Sage Atop The Mountain: Alignment Issues Solved

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Alignment repeatedly comes up as a topic of problems people have in their games. Usually this is because people seem to have a backwards view of how alignment should be implemented to have the greatest effect. It's so common as an issue that the problem methodologies behind alignment have, in some cases, become the default views of alignment.

I use alignment. I use alignment in both the games I run. Players have alignment. NPCs have alignment. Monsters have alignment. And it all works swimmingly...mostly because alignment is not treated as something that colors PC actions but, rather, is something colored BY the actions of a PC.

Well, anyway, since it comes up so often, and since it works well in my games because of my approach, I have created this thread (re-created really) to answer questions and address issues people legitimately have in their games (either existing or future).

So if you have alignment issues cropping up, post it up and I'll tell you how/why it's not an issue in my games so you'll know how to fix/address it.

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.

And please, if your whole feedback is "Alignment sucks, don't use it," please take it somewhere else so that it doesn't take up space here. The fact that so many people have made alignment work in their games shows that there are ways to make it work, if not necessarily for everybody, and if somebody has more interest than you do in learning the ideas that people like us use to make it work, please let them.

Founder and figurehead of Just Say Yes!

Member of LGBT Gamers

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
A game is a fictional construct created for the sake of the players, not the other way around. If you have a question "How do I keep X from happening at my table," and you feel that the out-of-game answer "Talk the the other people at your table" won't help, then the in-game answers "Remove mechanics A, B, and/or C, add mechanics L, M, and/or N" will not help either.
And please, if your whole feedback is "Alignment sucks, don't use it," please take it somewhere else so that it doesn't take up space here. The fact that so many people have made alignment work in their games shows that there are ways to make it work, if not necessarily for everybody, and if somebody has more interest than you do in learning the ideas that people like us use to make it work, please let them.



Thanks, Beldak! Quite right!

Now, of course, if someone's post is "Alignment has sucked for me, I don't know how to use it" that is similar but slightly different! There's no problem with that because it puts the onus on the poster to address a problem rather than just blaming Alignment. If you've got big problems, bring them on!

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.

Alignment sucks, don't use it. Tongue Out
Back to Basics - A Guide to Basic Attacks You might be playing DnD wrong if... "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." Albert Einstein
Alignment sucks, don't use it. 



Noooooooo! Threadfail!

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.

Alignment repeatedly comes up as a topic of problems people have in their games. Usually this is because people seem to have a backwards view of how alignment should be implemented to have the greatest effect. It's so common as an issue that the problem methodologies behind alignment have, in some cases, become the default views of alignment.

I use alignment. I use alignment in both the games I run. Players have alignment. NPCs have alignment. Monsters have alignment. And it all works swimmingly...mostly because alignment is not treated as something that colors PC actions but, rather, is something colored BY the actions of a PC.

Well, anyway, since it comes up so often, and since it works well in my games because of my approach, I have created this thread (re-created really) to answer questions and address issues people legitimately have in their games (either existing or future).

So if you have alignment issues cropping up, post it up and I'll tell you how/why it's not an issue in my games so you'll know how to fix/address it.



I don't use alignment, as I've found it easier and more effective for my group to just drop the whole alignment system in favor of something a little more natural, than to try to make it work.

But, alignment is a very popular but misunderstood element of D&D, and I believe that an Alignment Doctor thread is a great idea for those who do use it. 

Great idea, and good luck

[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
Alright, since you seem so eager to share some wisdom here, I'll shoot. 

I'm one of those 'alignment sucks, don't use it crowd', thought I should start with that, just to clear the air about where my biases lie, but for the purpose of this I'll suspend my disbelief and employ the principle of charity.

I play a lot of espionage, intrigue, assassination type games.  As a group many times we have removed alignment, alignment detection spells, and many times the whole school of divination along with ressurections...basically producing a low magic world and making it more difficult to hunt down spies.  After all, having at will detection for that one evil player in a lawful good temple sort of defeats the purpose of being a spy in the first place.  Particularly in games where players may be at odds with one another-(i.e. members of opposed factions bent on eradicating each other).

How would you propose implementing an alignment system in such a world, and how would it enhance the experience?  After-all, if it doesn't enhance the experience, I would have no such reason to include it. 
...and in the ancient voice of a million squirrels the begotten chittered "You have set upon yourselves a great and noble task, dare you step further, what say you! What say you!"
I was going to write "alignment sucks, don't use it" but Fardiz already covered that.

Instead I'll try to be constructive: Is there anything positive that can be achieved by using alignments that could't be achieved without it? 
Alright, since you seem so eager to share some wisdom here, I'll shoot. 

I'm one of those 'alignment sucks, don't use it crowd', thought I should start with that, just to clear the air about where my biases lie, but for the purpose of this I'll suspend my disbelief and employ the principle of charity.

I play a lot of espionage, intrigue, assassination type games.  As a group many times we have removed alignment, alignment detection spells, and many times the whole school of divination along with ressurections...basically producing a low magic world and making it more difficult to hunt down spies.  After all, having at will detection for that one evil player in a lawful good temple sort of defeats the purpose of being a spy in the first place.  Particularly in games where players may be at odds with one another-(i.e. members of opposed factions bent on eradicating each other).

How would you propose implementing an alignment system in such a world, and how would it enhance the experience?  After-all, if it doesn't enhance the experience, I would have no such reason to include it. 



Good question. One thing to keep in mind is that alignment is meant for heroic fantasy where Good & Evil are cosmic forces and there are undeniably Good and Evil things. Remember, though, this doesn't mean devils and the like don't necessarily refer to themselves as "Evil" (except for some of the ironic or humorous ones!)...they would probably sneer at the concept of "Evil" being somehow worse than "Good"...because that is how "Evil" works. Similarly, this conceit doesn't mean that people still won't rationalize their actions. They will see Evil as necessary..or even unavoidable...or desirable depending on the circumstances. It's human (dwarven/elven/etc) nature to rationalize our actions. This doesn't make that action "Not Evil" it just means the person has justified it to themselves to take part in it.

That said, none of that precludes what you have described. I have quite a bit of espionage and such in my games as well. There are a couple things to keep in mind when you have alignment in the world. The most important one is that the world and it's people know these spells exist. Think about it, we have crazy surveillance and forensics in todays world...but crimes still happen. Capable criminals still exist. Why? They know the system exists and they work to circumvent it.

In other words, smart bad people act smart. A master spy isn't going to have a detectable alignment. They will mask it. They will hide it. They will cover their tracks. Magic exists. Use it. NPCs have expected amount of magic gear...have them spend it in a way that makes it easy for them to do their jobs.

Of course, that is not the end-all-be-all answer because unlimited alignment-hiding is A) excessive in a metagame sense and B) costly. So you get into cheaper, smarter ways for schemers to scheme.

Patsies are awesome for that. If you're an Evil guy, force a Neutral or even Good guy to do your bidding. Heck, you can even have someone else Evil do it so long as it ain't you. This is how plots become plots instead of just crimes...and how plots become labyrinthine. An Evil Duke might be Evil, but bringing him to justice without any proof what-so-ever isn't going to fly. After all, if the clues don't point to him why would the PCs single out him when it could just as easily be the Evil, corrupt guard captain? Or the Evil orc warmaster that lives nearby? Detecting someone as "Evil" does not immediately tie them to a crime. This also creates group dynamics for consideration where a Chaotic Good character might justifiably feel that someone being "Evil" is cause enough...while the Lawful Good character feels that the Law must equally be considered. Etc etc. This allows for character interaction, growth and drama. Nothing bad there.

Also keep in mind that "Evil" does = "Opposed to the PCs". Evil is as Evil does. A spy in their ranks that is serving their lord might be Lawful Neutral. Hell, one that is spying to help overthrow what they believe to be a bloated regime the PCs are helping might be Chaotic Good. Too often we myopically think of potential foes of the party as being necessarily "Evil" when this doesn't have to be the case. It is a narrow view of character interaction and motivations. While Good & Evil in D&D are cut and dry, politics and people can be way hairier. After all, two kingdoms going to war over an escalated trade dispute might have Lawful Good warriors on either side doing honorable combat with each other. Neither would detect to the other as "Evil". It is the classic Street Fighter shodown Guile vs Zangief fight. Zangief is not evil...but Guile is his enemy. Guile is not evil...but Zangief is his foe. Why? Politics. Nowadays with Russia & America as allies, Guile & Zangief are similarly cool with each other. Why? Because they're both genuinely good guys that were just on opposite ends of the politic spectrum at one point.

