Alignment

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I think alignment is best handled as its own track(s) with zones.

Alignment, as it now stands, is not a straightjacket. This would turn it into one, and is therefore a bad idea.

The game almost entirely a tactical miniatures wargame. Who wants to get into an ethical debate while killing monsters?

Those of us who want to add certain roleplaying elements might want to do just that.
Those of us who want to add certain roleplaying elements might want to do just that.

Even though you roll your eyes, your goals are not mutually exclusive. If alignment is defined so that two Good characters can have a moral debate about killing monsters, that is great. When the hand of DM comes down and smites one of you for deviating from an alignment, that is when the debate becomes an out-of-character argument between *players*.

Roleplayers should embrace an alignment system that is rigid in its application so that you can debate what happens offstage. If it is Good to protect the innocent from harm, that says nothing about whether you can torture evil creatures for information. However, you may well want to debate the goodness of such a course in character. (If a first player wants to torture evil creatures so that he can save good ones, and a second one refuses to allow the torture, then the DM steps in and makes a declaration that the first player is evil, the debate is no longer in character; the debate is between players of the game. If the DM stays out of it, the debate is between characters.)
I have two volumes with me right now containing ancient Chinese stories, and most of them involve monks going out into the world and doing whatever they thought they needed to, law and tradition be damned.

I agree with that, but I have to ask: were they "fighting Monks"?
Let me provide an example. I was playing a cleric recently. A LN, Inquisitor-style cleric. Several games into the campaign, the DM informed me that I was playing my cleric as more Good than anything else. And he's right, I was. My character was a nice, sweet, helpful guy. It just so happened that we hadn't come across anything to interact with my character's "punish, torture, kill!" side yet. By the rules in the DMG, he was absolutely correct to remind me that I could shift.

I've not seen how you manage this thing, so, of course, I can't tell much... but judjing from these few lines I could assume that you must ask your DM to put in a new alignment: the UI (Unrealistic Insane) or the CS (Compulsive Skizophrenic), like most of those against alignment should...
Because an Inquisitor isn't good; he forces others to blindly follow his beliefs, otherwise they are Heretics and must be punished...
If he hasn't that way of thinking and is good, then it's unrealistic that he can torture someone as if his feeligs disappeared in a "poof"... he may want to kill them as much as a Paladin who wants to smithe Evil, but hardly he'll make them suffer the more he can...
This is not "alignment stuff", it's reality...
When you chose an alignment and THEN think about how your character acts, you're doing it wrong.

You have to think FIRST how your character acts and THEN think about which alignment that would mean for him. That's how alignment works.
Lands of the Barbarian Kings Campaign Setting - http://barbaripedia.eu
If a character repeatedly acts in ways not appropriate for his listed alignment, then the DM is encouraged to intervene.

The point is how much repeatedly is; according to RAW, it can't be just a few times, moreover the way you play AL depends heavily on your bg.
The example doesn't work well though, being a conservative is much more specific than being LN, since it identifies a range of well defined ideas and contexts.

Let me provide an example. I was playing a cleric recently. A LN, Inquisitor-style cleric. Several games into the campaign, the DM informed me that I was playing my cleric as more Good than anything else. And he's right, I was. My character was a nice, sweet, helpful guy. It just so happened that we hadn't come across anything to interact with my character's "punish, torture, kill!" side yet. By the rules in the DMG, he was absolutely correct to remind me that I could shift.

Personally, I'd check your bg:if you've always been a "sweet" guy who learnt inquisition means just to better protect your country/faith, you could be LG as LN, if you ,because of work of inquisitor, became the lonely cleric who makes the "hard work" ,with little mercy for his foes, then you should shift to LG.

Anyway, not providing situations where your char's personality could be shown, is troublesome for the definition of your AL during the campaign.


Err, the former can't be Lawful. Says so in the rules. Of course, by the description of the alignments,

Wait, I said there were two types of barbarians:
- the true-world "barbarian" concept: the "non-roman" who belongs to germanic-celtic tribes
- the "barbarian" character class in d&d: the tribe man who can enter rage and other things.

For the first one, there's no definition in d&d, so it can have any AL matches his background.

Lawful describes every tribal concept I've ever seen, even those from which barbarians supposedly hail, but the rules say they can't be Lawful-aligned.

D&D borrowed the idea of barbarian class from Roman culture: uncivilized,violent and furius beings, but "barbarians" don't have to get some levels of barbarian class to be what they are in D&D.

And what about monks who don't give a wet slap about the rules? Plenty of them in the stories, too.

There are plenty of stories where, to become a martial artist, you have to wake up very early in the morning, train (painfully)all the day, being focus on some idea of purity/spiritual strength/truth, and obey your superiors and monastery taboos as well.

Being lawful means believing that there's a way of living, made of "law" and principles to adhere to, it doesn't address any particular law.
I can be a redeemed monk ,who grew in an evil monastery, and broke the laws I used to believe, to follow new ones, which I drawn on my own.

cheers
What I like to see (even though it would have snowflakes chance in the 9 hells of being printed) is a combination of alignment traits. Have personality traits based on the four main alignment points (Good, Evil, Law, Chaos). The player picks the traits to determine the personality and alignment.
The point is how much repeatedly is; according to RAW, it can't be just a few times, moreover the way you play AL depends heavily on your bg.
The example doesn't work well though, being a conservative is much more specific than being LN, since it identifies a range of well defined ideas and contexts.

