alignment, demons, and devils.

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I've been teasing with this idea in the back of my head for awhile and, while I don't know if this is how they'll do alignment, I'd like to think it is.
Let me say upfront that I've always preferred the bad guy you can sympathize with to the waxed mustache/top hat guy. I think the first type creates a more interesting and compelling story. That doesn't mean that evil is cool. It means that a protagonist who has to face difficult choices rather than "it's a bad guy - KILL IT!" is more interesting. Magneto is a great example. You can kinda see where he's coming from and can sympathize even if you know you have to make sure he doesn't win.
That being said, sometimes its cool to just go on a holy crusade slaughtering foul creatures from the nether pits of hell left and right without feeling any moral guilt about doing it.
Having said all of that, the alignment system as is gets a little mushy around the corners - should the Paladin kill all the Orc children or leave them be -knowing- that they're going to grow up to maraud the area?
Okay, if you're still with me, this is what I'd like to see - replace alignment with allegiance. A character might have his first allegiance to his church, his next allegiance is to his king, his next to his family, his next to the party, his next to himself, etc. Another character might have his first allegiance to himself, his next to his party, his next to his family, his next to his king, his next to his church, etc. So, when faced with a difficult roleplaying choice, you can look at your allegiances as you've decided them and make your decision accordingly.
This opens up some interesting dimensions to characters. Why did the devils commit deicide? Maybe that deity deserved to die and noone else would do anything about it? Maybe that deity didn't deserve to die and a couple of devils thought they'd make a power grab. Maybe some devils did it for a reason you can sympathize with and others did it for reasons that you can't sympathize with. All these little circles spinning around inside of other circles spinning around inside of other circles - what to do, what to do?
Or, you can just ignore all of it and go slaughter some demons til the rivers run with their blood.
Mmm, demon slaughtering...
Okay, if you're still with me, this is what I'd like to see - replace alignment with allegiance. A character might have his first allegiance to his church, his next allegiance is to his king, his next to his family, his next to the party, his next to himself, etc. Another character might have his first allegiance to himself, his next to his party, his next to his family, his next to his king, his next to his church, etc. So, when faced with a difficult roleplaying choice, you can look at your allegiances as you've decided them and make your decision accordingly.

As long as this does not exclude the possibility of one's allegiances shifting over time (if the core beliefs of the entity the character is aligned with shift over time) or occasionally being set aside based on the situation (the exception to prove the rule, so to speak).

As I'm typing out my thoughts, I guess I just feel that a character chooses his allegiances based on what his core values are and how those entities line up with that value set in the first place. As such, his ranking of allegiances are just going to reflect his core values, aka his alignment.
Why do you need allegiences? Couldn't you simulate this with alignment? That is, you don't need to make all of the devils in your campaign Lawful Evil. Some could be Lawful Neutral, perhaps even a couple that are Lawful Good.
Why do you need allegiences? Couldn't you simulate this with alignment?

Uh... no.

It's actually precisely the other way around. Allegiance can simulate alignment (someone whose primary allegiance is to the abstract concepts of "Law" and "Good") but alignment can't simulate allegiance. Because allegiance lets you use any boxes you want ("the church", "law and order", "family first", "purity of race", "duty and honor", "peace") and alignment has only nine boxes that everything else has to fit into.

That is, you don't need to make all of the devils in your campaign Lawful Evil. Some could be Lawful Neutral, perhaps even a couple that are Lawful Good.

And then you'd have to explain why all these "cross-aligned" entities were working together, and that explanation would be allegiance, and alignment would explain nothing.
Uh... no.

It's actually precisely the other way around. Allegiance can simulate alignment (someone whose primary allegiance is to the abstract concepts of "Law" and "Good") but alignment can't simulate allegiance. Because allegiance lets you use any boxes you want ("the church", "law and order", "family first", "purity of race", "duty and honor", "peace") and alignment has only nine boxes that everything else has to fit into.

You've misunderstood my post. I was replying to the OP. The OP wanted campaigns where it wasn't automatically assumed that every member of some creature type is fair game to be killed. That can be simulated with alignment. You don't make all members of that creature type Evil, and you've got it. I did not say that the allegiance system could be simulated with alignment. If I was unclear, there's no need to assume the worst possible interpretation of what I said.

And then you'd have to explain why all these "cross-aligned" entities were working together, and that explanation would be allegiance, and alignment would explain nothing.

You explain it (as the OP already did) by appealing to common goals. Alignment wouldn't be used to explain why they work together, it would be used to explain why it's not okay to indiscriminately kill every devil you came across (assuming you make some devils non-Evil).
That kind of allegiance would probably fix all of the problems with the alignment system. The Good/Evil axis is pretty clear-cut, but the Lawful/Chaotic alignment makes almost zero sense. If a vigilante goes around beating criminals, is he Chaotic because he's breaking the law himself, or is he Lawful because he enforces the laws that nobody cares about and the cops are actually the ones who are Chaotic? For Lawful Good Paladins, which takes precedence between Law and Good?

With an allegiance system, the vigilante would be a servant of justice in general or the people who are oppressed by the criminals and the Paladin would serve his god first and his King second, and if the King ever did anything that went against the god, the Paladin would have no problem taking him down.
Allegiance is a great RP/story building tool, but alignment is more easily expressed as a game mechanic. That said, I don't really like the alignment system; it's always felt forced to me. Characters should act based on their allegiances every time allegiance matters. Alignment is only really useful as an expression of general tendencies, and as such I don't like the impact it has on game mechanics -- or the fact that PCs are supposed to choose an alignment at character creation and follow it. Sadly, alignment is one sacred cow that's apparently not going to the cutting floor for 4E.
As the OP, looking back, I see that my point was lost somewhere along the way. Maybe I just didn't do a good job expressing it. But I did notice that there were two significant misunderstandings that I could identity, so let me try to clear them up.
"Why couldn't you just use alignment?"
Allegiance isn't meant to replace alignment. It is meant as a tool to help understand alignment. Alignment can be confusing. I -guarantee- you that, if I were your GM, I could put you in a position where you had to choose between two things and weren't real sure as to which was the "good" option and which was the "evil" option. I've seen gaming tables come to a complete halt over this debate. I've seen players (not just player characters) get heated in such debates. I'm sure you have as well.
"The OP wanted campaigns where it wasn't automatically assumed that every member of some creature type is fair game to be killed...If I was unclear, there's no need to assume the worst possible interpretation of what I said." It's rather obvious that alignment is sufficient to prevent every member of a race from being automatically assumed to be justifiably killable. Having said that, I'll ignore the irony in the second part of what I've quoted. My point is that allegiance can act as a roleplaying -aid- to help flesh out what their alignment means to them as well as explain how two people of radically different alignments may work together towards an end or even how two people of the same alignment can be in direct odds with each other. Allegiance brings more crayons into the box than just the standard nine and shows how those colors can be compared/contrasted.
As the OP, looking back, I see that my point was lost somewhere along the way. Maybe I just didn't do a good job expressing it. But I did notice that there were two significant misunderstandings that I could identity, so let me try to clear them up.
"Why couldn't you just use alignment?"
Allegiance isn't meant to replace alignment. It is meant as a tool to help understand alignment. Alignment can be confusing. I -guarantee- you that, if I were your GM, I could put you in a position where you had to choose between two things and weren't real sure as to which was the "good" option and which was the "evil" option. I've seen gaming tables come to a complete halt over this debate. I've seen players (not just player characters) get heated in such debates. I'm sure you have as well.
"The OP wanted campaigns where it wasn't automatically assumed that every member of some creature type is fair game to be killed...If I was unclear, there's no need to assume the worst possible interpretation of what I said." It's rather obvious that alignment is sufficient to prevent every member of a race from being automatically assumed to be justifiably killable. Having said that, I'll ignore the irony in the second part of what I've quoted. My point is that allegiance can act as a roleplaying -aid- to help flesh out what their alignment means to them as well as explain how two people of radically different alignments may work together towards an end or even how two people of the same alignment can be in direct odds with each other. Allegiance brings more crayons into the box than just the standard nine and shows how those colors can be compared/contrasted.
I'll ignore the irony in the second part of what I've quoted.

