Alignments... Thoughts?

I'm personally glad that the playtest included the 9 alignments.  I've played D&D since 2nd edition and was glad to see the return.  I've found that the "grey" area allowed too much sway from the DM's plan or story.  It's made for some pretty heated role-play amongst our group though.   
I know there are limitations to the entire alignment system.  I'm also of the opinion that the inital alignment of a character is far from set in stone.  The first few adventures really define a character's attitudes and views on the world regardless of the player's initial character concept.  I find the dual axis alignment to be sufficient to define a character's usual attitudes and outlook.  

As a DM, I allow my players to do whatever they want.  If they undertake an action which is questionable, there may be repurcussions which seems to work quite well.  I've been in other games where the DM used alignment as a hammer to tell players what actions they could and could not take which I could not stand at all.  To me, that is mistreatment of the system. 
Kill it.  Kill it with fire.
Well, there is that option too.  Alignment is probably one of the easiest rules to completely ignore without disrupting any aspect of the game if that suits your group's play style.
While the spectrum of alignments is fine, the only being one is abit unrealistic.

For example most people I know have a work mode, family mode and friends mode.

They act very differently when performing different tasks with different social rules/expectations.

Someone could be thorough in their job (LN), compassionate with their family (NG) and abit of a rogue when out for weekly drinks with friends (CG)

Key things for D&D - Where is the character from and why do they do what they do? / Recurring NPCs - allies and enemies / Plot, World and Personal Events.

I've always liked alignments. They provide at-a-glance recognition of a creature's attitude toward society (lawful evil vs. chaotic evil, for instance) and help players figure out where they fit in the world. I don't mind slight mechanical tie-ins with alignment (paladins need to be good, smite evil damages evil creatures, etc.), but there have been some major infractions over the years (detect evil, I'm looking at you).

I have always preferred Eberron's interpretation of alignment. Evil is all around, even working high in the government and churches. Even "good" characters might do evil things in the name of the "greater good" (like the Silver Flame clerics torturing werewolves to get information). People can't be thrown in jail merely for registering as "evil" when a detection spell is cast on them. It's much more realistic, morally gray, and interesting than "All kobolds are evil" and "All Moradin clerics are good."

I wish "evil" was considered less "dastardly" and more "selfish." If the party rogue is evil, then it doesn't mean he likes to drink baby blood. He might just be more willing to swipe a trinket from the group loot pile or belittle others in front of the Duke to further his own group's standing.
I find my characters tend to sway from their alignment all the time. I normally disregard alignment at my table alltogether because of this. They are going to act regardless of what it says on their paper, right? I think the whole thing shouldn't be scrapped though. I always enjoyed detect evil, and making druids chaotic. Perhaps renaming them? Something like...

Selfless<---------->Selfish

Passive<----------->Active

So a paladin would be selfless active, cleric would be selfless passive. Just an idea. I think reform could make it work for more people. 
I liked alignment, but I've always felt the best system was in RIFTS:


Alignment


Palladium's alignments are described in detailed terms, outlining how a character will act in a certain situation: whether they will lie, how much force they will use against innocents, how they view the law, and so forth. The alignments are organized into three broad categories: Good, Selfish, and Evil. The seven core alignments are:



  • Principled (Good)

  • Scrupulous (Good)

  • Unprincipled (Selfish)

  • Anarchist (Selfish)

  • Miscreant (Evil)

  • Aberrant (Evil)

  • Diabolic (Evil)


Here are some short descriptions womebody typed up in another thread:


Principled is guy who does good and never breaks the rules, never hurts innocents, and doesn't kill bad guys if he can help it.

Scrupulous is the guy who will bend the rules, rough up bad guys if he thinks it will help, but still protects innocents and avoids killing (but not to the extent of Principled).

Unprincipled wants people to be free... doesn't like rules, but takes care of people for the most part, and tends to keep his word.

Anarchist doesn't like rules, either, but mostly doesn't like them applying to him. He kills and robs if he can get away with it, and if he has to, but not "just because".

Miscreant is like Anarchist, but moreso; whereas an Anarchist might keep his word if he feels like it, a Miscreant probably won't, unless it's convenient. He'll hurt you because he wants to, and kill you because he can.

Aberrant is evil, but honorable. He'll keep his word, but if his word involves hurting you because you're trying to keep from him what he needs...