And if the alignment axes aren't well-defined enough to tell when you're being true to your placement on either, why are they rules at all?

Personally, I'd check your bg:if you've always been a "sweet" guy who learnt inquisition means just to better protect your country/faith, you could be LG as LN, if you ,because of work of inquisitor, became the lonely cleric who makes the "hard work" ,with little mercy for his foes, then you should shift to LG.

I was raised by a sect of St Cuthbert zealots that viewed themselves as the judge, jury, and executioners of evil beings, including people who performed a broad range of evil acts. We fully encouraged the use of torture to procure more information on conspirators. It's just that we could be very nice to people who weren't evil.

Anyway, not providing situations where your char's personality could be shown, is troublesome for the definition of your AL during the campaign.

Yes. Yes, it is. So if the campaign gravitates toward other situations, your character's actions may look entirely contrary to his actual motivations. And the DMG says "too bad!"

Wait, I said there were two types of barbarians:
- the true-world "barbarian" concept: the "non-roman" who belongs to germanic-celtic tribes
- the "barbarian" character class in d&d: the tribe man who can enter rage and other things.

For the first one, there's no definition in d&d, so it can have any AL matches his background.

D&D borrowed the idea of barbarian class from Roman culture: uncivilized,violent and furius beings, but "barbarians" don't have to get some levels of barbarian class to be what they are in D&D.

You don't think Conan, Tarzan, and similar stories played a part in the development of the class? Because I think so. Tarzan, however, is the only rules-appropriate barbarian I know of, because even in Roman prejudices, the ignorant barbarians tended to be rigidly superstitious, adhering to odd taboos.

There are plenty of stories where, to become a martial artist, you have to wake up very early in the morning, train (painfully)all the day, being focus on some idea of purity/spiritual strength/truth, and obey your superiors and monastery taboos as well.

Being lawful means believing that there's a way of living, made of "law" and principles to adhere to, it doesn't address any particular law.
I can be a redeemed monk ,who grew in an evil monastery, and broke the laws I used to believe, to follow new ones, which I drawn on my own.

And there are lots more stories where great martial artists didn't behave a thing like that. In fact, unless you're watching Kung Fu Theatre, most of the actual stories about monks are about them wandering around doing whatever they saw fit, and not following the rigid monastic lifestyle you describe. Besides "lawful" and "disciplined enough to train" should not be related.
There it is: Martial Artist is someone who trained in martial Arts; Fighting Monk is someone who had intense physical and Spiritual training, following more or less precise teachings (something like Zen or whatever else)... that's in what the Monk is Lawful: he follows those rules, though he may wander, disagree with/disrespect others' traditions (besides, any person can despise traditions which don't belong to him, even the stereotype of Legality)...
I don't agree with Monk's Alignment restriction (especially 3.5's), but I understand what the developers wanted to say, and I must admit that the thought is not wrong...
I too think the alignment system is oversimplified. It makes it hard to play an evil PC and not have him kill for fun. Most people expect it of you. "You are the evil PC, so why havent you gone on a murderous rampage yet?" "Cause I am not THAT evil!" It should be by degrees. Not every CE person you meet is going to be anywhere near as bad as a demon. Just like that LG Paladin over there may not be as virtous and just as an Astral Deva.

Yes, and the alignment system copes with this just fine. Nowhere does it say that any alignment is a monolith, if fact the PHB clearly says just the opposite.

Your problem has nothing to do with the alignment system itself. Your problem has to do with people who think that alignment is ten times more rigid than it actually is.

Evil PCs are problematic and should be discouraged, but in a game in which they can work you would not have this problem. There are any number of reasons why that Evil PC would not kill for fun. Maybe he has a code of honor, maybe he's afraid of getting caught, maybe he needs to pretend to be good for now, maybe it's just not practical, maybe he doesn't want to get his hands dirty, maybe he doesn't think killing is fun.
There it is: Martial Artist is someone who trained in martial Arts; Fighting Monk is someone who had intense physical and Spiritual training, following more or less precise teachings (something like Zen or whatever else)... that's in what the Monk is Lawful: he follows those rules, though he may wander, disagree with/disrespect others' traditions (besides, any person can despise traditions which don't belong to him, even the stereotype of Legality)...
I don't agree with Monk's Alignment restriction (especially 3.5's), but I understand what the developers wanted to say, and I must admit that the thought is not wrong...

The stories the monks themselves tell about their greatest legends tell a different story. Chaotic like you wouldn't believe. Without telling specific stories, I don't know how well I can convey the concept, but any number of them didn't give a flying **** about tradition, enlightenment, etc., and just wanted to be better fighters and/or go out and do what they personally thought needed to be done. Many DnD characters played as chaotic didn't fit the alignment this well.
Alignment is only one part of what shapes a character's world view. Other influences include but are not limited to: age, race, gender, ability scores, character class(es), social/economic class, education, religion (or lack therof), national origin, political views, membership in any organizations, and the specifics of personal experience.

