View Poll Results: Is character alignment essential to D&D?
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Absolutely NOT! It represents the most juvenile and contrived moral philosophy I've ever seen.
No. Morality is too personal and provokes auguments that undermine the fun of the game.
I wish it wasn't. Other fantasy RPG's don't use it, why should D&D?
Does it really matter? Aren't we playing a GAME?
I am satisfied it is. Fantasy RPG's need it as part of the genre.
Yes. Dealing with moral issues maturely is part of the game.
Absolutely! It is superior to any real-life moral philosophy I know of.
'YES' for a reasons other than those cited above. (Please discuss.)
'NO', for a reasons other than those cited above. (Please discuss.)
Man, you really tossed the fecal matter into the ventilator, didn't you!
Tuesday, 2nd April, 2002, 06:33 PM #41
Thaumaturgist (Lvl 9)
The reason alignment is so confusing is because they made it a 2-dimentional grid, and it's not.
Having a scale from 1 to 100, with one representing ultimate chaos, and 100 representing ultimate law, would clean things up I think.
We've been discussing this in detail in the Pendragon thread.
Last edited by mmadsen; Tuesday, 2nd April, 2002 at 09:26 PM.
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Acolyte (Lvl 2)
... my evolving thoughts on this matter, and conclusion!
I'm really impressed by what people have had to say so far. everyone!
I knew at the outset that character alignment, a being's "moral code", as many may say, is obviously a victim of our personal perceptions. Semantic problems also intrude into the issue, and that really reflects our real-world situation! I don't know about you folks, but I game to escape. Even an imaginary world where I can play a character with special advantages, rather than mundane traits, to conquer real-world problems is an escape of itself. (Magic, super powers, privileged knowledge, etc.) I like to escape from the arguments too. But sometimes that's hard to do...
My initial thoughts:
Morality covers very deep philosophical territory--despite the simplistic child-like black hat vs. white hat mentality typical to our present day media, politics, entertainment, and popular culture. Likewise, I think D&D, especially in editions past, handled it just as poorly... Thus, I'd go out on a limb and say: character alignment, as designed and expressed in D&D, is for kids. As an adult gamer, I don't really need it to enjoy a good adventure. I'd rather delegate alignment to the nebulous goings-on in a setting that our PCs are exploring. If character alignment never existed in D&D, would it have really changed our enjoyment of the game? Couldn't a paladin still have a profound code and special abilities without the LG label to "quantify" his/her moral character! A code of conduct is a logical concept--an over-moralizing label is something else altogether. I know that we are supposed to use fair judgment in handling alignment. But the concept seemed to undermine character development by limiting behaviour to a mere category. Or even worse, limiting a character's conduct to a categorical imperative, i.e.: LG behaves precisely THIS way, CE behaves exactly THAT way, ad nauseum. :rolleyes: Is that really necessary? Do we really need some game publisher to provide for us definitions and labels for PC behaviour? May I not play a character that struggles with moral issues without being pigeonholed? How many of us have interpreted alignment in D&D this way?
Well, I found some answers by rereading the beginning of Chapter 6 in the PH. (I should've reviewed Chapter 6 before posting the poll. My bad.):
Right-off-the-bat the alignments are meant to be viewed as actual forces in the D&D multiverse, NOT philosophical concepts! (Okay. But I thought they were meant to be your PC's moral and personal attitudes?) Probably overlooked by many from PH page 87, lower right column: "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 (I thought it was said they were actual forces and not... what a contradiction!), so two lawful good characters can be quite different from each other. In addition, few people are consistent." Not even day to day! (Neither were the editors of the PH! ) "Good people can lose their tempers, neutrals may be inspired to perform noble acts, and so on." Additionally, on PH page 89, upper left column: "Use these descriptions as guidelines, not as scripts." As Henry here stated quite well earlier on: they describe your PC's personality, they don't prescribe your PC's personality. (Aside: how many of us have read specific sections & tables of the PH, and thought that was enough given past experience with earlier editions of D&D through reading and playing with friends? Sometimes rereading rules you'll catch things today that you missed 6 months ago! This is true of many things in life, no?)
