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General Alternate Alignment for an all-goblin campaign

BookTenTiger

Adventurer
The thread on Hobgoblins made me start fantasizing about running an all-goblin campaign. The players would play as Goblins, Bugbears, and Hobgoblins in an Empire of Goblinoids. Maybe there would be ancient elven and dwarven ruins, a rival empire of orcs, and so on...

I started thinking about alignment. Since Goblinoids are the default race, the standard alignment of good - neutral - evil / lawful - neutral - chaotic doesn't make much sense. I thought it would be fun to replace it with something else.

So I came up with this idea for an alternate alignment, based on the characteristics of goblins, bugbears, and hobgoblins, which range from brash to cowardly, from selfish to group-minded:

First axis: Initiative
Ambitious - Shrewd - Cautious

Ambitious
: Your Goblinoid has strong desires for power, wealth, or land. You are not content to sit around and let others enjoy the spoils!
Shrewd: Your Goblinoid is neither the first through the door nor the last. You feel satisfied with your lot in life.
Cautious: Your Goblinoid calls themselves cautious because they don't like the sound of 'cowardly.' You are rarely the first to act; this is probably why you are still alive!

Second axis: Loyalty
Individualist - Partisan - Nationalist

Individualist:
Your Goblinoid is motivated by self-interest and survival. You will usually act first to protect yourself or meet your needs before others.
Partisan: Your Goblinoid is loyal to a group, be it a troop, clan, or fellow scavengers. You will act to protect those who you care about, or who are worthwhile allies.
Nationalist: Your Goblinoid is a diehard loyalist to the Goblin Empire! You act in ways that bring honor, spoils, or vengeance to your nation, even if that means self-sacrifice!

Here's what some characters might look like:

Gorug, an Ambitious Partisan Bugbear Barbarian
Gorug is a Bugbear Rogue who is loyal to current crew, but not to those he worked with in the past. Gorug wants glory and gold, but will usually hold back from leaping into situations that could hurt his teammates.

Shazak the Tall, a Cautious Nationalist Hobgoblin Paladin
Shazak is loyal to the Goblin Empire, and knows all the Tenets of Goblinkind by heart. However, he is loathe to put himself in danger; he would rather rally some goblins or maybe a big meaty bugbear to charge in first!

Rateye Rufus, a Shrewd Individualist Goblin Warlock
Rateye Rufus finds his own way through life. He made a deal with a Sewer Demon and he's sticking with it. He follows the group because it's better to let a big bugbear take a few hits, but he's not afraid to take what he wants- or what the Rat King desires.

Anyways, I thought this was a fun exercise. What would you think of using this kind of alignment system in an All-Goblin Campaign? Of course, this means all the other NPCs and even monsters would have to follow the same Alignment System... let's see, a Mind Flayer might be a Cautious Partisan, while a Deva might be a Shrewd Nationalist.

What would other alignments look like for other hyper-specific campaigns?
 

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J-H

Explorer
Goblins, like all other free-willed creatures, could be any alignment. My initial thoughts are:

Diplomatic/Neutral/Violent towards other creatures
Self-serving/Balanced/Communal towards wealth, gain, equipment, power, etc.
Rebellious/Balanced/Obedient towards authority structures
 

In general I would say that if the alignment system isn't working for your campaign, then it's probably best to discard it entirely rather than replace it. Alignment in the modern game is a tool of convenience. It should be abandoned when it ceases to be convenient.

Taken for what you have, it feels very goblin-like but the second axis I don't like as well because it seems like it's not very distinct from the law-chaos axis. I also don't like the feel of forcing it on the players. Maybe if it were a one-shot, but not a whole campaign.

I guess I would rather players pick a few personality traits rather than an alignment.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
The Individualist to Nationalist one works well for goblins.

However the other one feels weird for D&D gobbos as they more range from bugbear laziness to hobgoblin workaholicism. All D&D goblins are ambitious and cautious. The driving factor in movement to them are the amount of work it entails and current personal safety. Gobliniods are only first in the door if forced, hanging back is more expensive, or the window of opportunity is closing.
 