Yes, alignment has bearing upon all of those things, and is in turn influenced by all of those things, but it is by no means the end-all of a character's thoughts or actions.

You can have two people who match up exactly in all of the above catagories, and yet still have differences in their personalities and outlook.
Alignment is only one part of what shapes a character's world view. Other influences include but are not limited to: age, race, gender, ability scores, character class(es), social/economic class, education, religion (or lack therof), national origin, political views, membership in any organizations, and the specifics of personal experience.

Yes, alignment has bearing upon all of those things, and is in turn influenced by all of those things, but it is by no means the end-all of a character's thoughts or actions.

You can have two people who match up exactly in all of the above catagories, and yet still have differences in their personalities and outlook.

As long as their behavior coincides with their alignment, perhaps with small exceptions. I've had friends tell me what they thought my alignment would be, in DnD terms, and why. I've heard everything from LG to CN. And each and every one of them was fully justified. The alignment system is insufficient to describe me, a rather young man from an unremarkable background in the modern United States. Are fantasy adventurers supposed to be less complex?
The whole point is that it's simplified. Alignment is not supposed to be a personality assessment of your character. It's a rough way of categorizing what values are considered important in the default setting. The labels "conservative" and "liberal" are also oversimplified. But in the right contexts, they can be useful for making comparisons.

Correct.

Well, the problem is isn't so much with alignment, as with alignment restrictions for classes. Furthermore, I think the reason you find alignment so stifling is because you take it too literally.

No, quite the opposite. He's ignoring what the rules clearly state so that he can have an easier time arguing against them.

Alignment restrictions can be reserved only for Divine-powered classes, and that's fine with me.
As long as their behavior coincides with their alignment, perhaps with small exceptions. I've had friends tell me what they thought my alignment would be, in DnD terms, and why. I've heard everything from LG to CN. And each and every one of them was fully justified. The alignment system is insufficient to describe me, a rather young man from an unremarkable background in the modern United States. Are fantasy adventurers supposed to be less complex?

Yes, they are.

They are not real people, they are fictional characters in a fantasy setting. In that setting, Good, Evil, Law, and Chaos are very real forces very basic to reality. Mortals are affected by this, and their personal natures are described in those cosmic terms.

And you're True Neutral, because you have both Lawful and Chaotic aspects. :P See, we have the same alignment, and we don't agree on stuff! :D
It's partly fault of the 3rd Ed. PHBs. When you look into the 2nd Ed. PHB, you'll find alignment throughly and easily understabable explained.

I think the 3E PHB is plenty clear and affords plenty of leeway.
New Alignment Choice: None

I suggest this as a half-step between retaining alignment and abandoning it wholesale. The "None" selection means the character simply has not chosen affirmatively to align with one of the cosmic/philosophical poles. He doesn't particularly care about such concerns, which really should really only concern the gods and their servants (clerics and others who affirmatively choose to serve an alignment).

This would also sever the notion of alignment as dictating player behavior. Obviously even those with "None" as their alignment *have* drives and mores and codes. They are just personal mores and codes and not dictated by the extraplanar centers of alignment. Characters may have it noted -- parenthetically -- that while they do not serve an alignment, nevertheless they generally comport with some aspect of alignment. So an insanely evil character like the Joker might have the alignment None (Chaotic Evil) to indicate that while he cares not for the struggles of the gods he does incline to an anarchic and evil outlook. But his alignment is extremely soft in the sense it describes his basic outlook, not some rigid philosophical or religious commitment to Chaos or Evil per se.

This also allows evil, selfish beings to serve alignments they do not actually believe in. While good-aligned creatures would tend to serve alignments they actually believe in -- integrity and all that -- there is no reason why a man who is chaotic and neutral could not serve Lawful Evil *simply because the devils have offered him a sweet deal.* Such a man might have his alignment described as Lawful Evil (chaotic, neutral) to indicate that his actual tendencies diverge from the cosmic principle he serves.

Of course in many cases alignment will be far simpler: A true Lawful Good paladin will just be Lawful Good.

But for many characters the "None" alignment just make sense. Yes, Paladins and Clerics will tend to have a stated alignment; not so with the great majority of adventurers, nevermind peasants. What on earth could a lowly peasant care about alignment? It hardly affects him and he is powerless to advance it. And further he hasn't the time to bother himself with such abstractions that mean so little to his life of toil and want.

I just propose this as a compromise between those demanding alignment be kept and those (the majority I think) who believe it to be a relic of the primitive roots of wargaming. A ranger should be able to select an alignment "None," probably with the (Good) subdescriptor, and maybe with the (anti-authoritarian, good) subdiscriptor if he's a bit like Robin Hood, to indicate he personally has no stake in the cosmic balance but his general moral code places him in the good camp.

Parentheticals can depart from the good, evil, chaos paradigm as well. A rogue might call his alignment None (reluctantly good) to show he's the sort of guy who does not want to be a hero but often winds up being one, against his better judgment.

Orcs? What's their alignment? Probably None (evil). Ditto most humanoids.