Fair enough, there was a bit of irony there. But, while we're being fair, I'd like to point out that I did not criticize you, I asked you a question. The question was about why you needed allegiances to accomplish what you set out to do. You address that here:

My point is that allegiance can act as a roleplaying -aid- to help flesh out what their alignment means to them as well as explain how two people of radically different alignments may work together towards an end or even how two people of the same alignment can be in direct odds with each other. Allegiance brings more crayons into the box than just the standard nine and shows how those colors can be compared/contrasted.

While I don't think it's necessary (because each alignment should allow a wide range of behaviors), you're right that it makes those other options more of an explicit possibility.
You've misunderstood my post. I was replying to the OP. The OP wanted campaigns where it wasn't automatically assumed that every member of some creature type is fair game to be killed. That can be simulated with alignment. You don't make all members of that creature type Evil, and you've got it. I did not say that the allegiance system could be simulated with alignment. If I was unclear, there's no need to assume the worst possible interpretation of what I said.

Well, no. It can be simulated *despite* alignment. It becomes a system where "What side are you on?" *has* no mechanical representation, and alignment is this useless random thing that serves no purpose.

You explain it (as the OP already did) by appealing to common goals. Alignment wouldn't be used to explain why they work together, it would be used to explain why it's not okay to indiscriminately kill every devil you came across (assuming you make some devils non-Evil).

So it's not okay to kill a person who's supposedly "Good" but helping Evil people accomplish an Evil task?
So it's not okay to kill a person who's supposedly "Good" but helping Evil people accomplish an Evil task?

That really depends on who's asking this question, now doesn't it?
Well, no. It can be simulated *despite* alignment. It becomes a system where "What side are you on?" *has* no mechanical representation, and alignment is this useless random thing that serves no purpose.

Yes, if you change the example, then my point does not follow.

So it's not okay to kill a person who's supposedly "Good" but helping Evil people accomplish an Evil task?

Same thing here.

(The premise was that not all devils are Evil, which they would be if they were all accomplishing an Evil task.)
Yes, if you change the example, then my point does not follow.

How does that "change the example"?

Same thing here.

(The premise was that not all devils are Evil, which they would be if they were all accomplishing an Evil task.)

So, wait, Good people, or Neutral people, can't be working to accomplish an Evil task?

Or, throwing out the stupid alignment terms, you can't be a decent person overall who doesn't really deserve to die but, for whatever reason, doing something that the PCs need to stop, that's objectively bad for the world?

I always thought "Evil = You Must Kill It" was a terrible way to run a game anyway, and if you remove that, you remove a lot of the justification people use for why alignment is "useful".
How does that "change the example"?



So, wait, Good people, or Neutral people, can't be working to accomplish an Evil task?

Or, throwing out the stupid alignment terms, you can't be a decent person overall who doesn't really deserve to die but, for whatever reason, doing something that the PCs need to stop, that's objectively bad for the world?

I always thought "Evil = You Must Kill It" was a terrible way to run a game anyway, and if you remove that, you remove a lot of the justification people use for why alignment is "useful".

If you equate "Evil" with "You Must Kill It" (I'm not saying it must be done, I'm not saying it's a good idea, I'm only saying if this is done), you can still use alignment and have it not be the case that all devils, orcs, drow, whatever, must be killed. Just give some of them a Good alignment. You don't have to use alignment if you don't want to, but don't argue that it cannot be done if you use the alignment system.

Yes, Good and Neutral people can do things that end up promoting Evil. But if not all devils are Evil, it opens up the possibility that their overall goals are not Evil either. The OP raised the possibility that the deity that was killed deserved to die. Killing him/her would not necessarily be Evil.

And I find something a bit odd.... First you suggest that someone who helps Evil people perform an Evil task is only "supposedly" Good. Now you suggest that it is quite possible for a Good person to accomplish an Evil task. Is there a particular point you're trying to make, or are you just trying to object to my posts in any way you can?
I think that the terms Good and Evil are largely meaningless in real life if you try to use them as absolute, all-encompassing adjectives that define people.

My point is that I like allegiance because it does away with the question of "Is this person a Good person?" altogether, which I like because I think in many cases it's a stupid question to be asking.
I always thought the purpose of picking an alignment was to know how a character would be effected by certain spells and abilities. Alignments change, not because a player necessarily chooses to, but because their actions dictate it. As a DM, I let the players write down their alignment on the character sheet, but I definitely keep track of how I think their character is doing in that regard. Sometimes I switch them, and I let them know. When my player's 'lawful-good' fighter gets affected by protection from chaos, or has an inevitable after him, he knows that something's up. This forces him to evalutate his actions.
JediDragoon: "If a vigilante goes around beating criminals, is he Chaotic because he's breaking the law himself, or is he Lawful because he enforces the laws that nobody cares about and the cops are actually the ones who are Chaotic? For Lawful Good Paladins, which takes precedence between Law and Good?"
In this example, the vigilante is chaotic becaus he is acting outside of the law, not necessarily breaking it. If the police are using their power in a corrupt manner, they are not chaotic, they are lawful-evil; they are only chaotic if they are breaking the law. As for any character, a paladin has to choose which aspect is more important to him, if one is. He cannot, however just kill the king since this is unlawful. Even if the king is evil, assuming he holds the throne through inheritence or some other lawful manner, the paladin has to either find another way to overthrow him, try to make him change his ways, or leave. Or, hell, let's make the adventure interesting: the paladin kills the evil king knowing its unlawful, but he thinks its worth it. He loses his abilities for the greater good, and is forced to atone for his transgression. He will have upheld his beliefs, sacrificed himself for the greater good, fallen and then returned to grace. Find a player that won't be satisfied after that.
LilithsThrall, I like your idea about allegiances, but I don't think it would work well in an organized game like DnD. The problem is that while a character will most always be acting within his alignment, his allegiances can change depending on any situation. Allegiance is good for roll-playing, for for the purposes of game rules (spells and abilities) I think alignment is a better system.
As roleplaying/adventure/alignment problems, I've always thought that a party shouldn't attack a group of orcs because "orcs are evil", but because that group of orcs has been doing evil things. If I feel my players are making too many assumptions about who they should be attacking, they quickly discover that those last few orcs were an advance party on their way to aid in the war effort of the country being attacked by their mutual enemy, and because they were killed the orcs think the country tricked them and not only turn their army around but don't deliver the extra foodstuffs to the besieged capitol city.
I've always thought that the best use of alignment is not to tell the characters what to do, but to raise questions about what they should do.
I think that the terms Good and Evil are largely meaningless in real life if you try to use them as absolute, all-encompassing adjectives that define people.

