Alignment

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New question related to alignment.

I'm not sure how to create polls here, but here is one:

1) use alignment as written
2) use alignment with house rules
3) don't use alignment

I'm curious what people here do. The answers will put this discussion in more perspective.

smoker
New question related to alignment.

I'm not sure how to create polls here, but here is one:

1) use alignment as written
2) use alignment with house rules
3) don't use alignment

I'm curious what people here do. The answers will put this discussion in more perspective.

smoker

House rules.
If you want to increase flexibility, you increase the rigidness of alignment.

What? Nothing in your post argues for this, and it sounds rather confused on the issue.

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).

No. Law/Chaos is orthogonal to Good/Evil.
What? Nothing in your post argues for this, and it sounds rather confused on the issue.



No. Law/Chaos is orthogonal to Good/Evil.

Maybe the post is confusing for you, but I think it is pretty clear that by "rigid alignments" I mean that they should have bright lines between them. If you want to be good you have to do X. Not sure I can help you understand better than that.

Law/Chaos is orthogonal to Good/Evil on the (fictional) axis. However, what a Lawful person does might seem "more good" than what a Chaotic person does depending upon the metric you choose to represent Law/Chaos. That is why I put "good" in quotes. This isn't really debatable; it's a statement of fact.
Maybe the post is confusing for you, but I think it is pretty clear that by "rigid alignments" I mean that they should have bright lines between them. If you want to be good you have to do X. Not sure I can help you understand better than that.

I understood that bit, but you also said that this rigidity allows for flexibility. That's the claim that I found no support for.

Law/Chaos is orthogonal to Good/Evil on the (fictional) axis. However, what a Lawful person does might seem "more good" than what a Chaotic person does depending upon the metric you choose to represent Law/Chaos. That is why I put "good" in quotes. This isn't really debatable; it's a statement of fact.

And to a Chaotic Good person, what they're doing is more good than what the Lawful Good person does. That may be a fact, but it's not an especially interesting one. Remember, when talking about how things seem, we're not really talking about how they necessarily are.
I understood that bit, but you also said that this rigidity allows for flexibility. That's the claim that I found no support for.

Ah. I believe that by making the lines between the various alignments bright (i.e., rigid), a player will know exactly where his character falls. This will allow the player to roleplay without "fear" of alignment.

At the opposite extreme, if you define alignment as extremely fluffy and subjective, the DM might come up with some way of trying to make sense of the fluff. For example, he might keep track of how many evil things you do and compare them to how many good things you do. Or he might feel that within the fluffy definition of evil, whenever your character picks his nose, that is sufficiently offensive to merit a minor evil demerit. So, by allowing the definition of alignment to be flexible, you are interjecting more uncertainty into the system, and players who care about their alignments (some do, some let it fall where they will, and some lose their characters to NPC status if they become evil) will have to behave in a more rigid, less natural fashion.

That's my hypothesis, anyway.

So, if alignment is going to survive into 4e, I think alignments should be more rigidly defined.
And to a Chaotic Good person, what they're doing is more good than what the Lawful Good person does. That may be a fact, but it's not an especially interesting one. Remember, when talking about how things seem, we're not really talking about how they necessarily are.

My goal was to point out that although a rigidly defined definition of Good might not include everything that you think of as "good," you can make up for that omission by making a Lawful Good character a bit more "good." In my example, Good means you protect innocent creatures from death. That's pretty limited. It doesn't say anything about, say, torture, which is a big alignment thread topic. So, you could allow the Law/Chaos outlook on life to include aspects that you think are vital to really being good, such as a refusal to torture prisoners, even if they are Evil.

Advantageously, I have found that house ruling alignment has almost no rules-related impact. So, fiddling with the alignment metrics should also have relatively little impact on the rules, but will let your DM hone alignment to the extent he feels is appropriate. Your Lawful Good creature might behave a little bit differently if you mess with the metric, but at least there will be a mechanism in place.
Totoro (and others):

Hmm...

Let me describe a character's motivations and ideology. I'd be very interested to hear what alignment you think this character belongs to. Here goes:

He's a mid-level wizard (level 12). His main goal in life is to become the world's most renowned magic item creator. He needs security and privacy to achieve this goal so he hired a bunch of craftsmen, hired a boat, took them all to this remote, unknown island where he had them build a large tower on the tallest point of the island, and when they finished and were sailing home, he used his most powerful magic weapon to sink their boat and kill them all. This was solely due to his belief that he needed complete privacy and secrecy to pursue his goals. He really had nothing against the people he killed, and he certainly didn't enjoy it, he just felt it had to be done.

On occasion, in order to pursue his goal of making more and more powerful magic items, he needs to secure raw materials and money. When he needs to do that, he simply scouts around for a juicy target (usually a small village with limited martial resources) and he rains death and destruction on them until they either give him what he wants, or he kills enough of them that he can just go take what he wants. Sometimes what he wants are sacrificial victims since more and more he is coming to believe that the life force of intelligent beings is the most powerful means of making magic items. Again, he doesn't enjoy sacrificing people for his ends, and he will even tell them that he regrets the necessity, but that's just what has to be done, that's all.