Save the true alignment for those few people who actually consciously strive to serve an alignment and of course the numerous outsiders whose primary goal is to advance it. On earth (or Oerth or Aerth or Middle earth or Hyboria or Newhon or wherever) most people wouldn't have a real alignment as D&D defines it. It's just not part of their character concept. So rather forcing them to choose an alignment and then simply ignore it, acknowlege reality (both game play reality and real-world reality) and allow them to say they don't give a rat's haunch about such things but have the alignment None.

It opens up a much greater range of options. No longer is player behavior straightjacketed by a rather simplistic alignment system; via the parenthetical, characters can define their basic morality and tendencies however they like. We can have a fiendish wizard who's actually a fascistic tyrant even while serving demons: alignment Chaotic Evil (tyrannical, fascist evil). And plenty of characters who have the alignment None but some drive or agenda-- a knight might be None (code of honor, chivalrous, good).

I suppose the parentheticals are a bit like d20 Modern's allegiances. Allow players to choose both allegiances and tendencies and separate those from alignment per se. Druids would tend to have alignment/allegiance None (veneration of nature) and perhaps a moral tendency as well, so we can have some officially evil tending Druids (alignment: None (veneration of nature, evil)). Etc. As an aside, given that Druids (in D&D, anyway) care about real-world (or prime material plane) things like forests and tides and moons and trees, I've never really understood why they would even concern themselves with nonearthly concerns like championing the extraplanar agenda of the Neutral alignment.

And Conan? Alignment None (fortune-seeker, barbaric code of honor, anti-civilization).

That describes him a hell of a lot better than the thousand attempts to capture his personality, with him decribed variously as Neutral, Neutral (Good), Neutral Good, Chaotic Good, or Chaotic Neutral.
Yes, they are.

They are not real people, they are fictional characters in a fantasy setting. In that setting, Good, Evil, Law, and Chaos are very real forces very basic to reality. Mortals are affected by this, and their personal natures are described in those cosmic terms.

Which is why I'm glad alignment as a central part of the rules and default setting is leaving. I can't roleplay a character in a setting where the planes pigeonhole him into a specific attitude, and then influence him to prevent him from changing.

And you're True Neutral, because you have both Lawful and Chaotic aspects. :P See, we have the same alignment, and we don't agree on stuff! :D

One thing I've never been described as. True Neutral.
Yes, they are.

They are not real people, they are fictional characters in a fantasy setting. In that setting, Good, Evil, Law, and Chaos are very real forces very basic to reality. Mortals are affected by this, and their personal natures are described in those cosmic terms.

That's a personal choice though, it doesn't have to be like that, even with alignments.

The basic rules state clearly that within each alignment are a broad number of personality types and that nobody should be expected to be entirely consistent with their alignment every day.

It should really only come into question if someone is broadly, clearly and consistently playing their character in a way that is structurally different from his chosen alignment. Small to moderate aberrations are inconsitencies are normal.

Cosmic forces they may be, but mortals aren't celestials or infernals...they are 'flawed' and mercurial compared to archetypes such as angels and devils.
New Alignment Choice: None

I suggest this as a half-step between retaining alignment and abandoning it wholesale. The "None" selection means the character simply has not chosen affirmatively to align with one of the cosmic/philosophical poles. He doesn't particularly care about such concerns, which really should really only concern the gods and their servants (clerics and others who affirmatively choose to serve an alignment).

That's what I use "Neutral" for in my games. Makes it more flexible and realistic I think.
That's a personal choice though, it doesn't have to be like that, even with alignments.

The basic rules state clearly that within each alignment are a broad number of personality types and that nobody should be expected to be entirely consistent with their alignment every day.

It should really only come into question if someone is broadly, clearly and consistently playing their character in a way that is structurally different from his chosen alignment. Small to moderate aberrations are inconsitencies are normal.

Cosmic forces they may be, but mortals aren't celestials or infernals...they are 'flawed' and mercurial compared to archetypes such as angels and devils.

Exactly. Mortals are simply being described by comparing them to Outsiders, which are far more absolute by their very nature.
That's what I use "Neutral" for in my games. Makes it more flexible and realistic I think.

No, because serving the Neutral alignment brings in the baggage of supposedly seeking "balance" between Good and Evil and Law and Chaos. You're free to ignore that, but the RAW suggest he does have an investment in the cosmological struggle and cares for such things.

A character with an alignment of "None" expresses his lack of concern with such things better than "Neutral." Like it or not, Neutral is supposed to be an alignment with a cosmological agenda, same as any other.

Keep alignment if it is deemed sacrosanct, but set it up so it is 1) selectable or avoidable at player's choosing and 2) sever it from explictly defining a character's personality, allegiances, and tendencies.

EDIT: Eric, how would you describe a heroic character in your game who does indeed incline towards the good moral code, and yet does not believe in or give fealty to the gods and has no concerns about their struggles or philosophy?

Alignment None (Good) seems to describe him. You can describe him as Neutral Good, but RAW, "Neutral Good" does indeed suggest a stake in the cosmological struggle. You are free to ignore that aspect (and in fact you probably do -- that's how most people deal with alignment's goofiness, by ignoring it to a large degree), but if in practice alignment is frequently being ignored, why shouldn't the game bow to this reality?