My point is that I like allegiance because it does away with the question of "Is this person a Good person?" altogether, which I like because I think in many cases it's a stupid question to be asking.

Ah, so the past 2000+ years of moral theory was a complete waste of time. All because your personal preference is not to use the D&D alignment system. I'm glad we cleared that up before more people theorized about morality.

Sarcasm aside, the fact that something may be incorrect does not mean that it is meaningless. The theory that our world is composed of the four classical elements is incorrect, yet it remains meaningful and can be understood. Some have trouble wrapping their heads around it, but that's not an issue with the framework itself (otherwise quantum theory would have been rejected a long time ago).
Ah, so the past 2000+ years of moral theory was a complete waste of time.

On the contrary, evolution of moral theory over the past 2000+ years is what has led ArcTan to his position. Belief in objective morality, in the real world, is nothing but an evolutionary throwback - akin to some people being born with tails.

Sarcasm aside, the fact that something may be incorrect does not mean that it is meaningless. The theory that our world is composed of the four classical elements is incorrect, yet it remains meaningful and can be understood. Some have trouble wrapping their heads around it, but that's not an issue with the framework itself (otherwise quantum theory would have been rejected a long time ago).

And this is a good point in stating that the issue is one of fictional morality vs. real morality and some genres have rules about what is evil, what is neutral, and what is good (ie. "the evil guy is the one wearing black, dummy").
And if such simplistic morality works for you in your games, then go ahead and use it. Some people believe that more complicated morality systems lead to more complex and interesting story lines and characters. There's room for both types of play.
On the contrary, evolution of moral theory over the past 2000+ years is what has led ArcTan to his position. Belief in objective morality, in the real world, is nothing but an evolutionary throwback - akin to some people being born with tails.

And this is a good point in stating that the issue is one of fictional morality vs. real morality and some genres have rules about what is evil, what is neutral, and what is good (ie. "the evil guy is the one wearing black, dummy").
And if such simplistic morality works for you in your games, then go ahead and use it. Some people believe that more complicated morality systems lead to more complex and interesting story lines and characters. There's room for both types of play.

It seems that you're conflating many things in this post.

First, you seem to be conflating objective morality with absolute morality. Morals can be culturally relative, depend on the relations between people, etc, and still be objective. After all, relations between people (such as whehter someone has power over another) can be objective. They're just not absolute because relations and cultures can change. ArcTan specifically referred to absolute morality (and if he also meant objective, then he two was conflating them).

Second, although perhaps a minor point, you conflate physiology and culture. There is no physiological basis for people to be born with tails, so if they have (pseudo-)tails then it would be a throwback. But culture continues to impact, quite strongly, what we believe about morality.

Third, you conflate something being incorrect with its being simplistic. I thought this would be easy to avoid after I pointed out ArcTan's conflation between something being incorrect and its being meaningless. As I have already argued, it's possible to do what you want to do with morality while still using the D&D alignment system. Your allegiance system also works, but that hardly means alignment must be simple. (Besides, if it were simple, it wouldn't spark so many debates like these, would it?)

If morality can be complex, as you insist, and if morality is concerned with the good, then the D&D alignment system, which uses the term "Good" can be as complex as you want it.

I mean really now. If you're going to dismiss all of morality, then even though I think you're simplifying the issue, I can at least see why you'd also dismiss the alignment system. But if you think morality can be very complex, then you can make alignment as complex as you wish. It makes some simplifying assumptions, but even Kant made some simplifying assumptions, and his moral theory, despite its problems, is quite rich.

So let's at least be consistent. And stop pretending that I'm saying that "Evil" = "wearing black".
Speaking of conflating things, you've done it once again.

1.) You've got objective morality and absolute morality backwards. Objective morality exists independent of what culture states. Morals cannot be culturally relative and objective at the same time. However, they can be culturally relative and absolute at the same time - for example, doing what the clergy tells you to do -no matter what and in all cases- is such an example.

2.) I never said that culture does not impact what we believe about morality. What was it you said before? "If there are more than one way to take something, don't automatically assume I meant the worse" or something like that - but here you are doing that once again. Seriously, I spent years studying culture theory for my Anthropology degree in college. I don't know you or your background, but, playing the odds, I'm probably better prepared to talk about structural-functionalism, game theory, symbollic anthropology, post modernism or any other school of thought on the subject than you are. You do yourself a disservice by reaching for the low hanging fruit when you are confused about what is being said.

3.) "Third, you conflate something being incorrect with its being simplistic." Nope. I don't and I have no idea where you got that. "Simple" vs. "Complex" is independent of "Correct" vs. "Incorrect".

4.) "If morality can be complex, as you insist, and if morality is concerned with the good, then the DnD alignment system, which uses the term 'Good' can be as complex as you want it." The second half of that does not logically follow from the first half.

5.) "And stop pretending that I'm saying that "Evil" = "wearing black"". I said that there are some -genres- which have rules such as "the evil guy is the one wearing black". Are you a genre? Really? You've got some kind of "Incarnation of Immortality" thing going on?
As I have already argued, it's possible to do what you want to do with morality while still using the D&D alignment system.

No. It's possible to do what you want with D&D's alignment system *present*, but you wouldn't be *using* it.

That's the point. In D&D, there is no mechanic for "allegiance". In a campaign where allegiance matters more than absolute "alignment", there's no way to track it, and instead you have a stat that hangs around being useless.
Let's pay attention this time.

1.) You've got objective morality and absolute morality backwards. Objective morality exists independent of what culture states. Morals cannot be culturally relative and objective at the same time. However, they can be culturally relative and absolute at the same time - for example, doing what the clergy tells you to do -no matter what and in all cases- is such an example.

No. Relativity is contrasted with absolutism. Objectivity is contrasted with subjectivity.

Take marriage. My wife and I are married. That is an objective fact, it is not mere opinion, nor is it dependant on a point of view. But the fact nonetheless depends on a social institution. It is relative to that social institution.