In some cases he needs specific things that may be held by evil individuals. In that case he will even join up with a party of "good" characters in order to destroy the "evil" one, so long as his share of the loot includes the item he needs. In such circumstances he is completely trustworthy, he does not steal from his comrades and does not rob or pillage towns or villagers just to entertain himself.

In some cases he needs specific things that may be held by good individuals. In that case he will join up with a party of "evil" characters in order to destroy the "good" one. Again, in such cases, he sticks completely to his agreement, and if one of the party does anything he considers to be against the party's agreement, he may or may not do something about it, depending on the circumstances. If he is the target of any harmful act, he will consider his options very carefully. He has been known to kill party members who have stolen things from him. He has also been known to react to such an event by accepting the situation as his own fault for not protecting himself properly, and has even congratulated party members on their cleverness and guile. In some cases he has returned the favor, in others he has exacted revenge on others while pinning the blame on other innocent party members in order to avoid retribution himself. However, he would never initiate such a situation.

He is not much concerned about laws, either natural laws or laws imposed by secular or theocratic authority. In fact he is fundamentally suspicious of any religious authority whatsoever. He has a grudge against priests in general due to some events that happened early in his career, and he's never fully gotten over his belief that divine magic is not to be trusted, and that people who wield such magic are fundamentally unworthy of his respect. There are a very few exceptions to this, but very few. He has been known to kill clerics simply because they are clerics and he was in a particularly bad mood.

He does, however, respect power. As he has grown in power he has tended to lose respect for those whose power is less than his own. Power, in his mind, is to be used to pursue a noble goal. Power that is not being used in this fashion is wasted power. If possible, such power is simply a target to be pursued by those who would use the power as it should be used.

OK, that's probably more than enough. But I'm interested, what alignment is this guy?
Here's an option to replace alignment with. A PC's own personal code of ethics.

A player can, at any time, write down the ethical opinions that his PC holds, in the form of one-line slogans. For example, "The end justifies the means", "Always protect the innocent", "The strong do what they like and the weak get out of the way", or more specific, such as "Dragons are to be respected: it's wrong to wear dragonhide items."

The PC decides how vigilant he is in following his own code, and whether any of its tenets need to be modified or abandoned. The idea is not for the DM to monitor the PC's actions and slam him for every code violation, but for the code to spur roleplaying. The player may decide that his PC tries to adhere to his code at all costs, or liberally interprets his code's tenets.

The advantage of such a system over alignment is that the player is free to make his own choices as to what the PC believes and would do, rather than selecting an alignment and feeling constrained by the 'baggage' that comes with it.
Surprised this one hasn't been posted. I have seen many people post saying that they want to do away with the alignment system. I wouldn't care if they kept it or revamped it with something new. Personally I would like to see some type of honor system that reflects the old alignment system but easier to adjust.

One thing comes to mind... HACKMASTER! One hell of a Honor System including your Current Char Level/Honor having immediate and constant effects on the game if it is too low, in a pre-set optimum range, or too high.

A totally SWEET system.

Al B.
One thing comes to mind... HACKMASTER! One hell of a Honor System including your Current Char Level/Honor having immediate and constant effects on the game if it is too low, in a pre-set optimum range, or too high.

A totally SWEET system.

Al B.

IMAGE(http://www.hillcity-comics.com/comics/07_12_06_52.jpg)

Yes :D :D :D
Here's an option to replace alignment with. A PC's own personal code of ethics.

A player can, at any time, write down the ethical opinions that his PC holds, in the form of one-line slogans. For example, "The end justifies the means", "Always protect the innocent", "The strong do what they like and the weak get out of the way", or more specific, such as "Dragons are to be respected: it's wrong to wear dragonhide items."

Nautilus:

That's an interesting approach, but I would be concerned that it could create conflict in the game dynamic. Especially if the "ethics" contradicted each other. For example, let's say that a character has "Always protect the innocent" and also has "Discretion is the better part of valor." Now when an innocent is threatened by a situation where the character is obviously overmatched, the character is presented with a situation where they cannot fulfill both ethical principles. Of course this happens in real life all the time, but the question now is "what does the DM do about it?" If the DM has a rule that says "breaking ethics causes a loss of XP" or something like that, the character is screwed.

Perhaps if the ethical principles were also prioritized this could work. And perhaps those priorities could change over time.

I suspect the end result of such a system will be some characters with one or a very few ethical principles, and some with dozens. I do think it poses a potential problem for the DM to deal with if a player goes bananas and lists dozens of principles, with overlapping hierarchies of priority.
Ah. I believe that by making the lines between the various alignments bright (i.e., rigid), a player will know exactly where his character falls. This will allow the player to roleplay without "fear" of alignment.

Oh, okay. Now I know what you had in mind.