And, in the process, bow to real-world or just fictional reality as well?
No, because serving the Neutral alignment brings in the baggage of supposedly seeking "balance" between Good and Evil and Law and Chaos. You're free to ignore that, but the RAW suggest he does have an investment in the cosmological struggle and cares for such things.

A character with an alignment of "None" expresses his lack of concern with such things better than "Neutral." Like it or not, Neutral is supposed to be an alignment with a cosmological agenda, same as any other.

Not really, the RAW supports both, right there in the PHB description of "Neutral". They even nickname it 'undecided'.

Neutral, “Undecided”: A neutral character does what seems to be a good idea. She doesn’t feel strongly one way or the other when it comes to good vs. evil or law vs. chaos. Most neutral characters exhibit a lack of conviction or bias rather than a commitment to neutrality. Such a character thinks of good as better than evil—after all, she would rather have good neighbors and rulers than evil ones. Still, she’s not personally committed to upholding good in any abstract or universal way.
Some neutral characters, on the other hand, commit themselves philosophically to neutrality. They see good, evil, law, and chaos as prejudices and dangerous extremes. They advocate the middle way of neutrality as the best, most balanced road in the long run.
Neutral is the best alignment you can be because it means you act naturally, without prejudice or compulsion.

Ah, thanks for the clarification.

However, I'd then ask why only Neutrals should be permitted this "undecided" choice. I'd also ask why it isn't a more frequent choice. Rather than tuck the "undecided" option into neutral as an aside, put it out front and center as a popular choice so that all players know they don't have to play an alignment if they don't wish to.

As you say, you're right, the rules already support this idea... to a degree. I'd just suggest pushing it harder, defining characters chiefly by allegiance and tendencies and not alignment (though they may also serve an alignment if they wish), and permitting those who are "Undecided" to nevertheless have the tendency of good or evil.

80% of the population, even in D&D where alignment is tangible and real, would probably still have "None" for an alignment. But it would be nice if a character could have None as an alignment and yet still have heroic tendencies (defend the weak, good, etc. as parenthetical allegiances/tendencies).
Well, there is certainly enough of a distinction between 'a lack of conviction and bias' in regards to law/chaos/good/evil and a positive conviction to maintenace of a balance between those forces to merit splitting "Neutral" into two options, you are right about that.

In my games, I label the "maintainers of balance" types as "True Neutral", but your label of "undecided" for the other set of neutrals would work just as well.
80% of human inhabitants of a D&D city would have Neutral alignment? Wrong. If we are to generalise as to a fantasy medieval city, we must take into consideration the concept that (a) clerics can provide healing and cure disease, (b) city defense will probably include magic-users and elite guard with lesser magical items, and (c) monsters prowl the wilds.

Most standard residents would be Lawful due to good relations with civilized situations and would fear the tales they've been told of the wilderness. Depending on leadership alignment (rarely and only briefly Chaotic) the citizens would probably either feel happy and safe and hence be more inclined to treat eachother with relative civility and eudaimonism. This would result in a citizenry that sought the best for eachother and for themselves individually. Lawful Good. Hence, they *prefer* situations and behavior that is Lawful and *prefer* situations and behavior that is Goodly.

Also remember that this is a fantasy game. There will be character behavior that is unrealistic. Guys with large sharp teeth and digestive problems that limit them to a carnivorous diet do NOT go around eating babies. Not even if their name is Baba Yaga or Hannibal Lecter or even Humbaba Lager. However orcs, goblins, hobgoblins, ogres, kobolds, and other fantasy world critters do eat people. This means a player can say their character is behaving in ways that are inimical to chivalric romance, superheroism, epic fantasy, or other works of adventure fiction. Hence, alignment works: it is a fantasy game.

Now, why does alignment become part of the rules? Because if a game rule is disconnected from the rest of the game it becomes nothing more than an illustration that seems to have no purpose.

The fact is, paladins should remain Lawful Good, alignment should play a strong role in the game, good and evil, law and chaos are all very useful. Discarding it is a mistake and won't sell more copies.
See, I think there is a world of difference, in terms of 'alignment', between a crusading champion of a concept or cause, such as a paladin, and a common citizen who knows (or thinks) the order around him protects him so he doesn't rock the boat.

It doesn't make sense, to me, to give this commoner the same alignment as an angel, a being of perfect good, just because he's afraid of goblins and ghosts and so goes along with the rulers who protect him.

This is why the neutral description says that the non-commited neutrals, while still prefering good rulers over evil ones, are not specifically committed to upholding good in a abstract or universal way, like good clerics and paladins are. I think that describes most humans quite well. They prefer a safe and friendly environment for themselves but they are not actively upholding abstract concepts of 'good' and 'law' just because they personally prefer to be left in peace.
Indeed. Most people simply want to live their lives in as much safety and prosperity for as little effort as possible. They wouldn't go to great lengths in order ensure that law, goodness and justice is promoted. A neutral person might see a beggar and think to himself; "Aw, poor sap", but the good person gives him a silver piece.

I hate many of the assumptions DnD makes, but none more than the following;

"Good and evil are not philosophical concepts in DnD. They are he forces that define the cosmos."