Remember, there is a huge difference between "using alignment but subverting/ignoring it constantly" and "using alignment in a world where alignment exists". In the latter, smart people WILL work around things like Detect Evil. Think about your PCs heading into a place where magic is verboten...are they just gonna stop having magic gear or using magic? Heck no, they're probably gonna look for ways to hide it and work around the restriction. Now substitute "Evil" for "Magic" and it is just the same. This also gives MORE fodder for games as players have to think "Well we think this guy is the evil cultist. But he doesn't detect as Evil. Strange. Okay time to do some investigating to see how he might be masking that". Etc.

The other thing to consider is that a single Evil act does not an Evil person-make. Because someone does not detect as "Evil" does not mean they have never committed an Evil act (even recently). Sometimes (all too often) good people do bad things. If they do those things consistently...they're Evil...but even if we eliminated "career" criminals that would still leave countless crimes of passion and simple misjudgements, etc. A D&D world need be no different.

Oddly enough, sometimes people look at and think of alignment too narrowly to define their world when their world can still be just as varied as the real world. Alignment doesn't have to be a cage.

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

 

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

 

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

I was going to write "alignment sucks, don't use it" but Fardiz already covered that.

Instead I'll try to be constructive: Is there anything positive that can be achieved by using alignments that could't be achieved without it? 



Yes. You can have the objective Good/Evil that exists across countless examples of heroic-fantasy and have it exist in a meaningful, supported, reinforced way. Without something like alignment, at best, you can have objective Good/Evil but it isn't supported in any way that is tangible to the players...which reduces it's impact...which makes it useless. It is the equivalent of claiming the Light Side and Dark Side of the Force exist yet hand-waving any actual impact from those two opposite (something that is clearly not the case in Star Wars itself where Good & Evil are clearly defined/shown).

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

 

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

 

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

I was going to write "alignment sucks, don't use it" but Fardiz already covered that.

Instead I'll try to be constructive: Is there anything positive that can be achieved by using alignments that could't be achieved without it? 



Just a random thought: A party of Good PCs find themselves in a situation where doing what they perceive to be the Right Thing conflicts with the objective moral framework of the universe (ie, is "Evil").

(Probably not for everybody, but in the right circumstances I can see this being a lot of fun)
I've not had a chance to look at some of the longer threads I've replied to recently (no time, no time ), but I suspect this thread is a reponse, directly or indirectly, to my declaration to the effect of:



  • Please, consider dropping alignment from your game.  It's a VERY poor tool for modeling personality, motivation, character development, and other aspects of characterization. 

    Alignment shines instead in a role as the banners/colours flying over factions in games like Chess or Magic: The Gathering, as convenient stand-in for the ultimately unimportant philosophies and politics of armies of faceless mooks... good, evil, chaos, law, green, red, blue, Black Hats and White Hats, Home vs. Visitors, Mac vs. PC, Pepsi vs. Coke, "narrativist vs. simulationist", Democrat vs. Republican, Ork vs. Empire vs. Eldarr vs. whatever, Shiite vs. Sunni, cowboy vs. indian, pirate vs. ninja, Big-Endian vs. Little-Endian - it's only an arbitrary designation of difference for modeling political arguments, as far as hand-waving the rationale for an irrational conflict in a system where the reason for an irrational conflict is less important than acting out the fighting of the conflict itself.




Older editions of "Vampire: The Masquerade" (and maybe newer versions, too, I don't know) had something of a similar idea to D&D's Alignment, in personality archetypes.  I think it worked slightly better for modeling characterization... the difference with it is that there were two levels:  the archetype that the PC wants to project to the outside world, and the archetype that the PC is like internally.  Thus, a V:tM character who externally acts as a Bully but is really, at heart, a Martyr is a very different character from one who acts like a Martyr, but at heart is actually a Bully.  The two levels also simulate internal conflict... a PC who is externally a Praise-Seeker and internally a Sycophant may be torn between the two motivations when presented with a situation where they are uncertain whether they will get more praise for toadying to an authority than siding with rebels. 

Consider the difference it might make if a similar two-layer approach were taken with alignment:  a Paladin idealistically wants to project and be a Lawful Good paragon of Paladinhood, but, at heart, he has a selfish Neutral Evil streak; if given a difficult choice, which side of the Paladin's personality will triumph?  How will the Paladin feel about it and live with himself if he chooses to act selfishly, and lets down his ideals?  How will the Paladin feel about it and live with himself if he chooses to make personal sacrifices of his selfishness in favor of the LG ideal, and secretly resents it?  How does the Paladin feel about the outwardly Chaotic Evil Half-Orc Assassin in the party, when, underneath the tragic and violent exterior adopted to fit into the Assassin's violent world, the Paladin sees some good in the Half-Orc's deeper personality?

Does alignment cease to work, if it becomes unchained from any previous mechanical simulation of the differences between moral factions, or any token presence in the name of D&D tradition, or any philosophical differences between players and DMs, and instead is altered to dwell mainly in the realm of modeling, for the sake of characterization, internal conflict - that otherwise strange and inaccessible alien to the world of D&D conflicts?


I don't know, I've never tried it.  It sounds like something that is worth exploring in a couple one-shot adventures sometime, to see how it works.  (I wish I had more spare time to try it with myself, sounds like it could be a fun experiment.)
[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
It's a VERY poor tool for modeling personality, motivation, character development, and other aspects of characterization.

If it's used as the only tool, yes, but any tool for characterization looks poor when it's used as the only one. If you only look at the "100 Adjectives" lists and took 3-4 for each character without going into deeper explanations about WHY each character can be described by those adjectives - and how they are different from others who can also be described by similar combinations -  then the "100 Adjectives" lists would also appear to be very poor tools for characterization.

Founder and figurehead of Just Say Yes!

Member of LGBT Gamers

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
A game is a fictional construct created for the sake of the players, not the other way around. If you have a question "How do I keep X from happening at my table," and you feel that the out-of-game answer "Talk the the other people at your table" won't help, then the in-game answers "Remove mechanics A, B, and/or C, add mechanics L, M, and/or N" will not help either.
It's a VERY poor tool for modeling personality, motivation, character development, and other aspects of characterization.

If it's used as the only tool, yes, but any tool for characterization looks poor when it's used as the only one. If you only look at the "100 Adjectives" lists and took 3-4 for each character without going into deeper explanations about WHY each character can be described by those adjectives - and how they are different from others who can also be described by similar combinations -  then the "100 Adjectives" lists would also appear to be very poor tools for characterization.



Oh, to be certain - I considered exploring that in my last post, but put it off until later.

Consider, for example, a (ridiculous, but functional) example of an alignment system of "7E vs. 6E":  if that were the beginning and end of characterization for a character, it would be only a little more lame than "That's just what my character does because he's True Neutral (or whatever)".

If it's, at most, a secondary part of the characterization, then it becomes a throw-away line in the character description that can be useful in some situations, but not a replacement for personality:  "My character thinks of himself as a hardcore 6th Edition D&D fanatic, and, if bored, will happily argue on Internet forums for hours on end about which edition is better.  He swears he would refuse to join an adventuring party on a quest to order Pizza, if he knew that party included a 7th Edition fan!  In truth, though, he's loyal to his friends, in spite of their shortcomings, though not beyond insulting their poor taste in RPGs...."

[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
I've not had a chance to look at some of the longer threads I've replied to recently (no time, no time ), but I suspect this thread is a reponse, directly or indirectly, to my declaration to the effect of:



  • Please, consider dropping alignment from your game.  It's a VERY poor tool for modeling personality, motivation, character development, and other aspects of characterization. 

    Alignment shines instead in a role as the banners/colours flying over factions in games like Chess or Magic: The Gathering, as convenient stand-in for the ultimately unimportant philosophies and politics of armies of faceless mooks... good, evil, chaos, law, green, red, blue, Black Hats and White Hats, Home vs. Visitors, Mac vs. PC, Pepsi vs. Coke, "narrativist vs. simulationist", Democrat vs. Republican, Ork vs. Empire vs. Eldarr vs. whatever, Shiite vs. Sunni, cowboy vs. indian, pirate vs. ninja, Big-Endian vs. Little-Endian - it's only an arbitrary designation of difference for modeling political arguments, as far as hand-waving the rationale for an irrational conflict in a system where the reason for an irrational conflict is less important than acting out the fighting of the conflict itself.