At the opposite extreme, if you define alignment as extremely fluffy and subjective

Rather than go with an extreme, which we all know is silly, let's go with something more reasonable. Goodness doesn't have to be "I sorta kinda help people when I feel like it, but I dunno, maybe sometimes I like to hurt people too, it's all good, no big deal." You can use commonsense. Hurting people is bad, so good people avoid it if at all possible. Lying is also generally a bad thing. And good people don't just refrain from doing evil (for they could just be neutral), but they also actively do good. They help other people when they can. They make personal sacrifices. They're compassionate. Etc. You don't have to be rigid with these. Lying might be permissible if it reduces harm. Allowing one person to be harmed might be permissible if it saves the lives of many other people. Someone may not be willing to make a sacrifice because they need to take care of themselves. The point is that these are not always clear cut cases. Sure, there's ambiguity when slipping from good to evil. That's because if it were clear, we wouldn't see good people making mistakes in the first place. DMs and players need to work together to find what works for them.

My goal was to point out that although a rigidly defined definition of Good might not include everything that you think of as "good," you can make up for that omission by making a Lawful Good character a bit more "good." In my example, Good means you protect innocent creatures from death. That's pretty limited. It doesn't say anything about, say, torture, which is a big alignment thread topic. So, you could allow the Law/Chaos outlook on life to include aspects that you think are vital to really being good, such as a refusal to torture prisoners, even if they are Evil.

But that has nothing to do with Law and Chaos. It's a matter of Good and Evil, don't you think it should have to do with, you know, Good and Evil?
But that has nothing to do with Law and Chaos. It's a matter of Good and Evil, don't you think it should have to do with, you know, Good and Evil?

Seeing the term chaos in your post, as the term always does, made me cringe.

I hate people looking at the description of "Chaotic Neutral" (is the least predictable) to justify doing any damm thing they want, in particular VERY EVIL things.

Personally, I get it... Lawful = having a defined personal code as well as society having rules for everyone (greatest good for greatest number, rules make for an orderly society, rules keep the powerful in power, whatever). Chaotic = the individualist. While they a personal set of rules (actually codified or not), they don't believe in society needing to make a bunch of rules for society to work.

Can't we find some way to either better define these terms OR change the terms themselves? I prefer "individualist" to "Chaotic" but "legalistic" isn't a good one for "Lawful".

BOLD ITALIC text in MY first paragraph is to reflect changes to clarify what I meant.
Totoro (and others):

Hmm...

Let me describe a character's motivations and ideology. I'd be very interested to hear what alignment you think this character belongs to. Here goes:

He's a mid-level wizard (level 12). His main goal in life is to become the world's most renowned magic item creator. He needs security and privacy to achieve this goal so he hired a bunch of craftsmen, hired a boat, took them all to this remote, unknown island where he had them build a large tower on the tallest point of the island, and when they finished and were sailing home, he used his most powerful magic weapon to sink their boat and kill them all. This was solely due to his belief that he needed complete privacy and secrecy to pursue his goals. He really had nothing against the people he killed, and he certainly didn't enjoy it, he just felt it had to be done.

On occasion, in order to pursue his goal of making more and more powerful magic items, he needs to secure raw materials and money. When he needs to do that, he simply scouts around for a juicy target (usually a small village with limited martial resources) and he rains death and destruction on them until they either give him what he wants, or he kills enough of them that he can just go take what he wants. Sometimes what he wants are sacrificial victims since more and more he is coming to believe that the life force of intelligent beings is the most powerful means of making magic items. Again, he doesn't enjoy sacrificing people for his ends, and he will even tell them that he regrets the necessity, but that's just what has to be done, that's all.

In some cases he needs specific things that may be held by evil individuals. In that case he will even join up with a party of "good" characters in order to destroy the "evil" one, so long as his share of the loot includes the item he needs. In such circumstances he is completely trustworthy, he does not steal from his comrades and does not rob or pillage towns or villagers just to entertain himself.

In some cases he needs specific things that may be held by good individuals. In that case he will join up with a party of "evil" characters in order to destroy the "good" one. Again, in such cases, he sticks completely to his agreement, and if one of the party does anything he considers to be against the party's agreement, he may or may not do something about it, depending on the circumstances. If he is the target of any harmful act, he will consider his options very carefully. He has been known to kill party members who have stolen things from him. He has also been known to react to such an event by accepting the situation as his own fault for not protecting himself properly, and has even congratulated party members on their cleverness and guile. In some cases he has returned the favor, in others he has exacted revenge on others while pinning the blame on other innocent party members in order to avoid retribution himself. However, he would never initiate such a situation.

He is not much concerned about laws, either natural laws or laws imposed by secular or theocratic authority. In fact he is fundamentally suspicious of any religious authority whatsoever. He has a grudge against priests in general due to some events that happened early in his career, and he's never fully gotten over his belief that divine magic is not to be trusted, and that people who wield such magic are fundamentally unworthy of his respect. There are a very few exceptions to this, but very few. He has been known to kill clerics simply because they are clerics and he was in a particularly bad mood.

He does, however, respect power. As he has grown in power he has tended to lose respect for those whose power is less than his own. Power, in his mind, is to be used to pursue a noble goal. Power that is not being used in this fashion is wasted power. If possible, such power is simply a target to be pursued by those who would use the power as it should be used.

OK, that's probably more than enough. But I'm interested, what alignment is this guy?