Diabolic is simply evil... killing, hurting, and taking because he can.

To read about my playtest sessions click here: http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/29995793/?sdb=1&pg=last#533677003


D&D Home Page - What Class Are You? - Build A Character - D&D Compendium

I feel like having a good, evil, selfish system is a bit more realistic.

But remember that alignment is just a general disposition, there are always exceptions - and that's ok.
To read about my playtest sessions click here: http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/29995793/?sdb=1&pg=last#533677003


D&D Home Page - What Class Are You? - Build A Character - D&D Compendium

I like the inclusion of alignments, but I also think it's perfectly normal for characters (just like real people) to say and do things out of character (as in "unlike they normall would" not "OOC"), so I think of alignments more as a general guideline rather than a hard and fast way that a PC has to behave.
Kill it.  Kill it with fire.

It might grow back from that. Nuke it from space. it's the only way to be sure! Tongue Out

I'm in favor of alignments.  I like that a Paladin holds strongly to his lawful alignment as it's important to the class concept and has real consequences for breaking it, but a Fighter or Rogue has more freedom to act off his alignment as the situation warrants.  It's another aspect of character style that some are more rigid and others more free form.  Also, when a player really plays his alignment, it gives opportunities within a story to create prediciments for them by making them choose a difficult course of action in line with their alignment or an easier or more beneficial course against it.  With some good role playing that can create some fun drama and character development.

In a game my friends and I played, one of the characters started lawful good and after a few different events where the lawful course of action didn't save an innocent person or didn't stop the bad guy before a certain amount of damage was done, the character began to qestion his own beliefs until eventually, he went through an alignment shift and became chaotic good and took on the vigilante prestige class.  The events, the alignment shift, and the class progression were all interesting in game representations of a moral and ethical conflict within the character.  Fun for the DM and for the player as well as the others who enjoyed watching that happen.
I liked alignment, but I've always felt the best system was in RIFTS:


Alignment


Palladium's alignments are described in detailed terms, outlining how a character will act in a certain situation: whether they will lie, how much force they will use against innocents, how they view the law, and so forth. The alignments are organized into three broad categories: Good, Selfish, and Evil. The seven core alignments are:



  • Principled (Good)

  • Scrupulous (Good)

  • Unprincipled (Selfish)

  • Anarchist (Selfish)

  • Miscreant (Evil)

  • Aberrant (Evil)

  • Diabolic (Evil)


Here are some short descriptions womebody typed up in another thread:


Principled is guy who does good and never breaks the rules, never hurts innocents, and doesn't kill bad guys if he can help it.

Scrupulous is the guy who will bend the rules, rough up bad guys if he thinks it will help, but still protects innocents and avoids killing (but not to the extent of Principled).

Unprincipled wants people to be free... doesn't like rules, but takes care of people for the most part, and tends to keep his word.

Anarchist doesn't like rules, either, but mostly doesn't like them applying to him. He kills and robs if he can get away with it, and if he has to, but not "just because".

Miscreant is like Anarchist, but moreso; whereas an Anarchist might keep his word if he feels like it, a Miscreant probably won't, unless it's convenient. He'll hurt you because he wants to, and kill you because he can.

Aberrant is evil, but honorable. He'll keep his word, but if his word involves hurting you because you're trying to keep from him what he needs...

Diabolic is simply evil... killing, hurting, and taking because he can.



From your descriptions

Principled is Lawful Good
Scrupulous is Neutral Good
Unprincipled is Chaotic Neutral leaning Chaotic Good
Anarchist is Chaotic Neutral leaning Chaotic Evil
Miscreant is Chaotic Evil
Aberrant is Lawful Evil
Diabolic is Neutral Evil leaning Chaotic Evil

I liked alignment, but I've always felt the best system was in RIFTS:


Alignment


Palladium's alignments are described in detailed terms, outlining how a character will act in a certain situation: whether they will lie, how much force they will use against innocents, how they view the law, and so forth. The alignments are organized into three broad categories: Good, Selfish, and Evil. The seven core alignments are:



  • Principled (Good)

  • Scrupulous (Good)

  • Unprincipled (Selfish)

  • Anarchist (Selfish)

  • Miscreant (Evil)

  • Aberrant (Evil)

  • Diabolic (Evil)


Here are some short descriptions womebody typed up in another thread:


Principled is guy who does good and never breaks the rules, never hurts innocents, and doesn't kill bad guys if he can help it.