Older editions of "Vampire: The Masquerade" (and maybe newer versions, too, I don't know) had something of a similar idea to D&D's Alignment, in personality archetypes.  I think it worked slightly better for modeling characterization... the difference with it is that there were two levels:  the archetype that the PC wants to project to the outside world, and the archetype that the PC is like internally.  Thus, a V:tM character who externally acts as a Bully but is really, at heart, a Martyr is a very different character from one who acts like a Martyr, but at heart is actually a Bully.  The two levels also simulate internal conflict... a PC who is externally a Praise-Seeker and internally a Sycophant may be torn between the two motivations when presented with a situation where they are uncertain whether they will get more praise for toadying to an authority than siding with rebels. 

Consider the difference it might make if a similar two-layer approach were taken with alignment:  a Paladin idealistically wants to project and be a Lawful Good paragon of Paladinhood, but, at heart, he has a selfish Neutral Evil streak; if given a difficult choice, which side of the Paladin's personality will triumph?  How will the Paladin feel about it and live with himself if he chooses to act selfishly, and lets down his ideals?  How will the Paladin feel about it and live with himself if he chooses to make personal sacrifices of his selfishness in favor of the LG ideal, and secretly resents it?  How does the Paladin feel about the outwardly Chaotic Evil Half-Orc Assassin in the party, when, underneath the tragic and violent exterior adopted to fit into the Assassin's violent world, the Paladin sees some good in the Half-Orc's deeper personality?

Does alignment cease to work, if it becomes unchained from any previous mechanical simulation of the differences between moral factions, or any token presence in the name of D&D tradition, or any philosophical differences between players and DMs, and instead is altered to dwell mainly in the realm of modeling, for the sake of characterization, internal conflict - that otherwise strange and inaccessible alien to the world of D&D conflicts?


I don't know, I've never tried it.  It sounds like something that is worth exploring in a couple one-shot adventures sometime, to see how it works.  (I wish I had more spare time to try it with myself, sounds like it could be a fun experiment.)



Believe me, I hadn't even read that post...so no I'm not responding to it in any way.

VtM is not a game of heroic fantasy. It's moral system will necessarily be different from D&D because VtM is seeking to emulate a world of fashion-impaired whining emo-goths angsty vampires in a grim & gritty world. That is not heroic fantasy.

In general, your post doesn't actually ask any questions about alignment. It just presupposes that certain things do not happen within the alignment system as written.

In my game, the party had a Lawful Evil dwarven assassin in their midst for a time. They found him to be A) cruel B) a man of his word C) callous D) helpful E) selfish F) morally bankrupt G) disturbed H) sympathetic and I) unwavering. Why? Because he's a being with motivations, goals and a personality. LE was not the end-all-be-all of describing him. In fact, I just asked my wife (a player in one of my games) to "use a word to describe Coaldust" (the name of the assassin) and she struggled to sum him up other than to say that he was "mean...well, mean-ish"..."cruel...sometimes" and "strong...like tough with a strong will". Why did she struggle? He's multi-faceted. However, when I asked her what his alignment..."Evil. Lawful Evil. Maybe a little Neutral, but definitely Evil". She had to think about it a bit...but "Evil" was immediate. "Lawful" she was a bit less absolutely sure about but she was sure he wasn't "Chaotic" and was positive that he was "probably Lawful" then going as far to say "Yeah definitely Lawful" when she thought about their interactions with him (which was nearly a year ago real time) as a group.

Keep in mind I have never told anyone Coaldust's alignment. In fact, the Paladin only detected alignment on him to see "how Evil" this guy was. It was already a foregone conclusion just by interacting with him for a while that he was definitely Evil.

Alignment, like most stuff in the game, only has as much depth as the efforts put forth by the DM allow. If Alignment is presented as one-note and shallow it is no different from shallowly depicting class or race. It is the sign of a poor imagination.

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.



Believe me, I hadn't even read that post...so no I'm not responding to it in any way.

VtM is not a game of heroic fantasy. It's moral system will necessarily be different from D&D because VtM is seeking to emulate a world of fashion-impaired whining emo-goths angsty vampires in a grim & gritty world. That is not heroic fantasy.

In general, your post doesn't actually ask any questions about alignment. It just presupposes that certain things do not happen within the alignment system as written.

In my game, the party had a Lawful Evil dwarven assassin in their midst for a time. They found him to be A) cruel B) a man of his word C) callous D) helpful E) selfish F) morally bankrupt G) disturbed H) sympathetic and I) unwavering. Why? Because he's a being with motivations, goals and a personality. LE was not the end-all-be-all of describing him. In fact, I just asked my wife (a player in one of my games) to "use a word to describe Coaldust" (the name of the assassin) and she struggled to sum him up other than to say that he was "mean...well, mean-ish"..."cruel...sometimes" and "strong...like tough with a strong will". Why did she struggle? He's multi-faceted. However, when I asked her what his alignment..."Evil. Lawful Evil. Maybe a little Neutral, but definitely Evil". She had to think about it a bit...but "Evil" was immediate. "Lawful" she was a bit less absolutely sure about but she was sure he wasn't "Chaotic" and was positive that he was "probably Lawful" then going as far to say "Yeah definitely Lawful" when she thought about their interactions with him (which was nearly a year ago real time) as a group.

Keep in mind I have never told anyone Coaldust's alignment. In fact, the Paladin only detected alignment on him to see "how Evil" this guy was. It was already a foregone conclusion just by interacting with him for a while that he was definitely Evil.

Alignment, like most stuff in the game, only has as much depth as the efforts put forth by the DM allow. If Alignment is presented as one-note and shallow it is no different from shallowly depicting class or race. It is the sign of a poor imagination.



Ah, but it's not really only about the DM, is it?  It's also, perhaps even more so,  about how much effort the players put forth into creating their characters.

In a purely heroic fantasy world, is there a point to Alignment?  How much requirement does a purely heroic fantasy world have for alignment, with the understanding that the game involves a team of heroic adventurers heroically beating the stuffing out of the Orc in the 10'x10' room? 

Is there any notable difference between a heroic fantasy game with and without alignment?

Would it really have been impossible to have played the LE Dwarf Assassin in absence of an explicit alignment?  Why, or why not?



Alignment played a more important role in the game's past, as a medievel miniatures war game with a fantasy face-lift put on it:  "the 'good' team are the hobbits, dwarves, elves and fighting men you guys are playing... the 'evil' team are the orcs, goblins, and ring-wraiths I'm playing... you can cast protection from my evil guys, or detect their evil in a crowd, if you have the right spells...."



Somewhere later in the game's history, it got a little bit muddier than that, as DMs and players got a little more ambitious:  parties containing assassins, Evil Thieves, PC Orcs, and that sort of thing... the characterizations began to aim a bit higher in their complexity and depth, but alignment as written, I say, has never been up to the challenge of supporting that sort of complexity and depth, beyond (at best) a vague suggestion to start with in developing a complex personality for your character.


Truly, with or without alignment, the character is far more than two letters scrawled at the top of the character sheet.

For a fun exercise, try getting a group of people to agree on the alignment of Indiana Jones, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Conan the Barbarian, Bilbo Baggins.  Any discussion on "provide some popular character examples of alignment _____ " almost always break down into very long debates without any clear-cut agreement.

I believe that LE Dwarf Assassin's player had to put some thought into pigeon-holing the character into an LE designation, because the player either did not have a clear concept of the character, or, more likely (based on your description), because the player had a clear concept of the character that could not easily be boiled down to a mere two-letter designation.

What role do those two letters play in the game, that a paragraph's worth of clear character concept cannot do better?
[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
What alignment is Batman?
Back to Basics - A Guide to Basic Attacks You might be playing DnD wrong if... "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." Albert Einstein
Alright, since you seem so eager to share some wisdom here, I'll shoot. 

I'm one of those 'alignment sucks, don't use it crowd', thought I should start with that, just to clear the air about where my biases lie, but for the purpose of this I'll suspend my disbelief and employ the principle of charity.

I play a lot of espionage, intrigue, assassination type games.  As a group many times we have removed alignment, alignment detection spells, and many times the whole school of divination along with ressurections...basically producing a low magic world and making it more difficult to hunt down spies.  After all, having at will detection for that one evil player in a lawful good temple sort of defeats the purpose of being a spy in the first place.  Particularly in games where players may be at odds with one another-(i.e. members of opposed factions bent on eradicating each other).

How would you propose implementing an alignment system in such a world, and how would it enhance the experience?  After-all, if it doesn't enhance the experience, I would have no such reason to include it. 



