Some Hints on Alignment

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Here's part of Rich Baker's Blog from Saturday:

As of Friday, I was up to Unicorn. Whew! Not much more to go on this pass. We had a fun over-the-cube-wall debate about the unicorn's alignment. We'd like to see most fey move from Good to unaligned and somewhat perilous. First of all, it's mythologically apropriate--many creatures such as centaurs, the Sidhe, the little folk, etc., were not necessarily friendly. Secondly, it makes more of the Monster Manual "usable" if you can fight things like dryad briar witches and amok satyrs, at least every now and then. But I got to unicorn, and I couldn't pull the trigger on that. If there's one creature in the Monster Manual (exceptings solars and such) that epitomizes good, it's the unicorn.

What do you think?
What do you think?

Hi Horatio,

It makes sense. Look at Centaurs, why can't they be hostile or even bent on a wrong or even evil purpose? They may lean toward good and chaoctic, but that does not mean that they will be this. The Capricious Copper Dragon is a good example of a typically good being that can be turned into an encounter for the party. This concept of creating a more open alignment system will remove many existing barriers. However, like Rich Baker comments, the Unicorn and Solars will need to remain good, like the Demons and Devils will need to remain evil.

I am curious as to how they will be factioning things in 4e. I have yet to read much about this, or see a list of what is proposed.

Thanks,

Mazra
I think this is a very good thing. Thinking 3.5 (as we've heard on occasion that 4E will be less alignment-restricted for the players), you can now have some Chaotic (Good/Neutral)ish things attack the players, and the paladin won't need an Atonement just because he fought them.

(Not that I ever forced my LG players to stop fighting back once they notice that they're being swarmed/slaughtered by Centaurs or Satyrs or whatever.)

Still, the more things Neutral in there, the more things that can work against any group. It's rather sad to play an Evil adventure and keep fighting archons over and over again.
Centaurs are pretty much Neutral throughout Greek mythology, mostly either Lawful Neutral or Chaotic Neutral. It's the Narnian Centaurs that are Chaotic Good or even Lawful Good.

As to unicorns there are several forms: the wild unicorns that would drag down maidens and take them of desire as indications of a single and unalloyed passion (neutral), the royal unicorns that were symbollic of all that is noble and honorable in monarchy as the symbol of kingship and those ruled as directed towards one purpose (lawful neutral), and sacred unicorns that were representative of purity and true love as well as monotheism in the real world -- in the D&D world singular devotion to beneficient love (lawful good). To mete these three would yield a lawful neutral creature that is also gentle by preference but would be distant from suffering and iniquity except for its love for purity and kindness in humans and humanoids. With all its focus on goodliness one might think it good but its behavior and methods and goals are neither evil nor good. While it loves the product of goodly situations it does not effort towards good nor assists the good who are in need should a good person who is not entirely pure and innocent require help. It is Lawful Neutral then.

Now, there are other creatures that are emblematic yet oft misinterpeted. The peryton is mistaken as a foul beast by D&D standards but despite Borges's fiction, it appears in ancient statuary as a winged gazelle or stag, is said in antiquity to be souls of wanderers who perished far from home, and appears also in royal heraldic device. Now, while it has also been said that a peryton devours human hearts and casts the shadow of a human or mortal, that might be said to be derived from rare situation. A peryton could be seen as the product of a person without vengeful nor stressful need to resume life but rather a love of wandering and the living world. That it is also carnivorous and capable of manipulating intricacies of darkness and light is not indicative of evil. One might call it a willfuly returning soul of any chaotic alignment or a messenger from realms of chaotic good or chaotic neutral or even chaotic evil. Should it devour the fresh heart of a perished mortal, it might be that the mortal can wander soon again into the living world as a ghost (if not chaotic) or a peryton (if chaotic). It should be capable with various darkness and light spells as well as having the ability to summon a shadow (as per the undead creature) and the ability to manipulate shadows into solid form. Of course there might be a difference between a normal peryton and a greater peryton, with greater perytons having outsider status as well as being undead magic beasts.

Another creature that is often misconsidered is the naga. Wide wandering teachers or steadfast guardians, these should be celestial creatures. Of neutral good or lawful neutral alignment, naga are never evil nor malificient. One must understand that naga differ from the serpentfolk such as the descendents of Samael and Lilit in some gnostic texts of private libraries (the coupling of these two spirits produced even a two-headed bird of prey with a serpent's neck), the lamia, etc. These are all different creatures unless we stir our stew into soup as Joseph Campbell seems wont to do. Naga are almost universally seen as informative and strong spirits that have their own agenda, do not appreciate mistreatment, but can be very kind and forebearing.