Morality is like this. For example, I have certain obligations to my students. This is in part due to the power I have over them, to the institution of the university, and to the larger social context. Given these factors, it's not merely my subjective point of view that I must treat them fairly (among other things); it is objectively the case that this is a norm I am bound to in this context. Yet it is not absolute because I do not have the same obligations to my colleagues, which follows from the fact that I do not have the same relationship with them. But I do have other obligations to my colleagues, relative to the relations that do hold between us.

It's objective; that is, it is not limited to a point of view. That's why I can be held accountable. However, it is not absolute; once someone is no longer my student, I am, for example, no longer obliged to offer feedback on their work.

2.) I never said that culture does not impact what we believe about morality. What was it you said before? "If there are more than one way to take something, don't automatically assume I meant the worse" or something like that - but here you are doing that once again. Seriously, I spent years studying culture theory for my Anthropology degree in college. I don't know you or your background, but, playing the odds, I'm probably better prepared to talk about structural-functionalism, game theory, symbollic anthropology, post modernism or any other school of thought on the subject than you are. You do yourself a disservice by reaching for the low hanging fruit when you are confused about what is being said.

Yes, yes, I could list my various degrees and qualifications, give you my whole curriculum vitae even. But I don't feel like appealing to authority. I'd rather discuss the issues themselves, but only if you're up for it. I wish you'd explain where my assumption was wrong rather than try to impress me with what you've studied.

And I'm sure you are more prepared to talk about structural-functionalism and postmodernism than I am, but that's because I don't give much credence to these frameworks (to put it rather mildly). But if that's where you're coming from, then I'm no longer quite as surprised at some of your claims.

Looking back at your post, however, for now I'll stick by what I said. If you understood the role of culture in shaping beliefs of morality, I simply cannot see why you would call it "nothing but an evolutionary throwback" (my emphasis). Nothing but that? Again, it's not that I went for the worst interpretation, I was just going by what you said. If you wish to take back that exact wording, however, that's cool.

3.) "Third, you conflate something being incorrect with its being simplistic." Nope. I don't and I have no idea where you got that. "Simple" vs. "Complex" is independent of "Correct" vs. "Incorrect".

I used the example of the classical theory of elements as being incorrect but still appropriate for a game, arguing by analogy that the same can be done with different moral frameworks. The point was that you don't have to agree with a particular moral framework in real life to be able to use it in a fantasy game. I didn't say anything about simplistic moralities, yet you brought it in at this point in the discussion. That's where I got that. So I'm unsure why you brought it up at that point.

4.) "If morality can be complex, as you insist, and if morality is concerned with the good, then the DnD alignment system, which uses the term 'Good' can be as complex as you want it." The second half of that does not logically follow from the first half.

There are very complex issues surrounding what counts as "good". Even if you take "good" as analytically undefineable and assume we all have the concept intuitively, it is still not always a simple task to decide what particular actions or circumstances count as good or bad. (And if we don't assume an intuitive understanding of "good", the issue becomes even more complex.)

If you look at the D&D alignment system, you'll see the term "Good". You can treat this term in the game as raising all of the same issues as in real life. It's kinda like the term "dead" in the game. When a character is at -10 hp, he's "dead". Yet, I've heard it pointed out on these boards that nowhere in the rules does it say that a dead character cannot get up and continue fighting. You'd have to be very silly to play this way, however, because we can assume "dead" in the game means pretty much the same thing it does in real life. Likewise, we can treat the term "Good" in the game as we treat "good" in real life. Just because the books don't push us to reflect on our moral beliefs doesn't mean the game precludes them.

None of this is to say that you must use the alignment system. I'm glad it won't have a mechanical effect in 4e. I'd like to see some variants even. But the nine alignment system allows for more complexity than many care to admit.

5.) "And stop pretending that I'm saying that "Evil" = "wearing black"". I said that there are some -genres- which have rules such as "the evil guy is the one wearing black". Are you a genre? Really? You've got some kind of "Incarnation of Immortality" thing going on?

Right after you brought up the example of this genre you said:

And if such simplistic morality works for you in your games, then go ahead and use it. Some people believe that more complicated morality systems lead to more complex and interesting story lines and characters.

You're suggesting that I use this "simplistic morality". All along I've been arguing that the alignment system can be used in a way that allows for complex moral issues.
No. It's possible to do what you want with D&D's alignment system *present*, but you wouldn't be *using* it.

That's the point. In D&D, there is no mechanic for "allegiance". In a campaign where allegiance matters more than absolute "alignment", there's no way to track it, and instead you have a stat that hangs around being useless.

The alignment system is meant to be flexible. It even says so in the PHB, on page 103:

Alignment is a tool for developing your character's identity. It is not a straitjacket for restricting your character. Each alignment represents a broad range of personality types or personal philosophies, so two lawful good characters can still be quite different from each other. In addition, few people are completely consistent.

It's not meant to always be the sole criterion by which a character acts. Nor is it a matter of choosing between an alignment and an allegiance. A Good character, for example, who had an allegiance to his nation would defend that nation in a different manner than an Evil character with the same allegiance. Alignment isn't just what you owe loyalty to, it's how you behave more generally. Sure, there can be conflict, such as when the nation in my example can only be defended by Evil acts (if that were a possible scenario in the campaign). Rather than ignore alignment, it can be used as an excellent roleplaying opportunity.
The alignment system is meant to be flexible. It even says so in the PHB, on page 103:



It's not meant to always be the sole criterion by which a character acts. Nor is it a matter of choosing between an alignment and an allegiance. A Good character, for example, who had an allegiance to his nation would defend that nation in a different manner than an Evil character with the same allegiance. Alignment isn't just what you owe loyalty to, it's how you behave more generally. Sure, there can be conflict, such as when the nation in my example can only be defended by Evil acts (if that were a possible scenario in the campaign). Rather than ignore alignment, it can be used as an excellent roleplaying opportunity.

What "opportunities" are created in a situation where one character is Good and the other character is Evil that aren't present in a situation where those descriptors don't exist (but the characters' actions and intentions remain the same)?
What "opportunities" are created in a situation where one character is Good and the other character is Evil that aren't present in a situation where those descriptors don't exist (but the characters' actions and intentions remain the same)?

If the actions and intents remain the same, then I'm not sure what you mean when you say the descriptors don't exist.
They don't exist as "descriptors," or as a game mechanic function. As an example, one could look at Shadowrun: a game that has no mechanics for morality, but in which the protagonists can very well wrangle with moral issues every session.
There are three issues here as I see it.
One, caeruleus doesn't understand the difference between objective/subjective and how cultural relativism relates to that.
Two, caeruleus believes that the nine colors of the existing alignment system can capture all shades of morality as well as the allegiance system I proposed.
Three, caeruleus confuses "simple" and "simplistic" with "incorrect" and "inferior".