Scrupulous is the guy who will bend the rules, rough up bad guys if he thinks it will help, but still protects innocents and avoids killing (but not to the extent of Principled).

Unprincipled wants people to be free... doesn't like rules, but takes care of people for the most part, and tends to keep his word.

Anarchist doesn't like rules, either, but mostly doesn't like them applying to him. He kills and robs if he can get away with it, and if he has to, but not "just because".

Miscreant is like Anarchist, but moreso; whereas an Anarchist might keep his word if he feels like it, a Miscreant probably won't, unless it's convenient. He'll hurt you because he wants to, and kill you because he can.

Aberrant is evil, but honorable. He'll keep his word, but if his word involves hurting you because you're trying to keep from him what he needs...

Diabolic is simply evil... killing, hurting, and taking because he can.



I totally agree with you there. I've played RPG's since 1982 (yes I am an old fart lol)I actually tend to use this system in any game I run. Yes I know I'm a heretic lol. Anyway I really like how that alignment system works.

"Death is good. Death is healthy. And these people need a lot of physical therapy."
-- Havik Stormcrow to Ezzil


I totally agree with you there. I've played RPG's since 1982 (yes I am an old fart lol)I actually tend to use this system in any game I run. Yes I know I'm a heretic lol. Anyway I really like how that alignment system works.

Well... it's better than d&d's alignments at least.

I'm a fan of alignments, it's one of those sacred cows that, love it or hate it, help to identify D&D as D&D and not any old fantasy pen and paper RPG.  When that alignment grid shows up somewhere you know what's up. I also like that it's for the most part modular. You can completely ignore it and not much will change, or you can be very engaged with it.

As far as acting within alignment I'm of the mindset alignment is what your character strives for. You paladin strives to be lawful good, he does his damndest but he's only human (or elf, whatever) so sometimes he falters. However if you're consistantly acting towards a different set of principles you should change your alignment, and that's that. I don't feel like it needs to be a big thing, it's just a tool to help roleplaying and can give you a "go-to" reaction to something for your character that you just have no idea how to react to.
I like the 9 alignments and the addition of unaliged to describe creatures lacking the capacity of rational thoughts.


Yan
Montréal, Canada
@Plaguescarred on twitter

Players should be free to portray their characters in a realistic and reasonable fashion. There is nothing wrong with a DM who wants to use a two word summary for how the character tends to behave, but he should not be remotely surprised when the character behaves in a dynamic fashion that is not entirely consistent with that two word summary.

Things only go pear shaped when the DM tries to browbeat players into behaving according to their alignment.

 
Players should be free to portray their characters in a realistic and reasonable fashion. There is nothing wrong with a DM who wants to use a two word summary for how the character tends to behave, but he should not be remotely surprised when the character behaves in a dynamic fashion that is not entirely consistent with that two word summary.

Things only go pear shaped when the DM tries to browbeat players into behaving according to their alignment.

 




when the players know from day 1 that alignment rules will be used what is the issue?
The big problem I had with the Palladium alignment was that it gave you a list of, like, 15 things that it said your character would or would not do.  What if my guy will do 10 off one list and 5 off another?  Pigeonholing people like that just seems utterly pointless.
when the players know from day 1 that alignment rules will be used what is the issue?

That's like saying "Guys, before we start I want you to know we're going to use some rules that make portraying realistic characters a lot harder. Everyone okay with that?"

Players should be free to portray their characters in a realistic and reasonable fashion. There is nothing wrong with a DM who wants to use a two word summary for how the character tends to behave, but he should not be remotely surprised when the character behaves in a dynamic fashion that is not entirely consistent with that two word summary.

Things only go pear shaped when the DM tries to browbeat players into behaving according to their alignment.

 




when the players know from day 1 that alignment rules will be used what is the issue?



Are you saying that you think it's acceptable for the DM to browbeat players into behaving in accordance with (his interpretation of) their characters' alignments as long as he has told them in advance that they have to choose one?
"When Friday comes, we'll all call rats fish." D&D Outsider
I have no problems with the alignment system existing in the game--just something that's always been there and seems to make sense to most people I've met.

I do think these days that some of it is unrealistic, however. I'll add as a caveat to all of this that I teach ethics

Neutrality: I don't really understand this position, on the Good/Evil axis. Are you, the Neutral person, saying that the world 'needs' a balance between good an evil? So, in other words, it is good that there is some evil in the world? So you trying to bring about a balance of good and evil are trying to do good?