I very much like these types of logic puzzles, but I'm a little concerned it will derail the topic. Particularly considering few people will have spent the time to learn what I propose, will have other ideas about a fix for alignment, and/or be influenced by the ever-present RAW. Nevertheless, using my system, he would be E(C). He almost has evil tendencies because he is willing to kill, regardless of the victim's alignment, for profit/personal gain. However, in some cases he kills for pleasure (clerics), which makes him Evil (barely, but he crosses the threshold). He has chaotic tendencies because he is willing to murder or steal for personal gain. For what it's worth, anyway.
Nautilus:

That's an interesting approach, but I would be concerned that it could create conflict in the game dynamic. Especially if the "ethics" contradicted each other. For example, let's say that a character has "Always protect the innocent" and also has "Discretion is the better part of valor." Now when an innocent is threatened by a situation where the character is obviously overmatched, the character is presented with a situation where they cannot fulfill both ethical principles. Of course this happens in real life all the time, but the question now is "what does the DM do about it?" If the DM has a rule that says "breaking ethics causes a loss of XP" or something like that, the character is screwed.

Perhaps if the ethical principles were also prioritized this could work. And perhaps those priorities could change over time.

I suspect the end result of such a system will be some characters with one or a very few ethical principles, and some with dozens. I do think it poses a potential problem for the DM to deal with if a player goes bananas and lists dozens of principles, with overlapping hierarchies of priority.

If a player "goes bananas and lists dozens of principles" my immediate response would be "That's their problem." I believe that RP-based mechanics like this one should be handled via RP elements - NPCs, affiliations and the like. So if a PC violates his code, "God" (the DM) won't punish him, but the captain of a prestigious knightly order might decide that he's too unreliable for membership. Or the local thieves' guild master may think he's not ruthless enough for anything but menial tasks.

A priority-based dimension might be a good idea - perhaps some ethics could be "Convictions" (PC has held them for a significant length of time) and others "Guidelines" (new ethical principles, or ones the PC often wavers on).
Seeing this in your post, as always, made me cringe.

I hate people looking at the description of "Chaotic Neutral" (is the least predictable) to justify doing any damm thing they want, in particular VERY EVIL things.

Then why did my post make you cringe? Chaotic Neutral is not evil, and players who play it as such are not playing it properly. My very point was the Law/Chaos, in itself, has nothing to do with Good/Evil.

Personally, I get it... Lawful = having a defined personal code as well as society having rules for everyone (greatest good for greatest number, rules make for an orderly society, rules keep the powerful in power, whatever).

Law is not always about the greatest good for the greatest number. That's Lawful Good, but not necessarily Lawful Neutral, and definitely not Lawful Evil. Maybe you'll cringe again, but, as I said, Law/Chaos is separate from Good/Evil. If they were the same, we'd go back to only having three alignments, as in OD&D.

Can't we find some way to either better define these terms OR change the terms themselves? I prefer "individualist" to "Chaotic" but "legalistic" isn't a good one for "Lawful".

What, exactly, do you think is wrong with the current descriptions?
Ok, I'm not going to re-quote the quotes...

Making Me "Cringe"... the terms, not that you posted it. I'll try to be more clear in the future. (I thought about doing the word "this" in all caps and bold, but thought that would have been overkill).

Definitions of "Law"... If you really read what I put, there are (in order) the core descriptions of Lawful Good, Lawful Neutral, Lawful Evil.

Description Problems... Like I said, people read that "Chaotic Neutral is the 'most random' alignment" and think it means they truly can do whatever they want bouncing off the walls like a crazed maniac. Oh, that dude ticked my character off... KILL HIM! wait, that town needs saving... To the RESCUE! Society needs rules, except where the hamper what my character wants.


Yes, this is in large part a problem of the players somewhat intentionally misinterpreting the descriptions, which was part of my point. (QUOTE: "I hate people looking at the description of "Chaotic Neutral" (is the least predictable) to justify...").

I didn't mention, but have had more than a few players try to ignore the description of Lawful Neutral where it states that they will have a personal code. These folks try to tell me "I follow my conscience, that is my code". That's basically B.S., alignment is a simplified description of a character's basic personality/view of the world/how their conscience would see an act.

Hopefully this makes my viewpoint clearer.
Folks are arguing about it, so I suggest removing it or making it optional. This means creating more interesting spells.

I don't like rules that players will argue about it. And alignment isn't significant enough to warrant an argument.

Exactly how I feel about the whole issue.
Here's an option to replace alignment with. A PC's own personal code of ethics.

A player can, at any time, write down the ethical opinions that his PC holds, in the form of one-line slogans. For example, "The end justifies the means", "Always protect the innocent", "The strong do what they like and the weak get out of the way", or more specific, such as "Dragons are to be respected: it's wrong to wear dragonhide items."

The PC decides how vigilant he is in following his own code, and whether any of its tenets need to be modified or abandoned. The idea is not for the DM to monitor the PC's actions and slam him for every code violation, but for the code to spur roleplaying. The player may decide that his PC tries to adhere to his code at all costs, or liberally interprets his code's tenets.