Good question. One thing to keep in mind is that alignment is meant for heroic fantasy where Good & Evil are cosmic forces and there are undeniably Good and Evil things. Remember, though, this doesn't mean devils and the like don't necessarily refer to themselves as "Evil" (except for some of the ironic or humorous ones!)...they would probably sneer at the concept of "Evil" being somehow worse than "Good"...because that is how "Evil" works. Similarly, this conceit doesn't mean that people still won't rationalize their actions. They will see Evil as necessary..or even unavoidable...or desirable depending on the circumstances. It's human (dwarven/elven/etc) nature to rationalize our actions. This doesn't make that action "Not Evil" it just means the person has justified it to themselves to take part in it.

That said, none of that precludes what you have described. I have quite a bit of espionage and such in my games as well. There are a couple things to keep in mind when you have alignment in the world. The most important one is that the world and it's people know these spells exist. Think about it, we have crazy surveillance and forensics in todays world...but crimes still happen. Capable criminals still exist. Why? They know the system exists and they work to circumvent it.

In other words, smart bad people act smart. A master spy isn't going to have a detectable alignment. They will mask it. They will hide it. They will cover their tracks. Magic exists. Use it. NPCs have expected amount of magic gear...have them spend it in a way that makes it easy for them to do their jobs.

Of course, that is not the end-all-be-all answer because unlimited alignment-hiding is A) excessive in a metagame sense and B) costly. So you get into cheaper, smarter ways for schemers to scheme.

Patsies are awesome for that. If you're an Evil guy, force a Neutral or even Good guy to do your bidding. Heck, you can even have someone else Evil do it so long as it ain't you. This is how plots become plots instead of just crimes...and how plots become labyrinthine. An Evil Duke might be Evil, but bringing him to justice without any proof what-so-ever isn't going to fly. After all, if the clues don't point to him why would the PCs single out him when it could just as easily be the Evil, corrupt guard captain? Or the Evil orc warmaster that lives nearby? Detecting someone as "Evil" does not immediately tie them to a crime. This also creates group dynamics for consideration where a Chaotic Good character might justifiably feel that someone being "Evil" is cause enough...while the Lawful Good character feels that the Law must equally be considered. Etc etc. This allows for character interaction, growth and drama. Nothing bad there.

Also keep in mind that "Evil" does = "Opposed to the PCs". Evil is as Evil does. A spy in their ranks that is serving their lord might be Lawful Neutral. Hell, one that is spying to help overthrow what they believe to be a bloated regime the PCs are helping might be Chaotic Good. Too often we myopically think of potential foes of the party as being necessarily "Evil" when this doesn't have to be the case. It is a narrow view of character interaction and motivations. While Good & Evil in D&D are cut and dry, politics and people can be way hairier. After all, two kingdoms going to war over an escalated trade dispute might have Lawful Good warriors on either side doing honorable combat with each other. Neither would detect to the other as "Evil". It is the classic Street Fighter shodown Guile vs Zangief fight. Zangief is not evil...but Guile is his enemy. Guile is not evil...but Zangief is his foe. Why? Politics. Nowadays with Russia & America as allies, Guile & Zangief are similarly cool with each other. Why? Because they're both genuinely good guys that were just on opposite ends of the politic spectrum at one point.

Remember, there is a huge difference between "using alignment but subverting/ignoring it constantly" and "using alignment in a world where alignment exists". In the latter, smart people WILL work around things like Detect Evil. Think about your PCs heading into a place where magic is verboten...are they just gonna stop having magic gear or using magic? Heck no, they're probably gonna look for ways to hide it and work around the restriction. Now substitute "Evil" for "Magic" and it is just the same. This also gives MORE fodder for games as players have to think "Well we think this guy is the evil cultist. But he doesn't detect as Evil. Strange. Okay time to do some investigating to see how he might be masking that". Etc.

The other thing to consider is that a single Evil act does not an Evil person-make. Because someone does not detect as "Evil" does not mean they have never committed an Evil act (even recently). Sometimes (all too often) good people do bad things. If they do those things consistently...they're Evil...but even if we eliminated "career" criminals that would still leave countless crimes of passion and simple misjudgements, etc. A D&D world need be no different.

Oddly enough, sometimes people look at and think of alignment too narrowly to define their world when their world can still be just as varied as the real world. Alignment doesn't have to be a cage.



This response is using nearly the same language to argue for using alignments as I use to argue against them-interesting.  I would note that your response reads (to me) more like an argument as to how alignment could be retained in a game, and work-arounds developed for its shortcomings.  I wouldn't consider this as enhancing the game.  The main reason I've dumped it is because of the extra time and effort involved in developing these work arounds.  That time is spent not engaging in the story (it is a story...but not the focal point of the game), conducting espionage missions, or assassinating NPC's or PC's. 

Also, detection vs nondetection is not balanced.  Most spellcasters have access to detection spells at level 1, undetectable alignment is a second level spell, nondetection is not available until several levels later, with Wizards getting it first at 5th level.  In addition, there are other costs to keeping alignment in the game unique to this type of setting that simply slows the game down and interupts pacing.  Such as the process of low level or non spellcasting players attempting to find someone to cast these spells for them, and the amount of resources that must be spent to achieve this rather necessary state that cannot be spent elsewhere. 

I've chosen to remove the system based on much of the above.  Having access to such a powerful foil at level 1 negates much of the intrigue and espionage of intrigue and espionage games.  The expensive and boring solution is for everyone to have undetectable alignment and nondetection, but that becomes a tired excuse very quickly.  I find it best to simply jettison the whole system and build personality archetypes devoid of cosmic delineations. 

Never has there been a more subjective system included in the mechanics. 

Perhaps I'm not charitable enough, or perhaps this wasn't your best answer. 
...and in the ancient voice of a million squirrels the begotten chittered "You have set upon yourselves a great and noble task, dare you step further, what say you! What say you!"
...and, for the record, I am NOT in the camp that says "Alignment Sucks". 

I instead put myself into the camp that says that alignment is not a good fit for the sorts of games I think D&D defaults to these days, with three-dimensional PCs who are expected to generally survive and grow as the campaign progresses.  For modeling those sorts of characters, alignment is a poor inkblot tool for inspiration, at best.


In contrast, alignment is, I think, a fantastic tool for miniatures wargames. 

Alignment is also a fantastic tool for quickly sketching throw-away characters for a beer-and-pretzels killer-dungeon crawl - roll up random stats, toss a two-letter personality code at the top of the page, scrawl in "Bob the Fighter" next to it, and go bash some monsters until you get killed by a random poison dart trap - which I might be in the minority by saying, is NOT BadEvilFun at all (I wouldn't want to play in that game for months or years or as a default game style, but as a one-shot adventure or short campaign for laughs, I bet it would be a blast.)
[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
What alignment is Batman?



Lawful Good.  Read Kant's groundworks of the metaphysics of morals for more insight.
...and in the ancient voice of a million squirrels the begotten chittered "You have set upon yourselves a great and noble task, dare you step further, what say you! What say you!"
What alignment is Batman?


Don't you dare.
DON'T. YOU. DARE.

"Encouraging your players to be cautious and risk-averse prevents unexpected epic events and-well-progress at a decent pace in general."-Detoxifier

"HOT SINGLES IN YOUR AREA NOT REGENERATING DUE TO FIRE" -iserith 

"If snapping a dragon's neck with your bare hands is playind D&D wrong, then I don't want to play D&D right." -Lord_Ventnor

...and, for the record, I am NOT in the camp that says "Alignment Sucks". 

I instead put myself into the camp that says that alignment is not a good fit for the sorts of games I think D&D defaults to these days, with three-dimensional PCs who are expected to generally survive and grow as the campaign progresses. For modeling those sorts of characters, alignment is a poor inkblot tool for inspiration, at best.

In contrast, alignment is, I think, a fantastic tool for miniatures wargames.

Do you read The Order of the Stick? If you haven't found players/DMs that can use alignment as part of 3-dimensional characters, I would recommend seeing how well Rich Burlew does it. For example: In a party of 2 Lawful Goods, 2 Chaotic Goods, 1 True Neutral, and 1 Chaotic Evil, how do they work together despite wanting different things and going about getting them in different ways? Who is generally on whose side in personality conflicts and why (Like when would a Lawful Good be hesitant about a dangerous mission to rescue a Chaotic Good, while the Chaotic Evil and another Lawful Good would jump at the call)? How do they grow as people throughout the story, and does it necessarily result in an alignment change or not?

Founder and figurehead of Just Say Yes!

