercy, but you lop his head off. At no point does the universe tell you 'your character wouldn't do that.' There is no rule for what your character would and would not do beyond the player behind them. However, there may be consequences. Their deity may scold them in a dream and give them a task to redeem themselves and learn the errors of their ways. They may lose their paladin powers for a short time and require ritual consecration and meditation to regain them.

The point of alignment is not to TAKE AWAY play, but to GUIDE and CREATE it. An evil character reforming towards good may have occasional slip-ups. A good character who gets too caught up in bloodshed may shift towards neutral. These things should not make players angry, but should TELL A STORY. A hero of justice slaughters an entire village on a quest for vengeance, only to look upon the chaos they created and quake in fear at what they have become, causing them to have to choose between the path they've stepped on and curtailing themselves to become who they wanted to be. (Yes, that is Anakin Skywalker)

The real key to alignment is that it DESCRIBES characters, it does not DICTATE them. Having to keep a certain alignment for your class should CREATE stories, not end them. A monk breaks their lawful code and seeks to harden their mind against indescretion in the future. An assassin decides that their target is too innocent to kill, and must choose between becoming a monster they despise or throwing away their profession.

As I said, if your DM ever says 'your character wouldn't do that,' your response should be 'yes they would, I just said they would. WHAT HAPPENS?' 



Amen. 

I was going to write some crap about absolute vs. relativism and then I read this post and I agree completely.

Alignments are categories not rules and they serve to enhance the character and stories not hinder them. I've been in games where the alignment didn't matter because we never RPed and spent the entire time in the catacombs slaughtering baddies. I've also been in groups where we only actually fought anything about one out of every three sessions. Use alignments in a way that makes it fun, don't hide behind a perceived mechanic because of a rigid interpretation. It's still a game. :-)