The advantage of such a system over alignment is that the player is free to make his own choices as to what the PC believes and would do, rather than selecting an alignment and feeling constrained by the 'baggage' that comes with it.

If people are saying alignment shouldn't be a straightjacket, that the alignment should grow from the character then this is what they are talking about, only with an mechanical ending. And if it's a roleplaying tool instead of a mechanics tool then why not just do it this way?

Here's what I said on another thread:
Alignment:
There are two major problems I have with this: defining what Good/Evil is and assigning alignments based upon creature.
Defining Good/Evil irks me because not everyone's definition of Good/Evil exactly models what's presented in the PHB. I know this is a situation where someone is going to tell me to ignore it, but this is not just any fluff concept: this is about moral behavior. This is one aspect of the game that is going to intersect real life and should therefore be treated carefully. Why should I, if my concept of what is Good differs from the core book, not be allowed to play a Good character? If these are supposed to be universal definitions of Good and Evil such that everyone would more or less agree with them then why even define them? If you think they need to be spelled out for someone then you are acknowledging that not everyone will share the definition with you and that you are forcing their moral leanings, however imaginary the game is, into a place where they have not chosen to go. All that's needed is to get rid of the definitions written in the core book. Keep the alignment mechanical effects, even keep the name, just do away with saying what they are.
Alignments based on a character's species, while it may make sense from the fantasy sources, is just a stupid idea even for what it was designed for: painting a big "I am the Bad Guy, you may kill me without any moral quandries" sign on someone's back. If for some reason the DM hasn't let you know that a character is Evil then it sounds more likely that they don't intend for you to know so easily. Plus it takes all the flavor.

New question related to alignment.

I'm not sure how to create polls here, but here is one:

1) use alignment as written
2) use alignment with house rules
3) don't use alignment

I'm curious what people here do. The answers will put this discussion in more perspective.

smoker

I think we've been using it as written, though I'll admit that it rarely becomes much of an issue. Most of our players tend to play easygoing CG characters. We had a conflict between a LN Knight and a CG rogue, but that's natural.

What cracks me up is when people say "The alignment rules are too restrictive, so we houserule it and say that they're really just guidelines." when that's actually what the rules say to begin with. Their "houserule" is RAW, and they don't even realize it.
Totoro (and others):

OK, that's probably more than enough. But I'm interested, what alignment is this guy?

Neutral Evil.

He might have Lawful tendencies, depending on how disciplined he is and how much he values his own concept of personal honor.

That was easy.
Order of the Stick had an interesting take on alignment.
Order of the Stick #68
This might sound crass, but bear with me:

How much can the designers of any game accommodate players who won't read that game's rules?

I don't expect the players to memorize the whole PHB, and I'm sure WoTC doesn't either. There are rules I'm still not clear on (like grapple, lol).

Certainly alignment is more abstract than attacks of opportunity or turn undead. Certainly it is something that more players have trouble undertanding than touch AC or nonlethal damage. There is something to be said for streamlining game mechanics, and the idea that if most players don't understand a particular mechanic, then there is a problem with the mechanic itself. I understand that, and in most cases I agree.

When I see the specific problems that people have with grapple, AOs, favored classes, etc, I get it. The arguments are usually pretty clear and convincing. But when I see the specific problems that people have with alignment, most of the time it seems to me that they have either 1) had bad past experiences with players or DMs who abused the system, 2) had bad past experiences with older versions of the alignment rules, or 3) do not understand the 3rd Edition alignment rules.

I often find myself wondering if people even read the rules at all, . Maybe I'm just coming from a different background with a different mindset. I've studied logic, philosophy, and politics. So the rules as presented in the 3.5 PHB, while easy for me, might be more difficult for someone else. I understand that.

It's just that it really does seem pretty clear and uncomplicated to me. Yes there is room for interpretation and dillemas. There should be. I think that alot of the confusion comes from people reading things into it that aren't there, and from fussing over terminology, especially "Lawful" and "Chaotic".

I'll conclude by asking (and again, I don't mean to be crass) how many of you have read the 3.5 PHB, p. 103-106? Not memorized it, necessarily, but actually sat down and read it through, and maybe taken a minute to think about it?
I'll conclude by asking (and again, I don't mean to be crass) how many of you have read the 3.5 PHB, p. 103-106? Not memorized it, necessarily, but actually sat down and read it through, and maybe taken a minute to think about it?

More than ten minutes.
nwgamer - I see what you're saying now.

Definitions of "Law"... If you really read what I put, there are (in order) the core descriptions of Lawful Good, Lawful Neutral, Lawful Evil.

Okay, I thought you intended the list to be features of all Lawful characters.

Yes, this is in large part a problem of the players somewhat intentionally misinterpreting the descriptions, which was part of my point.

Fair enough. But that's not the issue I was addressing, and since you quoted me, I took your post as a response to my own point.

How much can the designers of any game accommodate players who won't read that game's rules?

Bingo!

People who want to abuse the rules will abuse the rules. Sure, there can be safeguards to prevent such abuses from getting really bad (by analogy, that's the whole idea behind democracy, after all). But clarifying the rules will make no difference to those who try to ignore them.
One thing that has always bothered me a lot about Alignment is the way vs. good and vs. evil abilities work.