Member of LGBT Gamers

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
A game is a fictional construct created for the sake of the players, not the other way around. If you have a question "How do I keep X from happening at my table," and you feel that the out-of-game answer "Talk the the other people at your table" won't help, then the in-game answers "Remove mechanics A, B, and/or C, add mechanics L, M, and/or N" will not help either.
...
This response is using nearly the same language to argue for using alignments as I use to argue against them-interesting.  I would note that your response reads (to me) more like an argument as to how alignment could be retained in a game, and work-arounds developed for its shortcomings.  I wouldn't consider this as enhancing the game.  The main reason I've dumped it is because of the extra time and effort involved in developing these work arounds.  That time is spent not engaging in the story (it is a story...but not the focal point of the game), conducting espionage missions, or assassinating NPC's or PC's. 

Also, detection vs nondetection is not balanced.  Most spellcasters have access to detection spells at level 1, undetectable alignment is a second level spell, nondetection is not available until several levels later, with Wizards getting it first at 5th level.  In addition, there are other costs to keeping alignment in the game unique to this type of setting that simply slows the game down and interupts pacing.  Such as the process of low level or non spellcasting players attempting to find someone to cast these spells for them, and the amount of resources that must be spent to achieve this rather necessary state that cannot be spent elsewhere. 

I've chosen to remove the system based on much of the above.  Having access to such a powerful foil at level 1 negates much of the intrigue and espionage of intrigue and espionage games.  The expensive and boring solution is for everyone to have undetectable alignment and nondetection, but that becomes a tired excuse very quickly.  I find it best to simply jettison the whole system and build personality archetypes devoid of cosmic delineations. 

Never has there been a more subjective system included in the mechanics. 

Perhaps I'm not charitable enough, or perhaps this wasn't your best answer. 



I actually agree with Yagami, after a fashion: 

Alignment is not incompatible with three-dimensional characterization.

But, it is inadequate for supporting three-dimensional characterization, without conscious and active participation from players and DMs in transcending the limitations.

Alignment works alright in D&D, until the point where someone (typically, but not necessarily, a character's own player) fails to do the heavy lifting of carrying the character past alignment, in a genre or game style that relies on three-dimensional characterization.
[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
Alignment is not incompatible with three-dimensional characterization.

But, it is inadequate for supporting three-dimensional characterization, without conscious and active participation from players and DMs in transcending the limitations.

Alignment works alright in D&D, until the point where someone (typically, but not necessarily, a character's own player) fails to do the heavy lifting of carrying the character past alignment, in a genre or game style that relies on three-dimensional characterization.

IMO, so is everything else that can be used for characterization.

Founder and figurehead of Just Say Yes!

Member of LGBT Gamers

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
A game is a fictional construct created for the sake of the players, not the other way around. If you have a question "How do I keep X from happening at my table," and you feel that the out-of-game answer "Talk the the other people at your table" won't help, then the in-game answers "Remove mechanics A, B, and/or C, add mechanics L, M, and/or N" will not help either.
...and, for the record, I am NOT in the camp that says "Alignment Sucks". 

I instead put myself into the camp that says that alignment is not a good fit for the sorts of games I think D&D defaults to these days, with three-dimensional PCs who are expected to generally survive and grow as the campaign progresses. For modeling those sorts of characters, alignment is a poor inkblot tool for inspiration, at best.

In contrast, alignment is, I think, a fantastic tool for miniatures wargames.

Do you read The Order of the Stick? If you haven't found players/DMs that can use alignment as part of 3-dimensional characters, I would recommend seeing how well Rich Burlew does it. For example: In a party of 2 Lawful Goods, 2 Chaotic Goods, 1 True Neutral, and 1 Chaotic Evil, how do they work together despite wanting different things and going about getting them in different ways? Who is generally on whose side in personality conflicts and why? How do they grow as people throughout the story, and does it necessarily result in an alignment change or not?



Ah, but are we running an Alignment Clinic to fix a game that is running smoothly, or we doing it instead to offer solutions for when a game breaks due to alignment-based problems without killing alignment with fire and banishing its ashes to the Far Realms?

Please note that I do not say that Alignment ruins D&D forever, and that a fun game with three-dimensional characters is impossible with alignment.

I say instead, that alignment is a poor tool for modeling three-dimensional characters.  It has other strengths that play well to certain genres and game styles, but characterization, I say, not among the strengths of alignment.
[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
...
This response is using nearly the same language to argue for using alignments as I use to argue against them-interesting.  I would note that your response reads (to me) more like an argument as to how alignment could be retained in a game, and work-arounds developed for its shortcomings.  I wouldn't consider this as enhancing the game.  The main reason I've dumped it is because of the extra time and effort involved in developing these work arounds.  That time is spent not engaging in the story (it is a story...but not the focal point of the game), conducting espionage missions, or assassinating NPC's or PC's. 

Also, detection vs nondetection is not balanced.  Most spellcasters have access to detection spells at level 1, undetectable alignment is a second level spell, nondetection is not available until several levels later, with Wizards getting it first at 5th level.  In addition, there are other costs to keeping alignment in the game unique to this type of setting that simply slows the game down and interupts pacing.  Such as the process of low level or non spellcasting players attempting to find someone to cast these spells for them, and the amount of resources that must be spent to achieve this rather necessary state that cannot be spent elsewhere. 

I've chosen to remove the system based on much of the above.  Having access to such a powerful foil at level 1 negates much of the intrigue and espionage of intrigue and espionage games.  The expensive and boring solution is for everyone to have undetectable alignment and nondetection, but that becomes a tired excuse very quickly.  I find it best to simply jettison the whole system and build personality archetypes devoid of cosmic delineations. 

Never has there been a more subjective system included in the mechanics. 

Perhaps I'm not charitable enough, or perhaps this wasn't your best answer. 



I actually agree with Yagami, after a fashion: 

Alignment is not incompatible with three-dimensional characterization.

But, it is inadequate for supporting three-dimensional characterization, without conscious and active participation from players and DMs in transcending the limitations.

Alignment works alright in D&D, until the point where someone (typically, but not necessarily, a character's own player) fails to do the heavy lifting of carrying the character past alignment, in a genre or game style that relies on three-dimensional characterization.



I don't disagree with what you or Yagami said about alignment being insufficient for characterization, or even that it is incompatible with characterization. 

I'm talking more contextually, about the framework of a narrative and how alignment based mechanics affect that narrative.  I find the effect to be counter-productive to the goals of the PCs and counter to producing the desired tone (intrigue/espionage).  My question was how alignment could be viewed as enhancing that tone or assisting the PC's in their goals, I find the answer unconvincing. 
...and in the ancient voice of a million squirrels the begotten chittered "You have set upon yourselves a great and noble task, dare you step further, what say you! What say you!"
Ah, but are we running an Alignment Clinic to fix a game that is running smoothly, or we doing it instead to offer solutions for when a game breaks due to alignment-based problems without killing alignment with fire and banishing its ashes to the Far Realms?

My thinking was that seeing how people have made it work, even with a different medium, can give other people ideas for how to make it work for them too.

Founder and figurehead of Just Say Yes!

Member of LGBT Gamers

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
A game is a fictional construct created for the sake of the players, not the other way around. If you have a question "How do I keep X from happening at my table," and you feel that the out-of-game answer "Talk the the other people at your table" won't help, then the in-game answers "Remove mechanics A, B, and/or C, add mechanics L, M, and/or N" will not help either.
I'm talking more contextually, about the framework of a narrative and how alignment based mechanics affect that narrative. I find the effect to be counter-productive to the goals of the PCs and counter to producing the desired tone (intrigue/espionage). My question was how alignment could be viewed as enhancing that tone or assisting the PC's in their goals, I find the answer unconvincing. 

I really like the idea of people who know that they would register as Evil, even if they think that the drive to "succeed" is better than the drive to help, would manipulate Good or Neutral people into doing things that the patsies don't know would result in something bad happening (or scaring them into doing somthing that they know is wrong, but for which they are too afraid for their families not to try). That way, even registering as Evil would not preclude the person from pretending to be harmless, and he can't be arrested if people don't know that he's the one who made something happen.

Oddly enough, this kind of thing still happens in the real world.

Founder and figurehead of Just Say Yes!

Member of LGBT Gamers

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
A game is a fictional construct created for the sake of the players, not the other way around. If you have a question "How do I keep X from happening at my table," and you feel that the out-of-game answer "Talk the the other people at your table" won't help, then the in-game answers "Remove mechanics A, B, and/or C, add mechanics L, M, and/or N" will not help either.
Alignment is not incompatible with three-dimensional characterization.