Not if I have anything to say about it, darnit.
I agree with Eric on that last point but I have to say this solution, while existing in the book, is quite buried in there and certainly not suggested as a default alignment. I'd make this a much more prominently-advertised choice and hence more common. And I'd incorporate tendencies/allegiances as roleplaying tools to define what a character's personality *really* is -- no more "I'm chaotic good so of course I favor a system of low taxation and fairly liberal rules of police procedure."

The whole law/chaos axis is jackass because 1) it makes fairly petty political preferences (strong state vs. minarchism) on a par with primal choices about good and evil, and 2) the human-level political ramifications of a lawful or chaotic alignment *bear no relationship whatsoever* to the actual goals of lawfuls like the Inevitables or chaotics like the Slaad (or demons, for that matter).

>>>Also remember that this is a fantasy game. There will be character behavior that is unrealistic.

This is a Gygaxian type statement. I hate Gygaxian declarations to the effect that "You'll just have to accept this unrealistic aspect of the game because this is a game and is furthermore a fantasy."

The rejoinder to that is I am proposing a more realistic solution that also works well in fantasy. Evidence? See every book or movie about fantasy that does not include alignment, which is to say, all of them, except those published under the D&D in-house imprint.

And except Moorcock's Elric, which was just an attempt at a new-wave sort of fantasy that departed from more traditional considerations of good versus evil by postulating law versus Chaos and making his hero a villain to boot. It seems odd that such an idiosyncratic conceit, which was just there for "brand differentiating" purposes, and due to Moorcock's distaste for traditional heroic fiction, is somehow "core" to a game which is supposed to emulate heroic fantasy generally, and not just Moorcock's oddball millieu.

So obviously it is NOT necessary that we abide by this silly and unrealistic scheme of things. And yet the Gygaxian response: "Well, it is a fantasy *game*, after all, so such things are necessary."

Ummm... no they're not. No other RPG has them. Ergo, not "necessary." Only one fantasy series has them. Ergo, not even especially useful in telling fantastic stories.
Hell, you all write so much I'm discouraged even to read the last line...
The stories the monks themselves tell about their greatest legends tell a different story. Chaotic like you wouldn't believe. Without telling specific stories, I don't know how well I can convey the concept, but any number of them didn't give a flying **** about tradition, enlightenment, etc., and just wanted to be better fighters and/or go out and do what they personally thought needed to be done. Many DnD characters played as chaotic didn't fit the alignment this well.

That's it again: D&D Monk's concept is different... it's exactly the one about Enlightment...

Complains be done to developers, not to me, please... :P
Ditch "Law" and "Chaos"

I know what Good is, mostly, at least in terms of heroic fiction, which is a simplified version of "Good," but it works in the context of fiction where complex issues of morality are not exactly important.

I know what Evil is. Again, in heroic fantasy. I even know what "Neutral" is -- it's in between Good and Evil.

Those are big categories of behavior of great import to a character. People reject them, often, because they're "too simple" and impose a "fairy-tale morality" on a world. But D&D is a fairy-tale world, in the main.

But less defensible than those -- which at least you can define, if vaguely -- is this Law/Chaos thing, which supposedly have no moral component to them, but are "equally good" or "equally bad" depending on one's moral alignment. And Law/Chaos seems concerned, on a human level, with a plethora of rather niggling political preferences, like if a character supports libertarianism/minarchism (Chaos) or a form of authoritarian order (Law)... I'm really not sure that your average adventuring hero is giving a great deal of thought to the virtues of Chaotic good Anarcho-Syndicalist Communes, as is Dennis the Peasant from Monty Python and the Holy Grail was always on about.

And, once again, the actual cosmic absolutes of law and chaos are not concerned with Authoritarian Socialism versus Libertarian Minarchism, but with creating a clockwork universe (Law) or destroying the universe in favor of seething randomness (Chaos). Planar-level chaos has nothing to do with "chaos" as humans practice it, and ditto for law. Why would a Chaotic Neutral human *ever* actually support the goals of the Slaad? Why would a Lawful Neutral human support the Inevitables?

At least with Good and Evil, yes, indeed, the powers of Good want Good just as humans define it, and the powers of Evil want evil just as humans define it. More perfectly or more viciously, but they're all on the same page.

Good/evil may be simple, but at least it's a primal sort of decision and *mainly* black and white, with gray in between, yes, but you know what the black and white *are.*

Law and Chaos? Who the hell knows what they are. Earlier someone told me Succubi had to be chaotic because they were inherently sexual. Who knew? Yet another strange tidbit to be learned about Law and Chaos.
Since I've heard that the bulk of 4th is based off the new Star Wars saga. Good = Light Side, Evil = Dark Side

Eh, that too simple for DnD... :whatsthis
As a long-time DM, I've never got hung up on alignment. I think I've only really used alignment to effect a particular change or result a few times, and usually only with something like a paladin who is supposed to be very careful about following their rules.

I've deliberately provoked characters into out of alignment acts many times without the character having to change their alignment. In general what I do is determine if the action is sufficient to warrant divine attention, and if so, then a discussion of divine expectations of behavior has been accomplished, either through dreams, or on rare occasions, avatars or direct contact from a deity. But even then I haven't mandated an alignment change, the most I've done is use the event as a hook for a new campaign, usually by having the deity explain to the character that the actions taken were so far out of the acceptable range of behavior that a penance is required. For the most part I've managed to have these things advance the campaign's goals.