It might be fine to classify people in terms, but once you target people with abilities based on that... it becomes senseless.

For instance, if your character goes around pick-pocketing in the marketplace regularly, if they tend to really consider their own safety rather than recklessly risking themself to help others, if they are known to lie to and cheat people regularly for their own gain...
Well, they may very well be evil.
However, why is it simply because they choose the ammoral path in life that the Paladin can sudden do damage to them as though they were a blood-thirsty demon?

That makes no sense at all. Most of the vs. good and vs. evil abilities seem to have been meant to target primarily outsiders or those who dabble in the demonic or celestial arts and channel those powers...
But, for them to do damage to regular, normal, non-mystical people who simply act either selfish or helpful in their regular day-to-day lives is very, very silly.

One thing that has always bothered me a lot about Alignment is the way vs. good and vs. evil abilities work.

It might be fine to classify people in terms, but once you target people with abilities based on that... it becomes senseless.

For instance, if your character goes around pick-pocketing in the marketplace regularly, if they tend to really consider their own safety rather than recklessly risking themself to help others, if they are known to lie to and cheat people regularly for their own gain...
Well, they may very well be evil.
However, why is it simply because they choose the ammoral path in life that the Paladin can sudden do damage to them as though they were a blood-thirsty demon?

That makes no sense at all. Most of the vs. good and vs. evil abilities seem to have been meant to target primarily outsiders or those who dabble in the demonic or celestial arts and channel those powers...
But, for them to do damage to regular, normal, non-mystical people who simply act either selfish or helpful in their regular day-to-day lives is very, very silly.

I've always thought that. That for alignment based abilities to affect non-outsiders, those native beings had to be strongly connected to alignment planes through worship or magic or special bloodline. Only in certain rare cases could, say, a psychopath like Michael Myers ever become sufficiently connected to elemental evil (planar evil) to be affected by such spells. Murderers are evil, sure, but mundane evil, not cosmic/elemental Evil.

The thing is, "Protection Against Evil" is a cool-*sounding* spell. It sounds like something you'd really read in a magic text (even a fake one by a charlatan here on earth). Ditto Magic Circle Against Evil. Ditto Smite Evil. They sound cool, they sound elemental, primal, mystical. Alas they're being removed because the illness here has been incorrectly diagnosed.

The trouble is that they imply silly sounding alternate uses (Protection Against... Good?) and that they work on Just Plain Folks who happen to have this particular alignment.

Were I doing the redesign, which of course I'm not, I'd change the definition of capital-E Evil to include those who are not merely lower-case evil but connected to the actual elemental sources of capital-E Evil. (Monsters would have to have an Evil descriptor, and maybe an Unholy descriptor too -- the two would not necessarily be equivalent; a demon of chaos might be Evil but not Unholy, able to be bound/dismissed by magic but not turned by a holy cleric; meanwhile a vampire or devil would be both Evil and Unholy, and could be affected by both, and a non-intelligent animated skeleton or corpse neither.)

And I think I'd just abandon the mirror-image conceit of the rules that every spell about "Evil" also includes related spells about Good and Law and Chaos. Create special spells for those alignments too, if you must (destructive spells for evil in place of Protection against good, special reality bending phatasmagorias for Chaos, etc.) but let Good have its own spells about Protecting against and smiting Evil.

Actually, dropping alignment (which I know is a no-no for the purists as well as the devs who have to appease them) allows such spells easily. Defining capital-E Evil as not what you *do* or *believe* but as what you actually *are* or have made yourself into opens these spells back up for use, and a more common-sense sort of use.
That makes no sense at all. Most of the vs. good and vs. evil abilities seem to have been meant to target primarily outsiders or those who dabble in the demonic or celestial arts and channel those powers...
But, for them to do damage to regular, normal, non-mystical people who simply act either selfish or helpful in their regular day-to-day lives is very, very silly.

In a world where you can use magic to harm anything, why is it so silly that you can use the power of good to harm people who don't live up to your standards?
Well..
What might work though, although it would have to be more calculating and specific...

Is perhaps abilities that affect the evil IN the person...

For instance, Protection vs. Evil would not simply target people whose alignment happens to be 'evil', but would work such that it would protect you against anyone who has evil intentions against you at the moment. So it would just be a plain 'circle of protection' with perhaps the modifier that it doesn't affect those who wish to harm you.

But, Smite Evil should only work against demons and those with demonically charged energy within them.

Well..
What might work though, although it would have to be more calculating and specific...

Is perhaps abilities that affect the evil IN the person...

For instance, Protection vs. Evil would not simply target people whose alignment happens to be 'evil', but would work such that it would protect you against anyone who has evil intentions against you at the moment. So it would just be a plain 'circle of protection' with perhaps the modifier that it doesn't affect those who wish to harm you.

But, Smite Evil should only work against demons and those with demonically charged energy within them.