But, it is inadequate for supporting three-dimensional characterization, without conscious and active participation from players and DMs in transcending the limitations.

Alignment works alright in D&D, until the point where someone (typically, but not necessarily, a character's own player) fails to do the heavy lifting of carrying the character past alignment, in a genre or game style that relies on three-dimensional characterization.



IMO, so is everything else that can be used for characterization.



Yes exactly. This is 100% accurate. Any short-hand system to classify a character is, necessarily, going to require MORE than just that classification to have a full 3-dimensional character. This is why a character-bible is not the end-all-be-all of a story for a character in a well-written piece of work.

I'm basically not going to get into the rest of Yronimos posts because they have to do with the merits of using alignment rather than the actual topic of this thread. This is a "how" thread not a "why"...as already outlined in the first couple posts.

Also, thank you Detoxifier...yes, Batman's alignment in the vast majority of his depictions through time and mediums is Lawful Good in the same way that Superman is Neutral Good and Wonder Woman is Chaotic Good. It is precisely for those reasons that they work so well dramatically as a Trinity.

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

 

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

 

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

I'm talking more contextually, about the framework of a narrative and how alignment based mechanics affect that narrative. I find the effect to be counter-productive to the goals of the PCs and counter to producing the desired tone (intrigue/espionage). My question was how alignment could be viewed as enhancing that tone or assisting the PC's in their goals, I find the answer unconvincing. 

I really like the idea of people who know that they would register as Evil, even if they think that the drive to "succeed" is better than the drive to help, would manipulate Good or Neutral people into doing things that the patsies don't know would result in something bad happening (or scaring them into doing somthing that they know is wrong, but for which they are too afraid for their families not to try). That way, even registering as Evil would not preclude the person from pretending to be harmless, and he can't be arrested if people don't know that he's the one who made something happen.

Oddly enough, this kind of thing still happens in the real world.



Yes. Yes exactly.

How many mobsters have been known to be evil S.O.B's...but have been "untouchable" because of how they do stuff. Same thing.

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.

..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" class="mceContentBody " contenteditable="true" />This response is using nearly the same language to argue for using alignments as I use to argue against them-interesting.  I would note that your response reads (to me) more like an argument as to how alignment could be retained in a game, and work-arounds developed for its shortcomings.  I wouldn't consider this as enhancing the game.  The main reason I've dumped it is because of the extra time and effort involved in developing these work arounds.  That time is spent not engaging in the story (it is a story...but not the focal point of the game), conducting espionage missions, or assassinating NPC's or PC's. 



Dumping things because it requires "time and effort" of you is not the sign of something being inherently bad. It is the sign of a creator considering what is in their world. It is the equivalent of saying that swords are busted as a mechanism because then you have to think about armor for people.

Also I believe I showed pretty simply how it does engage the story because it feeds into the intrigue of espionage and such. It actually helps to make things less clear cut because it is another potential level of obfuscation.

Also, detection vs nondetection is not balanced.  Most spellcasters have access to detection spells at level 1, undetectable alignment is a second level spell, nondetection is not available until several levels later, with Wizards getting it first at 5th level.  In addition, there are other costs to keeping alignment in the game unique to this type of setting that simply slows the game down and interupts pacing.  Such as the process of low level or non spellcasting players attempting to find someone to cast these spells for them, and the amount of resources that must be spent to achieve this rather necessary state that cannot be spent elsewhere. 



There is no "balance" intended. Nor does there need to be. The world is not balanced. All of you what are you are describing sounds like potential adventure fodder...seeking out magic to overcome the capabilities of a foe. Uh...yeah that seems perfectly awesome. Also...you are looking at things in a purely metagame sense. I have some huge movers and shakers in my world that are very low level. They just wield large amounts of wealth and power. Wealth makes the world go-round. If you can't get within 60 feet of someone you can't very well detect evil on them, can you? And if they can keep you at that distance by wealth/influence/power....well, hell THAT sounds like an adventure too! "Let's sneak into the Baron's castle, get close to him and see if this guys evil like we think!" Awesome! Though, as already established, even then...if he is or he isn't evil does that prove anything? Of course not. As already stated, evil guys do evil things...and good people do evil things and evil people do good things...and those neutral SOBs are even trickier!

I've chosen to remove the system based on much of the above.  Having access to such a powerful foil at level 1 negates much of the intrigue and espionage of intrigue and espionage games.  The expensive and boring solution is for everyone to have undetectable alignment and nondetection, but that becomes a tired excuse very quickly.  I find it best to simply jettison the whole system and build personality archetypes devoid of cosmic delineations. 



It only is powerful if your "espionage" plots are so brain-dead simple that you can just point at an evil guy and say "That's him! he did it!"...but that doesn't sound like much espionage or intrigue is actually involved. Sorry, but it actually makes it sound like the "intrigue" your making doesn't have a lot of thought put into it.

Never has there been a more subjective system included in the mechanics. 

Perhaps I'm not charitable enough, or perhaps this wasn't your best answer. 



Your response is heavily biased...but it seems equally biased by a desire to avoid thinking about your own plots/characters very much. :/

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.

...IMO, so is everything else that can be used for characterization.



Definitely. 

But, Class and Race, for examples, should probably get their own threads


And, in contrast to Alignment, Class, and Race, other tools for modeling character concepts and characterization almost never send the game into a grinding halt, as players and DMs argue about how to role-play the characters, or DMs try to conjure up "punishments" for players who aren't playing according to Alignment, Class, or Race as the DM defines them, or Players griefing each other and saying "It's not my fault, it's what the character has to do to yours because she's a CE Kender Thief or LG Aasimar Paladin!"

That's not to say that Alignment dooms every game to dissolve into a nuclear fireball of madness and violence by its mere existence:  I do not argue that games where alignment exists can't work.


I do, however, say that Alignment comes up often enough as an element involved in player and DM disagreements, that I think that any discussion of the relative merits and disadvantages of the alignment system should start with the admission that Alignment is an imperfect tool, whose imperfections are amplified by players (and DMs) who do not understand or respect its shortcomings.

I say that memorable characterization and successful, exciting, and fun games happen in spite of the limitations of Alignment as a characterization tool, rather than because of Alignment.



If your game has ground to a halt because of disagreement about alignment, or you are unhappy about your DMing or PCing experience because of something involving alignment, I would say the first thing to do is to step back from the game a moment, take a deep breath, and admit that alignment is an imperfect tool, whose limitations are amplified by imperfect implementation by publishers and designers, by players, by DMs, and probably by you and by me.

Or, am I wrong?  Is alignment perfect?
[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
I'm talking more contextually, about the framework of a narrative and how alignment based mechanics affect that narrative. I find the effect to be counter-productive to the goals of the PCs and counter to producing the desired tone (intrigue/espionage). My question was how alignment could be viewed as enhancing that tone or assisting the PC's in their goals, I find the answer unconvincing. 

I really like the idea of people who know that they would register as Evil, even if they think that the drive to "succeed" is better than the drive to help, would manipulate Good or Neutral people into doing things that the patsies don't know would result in something bad happening (or scaring them into doing somthing that they know is wrong, but for which they are too afraid for their families not to try). That way, even registering as Evil would not preclude the person from pretending to be harmless, and he can't be arrested if people don't know that he's the one who made something happen.

Oddly enough, this kind of thing still happens in the real world.



Right, in certain contexts simply detecting as evil won't do much, but in the context of an espionage type of game (where admittedly moral boundaries become muddled) detecting as evil (or good) could completely shatter your cover, no save, no second chance-its done, over.  An attempt at infiltrating an ideoligically motivated cult/temple/political group/cartel, is difficult enough, without the instant fail foil of dispel magic/detect alignment thrown into the mix.  It is effectively a near perfect fail safe for keeping the unwanted out, and puts a stop on espionage based gameplay in an instant.     
...and in the ancient voice of a million squirrels the begotten chittered "You have set upon yourselves a great and noble task, dare you step further, what say you! What say you!"
..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" class="mceContentBody " contenteditable="true" />And, in contrast to Alignment, Class, and Race, other tools for modeling character concepts and characterization almost never send the game into a grinding halt, as players and DMs argue about how to role-play the characters, or DMs try to conjure up "punishments" for players who aren't playing according to Alignment, Class, or Race as the DM defines them, or Players griefing each other and saying "It's not my fault, it's what the character has to do to yours because she's a CE Kender Thief or LG Aasimar Paladin!"