Or are you 'neutral' in the sense that you just don't care about 'good vs evil'? There are very few people who do not even have an internal, personal, subjective notion of good and evil, and do not care about the opinions of others in these matters. We call those people sociopaths.

So it seems like 'Neutrals' are either actually 'Good', or sociopaths.


Chaotic Good: The way most people think of this alignment, it's a person who wants to do good, but doesn't want to be bound by all those 'rules'. But of course, if you have a notion of 'good', you have at least some idea of what counts as 'good' and what doesn't. Some actions, you will admit, are 'good' and others are 'not good'. And thus, when you take actions, you will take those actions that you think of as good.

In other words...you are following rules. You own rules, maybe, but still rules. The 'chaotic good' person, as typically played, is actually a Lawful Good person, just using their own laws.

And it doesn't work, I think, to make 'lawful/chaotic' here the distinction between whether you obey legal laws or not, instead of moral. I don't know anyone who thinks, for example, that Paladins, as LG, have to obey every law of every principality they happen to be in. Paladins are perfectly within their LG alignment to reject unjust laws of, say, an evil King. But that just means that the Paladin is following the moral code he has chosen.

And that's no different from the chaotic good player, as I've seen that alignment played over the years.


Just some thoughts. If I were to sum up, I'd say something like the following:

The alignments that seem to make sense to me are LG, CE, LE, and then those reserved for people with mental instability, like Sociopath Neutrals :P
Neutral characters fall into one of two categories traditionally. People who are apathetic and couldn't really care much either way as long as they're left to their own devices. An example of this would be a wizard obsessed with the study of magical theory but cares little for its application or who rules him as long as he can study. The other category is of course the dumber one, the person who wants perfect balance. This leads to bizzare circumstances where the character will be on the side of evil if evil is on the losing side. This is fine for NPCs I think but for players it can encourage some bad roleplaying "man we sure are kicking the butts of these bad guys... well I'd better help them instead."

Chaotic good charactes are your robin hoods. Actively opposing the forces of law when those forces are tyranical. A chaotic good characters first obligation is to goodness, the well being of others and the active pursuit of the destruction of evil. Given the option the evil forces he will seek to oppose will always be tyranical rulers. He also will have fragrent disregard for law when opposing evil. City guards protecting a crime lord? He'ed have no trouble cutting them down because they chose their side regardless of their authority. You could say chaotic good characters are your anti-establishment types; anarchists, socialists, counter culturalists. They're your classical liberalists, believing that everyone is born free and deserves their freedom as much as possible but people make concessions, in the form of laws, to protect themselves.

As for the paladin if you've ever seen King of the Hill think Hank Hill. He has definate identifiable morals but he always works within the context of the law to enforce those morals. He cares about the social fibre that laws provide but wants to see them used to the best benefit of everyone. Sometimes that doesn't work though and he just has to kick someones ***. That's your archetypal paladin.

I think it makes perfect sense when  you consider the law/chaos axis not to be personal codes but societal ones. Chaotic good characters are outcast sometimes anti-heroes while lawful good characters would be your war heroes or good cops or whatever public figures people are encouraged to idolize.
The law vs chaos axis is many times associated with if you follow the laws in the area, or if you disregard them. I tend to think of it as a bit deeper than that. Lawful alignment means that the character is willing to suffer inconvenience in order to do things by the book. It does not mean that they never lie or break local laws.

Example: Pushing a button at a crossing, and then waiting for the walk sign to turn on before walking across the street, even if there are no cars around would be a lawful act. Crossing the street without waiting would be neutral, and crossing even if there are cars around would be chaotic.

Of course alignment should not be used to straightjacket characters. They should have complex personalities that can't be completly determined by alignment. Ultimately it is a role-playing tool that some like and use and some don't.
Neutral characters fall into one of two categories traditionally. People who are apathetic and couldn't really care much either way as long as they're left to their own devices.



It's this category that I think I have the bigger issue with. I don't see how that's not just categorized as in the 'evil' camp. It's not like the people who are LE/CE are necessarily commited to some sort of overall 'victory of evil over good'--they can just as easily be self-serving, and not concerned with anyone's good but their own.