What about spells that only affect allies and not enemies? Spells that affect animals but not humans? I'm sure we can think of other examples. The game makes simplifying assumptions so it goes more smoothly. And yes, these rules assume a certain type of setting. While I personally would like alignment to have less of a mechanical effect, it's still perfectly legitimate as it now stands.
What about spells that only affect allies and not enemies? Spells that affect animals but not humans? I'm sure we can think of other examples. The game makes simplifying assumptions so it goes more smoothly. And yes, these rules assume a certain type of setting. While I personally would like alignment to have less of a mechanical effect, it's still perfectly legitimate as it now stands.

That's not the same thing (maybe in the case of animals it has its own discussion).

Alignment is treated as a more important concept than allegance or creature type, so it should receive a more thorough application.

Plus we aren't having very many people post how they don't agree with the definition or implications of "ally" or "animal".
Well..
What might work though, although it would have to be more calculating and specific...

Is perhaps abilities that affect the evil IN the person...

For instance, Protection vs. Evil would not simply target people whose alignment happens to be 'evil', but would work such that it would protect you against anyone who has evil intentions against you at the moment. So it would just be a plain 'circle of protection' with perhaps the modifier that it doesn't affect those who wish to harm you.

But, Smite Evil should only work against demons and those with demonically charged energy within them.

Why make the latter concession but fight on the Protection Against Evil?

To me, flavor-wise, that sounds like something a wizard casts against demons and (intelligent) undead, not thug with a club trying to mug him.

Imagine a very low level charm -- not even zero level -- which exists in a superstitious world. Peasants and villagers scribble this symbol on their doors and walls to ward off supernatural evil. It's a very weak charm that gives a -1 debuff on all rolls made by (say) an 8 HD or less creature that crosses the boundary marked by the ward, and inflicts 1d6 damage, due to revulsion and pain. They *can* enter such marked homes, but would rather choose unmarked ones, all other things being equal.

So there's a bit of neat flavor. If a town is suffering from the depredations of some werewolf or vampire or ghoul or whatever, when the players enter the town the symbol is marked everywhere on walls and doors, often bigger the better, in garish paint.

Wait, this is The Village. Okay, whatever, neat image.

Anyway, long-winded example of getting at the idea that while this is kinda neat if it actually wards against supernatural capital-E Evil, it's kind of lame if it wards against lower-case e evil, so that a guy coming into your house to con you with a shady contract is suddenly sickened by your ward.

And what if the guy puts "evil" out of his mind when entering the house, then changes his mind?

The "protection against intent to commit evil" is a legalistic, mundane sort of concept, and drains away the flavor or what feels to most like real magic.

There's nothing wrong with a general protection buff that protects one against mundane threats. But it should just be called Shield or Protection or whatever. Obviously all protective spells work *only* against those with evil intent against you; after all, if they don't bother trying to harm you, the spell doesn't affect them at all. The easiest way to beat such a spell is just to be friends with the guy and not try to stab him in the face so much.
Neutral Evil.

He might have Lawful tendencies, depending on how disciplined he is and how much he values his own concept of personal honor.

That was easy.

OK, easy one... So Totoro says "evil with chaotic tendencies" you say "Neutral evil with perhaps some lawful tendencies." Seems pretty cut and dried to me.

I thought I had made it clear that this character has a very strong sense of honor and commitment. If he joins either good or evil parties, he will honor his word. He considers himself to be a man of his word in fact. It's just that sometimes his "word" is that he's going to kill you.

I actually find this particular character's alignment to be troublesome. In part because his view of the world has changed due to his experiences. He started as a lawful good character, but has become deeply cynical and bitter over the years.

I'm not sure if the 4.0 rules will make this character's alignment easier to figure out, or more difficult. I actually have him listed as "Lawful Evil" for two reasons. One, because of his strict sense of personal honor and ethics. He obeys his OWN guidelines whether he cares for "natural" or "secular" law or not. Secondly, because he requires a sense of order in the world for his own goals to be met. Too much chaos simply makes it harder for him to track down the things he needs. However, I think perhaps "Lawful Neutral" may actually be closer to his true leanings, from his own perspective.
Protection Against Evil is pretty broad.

Instead, the protection should be against something specific. For example, garlic provides some protection against Vampires, but garlic does not protect against Werewolves.

Even in our superstition culture, we have specific items for specific things.

smoker
Plus we aren't having very many people post how they don't agree with the definition or implications of "ally" or "animal".

That's because these categories don't get people as worked up as moral categories. But I've seen discussions on these boards about why vermin and animals are separate, among other issues, so it's not like the difficulties aren't there.

But in the game, it's clear whether something counts as an animal, because it's listed among its stats. And it's also clear what alignment a creature has, because it's also listed among the stats.
Objective alignment needs to be tossed out for a multitude of reasons.

Reason one is that a large segment of the gaming populous dislike it. It may not mean to be a straitjacket but that's what it feels like to half of us. Why not make everyone happy and take it out and create optional rules to put them in if you want them. This has been said so I need not continue.