Oh god! If there were only a resource, like a thread, where people with issues could go to get help with such a thing! But...such a thread would have to actually exist without people with ZERO self-control running in to vomit all-over the very topic to argue against it instead of actually allowing people to get their problems solved! Oh if only such a thing could exist in space-time as we know it!


I do, however, say that Alignment comes up often enough as an element involved in player and DM disagreements, that I think that any discussion of the relative merits and disadvantages of the alignment system should start with the admission that Alignment is an imperfect tool, whose imperfections are amplified by players who do not understand or respect its shortcomings.



And people being d-bags that derail threads about helping people with alignment are creating (gleefully) a self-fulfilling prophecy, no?

All tools are imperfect. A hammer is only as useful as the skilled hand that wields it.

I say that memorable characterization and successful, exciting, and fun games happen in spite of the limitations of Alignment as a characterization tool, rather than because of Alignment.



And the reverse can be true. You're contributing nothing actually thoughtful or constructive.

If your game has ground to a halt because of disagreement about alignment, or you are unhappy about your DMing or PCing experience because of something involving alignment, I would say the first thing to do is to step back from the game a moment, take a deep breath, and admit that alignment is an imperfect tool, whose limitations are amplified by imperfect implementation by publishers and designers, by players, by DMs, and probably by you and by me.



No one is saying alignment is perfect. You are positing (and arguing against) a statement NO ONE has made. Why? Seriously, take some time to reflect on your behavior. You need some self-assessment.

Or, am I wrong?  Is alignment perfect?



You're wrong but for very different reasons that you should think about before continuing to derail the thread for your own purposes.

This is a thread to help people...you are not helping anything. See the 'wrong'?

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.

..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" class="mceContentBody " contenteditable="true" />Right, in certain contexts simply detecting as evil won't do much, but in the context of an espionage type of game (where admittedly moral boundaries become muddled) detecting as evil (or good) could completely shatter your cover, no save, no second chance-its done, over.



Your cover sucks then. Simple as that. Or is all your espionage (with muddled moral boundaries) just good vs evil? That is the ONLY framework where detect alignment would through a monkey-wrench into the situation you're mentioning.

If there are Good AND Evil people on both sides of a conflict...what would detecting Evil prove at any given moment?

An attempt at infiltrating an ideoligically motivated cult/temple/political group/cartel, is difficult enough, without the instant fail foil of dispel magic/detect alignment thrown into the mix.  It is effectively a near perfect fail safe for keeping the unwanted out, and puts a stop on espionage based gameplay in an instant.     



Only if you're literally infiltrating Heaven or some other Celestial realm. Otherwise...uh...people are people. I mean, I guess you might have a SUPER holy group of Good & Neutral (at worst) people...and even then, just send in a Neutral spy. Or even a freaking Good one. If the politics involved are actually ones that are politics and not simple Good V Evil (a super simplistic framework that is...well...I mean it's a set-up for kids basically) then that means there will be a range of personality types in any given political entity. Yes?

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.

Alignment is fine as long as it stays the heck out of mechanics.
..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" class="mceContentBody " contenteditable="true" />Right, in certain contexts simply detecting as evil won't do much, but in the context of an espionage type of game (where admittedly moral boundaries become muddled) detecting as evil (or good) could completely shatter your cover, no save, no second chance-its done, over.



Your cover sucks then. Simple as that. Or is all your espionage (with muddled moral boundaries) just good vs evil? That is the ONLY framework where detect alignment would through a monkey-wrench into the situation you're mentioning.

If there are Good AND Evil people on both sides of a conflict...what would detecting Evil prove at any given moment?

An attempt at infiltrating an ideoligically motivated cult/temple/political group/cartel, is difficult enough, without the instant fail foil of dispel magic/detect alignment thrown into the mix.  It is effectively a near perfect fail safe for keeping the unwanted out, and puts a stop on espionage based gameplay in an instant.     



Only if you're literally infiltrating Heaven or some other Celestial realm. Otherwise...uh...people are people. I mean, I guess you might have a SUPER holy group of Good & Neutral (at worst) people...and even then, just send in a Neutral spy. Or even a freaking Good one. If the politics involved are actually ones that are politics and not simple Good V Evil (a super simplistic framework that is...well...I mean it's a set-up for kids basically) then that means there will be a range of personality types in any given political entity. Yes?



I set up the world, a very complex place with multiple factions competing against one another, vast networks of spies and assassins, sometimes this does include ideologically motivated groups.  I don't determine what the PC's do, they are their own actors in this world, and the depth of the espionage is contingent upon the effort they put into it. 

As for the tone of the discussion, I think there is more benefit to employing the principle of charity than perjorative assumptions, you can't pretend to know the games I play in beyond the information provided, whatever method you are using to deduce the content of them is vastly flawed I can assure you that.  I revealed my biases up front with the understanding that they are coloring my view.  I don't pretend to be perfect.  I believe we can have a discussion, disagree, and still remain civil.  I'm not super-entrenched in my view, I just haven't found a viable alternative, and if, as you say, I can enhance my game, who am I not to listen?  If your arguments hinge on me having poor gameplay or being a bad storyteller, I will find them unconvincing as they do not reflect reality and are therefore based on invalid premises. 

I do find it interesting that you would use terms like 'your cover sucks', when it is in fact the PC's cover that 'sucks', I remember we had a discussion not long ago where we agreed that treating a players ideas as a good idea is the right place to start.  Am I to understand this as a reversal of that position?  If a player of mine spent a great deal of time preparing a cover, including a backstory, deeds, disguise, and forgot the one detail of getting an undetectable alignment spell cast on him before posing as a Knight at the court to testify to the deeds of his (evil) friend, should I fail him automatically as punishment for his missteps?  Or should I view it another way?  Personally I prefer to see it play out, despite such an oversight.  As I said, such an easy foil, after a while detect and nondection simply become annoying drudgery do they not?  And, if as you say, they don't reveal much anyway, why include them?  These are honest questions, not leading ones.
...and in the ancient voice of a million squirrels the begotten chittered "You have set upon yourselves a great and noble task, dare you step further, what say you! What say you!"
..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" class="mceContentBody " contenteditable="true" />And, in contrast to Alignment, Class, and Race, other tools for modeling character concepts and characterization almost never send the game into a grinding halt, as players and DMs argue about how to role-play the characters, or DMs try to conjure up "punishments" for players who aren't playing according to Alignment, Class, or Race as the DM defines them, or Players griefing each other and saying "It's not my fault, it's what the character has to do to yours because she's a CE Kender Thief or LG Aasimar Paladin!"



Oh god! If there were only a resource, like a thread, where people with issues could go to get help with such a thing! But...such a thread would have to actually exist without people with ZERO self-control running in to vomit all-over the very topic to argue against it instead of actually allowing people to get their problems solved! Oh if only such a thing could exist in space-time as we know it!


I do, however, say that Alignment comes up often enough as an element involved in player and DM disagreements, that I think that any discussion of the relative merits and disadvantages of the alignment system should start with the admission that Alignment is an imperfect tool, whose imperfections are amplified by players who do not understand or respect its shortcomings.



And people being d-bags that derail threads about helping people with alignment are creating (gleefully) a self-fulfilling prophecy, no?

All tools are imperfect. A hammer is only as useful as the skilled hand that wields it.

I say that memorable characterization and successful, exciting, and fun games happen in spite of the limitations of Alignment as a characterization tool, rather than because of Alignment.



And the reverse can be true. You're contributing nothing actually thoughtful or constructive.

If your game has ground to a halt because of disagreement about alignment, or you are unhappy about your DMing or PCing experience because of something involving alignment, I would say the first thing to do is to step back from the game a moment, take a deep breath, and admit that alignment is an imperfect tool, whose limitations are amplified by imperfect implementation by publishers and designers, by players, by DMs, and probably by you and by me.



No one is saying alignment is perfect. You are positing (and arguing against) a statement NO ONE has made. Why? Seriously, take some time to reflect on your behavior. You need some self-assessment.

Or, am I wrong?  Is alignment perfect?



You're wrong but for very different reasons that you should think about before continuing to derail the thread for your own purposes.

This is a thread to help people...you are not helping anything. See the 'wrong'?





Perhaps at this point, it is a good idea to define alignment?

I do not think we are fundamentally in disagreement - I'd say that you and I are actually about 90% in agreement here, with that last 10% being possibly about the necessity of Alignment in creating a successful game, and perhaps a misunderstanding about how much of a bogeyman Alignment really is (I say it's a problem in a minority of games, but a problem that can be fixed, with removing alignment as one of many solutions.)  That 10% difference I percieve, seems to me a minor one.