In general I treat alignment as a very high-level description of some basic personality traits, not really much more than that. If a lawful good character is tempted sufficiently to, say, steal a magic sword from a shop, then my immediate reaction is to take the player aside and ask if they are unhappy with their current alignment. If the player can explain why the act is consistent with the character's motivations and personality, I more or less accept that.

Having said all that, I don't care much for alignment myself. In fact I had a pretty significant conversation with my DM in a campaign I am playing about what "evil" means. Basically I tried to explain that a neutral evil character can do pretty much anything he wants, including rescuing the poor servant woman's daughter from the well. We discussed specifically the idea of "murderous rampages" with me trying to explain that true evil is not about killing people, it is about CORRUPTING people. A dead lawful good character goes to heaven. A corrupted lawful good character goes to hell. To corrupt a soul is a far more difficult thing than to simply kill one.

There's a reason actors tend to like to play evil characters. The range of possible actions for an evil character is pretty much infinite. Anything obviously evil is clearly due to their evil nature. Anything obviously good is likely just a ploy to allow future evil deeds. I enjoy playing evil characters for this reason.

I'd like to see a lot of adjustment to the alignment system. Mostly I'd like to see something that recognizes that people may have the GOAL of lawful good activity, but succumbing to a rare case of intense temptation does not necessarily mean that the person has abandoned all lawful good activity. Any more than running a red light because you are in a hurry means you no longer respect red lights and will run them all in the future.

This is why Snape was my favorite character in the Harry Potter books. Just what alignment was Snape anyway? How would you play a character like Snape?
Even other forms of literature has evil villains that don't need to be on killing rampages, Scrooge and Simon Legree come to mind.
But less defensible than those -- which at least you can define, if vaguely -- is this Law/Chaos thing, which supposedly have no moral component to them, but are "equally good" or "equally bad" depending on one's moral alignment.

So? Likewise, Good and Evil have no ethical component to them, but are "equally lawful" or "equally chaotic" depending on one's ethical alignment.

And, once again, the actual cosmic absolutes of law and chaos are not concerned with Authoritarian Socialism versus Libertarian Minarchism, but with creating a clockwork universe (Law) or destroying the universe in favor of seething randomness (Chaos). Planar-level chaos has nothing to do with "chaos" as humans practice it, and ditto for law. Why would a Chaotic Neutral human *ever* actually support the goals of the Slaad? Why would a Lawful Neutral human support the Inevitables?

Sharing an alignment doesn't mean you share all of your goals. The Slaad are the embodiment of Chaotic Neutrality, that's all they ultimately aim for. A Chaotic Neutral human has other goals in life. Alignment is only one part of a mortal's makeup, not the defining aspect of his being. Undermining authority may be very important for a person, but the total destruction of all possible stability would probably conflict with other goals that he holds.
And if the alignment axes aren't well-defined enough to tell when you're being true to your placement on either, why are they rules at all?

They're descriptive rules, you just choose, they're vague in order not to be a straitjacket and ,as you pointed out, close alignments,i.e. those who have one step of distance between each other, can share lots of ideas/behaviours.
Being LN makes you close to NN,LG and LE, so you have something in common with them.
As we said, they're not so strict.

I was raised by a sect of St Cuthbert zealots that viewed themselves as the judge, jury, and executioners of evil beings, including people who performed a broad range of evil acts. We fully encouraged the use of torture to procure more information on conspirators. It's just that we could be very nice to people who weren't evil.

So you could be LN ,to me.


Yes. Yes, it is. So if the campaign gravitates toward other situations, your character's actions may look entirely contrary to his actual motivations. And the DMG says "too bad!"

It is a DM's problem: he should get that you're behaving coherently with your bg/AL, considering the challenges he threw at you.

You don't think Conan, Tarzan, and similar stories played a part in the development of the class? Because I think so. Tarzan, however, is the only rules-appropriate barbarian I know of, because even in Roman prejudices, the ignorant barbarians tended to be rigidly superstitious, adhering to odd taboos.

Don't you think Roman prejudices played a part in Conan development? :D
Anyway being superstitious doesn't make you necessarily lawful: you believe to superstitions because you have fear of them, having faith in something doesn't make you lawful in short.

And there are lots more stories where great martial artists didn't behave a thing like that. In fact, unless you're watching Kung Fu Theatre, most of the actual stories about monks are about them wandering around doing whatever they saw fit, and not following the rigid monastic lifestyle you describe. Besides "lawful" and "disciplined enough to train" should not be related.

Watch out: lawful means "according to laws", but in d&d they said:
"Law" implies honor, trustworthiness, obedience to authority, and reliability. On the downside, lawfulness can include close-mindedness, reactionary adherence to tradition, judgmentalness, and a lack of adaptability. Those who consciously promote lawfulness say that only lawful behavior creates a society in which people can depend on each other and make the right decisions in full confidence that others will act as they should.

and discipline means:
Noun discipline
1. controlled behaviour; self-control
2. enforced compliance or control
3. a systematic method of obtaining obedience
4. a state of order based on submission to authority
5. punishment intended to train
6. a set of rules regulating behaviour

to discipline
to train someone by instruction and practice

Anyway, what about shao-lin monks?
If your DM is going to screw you, he's going to screw you, regardless of whether alignment is there or not.