This is not the time to address issues one and three. I'm sure that if he wants to learn, he can use the Internet or go take a class at his local University or grab a book. To avoid this discussion becoming interminably long, I'm going to refocus on issue two. I'm going to do something which may be surprising - I'm going to agree with him. The existing alignment system -can- capture all the shades of morality as well as the allegiance system. However, let me point out that that is exactly the problem with it. Because there are countless shades of "lawful good" and they are all thrown into the same bucket. So, if I tell someone that my character is "lawful good", I have only in the very vaguest sense told them how my character will act.
Now, alignment is meant to be a roleplaying aid. But if it only guides me in the most vaguest sense, if it is less precise than my own already existing ideas of my character's role, then all it is really doing is getting in the way. It isn't aiding me at all.
Its like taking a stack of paperwork that is as diverse as can be in what each of the papers entails and needing to split it into 9 seperate files. You do not have an extensive list of rules on how to split it up. So, you do the best you can. Your buddy who is a short ways off and has his own stack of paperwork and his own nine folders, does the best he can as well. Working independently, you both come up with your own set of rules as to how to determine which piece of paperwork goes in which folder. I -guarantee- you that your rules will not match your buddy's rules. Once you've each got all your paperwork sorted, he comes to your station and you go to his. I tell you "Please retrieve the proposal for the water project at ACME from last spring for me". Because you've each used different rules as to how to split the paperwork, you don't know which folder of the nine your buddy put that particular piece of paperwork into. Because you don't know which of the nine folders your buddy put that paperwork into, it didn't really help you that he divided the paperwork into the nine folders in the first place.
Now imagine that your buddy is the GM and you've told the GM that you are going to play a Paladin. So, he files a bunch of allowable actions into one folder and an bunch of unallowable actions into another folder, but he doesn't tell you which actions he put in which folder (they are, as you noticed, an infinite amount, so telling you that would be infeasible). You, likewise, put a bunch of allowable actions into one folder and a bunch of unallowable actions into another folder. But your rules are not going to match his rules, so you will likely end up doing an action which is in your allowable actions folder but is in his unallowable actions folder and your character will be blindsided by losing his Paladinhood.
There are three issues here as I see it.
One, caeruleus doesn't understand the difference between objective/subjective and how cultural relativism relates to that.
Two, caeruleus believes that the nine colors of the existing alignment system can capture all shades of morality as well as the allegiance system I proposed.
Three, caeruleus confuses "simple" and "simplistic" with "incorrect" and "inferior".



Thank you, LilithsThrall. Regarding point three, you have proven for me here just how dishonest you are. In two separate posts in this thread, I've already spent time discussing why simplistic is not the same as incorrect, and now you're saying that I'm the one who confuses the two.

(See below on point one.)

This is not the time to address issues one and three.

Very convenient. You don't merely say that you disagree and leave it at that. You state that I'm wrong and yet you refuse to back up your claims. Although I suppose that's typical for someone who drops the term "postmodernism" as if it referred to a reasonable framework.

Regarding the first issue, on objectivity, I'll admit that I was unclear. There are a number of different notions of "objectivity". It could mean independence from any point of view, it could mean a neutral point of view (which is quite different), it could mean intersubjectivity, to only name a few. My useage of the term does not follow the useage(s) among cultural relativists because that's not where my research lies.

When I referred to "objective morality", I had in mind a morality that does not depend on what individuals or groups believe, value, etc. It's independent from any point of view. While moral relativism includes subjective morality, one can still be a moral relativist without being a moral subjectivist. Values could be held to exist only relative to certain institutions and relations. But if those institutions are relations exist independently of any point of view, then the values based on thoese institutions and relations do not depend on what people believe or say. In that sense it is relative, yet objective.

And so, despite a fair bit of overlap, the objectivity and absolutism are not the same thing. The example I gave was for the purposes of illustrating a case where the two come apart.

See? It's possible to talk about these issues, and admit where we may have gone wrong in previous posts. But feel free to ignore this whole section.

The existing alignment system -can- capture all the shades of morality as well as the allegiance system. However, let me point out that that is exactly the problem with it. Because there are countless shades of "lawful good" and they are all thrown into the same bucket. So, if I tell someone that my character is "lawful good", I have only in the very vaguest sense told them how my character will act.
Now, alignment is meant to be a roleplaying aid. But if it only guides me in the most vaguest sense, if it is less precise than my own already existing ideas of my character's role, then all it is really doing is getting in the way. It isn't aiding me at all.

What you call a weakness, I call a strength. Alignment is a roleplaying aid precisely because it does not dictate exactly what your character is like. If alignment only gives you a very vague sense of your character's values, then you probably have only a vague sense of morality to begin with. It's like the word "dead", as used in the game. D&D does not define all aspects of the word because reasonable players already know what it means.

But it sounds like you want an actual mechanic that dictates exactly how a character will act in any given situation. I recommend Snakes and Ladders.

Working independently, you both come up with your own set of rules as to how to determine which piece of paperwork goes in which folder. I -guarantee- you that your rules will not match your buddy's rules. Once you've each got all your paperwork sorted, he comes to your station and you go to his. I tell you "Please retrieve the proposal for the water project at ACME from last spring for me". Because you've each used different rules as to how to split the paperwork, you don't know which folder of the nine your buddy put that particular piece of paperwork into. Because you don't know which of the nine folders your buddy put that paperwork into, it didn't really help you that he divided the paperwork into the nine folders in the first place.
Now imagine that your buddy is the GM and you've told the GM that you are going to play a Paladin. So, he files a bunch of allowable actions into one folder and an bunch of unallowable actions into another folder, but he doesn't tell you which actions he put in which folder (they are, as you noticed, an infinite amount, so telling you that would be infeasible). You, likewise, put a bunch of allowable actions into one folder and a bunch of unallowable actions into another folder. But your rules are not going to match his rules, so you will likely end up doing an action which is in your allowable actions folder but is in his unallowable actions folder and your character will be blindsided by losing his Paladinhood.

Now I don't know how you run your games, but when I play D&D I don't do so independently of my friends. We talk about the game, we make sure we're on the same page. I've played a few paladins in my time, and I've never really had any problems being blindsided in this way. Some of my paladins have had their own struggles, but that was roleplayed in the game, not between me and the DM.

If I'm working with someone to file documents, it would be rather stupid if we were each to do so independently. People are not these radically independent beings. We exist in various social groups, and thereby interact and share common standards with other people.

However, by all means, feel free to accuse me of saying something I never actually said. Again. Keep insisting that I'm confused enough times and you might convince yourself. Just don't try to argue why this is the case, or you just might have to confront your inability to do so.
You don't merely say that you disagree and leave it at that. You state that I'm wrong and yet you refuse to back up your claims.

Because these forums are for the discussion of the game. There are countless Internet sites, University classes, and other venue which can cover remedial theory of morality for you. In fact, if you so wish, we can continue this discussion on a forum of your choice which is more appropriate for such topics.

If alignment only gives you a very vague sense of your character's values, then you probably have only a vague sense of morality to begin with.

That's like saying "if you can't tell the difference between gamboge and tangerine, then you probably have only a vague sense of what orange is to begin with".

