D&D General Alternate Alignment Axis Ideas


He / Him
In 5e D&D, alignment is construed along two axes:

Lawful - Chaotic
Good - Evil

Alignment is often ignored and mostly optional, but rather than just getting rid of it, what if we replaced it with two different axes? What would be some fun ideals, concepts, or domains to align characters to?

NOTE: This thread is not for discussing D&D's current alignment system. It is also not for discussing WotC's recent announcements. Instead, I would like to use this thread as a fun brainstorming discussion on alternate ways to describe alignment, even if those ideas would not fit everyone's campaigns!

Here are some ideas I had:

Traditional - Changing
Individualist - Egalitarian

In this campaign, characters and creatures would choose how much they want to continue their culture's old traditions or rebel against them. At the same time, they decide how much of their character's moral compass has to do with making their own lives better versus improving the lives of their community. So a Traditional Individualist is someone who might want to rise to the top of a trade or occupation in their culture, while a Traditional Egalitarian might be someone who performs a necessary but selfless task for their community. Meanwhile, a Changing Egalitarian may try to change the laws or traditions of their culture to make things better, and a Changing Individualist is an extremely adaptive person who is always trying new ways of life.

You could also do something really specific to a setting, like:

Ignan - Aquatic
Nature - Technology

In this campaign, the world is made up of vast oceans surrounding volcanic islands. The people can be very industrious, but the smoke and pollution from their creations raises the ire of the natural world. Someone who is Ignan Nature may have strong emotions and drive, which allows them to fight on behalf of nature. An Ignan Technology character, on the other hand, uses their irrepressible curiosity to fashion or use innovative technologies. An Aquatic Technology character may have the drive to explore and travel, using ships and submarines. However, an Aquatic Nature character is defensive and guarded, with an innate connection to sea life.

Obviously these are just rough ideas, but it's fun to think about!

What are some of your ideas for Alignment Axes?

(And I hope I don't need to say it, but let's leave the political axes to the real world. Let's not use words like Democratic, Republican, Conservative, or Liberal, and if you really need to, I suggest using a thesaurus!)

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I really like what Pendragon RPG does with their 13 traits, and I think it would be a deeper and more interesting replacement for alignment for some styles of gameplay in D&D. Each axis is on a scale of 0-15. No trait is neccessarily better or worse than another, although different cultures value different traits. Your character gets benefits for having (and keeping, through gameplay consistent with high scores in those traits) high scores in the traits your culture values, but too high a score will force your character to act in ways that may not be in your best interest.

The trait axises are Chaste/Lustful, Energetic/Lazy, Forgiving/Vengeful, Generous/Selfish, Honest/Deceitful, Modest/Proud, Just/Arbitrary, Merciful/Cruel, Prudent/Reckless, Spiritual/Worldly, Temperate/Indulgent, Trusting/Suspicious, Valourous/Cowardly.


Long-time Lurker
Why limit yourself to two axis? From one I've borrowed and adapted:

The Authoritarian-Egalitarian axis looks at whether political power belongs in the hands of the few or the many.
The Materialist-Spiritualist axis looks at whether the unknowns of the multiverse can be explained by natural laws or the existence of something greater.
The Militarist-Pacifist axis looks at whether the military options should be used offensively or strictly defensively.
The Xenophile-Xenophobe axis looks at whether other species and cultures should be embraced or distrusted.

Might drop the last one in the current climate, but it should provide a decent template for roleplaying, I think.


Why limit yourself to two axis?
Yup. We had a thread about this topic over on rpg.net a few years ago. This is what I wrote in there.

The funny thing is that D&D already has a 3 axis opposed elemental structure, with positive and negative energy neatly mapping to two other 5th elements that have repeatedly appeared in various media - Spirit/Heart and Void. If you assign moral qualities to the elements and roll the inner and outer planes together, you get something like -

Air/Earth: Fast, erratic change vs slow, structured change.

Fire/Water: aggressive and destructive vs creative and peaceful

Heart/Void: Social and empathic vs solitary and selfish.

Which are qualities that are a lot easier to define precisely than good/evil law/chaos, and would also make for a good alternate cosmology. Taking the existing D&D planes and rearranging them to fit, and then adding a few new ones to fill the gaps got me this result.
Air/Fire/Heart: Ysgard. Fight hard, love hard, and if you are slain, it matters not. The land is tumnultous, loyalties are ever-shifting, and the only thing that truly matters is your personal honor.

Air/Fire/N: Feywild/City of Brass with an emphasis on fey & genies as dangerous tricksters. They may not actually kill you, but you can't trust them an inch, they're incapable of genuine lasting creativity, and you'll rarely get the better of a deal with them.