As alignment concerns character behaviour, the terms "should" and "shall", as well as "would" and "will", are often used by D&Ders with respect to anticipating a PC's or monster's behaviour. Trouble is, these terms toss us directly into the quagmire of semantic debate, as the meaning of these terms are not precise given conventional usage these days--look at your dictionary, I have--and much fuss is made about commandments, directives, determination and obligations implied by these words. Does LG mean your PC "shall" or "will" or "should" or "would" behave a certain way (your choice? :rolleyes: )
Oh, forget THAT. Getting bogged down in semantics is what spoils my enjoyment of what supposed to be a game, a recreation, and an imaginative and escapist pastime. Debating the semantics (the meaning--for the kids here) of terms may be interesting--but NOT in the middle of my gaming session! I don't appreciate table arguments as a player, and especially not as a DM!
So, my thoughts have changed:
Indeed, it seems more practical, if not entirely logical, to judge moral character upon past conduct and not potential conduct! That is, alignment represents one's behavioural history, NOT one's behavioural intent! At most it is a predictor, but... "The future is uncertain..." Yoda, ESB. Thus, it's simply a matter of saying to oneself: "My PC has grown up to be NG, he/she may change, but he/she is currently NG." At the least you have something to work with in developing your PC, and can continue the PC's current alignment as a "trend" or "plan". Adventuring may change your PC's alignment, but that's potentially a really cool thing...
Gawd, that makes things MUCH easier! It also may help with the next concept:
I, like many whom have posted here, prefer the idea of tagging only outsiders with an alignment as a genuine qualifier. It makes sense to me as they represent the immortal epitomes of Evil, Good, Chaos, Law and maybe even Neutrality (?). Of course a fair amount of arcane and divine magic spells are likewise tagged to mechanically interact with these powerful beings who are opponents and obstacles. That works well I think. So now, theses forces, expressed by the DM's campaign, may be defined as vying for your PC's moral development! And lo, we come back to the initial game designer's definition; the deities (and their minions) are themselves representatives of the alignments as forces (and not just figment of someone's philosophical rantings ).
In summary, alignment in D&D may be clarified as follows:
Alignment, for intelligent mortals, reflects an accumulation of past conduct-almost a karmic aura, or taint, or stain on a mortal being. Such conduct may be a result of personal choice, social conditioning, or coercion. But the mortal is not locked into it. A mortal's alignment may change, even a humanoid's... Half-Orc Paladins! Yay!
(Okay. Lots of fall-from-grace and rise-to-redemption fodder. Typical of the dramatic material from the classics like Shakespeare (not always a happy ending), to the cheesy Hollywood blockbusters (always a nauseating happy ending, despite the drama and destruction. The D&D movie anyone? That was so bad, on so many levels... Oh the shame of it...).)
An alignment is a "real" force, typically manifested as immortal entities (outsiders), attempting to manipulate the mortal world(s). Alignment, as a genuine, defining thing in the D&D multiverse, is subject to divine and arcane magic, psionics, and special abilities that actually interact to aid, deflect or thwart it. So defined, powers affecting alignment are limited to affecting outsiders and their agents. (The core rules do corroborate this!)
Not perfect but close. It works for me, avoids most predictive arguments, leaves choices for players, and revises my initial answer to my question: is alignment essential to the D&D experience? Yes, but not insufferably so. One could do without alignment, but an important component of what defines D&D, a staple of the fantasy genre, would be lost: the interactions between the mortal world & the immortals beyond... (GURPS fantasy never satisfied me in this regard!)
Of course many may still disagree with me, but the above is my conclusion for now.
Thanks to all for sharing your thoughts thus far!
PS: Hey, this was my first poll! Not bad, eh?
*pats himself on the back*
Next time, though, I'll try to ensure the poll options are more concise. A little pre-poll research may be required too--we'll see. *shrug*
Last edited by Winterthorn; Wednesday, 3rd April, 2002 at 02:43 AM.