But it sounds like you want an actual mechanic that dictates exactly how a character will act in any given situation.

No, I want a more precise mechanic to describe how a character will act in any given situation. You seem unable to discern the difference between "dictate" and "describe". One is descriptive, the other is proscriptive.

Now I don't know how you run your games, but when I play D&D I don't do so independently of my friends. We talk about the game, we make sure we're on the same page.

If it is true that you've never had any miscommunications or misunderstandings when communicating with your friends, that's interesting. In fact, its flat out phenomenal.
Most people have experienced miscommunications and misunderstandings when talking to others. You and your friends must be some group of enlightened beings with telepathy or something. I'm completely floored and terribly impressed.
That's like saying "if you can't tell the difference between gamboge and tangerine, then you probably have only a vague sense of what orange is to begin with".

No, it's not like that at all. Gamboge and tangerine are very similar. Not being able to distinguish them doesn't mean you only have a vague sense of organge, as you can see. But Good and Evil are not similar. Quite the opposite. The exact meaning of each may not be easy to articulate, but anyone can ballpark a reasonable enough description. So if deciding to play a Good character only gives you a vague impression of what the character is like, then yes, your notion of morality is vague. Being an elf or being a fighter also allow for a very wide variety of concepts. But, like alignment, it gives a basic framework.

But maybe you meant something else entirely.

No, I want a more precise mechanic to describe how a character will act in any given situation. You seem unable to discern the difference between "dictate" and "describe". One is descriptive, the other is proscriptive.

Fair enough, but I'm not sure if I share that desire. I'm content with a more general mechanic, and rely on regular language to describe what my character does. But I guess that's just a matter of preference, so we can let that drop.

If it is true that you've never had any miscommunications or misunderstandings when communicating with your friends, that's interesting. In fact, its flat out phenomenal.
Most people have experienced miscommunications and misunderstandings when talking to others. You and your friends must be some group of enlightened beings with telepathy or something. I'm completely floored and terribly impressed.

Of course we miscommunicate. Hell, we even get angry at each other at times. But the game doesn't break because of it. If we find that we have a misunderstanding, we talk some more, we try to resolve it. That's what communication is all about.

Instead of the DM saying, "Aha! You have lost your paladinhood," he should say, "Are you sure you want to do that? Do you realize that you're slipping?" If that's what the player wants to do, then he can still go ahead. But if he doesn't think his paladin is slipping into questionable behavior, he can raise the issue at that time. He can explain his motivations, which the DM may not have been aware of. Or he can ask the DM to explain why the behavior in question is inappropriate. The discussion need not go on forever, the group can decide that it's time to move on, one way or the other.

The point isn't to avoid all misunderstandings. It's to work through them when they arise. We're not perfect at it, I don't mean to suggest that we're "enlightened beings with telepathy", but that doesn't mean we give up and live in our own little worlds.
But Good and Evil are not similar. Quite the opposite. The exact meaning of each may not be easy to articulate, but anyone can ballpark a reasonable enough description.

As I said before, I guarantee you that, if I were your GM, I could put the party in a position where they'd have a choice between two options and the players would argue for hours as to which of the two options is the good one and which of the two options is the evil one. Its not that difficult to put players in that position and, in fact, many GMs have found that they've done it by accident. People who actually understand morality at a deeper level than a 12 year old does can put players/PCs in that kind of position intentionally.

Instead of the DM saying, "Aha! You have lost your paladinhood," he should say, "Are you sure you want to do that? Do you realize that you're slipping?" If that's what the player wants to do, then he can still go ahead. But if he doesn't think his paladin is slipping into questionable behavior, he can raise the issue at that time. He can explain his motivations, which the DM may not have been aware of. Or he can ask the DM to explain why the behavior in question is inappropriate. The discussion need not go on forever, the group can decide that it's time to move on, one way or the other.

There are going to be times when the GM is convinced that a certain action is evil and the player is convinced that the action is good and discussing the issue isn't going to change either of their minds. At that point, the Paladin will have to act out of character (either as the player sees it or as the GM sees it) and suffer the consequences. My allegiance system gives the player and the GM a tool to discuss questions of alignment long before it becomes an issue.
As I said before, I guarantee you that, if I were your GM, I could put the party in a position where they'd have a choice between two options and the players would argue for hours as to which of the two options is the good one and which of the two options is the evil one. Its not that difficult to put players in that position and, in fact, many GMs have found that they've done it by accident. People who actually understand morality at a deeper level than a 12 year old does can put players/PCs in that kind of position intentionally.

So what? You can identify moral dilemmas. You can find boundary conditions where moral intutions differ between people. Lots of people can do that. It's quite easy. But that doesn't mean that the distinction between good and evil cannot be made. Morality doesn't collapse because of this. By analogy, people often disagree about where the boundaries are between colors. But everyone who isn't color-blind can identify paradigm examples of red, orange, yellow, etc, and we don't need to abandon the entire color-scheme. Likewise for good and evil.

And whatever one's understanding of morality, it takes the maturity of a 12-year-old to intentionally raise that sort of dispute in a game. We can all cause arguments that last for hours if we act immaturely. But that's totally irrelevant to the issue of whether there's a problem with alignment. You can break any element of the game if you try hard enough. But that's not the point of the game.

I'm quite thankful, therefore, that you're not my DM. Especially since your "guarantee" when you don't know how we play is rather obnoxious.

There are going to be times when the GM is convinced that a certain action is evil and the player is convinced that the action is good and discussing the issue isn't going to change either of their minds. At that point, the Paladin will have to act out of character (either as the player sees it or as the GM sees it) and suffer the consequences.

Again, so what? I don't assume that the campaign world has exactly the same cultures as the real world, nor do I assume it has the same laws of physics, nevermind basic metaphysical principles. So why should I assume morality will be exactly the same? I've often played characters with a different understanding of morality than I have. My own morals are not at stake here.

As I have said, this should be discussed by the player and DM. If neither can be convinced by the other (which can only be found out by having a discussion in the first place), then, as I have also said, they make a decision and go on. I don't worry about my moral beliefs in the game, even if I start with them as a basis. Harmony in the game is more important to me then having things my way all the time.

Of course, this assumes that I'm playing with people who play the same way. They are my friends, after all. If a DM (or other player) was trying to make my life difficult on purpose, and generally being a prick, I'd stop playing with him.

My allegiance system gives the player and the GM a tool to discuss questions of alignment long before it becomes an issue.

No. The ability to communicate with each other is not found in a game mechanic. It requires a commitment among those involved to find a resolution.

Two other issues. I'll start with the specific one. How does giving my character a Neutral Good alignment raise more problems than giving my character an allegiance to Good? Wouldn't that amount to the same thing? Further, why does roleplaying my Neutral Good character as being devoted to his church raise more problems than saying his allegiance is to Good and his church? Again, wouldn't that amount to the same thing?