Some DMs see the Paladin (or even Clerics) as a walking target, and that's unfortunate. Then again, some DMs see a wizard's spellbook with a giant bullseye painted on it, and that has nothing to do with alignment.

There are bad DMs out there, I just don't think that getting rid of alignment will solve that.
Players have always had big misunderstandings about alignment, but alot of that is because they are reading so much into it that just isn't there.

Yes, the PCs are supposed to be the good guys.

No, one evil act does not doom your character immediately.

Yes, killing innocent people, animating undead, and screwing the rest of the party are evil acts.

No, Lawful people are not robots.

No, Chaotic people are not insane.

No, two people of the same alignment are not required to think and act the same.

I thought the 3E PHB was pretty clear on all of this, but people keep insisting that it says one thing when it clearly says just the opposite. I'd like to think that it's just a vocal minority, but I'm starting to wonder.
I thought the 3E PHB was pretty clear on all of this, but people keep insisting that it says one thing when it clearly says just the opposite. I'd like to think that it's just a vocal minority, but I'm starting to wonder.

It's quite clear, but only for those of us who actually read it.
It's quite clear, but only for those of us who actually read it.

And those of us that have imagination. Hate it when I have DMs/PCs push their cookie cutter alignment ideals.

Human Paladin: "I will have an ale."
DM: "You can't have an ale, you'll loose your paladinhood."
Human Paladin: "What about the dwarf paladin? He's having an ale."
DM: "That's different."
Human Paladin:
They're descriptive rules, you just choose, they're vague in order not to be a straitjacket and ,as you pointed out, close alignments,i.e. those who have one step of distance between each other, can share lots of ideas/behaviours.
Being LN makes you close to NN,LG and LE, so you have something in common with them.
As we said, they're not so strict.

Your argument is pretty well reasoned, but I completely disagree with the assertion that vagueness, or even flexible non-vagueness, decreases straitjacketness (yes, this is a new word).

If you want to increase flexibility, you increase the rigidness of alignment. You have to pick a specific metric for each alignment component. For example, if you are to be Evil, you have to be willing to kill non-Evil creatures (unaligned creatures are excluded) for profit or fun. A morally Neutral person is not willing to kill non-Evil creatures for profit or fun, but will also not necessarily prevent the killing of non-Evil creatures. A Good person will prevent the killing of non-Evil creatures. It could be argued that this will not accurately capture how a good person will behave (i.e., you might argue that a "good" person will treat even evil prisoners with dignity, and this alignment metric does not speak to that). However, there are no questions about how to assign aligment. The DM simply asks the player, "would you kill a person for profit or fun?" And the player answers yes (evil) or no (not evil).

Another metric for law and chaos may hone in on what a really "good" person acts like (e.g., a Lawful Good will be more "good" than a Chaotic Good, probably). For example, you could say that a Lawful person will attempt to prevent or punish assault (including sexual assault/****), murder, or stealing. An ethically Neutral person will not assault, murder, or steal. A Chaotic person may do one or more of assault, murder, or stealing. You cannot commit any of these crimes if you believe they are justified. For example, you cannot steal an item if you believe the possessor is not the owner, you cannot assault a person who assaults you first, and you cannot murder a person in self-defense. Notably, in my mind, the player can avoid most ethical problems if he believes actions are justified, but that is fine; the player should have control over his character's intent.

I'm not trying to start a new argument about whether these ideas would work. I mean, I know they do because I use them, but rather I am suggesting that they can potentially work. And you would not have to use the exact metrics I chose. Any metric is fine, and the DMG could include other suggestions for alignment metrics, and options to add a third or more metrics to each character's alignment.

These metrics may seem to take the fun out of a corruption and fall from grace. However, I do not think that is necessarily true. For example, you grow more and more confused over time, but you still register as "Good" to the other paladins in your order. Then, finally, your actions go over the top and you still believe you are good (so you can keep the alignment if you like), but you start slaughtering young Padawans. This has never happened in a playtest of mine (I prefer to run good games), but I have used it for NPCs. It is great fun to thwart a detect evil with an insane character who believes he is good.

Using these metrics is not conducive to a Vile or Exalted alignment that is respectively more evil than Evil and more good than Good. If you are all the way Evil, you still just kill for pleasure, possibly at great risk to yourself. However, I use Vile to mean you only care about recruitment to Hell, and Exalted to be interested in recruitment to Heaven. In other words, it is the soul, not the physical body, that matters. In game, it turns out that the Vile creatures are less dangerous to characters (since the physical body is necessary to continue playing, but a corrupted soul is not necessarily) than Exalted creatures. Vile creatures will not necessarily kill Good people, but rather prefer to corrupt them, while Exalted creatures might sacrifice Good creatures freely, since the Good creatures are going to make it to Heaven anyway. Great fun having your good party fear angels and paladins! Not for core, even if these options were picked up by WotC, which I seriously doubt, but good for a splat book.
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