Furthermore, the Empusa and the Lamia must be distinguished from eachother. As a plural creature set, the lamia are not entirely wicked -- their mother (Lamia proper) was forced into a bad situation and reacted ferociously: having thought Hera devoured her children, she slew many sacred child priests of Hera. Hera kept the children she stole and enslaved them as new priests. Lamia was given secrets of prophesy by Zeus so she might see beyond her tragedy into a future that was not so terrible and taught her to blind herself to the sorrows of the present. The new children of Lamia would indeed steal children and make of them priests, killing them so to speak and raising them yet again as the serpent's old trick of immortality. When raised again from the dead, these children would operate as priests of Lamia and share her ability to temporarily blind themselves to seemingly insurmountable present situations and foresee future situations of hope as well as paths to such eudaimonic times. The Lamiae are lawful neutral with the lower halves of serpents and the upper halves of humans.

The Empusa on the other hand is a lovely daughter of Hecate whose children are careless and unaging merchants of strange potions and trinkets; while they might be driven to desperation and criminality by nature they are kindly and winsome with a love and capacity for deep erudition and high culture. As it is of widespread populace, it extends its presence through civilized lands to sell intoxicating blossoms it discovers in the lands of ghosts (culled from the tears of the undead through a method it only knows) and is fond of clothing itself in finery of precious metal and expensive fabric. It can act as a vampire although it is not undead and does have mild hypnotic and enchanting powers. They might be found in ruins and in necropolises and any haunted place, gathering strange luminous petals that are the tears of ghosts and undead things. Their saliva might be functional as a means of becalming (even drugging) the undead and even some other beings of negative plane substance.

So much has already been said in popular texts of mythography.

Evil monsters are rare but do occur: as a continental mythographer once declared, I do not think the empusa and the lamia among these -- although both may be driven to evil. And the naga is also misinterpeted as is the unicorn.

D&D could use scyllae and charybdi as common monsters too... but off the subject of Greek mythographic poesis into D&D, I think that alignment should keep to a universal and unswayably innate force that can be adhered to or shifted in convergence with other alignments.
[Edit: Actually, scratch that. I don't think I really want to dwell on what I originally posted.]
This seems like a bit of a complication, in a way. Centaurs, dryads, all those things don't have a genetic alignment. There's no reason centaurs and dryads can't be evil as it is now, if properly motivated towards such.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
This seems like a bit of a complication, in a way. Centaurs, dryads, all those things don't have a genetic alignment. There's no reason centaurs and dryads can't be evil as it is now, if properly motivated towards such.

Yea, sometimes alignments are too strict. Some individuals are different from the norm. Kind of like D&D players.

Another thing I think is interesting from Rich's blog is the "unaligned and somewhat perilous" comment. Does that indicate a change in the system or are they just being silly while joking around about unicorns?
When I asked David Noonan about alignment over here in London on Open Game Day, he told me a DM doesn't really need to deal with alignment, but a player might have it on his character's sheet.

…I know, vague and cryptic…
There will probably be recommended alignments for monsters as a guideline, but no player alignment.
What it sounds like is the developers haven't worked extensively on alignment. Remember they are still making the game, and alignment is a detail on how the cosmic forces work. angles good, demons evil and chaotic, etc. If I where them I would work on alignment last and just keep the two axises system that's been around since AD&D out of simplicity. It's not like alignment is the straight jacket people make it out to be. If a player is acting "out of alignment" that just means they have the wrong alignment written down.

Ok I derailed there. Ummm... My opinion is alignment is very similar to what it was and it only really matters to players that get there power form a cosmic force. If a Unicorn is part of a goodly cosmic force it is good. And when they say unaligned that equals to neutral in the old system.
I like non-aligned. The concept was essentially there in 3.X, they just never actually made the last logical step and adopted it.

I also like the "perilous" descriptor. Just because you are good doesn't mean that you are cooperative and nice, and just because you are evil doesn't mean that you are an immediate threat.
This seems like a bit of a complication, in a way. Centaurs, dryads, all those things don't have a genetic alignment. There's no reason centaurs and dryads can't be evil as it is now, if properly motivated towards such.

Hi Salla,

Since the first edition of D&D, Centaurs and Dryads have been mainly of Good Alignment. Both of these creatures are Chaoctic Good for purpose of the Skirmish system.