And now the more general issue. No moral system is complete. The Enlightenment dream of mechanically deciding all moral issues is just that - a dream. Alignment most certainly does not provide such a system, because it's not even trying to do that. It's a framework for the game. Of course it doesn't help us solve moral problems, because that's not its function. But even if it did try to do so, as you pointed out it would be easy to raise disputes. So why on Earth do you actually think that your allegiance system wouldn't succumb to the same problem? If you're so good at making people argue for hours, why doesn't it occur to you that the same could be done when using allegiance? I've argued that this does not matter, and I stick by that. But given what you see as being problematic with the alignment system, what benefit do you gain from allegiance? I see none. And that brings me back to the very first point I made in this thread: What you claim to want to do in your campaigns can be done even if you're only using the alignment system.

None of this is to say you shouldn't use allegiance. For purposes of the game, I think it works just fine. If a DM wanted to use it in a campaign, I'd be happy to go along with that. But why insist that it's strictly better than alignment? Nothing you've said convinces me that it is. Have you done some sort of controlled experiment where you run otherwise identical campaigns, one using alignment and the other using allegiance?

While that very last question was rather facetious, I'd really like it if you would answer the questions from both of the two paragraphs before it.

And it's okay if you just say that you want to use allegiance because you like it. It's okay if you say that having these things explicitly spelled out makes things easier for you.
So what? You can identify moral dilemmas. You can find boundary conditions where moral intutions differ between people. Lots of people can do that. It's quite easy.

That's what I said. It is easy. And I'm not talking about boundary issues. I'm talking about flipping concepts of morality on their head.

And whatever one's understanding of morality, it takes the maturity of a 12-year-old to intentionally raise that sort of dispute in a game.

My point is that it can and has been done by accident by many GMs.

I don't worry about my moral beliefs in the game

You've got to start somewhere. You can't just start from nothing.

No. The ability to communicate with each other is not found in a game mechanic. It requires a commitment among those involved to find a resolution.

Did you see me somewhere say that commitment among those involved to find a resolution isn't required? You are building straw men. Is building strawmen your idea of "commitment among those involved to find a resolution" or is this your idea of being an ass? The allegiance system simply gives you a communication tool.

How does giving my character a Neutral Good alignment raise more problems than giving my character an allegiance to Good?

You don't have an "allegiance to good". You are kidding me that you've been arguing over this and you don't even know what it is you've been arguing against, right? I mean, read the originating post. You have an allegiance to your country or allegiance to your church or allegiance to your party members or allegiance to human life or something like that - actually a list of things like that from greatest allegiance to least allegiance. You don't see that post talking about some ambiguos allegiance to good.

Further, why does roleplaying my Neutral Good character as being devoted to his church raise more problems than saying his allegiance is to Good and his church?

As I said, "allegiance to good" is another one of your strawmen, not part of the allegiance system I'm talking about. But maybe an example in real world politics will help. I'll try to be as neutral as possible here so as not to offend anyone. The issue is birth control in third world countries. The Catholic church is against birth control in all forms and considers abortion to be a sin. Many people, including some members of the Catholic church, believe that, in order to end suffering going on in some of these third world countries, better birth control is necessary and that the official stance of the Catholic church is wrong. So, you've got two groups of people arguing with each other. Their positions are in conflict and they both believe that they are right and the other group is wrong. That's where alignment falls apart and allegiance gives you the ability to more finely describe your position.
Now, let's talk about something that happened in game. I was playing a Paladin whose wife and kids had been killed by an Orc scouts. I had to protect a bunch of farming towns from an Orc army that I knew was going to come through the area. Most of the farmers didn't know the difference between the blade and the handle of a sword (that's a figure of speech - I point that out because you seem unable to tell when such literary devices are used). How was I going to get them battle ready as quickly as possible? Well, I figured, I'd make them more afraid of me than they were of the Orcs. I won several victories against the Orcs and also started spreading rumors that I would protect the community at any cost - even if it meant killing a couple of cowardly farmers along the way. Talk started spreading that maybe I wasn't a Paladin at all, but maybe an anti-Paladin. At the same time, victories against the Orcs kept piling up. At the same time, I made it clear to the GM in no uncertain terms that even if his god threatened to strip away his powers if he did so, he, my Paladin, would always do what he thought was the right and good thing. The good aligned church in the area grew gravely concerned about him. PCs started giving him fearful looks. Even players started thinking that he might actually be an anti-Paladin. When the character threw himself against the orcs in a suicide attempt to give everyone else a chance to get away when a particular battle went badly, my character died for what he believed was the right thing to do. The debate over whether my character was a Paladin or an anti-Paladin still continues. I have been told by many that it was the best roleplayed Paladin they've ever seen and I've been told by many that they still think he was secretly an anti-Paladin. But he achieved his goal. He got the towns to the position where they could defend themselves and noone else in the town had to suffer the murder of their wife and children by Orcs because my Paladin was willing to throw it all on the line.
My point is that it can and has been done by accident by many GMs.

If it was only an accident and wasn't done for the sake of doing it (as your "guarantee" suggested it was), then (I repeat) so what? You move past it. Problems are "accidentally" raised in all aspects of the game, this is not special to alignment.

You've got to start somewhere. You can't just start from nothing.

See, now here's where I have a hard time believing that you're debating honestly. You only quoted part of my statement. The complete sentence was, "I don't worry about my moral beliefs in the game, even if I start with them as a basis." You don't include the second clause in the quote, yet repeat it back to me as if you're telling me something I hadn't thought about.

Did you see me somewhere say that commitment among those involved to find a resolution isn't required? You are building straw men. Is building strawmen your idea of "commitment among those involved to find a resolution" or is this your idea of being an ass? The allegiance system simply gives you a communication tool.

As I have argued, if the commitment is there, alignment can work just fine. The allegiance system adds nothing if the group is already committed.

You don't have an "allegiance to good". You are kidding me that you've been arguing over this and you don't even know what it is you've been arguing against, right?

All along, I thought you were just using the allegiance system from d20 Modern, which does allow an allegiance to good (and evil, and law, and chaos). I'd say that I'm glad this is now cleared up, but it comes up again in your paladin example (see below).

But, even if it were cleared up, that only addressed my specific point. You haven't said anything about the more general issue that I raised. I'll remind you: What about the allegiance system stops anyone from raising the sort of disputes you can raise with alignment? Give a character an allegiance to his church and his nation, and different people will have different takes on how they should be balanced, how he should act in different circumstances. Why don't you address this point next?

You don't see [the original] post talking about some ambiguos allegiance to good.

That is true. As I said, I'd like to be able to say that I'm happy that this is now cleared up. But it comes up in your latest post right here:

At the same time, I made it clear to the GM in no uncertain terms that even if his god threatened to strip away his powers if he did so, he, my Paladin, would always do what he thought was the right and good thing.