Air/Fire/Void: The Abyss. I am the only person that matters, and you will obey my every whim, or be destroyed.

Air/N/Heart: Arborea. Be excellent to one another, and party on Dudes!

Air/N/N: Air.

Air/N/Void: Pandemonium. When you are disconnected from everyone, even yourself, and there are no constants you can rely upon, what is left but howling madness?

Air/Water/Heart: Beastlands. The circle of life is all connected. The details constantly change from time to time and place to place, but there is a natural balance to everything, and though some may fall, the whole gets ever grander and more complex as time goes on.

Air/Water/N: Limbo. Life is an ever-changing thing, like clouds in the sky, or foam on the sea. You can create great things in an instant with an effort of will, but they will dissolve again and become something new as soon as your attention wanders.

Air/Water/Void: The Far Realm as Cancerverse. There is no death here, only endless life, mutating, mating and consuming each other endlessly in an obscene blind organic dance. Go there, and you may not technically be dead, but you certainly won't be you anymore.

N/Fire/Heart: Nine Hells as a testing ground. We care sincerely about you, each and every one. Which is why we want to make sure that your torment is personally tailored to your flaws and sins, so you will either be destroyed, or come out stronger.

N/Fire/N: Fire

N/Fire/Void: Gehenna. Personal strength is all that matters. Charm and deception are irrelevant. I must become the strongest.

N/N/Heart: Positive energy, the source of life, but too much will burn you out.

N/N/N: Outlands or prime material, depending on if you want neutrality as an active force or not.

N/N/Void: Negative energy, where only undead roam, hollow shells of what they used to be, trapped in a cycle of eternal repetition.

N/Water/Heart: Mount Celestia. We always strive to be better than we are and fulfil our potential, and the best way to do that is by love and understanding.

N/Water/N: Water.

N/Water/Void: Take bits of Ravenloft/Gothic earth playing down the imprisonment aspect, but playing up the mad scientist one. I have a dream, no-one cares about it but me, and I will go to any lengths to achieve it! Everything else is irrelevant!

Earth/Fire/Heart: Acheron. There is only war, loyalty to your army is all-important, and everyone else must be destroyed.

Earth/Fire/N: Nine Hells as oppressive colonialist state. They explore the multiverse looking for fuel for their dark satanic mills, for their own lands are polluted wastelands from an eternity of exploitation, and their cities are bureaucratic nightmares that chew you up and spit you out, unless you learn how to play the game, and become the exploiter rather than the exploited.

Earth/Fire/Void: Carceri: You are a prisoner. There is no-escape, no redemption, and no-one you can trust. Unless you can change, and change is hard in a place that constantly drags you down and tries to destroy you.

Earth/N/Heart: Arcadia. A place for everything, and everything in it's place. Everything is connected. As long as you stay in your place, things will be nice for everyone.

Earth/N/N: Earth.

Earth/N/Void: The Grey Waste. Depression cuts you off from everyone, and seems to go on forever. Nothing matters, nothing can change, and even if it did, it wouldn't make you feel better anyway. Why even bother trying?

Earth/Water/Heart: Bytopia. We build a community, with whatever we have, we build it to last, and fill it with love.

Earth/Water/N: The akashic record, the eternal library. All that happens in the multiverse is recorded here, if you can just find it and understand the myriad formats it's recorded in.

Earth/Water/Void: Mechanus as steampunk dystopia. The universe is a massive machine and you are an insignificant speck. You can serve the gears, and become part of the machine, or be ground beneath them. No-one will care either way.
The Myers Briggs personality test also seems quite adaptable into a replacement for D&D alignment. The Myers & Briggs Foundation - MBTI® Basics

More flippantly, there's also the Monkey/Dinosaur and Pirate/Ninja alignment square from the 2004 April Fools Dragon issue, that also makes for a functional, yet profoundly silly cosmological conflict. (with humans firmly on the monkey side of the axis)

Edit: And let's not forget the greatest, most serious cosmological conflict of all time.
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Necro or not...

I would seriously consider something more akin to the Magic the Gathering Color Pie so that the axis is a little more complex and nuanced than a two-axis system that includes "good and evil," which tends to put the thumb down quite heavily on the ethics and morality scale.


B/X Known World
I prefer the old-school approach of alignment as law vs chaos and it's more about factions than personal ethics.

If I were to do an alignment chart that reflected personal ethics, it would much more closely mirror what's already been posted in the Authoritarian vs Freedom axis combined with an Egalitarian vs Egoist axis.

Voidrunner's Codex

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