Reason two is that it logically makes no sense. When is that last time two people exactly agreed to what is good and evil? Gods wouldn't agree to a standard because they are individuals just like us and have their own beliefs. Even if there was a standard of good, the gods would ignore it because their individual opinions are bound to conflict with it. They would also want their followers to believe in his or her version of the good and ignore the objective, so the point is moot anyways, because it is being ignored, assuming it even existed. Why bother at that point since no one really is using it...

Reason three is that it removes game mechanics that clutter game play. Barbarians can't be lawful and rubbish like that, which logically makes no sense, it ruins perfectly valid character ideas where alignment gets in the way like a barbarian monk.

My opinion least... Not like it matters.
Reason two is that it logically makes no sense. When is that last time two people exactly agreed to what is good and evil?

Find someone who thinks cold blooded murder, ****, and cruelty are Good. You may find people who don't care, but its unlikely you would find someone who would define it as right.

Yes, there are moral greys- lifestyle, stealing, self-defense that sort of thing, but everyone seems to agree on the basics.
Virtually everyone agrees on Good and Evil, at least in the broad strokes, which is what is needed for a game and a basic morality within it.

It's not Good and Evil that makes alignment, errr. chaotic. It's this Law/Chaos axis wherein Chaos seems to represent any or all of the following: Individualism, a desire for anarchy/minarchy, a love of freedom, a preference to work in small groups, a lack of discipline, whimsicality and capriciousness, a reliance on heart or emotion over logic, a lack of firmness of purpose, and the desire to advance the goals of the Cosmic Forces of Chaos to return the multiverse to lifeless state of seething subquantum randomness.

Choose a couple of the above. Which of these very different traits a "Chaotic" character might possess is anyone's guess. Some of them seem decidedly... unlikely. Particularly that bit about joining the Slaad in extending Limbo across the multiverse. it's a grab-bag of personality types, political preferences, and the desire to destroy the universe (!) which have nothing in particular in common and certainly do not imply each other.

one could actually have a decent alignment system if it were just Good and Evil. But people would cry "Too simplistic!" (At least it's *comprehensible,* I'd rebut.)

One could also have an ersatz Good and Evil system, calling Good, oh let's see, Law, and evil, umm... how about Chaos? Like old basic D&D did. Law and Chaos there are mostly just a disguised version of Good and Evil.
I always thought that this was a Role Playing Game? Alignments are there to guide a PC through their development. First you decide on the race ,class ect. ect. You chose an alignment you had to play that PC accordingly, hence role playing. Not that being said, people change and those changes can have aversive effects on your life. So having penalties when your alignment changes in a game is reflecting real life, but at the same time should consider the amount of change in alignment. For example a LG PC killing a NPC in cold blood for some personal gain should have harsh penalties where as a CN PC in the same situation would have no or very little effect. Also it has to follow the belief's of the PC, if they believe that they are doing the right thing then it should have no penalty, except the repercussions of their actions.

One final thing is in all of my groups we never told anybody our alignments, except the DM's, we would just find out by the way the game played, so it was more intriguing.
my humble 2 cents
It's not Good and Evil that makes alignment, errr. chaotic. It's this Law/Chaos axis wherein Chaos seems to represent any or all of the following: Individualism, a desire for anarchy/minarchy, a love of freedom, a preference to work in small groups, a lack of discipline, whimsicality and capriciousness, a reliance on heart or emotion over logic, a lack of firmness of purpose, and the desire to advance the goals of the Cosmic Forces of Chaos to return the multiverse to lifeless state of seething subquantum randomness.

Choose a couple of the above. Which of these very different traits a "Chaotic" character might possess is anyone's guess. Some of them seem decidedly... unlikely. Particularly that bit about joining the Slaad in extending Limbo across the multiverse. it's a grab-bag of personality types, political preferences, and the desire to destroy the universe (!) which have nothing in particular in common and certainly do not imply each other.

I see your concern. But I've got three points for you to consider.

1)The same could be said of Good and Evil. An unholy priest might be dedicated to a cosmic principle of Evil, while a barkeep might just be very selfish. Both would have an Evil alignment. A Platonist philosopher might be dedicated to the Form of Good, while a simple farmer just helps people because it's what he does. Both would have a Good alignment. In some cases, it's their actions that matter rather than whether they're embedded in a theoretical framework or done out of habit. Further, the selfish barkeep might not be willing to commit mass murder, but is still Evil because he's willing to cheat even the poor out of money.

Likewise with Chaos. A rebel may want the Baron's (or any authority's) rule to become less stable, but he need not desire complete entropy to be Chaotic.

2)Some of the different types of Chaos you describe could be due to whether the individual is Chaotic Good, Chaotic Neutral, or Chaotic Evil. The commitment to freedom would be Chaotic Good, while the commitment to destruction would be Chaotic Evil.

After all, the two components of alignment aren't two separate beliefs. They have an interactive, rather than additive, effect on the person's overall view of how to act.

3)Even with the two previous considerations in mind, you might say that there still isn't a unifying theme for Chaos to the same degree that Law, Good, and Evil have. That may very well be the case. However, I'd say that this is quite fitting for Chaos. Chaos simply shouldn't have the same degree of uniformity that Law has, so maybe it should not fit into our nicely ordered frameworks. ;)