It sounds like his allegiance was to some abstract concept of good, as he understood it. Nothing in this story describes an allegiance to anything else. Yet your fellow players thought he was the best roleplayed paladin they've come across. It sounds like you disagreed about whether he was really good, but it also sounds like you didn't let that get in the way of the game. That's awsome. And it very nicely illustrates exactly the very point that I've been making all along. You can get on with the game and roleplay just fine even though the players disagree about a moral issue, and even though you're not using allegiance. Thank you for that.

One more thing:

Most of the farmers didn't know the difference between the blade and the handle of a sword (that's a figure of speech - I point that out because you seem unable to tell when such literary devices are used).

Did this cheap shot feel good to you? You know, it just reinforces how dishonest you come across.
If it was only an accident and wasn't done for the sake of doing it (as your "guarantee" suggested it was), then (I repeat) so what? You move past it. Problems are "accidentally" raised in all aspects of the game, this is not special to alignment.

What I wrote was "As I said before, I guarantee you that, if I were your GM, I could put the party in a position where they'd have a choice between two options and the players would argue for hours as to which of the two options is the good one and which of the two options is the evil one. Its not that difficult to put players in that position and, in fact, many GMs have found that they've done it by accident." So, I was stating that many GMs have done it by accident and that I guarantee that I can do it on purpose (that is, "am able to", not "will just to see it happen"). Now, I could attribute your mischaracterization of my statement as an attempt on your part to not debate honestly, but then, as an earlier post said
If I was unclear, there's no need to assume the worst possible interpretation of what I said.

As I have argued, if the commitment is there, alignment can work just fine. The allegiance system adds nothing if the group is already committed.

Commitment may be required, but it is never sufficient as is evidenced by our mutual commitment to debate this issue and the fact that we keep misunderstanding each other.

What about the allegiance system stops anyone from raising the sort of disputes you can raise with alignment?

The point of the allegiance system is not to prevent anyone from raising the sort of disputes I've raised. My allegiance system helps make sure that these disputes are identified and raised -before- they become critical.

And it very nicely illustrates exactly the very point that I've been making all along. You can get on with the game and roleplay just fine even though the players disagree about a moral issue, and even though you're not using allegiance.

I never said that it wasn't possible to get on with the game and roleplay just fine even though the players disagree about a moral issue. It certainly is. I mean, duh? But that only happens in the best of situations. For every time that has happened, I can name two or three where it has not and I've got decades of experience playing the game, the further back I remember, the more frequently were the times that did not happen to be the best of situations. However, another point is brought out in my example. That is that different people at that table had different ideas about what was lawful good. If one of the players that thought my character was an anti-Paladin had been GMing instead, my character would have lost his Paladinhood. "Good" is not so easily identified as you claim it is.

Nothing in this story describes an allegiance to anything else.[\quote]
I should have made it more explicit. He didn't much care about "good". He was aligned with the towns people - to make sure that they would not suffer as he had suffered.

Did this cheap shot feel good to you?

Based on an earlier figure of speech I used where I was comparing objective morality to tales and you took it to mean that I believed culture was genetic, I had reason to believe you were having trouble identifying figures of speech. There are certain disorders (Aspergers, I believe, is one) where people have trouble identifying figures of speech.
What I wrote was "As I said before, I guarantee you that, if I were your GM, I could put the party in a position where they'd have a choice between two options and the players would argue for hours as to which of the two options is the good one and which of the two options is the evil one. Its not that difficult to put players in that position and, in fact, many GMs have found that they've done it by accident." So, I was stating that many GMs have done it by accident and that I guarantee that I can do it on purpose (that is, "am able to", not "will just to see it happen"). Now, I could attribute your mischaracterization of my statement as an attempt on your part to not debate honestly, but then, as an earlier post said

...

You can cause disputes. I get it. So what? You keep dancing around this issue, but you don't actually explain why this matters.

Commitment may be required, but it is never sufficient as is evidenced by our mutual commitment to debate this issue and the fact that we keep misunderstanding each other.

But how does allegiance make that difference?

The point of the allegiance system is not to prevent anyone from raising the sort of disputes I've raised. My allegiance system helps make sure that these disputes are identified and raised -before- they become critical.

You keep stating this over, and over, and over again. Yet you have said nothing that explains why allegiance makes such a difference. You've been offerring criticisms of alignment, you've been giving examples where allegiance can be useful, but these two are always disconnected. Please tell me what problems (relevant to the game) that there are with alignment, and which suddenly disappear when allegiance is used.

The fact that D&D has been played for over 30 years (and retained its popularity) with alignment tells me that it's not as problematic as you make out. Remember, I never said it was perfect, I never said it should be retained, but it's hardly as game-breaking as you suggest.

different people at that table had different ideas about what was lawful good. If one of the players that thought my character was an anti-Paladin had been GMing instead, my character would have lost his Paladinhood. "Good" is not so easily identified as you claim it is.

[SNIP]

He didn't much care about "good". He was aligned with the towns people - to make sure that they would not suffer as he had suffered.

Yes, there is dispute about what "Lawful Good" means. But there is also much room for dispute about this supposed allegiance to the townsfolk. Was it actually in their interests to terrorize them into obeying you? I'm not going to give an answer to this question either way, but it should be clear that not everyone would agree.

This is not a problem for D&D, however. That applies to both allegiance and alignment.

Based on an earlier figure of speech I used where I was comparing objective morality to tales and you took it to mean that I believed culture was genetic, I had reason to believe you were having trouble identifying figures of speech. There are certain disorders (Aspergers, I believe, is one) where people have trouble identifying figures of speech.

Oh, so now you want to attribute a disorder to me? This gets better and better.

Here's what you said earlier: "Belief in objective morality, in the real world, is nothing but an evolutionary throwback - akin to some people being born with tails." You don't need to take this literally to point out the problem with it. My point was the there are current features of our developmental environment that reliably produce beliefs in morals. What I find rather interesting is that your response was to claim knowledge of a bunch of -isms, rather than to take the time to explain what you had in mind. It's a tendency of yours that I've noticed. You ignore the crucial issues.

Or maybe I'm being harsh in claiming that you ignore the issues. Maybe you have a disorder that prevents you from seeing crucial issues and reasons. (the "rolleyes" emoticon means I'm being sarcastic rather than literal, if you need this pointed out... )

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. It's okay if you want to use the allegiance system simply because you like it more than alignment. In fact, I'd have a lot more respect for you if you were honest about this. There's nothing wrong with doing something because of a personal preference. It's a game, after all, preferences are very relevant. I sometimes like to play D&D without alignment at all. It works quite well for a grim and gritty sword and sorcery setting. But it's neither better nor worse than an epic high fantasy setting that gives a central role to alignment. I've used D&D without alignment because I wanted to try it out, because I thought it would be fun. I like variety. But at no point did I try to argue that D&D was better without alignment, nor did I even try to argue that sword and sorcery can't be done if alignment is used. I tried something that looked cool. I found that I had fun with it, so I've tried it again. But since I've also had plenty of fun when using alignment, I still use it too.
Ever heard of PM? You could use that here...
Lands of the Barbarian Kings Campaign Setting - http://barbaripedia.eu