However, I beleive I understand where you were going with this, in that these creatures really could be of any alignment. And with this I agree. A Dryad could have a sinister purpose to further the needs of her tree. A Centaur could rise to seek power and his own selfish desires.

How will all this play out in the Skirmish game, where alignment has been a key element? If there are to be factions like fey, devil, evil, good, etc, how will this work? And I would really like to see a list of what they are if there are factions instead of the usual alignment system.

Thanks,

Mazra
What it sounds like is the developers haven't worked extensively on alignment. Remember they are still making the game, and alignment is a detail on how the cosmic forces work. angles good, demons evil and chaotic, etc. If I where them I would work on alignment last and just keep the two axises system that's been around since AD&D out of simplicity. It's not like alignment is the straight jacket people make it out to be. If a player is acting "out of alignment" that just means they have the wrong alignment written down.

You do realize that in 2nd Edition the PHB suggested some extremely nasty punishments for those who weren't acting within the alignment they had written down.
And even though there wasn't a general punishment for everyone in 3E, you could still lose all your character abilities for acting the wrong was if you were a Barbarian, Cleric, Monk or especially Paladin.

You do realize that in 2nd Edition the PHB suggested some extremely nasty punishments for those who weren't acting within the alignment they had written down.

I do and i never followed them. The nature of an act is solely interpreted by the DM, a player acting "out of alignment" can easily be, but not always be, because the player doesn't see it the way the DM does.

And even though there wasn't a general punishment for everyone in 3E, you could still lose all your character abilities for acting the wrong was if you were a Barbarian, Cleric, Monk or especially Paladin.

The classes you mentioned gain their power from their alignment, more or less. Barbarian their wild nature, Cleric and Paladin a cosmic force, and Monk their intense discipline. What is expected in a player's behavior should be made clear before the first day of play, and the only one that can do that is the DM.

Players only act out of alignment for two responds the character is changing with events, and therefor his/her alignment is changing, or the play doesn't know what the DM thinks the alignment means. Players in the later shouldn't be penalized for the DM's mistakes, while in the former the play knows what will happen and in reality it will turn out all right in the end. The player can after the day of play change deities, retrain into a different, atone, or just go a few days of play a little weaker, or a lot weaker in some cases. It's not that big a deal.
I do and i never followed them. The nature of an act is solely interpreted by the DM, a player acting "out of alignment" can easily be, but not always be, because the player doesn't see it the way the DM does.



The classes you mentioned gain their power from their alignment, more or less. Barbarian their wild nature, Cleric and Paladin a cosmic force, and Monk their intense discipline. What is expected in a player's behavior should be made clear before the first day of play, and the only one that can do that is the DM.

Players only act out of alignment for two responds the character is changing with events, and therefor his/her alignment is changing, or the play doesn't know what the DM thinks the alignment means. Players in the later shouldn't be penalized for the DM's mistakes, while in the former the play knows what will happen and in reality it will turn out all right in the end. The player can after the day of play change deities, retrain into a different, atone, or just go a few days of play a little weaker, or a lot weaker in some cases. It's not that big a deal.

I'm going to take another step here. There's really no such thing as acting 'out of alignment'. Your actions determine your alignment, not the other way around. At no point, NO POINT EVER, should a player think or say, "I can't (do action) because I'm (alignment or alignment component)". The 2nd Edition rules were utterly and completely retarded in this regard (and others, but I digress). He may not do it because it's against his personal code, his better judgement, his best interests, or his nature, but not because it's against his alignment, which is dynamic, not static.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
Here's my wild extrapolation from Rich's quote:

In 4e, there will be three alignments: Good, Evil, and unaligned. "Good" will be for creatures like angles and such that really embody goodness. "Evil" will be for creatures like demons etc. Most monsters and PCs will be unaligned... they don't embody any particular alignment, even if they tend to act in evil or good ways.

If so, I like the idea. It takes away the idea of alignment as a restriction, but keeps the idea of an overarching conflict between good and evil.

Of course, I might be totally wrong too.
It would much, much easier for th old "aligned" classes to have a "code" that they have to stick too - much like the taboos of the Wu Jen. It would honestly work better as it makes it much, much easier to define.
It would much, much easier for th old "aligned" classes to have a "code" that they have to stick too - much like the taboos of the Wu Jen. It would honestly work better as it makes it much, much easier to define.

Also compare to the knight. If the PHBII is really a warm up for 4e, I'd expect that to be the kind of thing we'll see.