But, from your reaction, it sounds like you think the gulfs between our points of view are far greater than that, and I think the most likely explanation for that is that we might not be talking about the same thing.


What is it that you think I am proposing?

What is alignment to you?
[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" class="mceContentBody " contenteditable="true" />And, in contrast to Alignment, Class, and Race, other tools for modeling character concepts and characterization almost never send the game into a grinding halt, as players and DMs argue about how to role-play the characters, or DMs try to conjure up "punishments" for players who aren't playing according to Alignment, Class, or Race as the DM defines them, or Players griefing each other and saying "It's not my fault, it's what the character has to do to yours because she's a CE Kender Thief or LG Aasimar Paladin!"



Oh god! If there were only a resource, like a thread, where people with issues could go to get help with such a thing! But...such a thread would have to actually exist without people with ZERO self-control running in to vomit all-over the very topic to argue against it instead of actually allowing people to get their problems solved! Oh if only such a thing could exist in space-time as we know it!


I do, however, say that Alignment comes up often enough as an element involved in player and DM disagreements, that I think that any discussion of the relative merits and disadvantages of the alignment system should start with the admission that Alignment is an imperfect tool, whose imperfections are amplified by players who do not understand or respect its shortcomings.



And people being d-bags that derail threads about helping people with alignment are creating (gleefully) a self-fulfilling prophecy, no?

All tools are imperfect. A hammer is only as useful as the skilled hand that wields it.

I say that memorable characterization and successful, exciting, and fun games happen in spite of the limitations of Alignment as a characterization tool, rather than because of Alignment.



And the reverse can be true. You're contributing nothing actually thoughtful or constructive.

If your game has ground to a halt because of disagreement about alignment, or you are unhappy about your DMing or PCing experience because of something involving alignment, I would say the first thing to do is to step back from the game a moment, take a deep breath, and admit that alignment is an imperfect tool, whose limitations are amplified by imperfect implementation by publishers and designers, by players, by DMs, and probably by you and by me.



No one is saying alignment is perfect. You are positing (and arguing against) a statement NO ONE has made. Why? Seriously, take some time to reflect on your behavior. You need some self-assessment.

Or, am I wrong?  Is alignment perfect?



You're wrong but for very different reasons that you should think about before continuing to derail the thread for your own purposes.

This is a thread to help people...you are not helping anything. See the 'wrong'?





Perhaps at this point, it is a good idea to define alignment?

I do not think we are fundamentally in disagreement - I'd say that you and I are actually about 90% in agreement here, with that last 10% being possibly about the necessity of Alignment in creating a successful game, and perhaps a misunderstanding about how much of a bogeyman Alignment really is (I say it's a problem in a minority of games, but a problem that can be fixed, with removing alignment as one of many solutions.)  That 10% difference I percieve, seems to me a minor one.

But, from your reaction, it sounds like you think the gulfs between our points of view are far greater than that, and I think the most likely explanation for that is that we might not be talking about the same thing.


What is it that you think I am proposing?

What is alignment to you?



I would actually agree with YronimosW on this as well, specifically in reference to the 'minority' of games, which is the particular genre I have been discussing. 
...and in the ancient voice of a million squirrels the begotten chittered "You have set upon yourselves a great and noble task, dare you step further, what say you! What say you!"

I set up the world, a very complex place with multiple factions competing against one another, vast networks of spies and assassins, sometimes this does include ideologically motivated groups.  I don't determine what the PC's do, they are their own actors in this world, and the depth of the espionage is contingent upon the effort they put into it. 



If the Black Widow infiltrates the KGB, with all the pre-requisite crazy politics going on during the Cold War timeframe...how would her failing to detect as "Evil" blow her cover? And that is a comic book world where Widow is DEFINITELY not Evil and "detect evil" is not actually that hard to imagine actually existing.

As for the tone of the discussion, I think there is more benefit to employing the principle of charity than perjorative assumptions, you can't pretend to know the games I play in beyond the information provided, whatever method you are using to deduce the content of them is vastly flawed I can assure you that.  I revealed my biases up front with the understanding that they are coloring my view.  I don't pretend to be perfect.  I believe we can have a discussion, disagree, and still remain civil.  I'm not super-entrenched in my view, I just haven't found a viable alternative, and if, as you say, I can enhance my game, who am I not to listen?  If your arguments hinge on me having poor gameplay or being a bad storyteller, I will find them unconvincing as they do not reflect reality and are therefore based on invalid premises. 



If you cannot consider that you struggle with alignment because of flawed methodology in it's use, there is no discussion to be had because you cannot posit flaws in your efforts. I am telling you explicitly that if you are having issues with alignment it is more than likely because you are doing something poorly as a DM/storyteller. Simple as that. That or your understanding of alignment, in and of itself, is lacking..though that really just ties into how you will implement things in the former regard. So...6 of one, half a dozen of another.

I am telling you you can't do something because you might be bad at doing it. I do not think that is an absurd premise. If someone started a thread on how to shoot freethrows in basketball (something I'm terrible at...along with basketball in general), I would not come in looking for advice with the caveat "I am really good at playing basketball, so I will not be convinced by you telling me I'm bad at something in basketball"...because it is not honest in it's attempt to self-critique.

If you have not been able to successfully use alignment to improve your game, isn't it fair to say that you might need help using alignment because you've, historically, been bad at it? That is not a qualitative statement on you as a person...we all have our weak points.

I do find it interesting that you would use terms like 'your cover sucks', when it is in fact the PC's cover that 'sucks', I remember we had a discussion not long ago where we agreed that treating a players ideas as a good idea is the right place to start.



The PCs can objectively fail at things. It happens. There is a difference between assuming good ideas and ignoring flaws in logic. I do not ignore flaws in logic because bad outcomes are just as much part of agency as good consequences.

Am I to understand this as a reversal of that position?  If a player of mine spent a great deal of time preparing a cover, including a backstory, deeds, disguise, and forgot the one detail of getting an undetectable alignment spell cast on him before posing as a Knight at the court to testify to the deeds of his (evil) friend, should I fail him automatically as punishment for his missteps?



You still haven't illustrated how him detecting as "Good" or "Evil" will necessarily blow his cover. And if it will definitely blow his cover...and he will definitely have alignment detection cast on him, then yeah that would make the attempt fail. It's okay for players to fail at things. It happens. This is how players get better at doing things. No biggie.

Or should I view it another way?  Personally I prefer to see it play out, despite such an oversight.  As I said, such an easy foil, after a while detect and nondection simply become annoying drudgery do they not?  And, if as you say, they don't reveal much anyway, why include them?  These are honest questions, not leading ones.



They provide information which feeds discovery. They also frame "Good" and "Evil" within the larger fantasy setting as already stated. Cosmic forces are important concepts in typical D&D, so they help support those concepts. Additionally, they can become great tools for story-telling because you do get into situations (when properly done) where Evil does not mean "wrong" and Good does not mean "right" because characters are (or should be) potentially complex beings.

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.

..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />Perhaps at this point, it is a good idea to define alignment?

I do not think we are fundamentally in disagreement - I'd say that you and I are actually about 90% in agreement here, with that last 10% being possibly about the necessity of Alignment in creating a successful game, and perhaps a misunderstanding about how much of a bogeyman Alignment really is (I say it's a problem in a minority of games, but a problem that can be fixed, with removing alignment as one of many solutions.)  That 10% difference I percieve, seems to me a minor one.



I've run countless games without alignment. It is no more necessary than different races are necessary...or a particular setting is necessary. I merely support the argument that alignment is a fully workable system and people that rant about how it isn't are actually less skilled DMs than they'd like to think they are because they have apparently repeatedly failed to use a tool at their disposal then went on to blame that tool for their failures. Poor craftsman blames their tools and all.

Alignment necessary though? I've never made that statement...because I've gone without alignment plenty of times.

But, from your reaction, it sounds like you think the gulfs between our points of view are far greater than that, and I think the most likely explanation for that is that we might not be talking about the same thing.

What is it that you think I am proposing?

What is alignment to you?



Alignment is a tool for framing the world/cosmos/setting. One that creates plenty of interesting situations in the game as well as forming meaningful, tangible rules for interactions with trope-standard concepts like items/weapons/etc that can only be used by "Good" or that specifically harms "Evil" etc. Nothing more. it is no grand "win" button, nor is it a useless concept nor is it an unworkable mess.

As for what you are proposing...not really sure, other than that it seems to have next to nothing to do with the intent of the thread which is to help people that are using or want to use alignment in their games.

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.

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