In the real world, that's often the mindset of people we call 'evil'. Someone who is truly 'unconcerned about good vs evil'...are they then unconcerned that, for example, civilians are being slaughtered by an invading army? If they are concerned, they would seem to be somewhere on the 'good' scale. If they are really unconcerned about that...I'd say 'evil' fits.

A chaotic good characters first obligation is to goodness, the well being of others and the active pursuit of the destruction of evil. Given the option the evil forces he will seek to oppose will always be tyranical rulers. He also will have fragrent disregard for law when opposing evil. City guards protecting a crime lord? He'ed have no trouble cutting them down because they chose their side regardless of their authority. You could say chaotic good characters are your anti-establishment types; anarchists, socialists, counter culturalists. They're your classical liberalists, believing that everyone is born free and deserves their freedom as much as possible but people make concessions, in the form of laws, to protect themselves.



Right, I think that's the only way to understand Chaotic Good--chaotic only in regards to social/legal rules. Someone who's good obviously has their own internal rules and laws...and others are free to do what they want, but violating the CG character's internal rules about what's good and evil will bring their wrath, right?

As for the paladin if you've ever seen King of the Hill think Hank Hill.

Love this analogy.

It's this category that I think I have the bigger issue with. I don't see how that's not just categorized as in the 'evil' camp. It's not like the people who are LE/CE are necessarily commited to some sort of overall 'victory of evil over good'--they can just as easily be self-serving, and not concerned with anyone's good but their own.

In the real world, that's often the mindset of people we call 'evil'. Someone who is truly 'unconcerned about good vs evil'...are they then unconcerned that, for example, civilians are being slaughtered by an invading army? If they are concerned, they would seem to be somewhere on the 'good' scale. If they are really unconcerned about that...I'd say 'evil' fits.


Yeah I agree with you, but for the purposes of the games internal mechanics these people are true neurtal. The idea that allowing evil to exist is in itself an evil act isn't part of what the game considers for alignments. These are usually hermits or eccentrics though. As far as your commoners alignment I figure most would be lawful neutral, they just obey because its what everyone does and it keeps society together, but they don't have much stock in their ruler unless they're an absolute despot. This could also include people who live outside society, like hermits. They have very little stock in others concepts of good vs evil. Like Treebeard says "I am on no ones side, because nobody is on my side." That would be a very TN thing to say.

Now that I think about it TN could also encompess people who are more philosophical rather than practical in regards to good vs. evil. They see them as relatives and would say one cannot exist without the other because if there was no evil to compare good to it would just be, it wouldn't be good, it wouldn't be anything.
As far as your commoners alignment I figure most would be lawful neutral, they just obey because its what everyone does and it keeps society together, but they don't have much stock in their ruler unless they're an absolute despot. This could also include people who live outside society, like hermits. They have very little stock in others concepts of good vs evil. Like Treebeard says "I am on no ones side, because nobody is on my side." That would be a very TN thing to say.



That's looking at alignment in a very social way, as opposed to internal. Which is cool, that's an interesting issue. Is a D&D alignment a set of internally believed moral codes, or a set of social norms one decides to follow?

Treebeard, to me, would be Good. The fact that he's 'not on anyone's side' isn't alignment, in the 'good/evil' sense, but rather one of allegiances. He's on the side of good, but not of 'man', for example.

Now that I think about it TN could also encompess people who are more philosophical rather than practical in regards to good vs. evil. They see them as relatives and would say one cannot exist without the other because if there was no evil to compare good to it would just be, it wouldn't be good, it wouldn't be anything.



I've never been convinced that this is a coherent position to take, though. And I'm not sure how many people historically, or believably in fiction, would hold this position. To say that good cannot exist without evil would mean that you'd have to mean by 'good' something like 'better'...better than what other people are doing, for example.

But that's not what people mean by 'good'. They mean, in almost every instance, 'in accordance with some law or rule', whether it's a religious or secular moral rule. "Do no harm", for example. It's not "do less harm than others". If someone believed that this was the highest moral rule, then things would continue to 'do no harm' if there was nothing that did harm, right? If 'obey God' or 'help people' was the moral rule, would they stop being moral rules if nobody was violating them?

Maybe evil helps us appreciate good, or see it. But again, even if a character's view is this one of evil being 'necessary', isn't that shorthand for saying 'necessary for things to be right'...meaning 'the best world'? Meaning 'good'?