Played last session: None. Took a break from RPGs since 2011. Seeking to return
Thaumaturgist (Lvl 9)
Re: ... my evolving thoughts on this matter, and conclusion!
That's exactly what we've been discussing in the Pendragon thread and now in the Tracking Alignment thread. You can use Pendragon's traits or D&D's alignments in two basic ways: prescriptive (your character sheet says "good", so you must behave "good") or descriptive (you've behaved "good", so your character sheet should say "good"). Both styles have their uses.Indeed, it seems more practical, if not entirely logical, to judge moral character upon past conduct and not potential conduct! That is, alignment represents one's behavioural history, NOT one's behavioural intent! At most it is a predictor, but... "The future is uncertain..." Yoda, ESB. Thus, it's simply a matter of saying to oneself: "My PC has grown up to be NG, he/she may change, but he/she is currently NG." At the least you have something to work with in developing your PC, and can continue the PC's current alignment as a "trend" or "plan". Adventuring may change your PC's alignment, but that's potentially a really cool thing...
In a game where outside forces are Good and Evil, tracking how good or evil a character is makes at least as much sense as tracking hit points -- at least for Clerics, Paladins, and the like.
Novice (Lvl 1)
One can follow a strict code of honour, but still have absolutely no respect for anyone's authority but your own - following laws that you devise does not make you "Lawful".Originally posted by LostSoul
A Barbarian with a strict code of honour seems like a Lawful type.
Actually I think it has more to do with providing a justification for mass slaughterOriginally posted by trancejeremy
It was just added because some of the more influential fantasy novels of the time were about a conflict between Law & Chaos (Michael Moorcock's Elric books, and at least one of Poul Anderson's).
Personally I think alignment is important to the D&D experience, particularly if there are PC clerics and/or paladins.
Thaumaturgist (Lvl 9)
I think the largest problem with D&D's alignment system is the inclusion of Law vs. Chaos. Honestly, how many people have a firm handle on what's lawful, irrespective of whether it's good or not, and what's chaotic, irrespective of whether it's selfish or not?
Questions of Good and Evil at least lead to interesting moral/ethical debates. Questions of Law and Chaos just get wacky.
Further, the alignment lingo isn't the clearest. Why include the word "neutral" when it adds nothing? "Neutral Good" sounds like it should mean "slightly good", but technically it means "just plain good" (and not concerned about Law and Chaos). "Chaotic Neutral" sounds like it means "confused Swiss diplomat", but it means "Chaotic!" (with a capital C and an exclamation point).
Anyway, for most characters, alignment plays a very small roll. For others, it's plays a very important roll, and it probably deserves more attention than just getting a two-word title. (Hence the Tracking Alignment thread.)
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
I've never seen a problem with a lawful barbarian, they can be fun to play and very appropriate. Many barbaric cultures are very lawful. But I use the fighter class for these characters. Despite the name, the Barbarian class is not about being a barbarian, it's a shield-biting berzerker.One can follow a strict code of honour, but still have absolutely no respect for anyone's authority but your own - following laws that you devise does not make you "Lawful".
We've used alighment in all the games, it almost seems to be a necessity since it's so bound in the rule mechanics. But we've never been particularly strict about it. My current Rokugan game focuses on Lawful v. Chaotic rather than Good v. Evil and it's been flowing smoothly. Anyone can have a personal code of honor. What the personal code consists of is what determines if it's lawful or not. Someone with a code that says 'Drink as much as possible. Answer any perceived insult with instant violence. Ignore all laws unless I agree with them. Lie constantly and never give a sucker an even break.' is still basically chaotic, even if he has a basic code he lives by
Last edited by Black Omega; Wednesday, 3rd April, 2002 at 06:10 AM.
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Thaumaturgist (Lvl 9)
It seems that there's almost universal support for alignments as true forces in the game world only for Outsiders, Paladins, Clerics, etc. The Protection From... spells already draw a distinction between summoned creatures and more mundane evil (or chaotic, or good, or lawful) creatures.
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