BookTenTiger

Adventurer
The Individualist to Nationalist one works well for goblins.

However the other one feels weird for D&D gobbos as they more range from bugbear laziness to hobgoblin workaholicism. All D&D goblins are ambitious and cautious. The driving factor in movement to them are the amount of work it entails and current personal safety. Gobliniods are only first in the door if forced, hanging back is more expensive, or the window of opportunity is closing.

What would you replace it with?
 

MGibster

Legend
In general I would say that if the alignment system isn't working for your campaign, then it's probably best to discard it entirely rather than replace it. Alignment in the modern game is a tool of convenience. It should be abandoned when it ceases to be convenient.
Bacon Bits is both delicious and wise. Furthermore, D&D has been moving away from alignments for nigh on 20 years now. There are no longer alignment restrictions on most classes and the old favorite "Detect Evil" no longer exists in its original form. It won't hurt your game in the least if you just eliminate the idea of alignment altogether.
 

BookTenTiger

Adventurer
Bacon Bits is both delicious and wise. Furthermore, D&D has been moving away from alignments for nigh on 20 years now. There are no longer alignment restrictions on most classes and the old favorite "Detect Evil" no longer exists in its original form. It won't hurt your game in the least if you just eliminate the idea of alignment altogether.

But that's not why I created this thread! I mean, I basically ignore alignment in my normal D&D thread.

I think alignment could be used as a way to get players in the mindset of a different culture, like a goblinoid empire.

Or, let's say everyone was playing as Celestials, and the campaign was about corruption within the Heavenly Order. Because they are angels, everyone is basically going to be Lawful and Good. So it would be fun to play around within that idea of Lawful Good and create an alignment scale that shows some different shades of lawfulness and goodness! Like this:

Dogmatic - Tenacious - Impartial
Dogmatic - You follow the tenets of the Holy Order exactly.
Tenacious - You pick and choose a few tenets to follow voraciously.
Impartial - Though you recognize the importance of the Tenets of the Holy Order, you don't focus on enforcing them.

Utilitarian - Teleological - Deontological
Utilitarian - You do good in order to help the most people possible.
Teleological - You do good in order to achieve positive results quickly.
Deontological - You do good because you follow a set of rules that guide you to do good.

So you could wind up with a Dogmatic Teleological Angel who wants to solve problems immediately through use of the Tenets of the Holy Order (whatever that is) and a Impartial Utilitarian Angel who wants to help the most people possible but doesn't care if their methods match the Tenets of the Holy Order in the same adventuring angel party.

It's fun!

Systems are fun!
 



BookTenTiger

Adventurer
This absolutely could work... but I think you need more than 3 races
I've been going back and forth on that. It might be fun to have one "outsider" race, like orc or lizardfolk. But if I want this imaginary campaign to be focused on the story of the Goblinoid Empire, then it would be interesting to limit it to goblin races.

To add some variety to the three goblin races, I could borrow subraces from other D&D races... Maybe some Gnome and Halfling subraces for the goblins, and so on.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
I think an outsider race (lizardfolk is a really good candidate IMO) would ad some variety... aaaaand you know some players really like to play the outsider, it gives them an outlet to do that.
 

GreenTengu

Adventurer
An alternate alignment system isn't such a terrible idea in this regard.

In fact, something like this certainly gets more at the heart of "who are you and what drives you?" than the classic alignment system does. "good" and "evil" are so hopelessly nebulous and "law" and "chaos" can be entirely unhelpful too as it often depends very much on where the rules on coming from in regards to a character's likelihood to obey them. And someone saying that they follow their own internal code is well... totally not helpful, everyone follows their own internal code.

Really, what the whole thing ought to get at is "What does your character want, and what are they willing to do to get it?" so that the DM knows what sort of prize to float out there to get the adventurer invested in the adventure.

Also "To what degree is the character selfish or altruistic?"

Obviously altruistic characters are better as, despite whatever it is they want, they also want to make sure the rest of their pack stays alive and gets what they want too. Despite being categorized as "evil", it strikes me that it cannot be so unusual for goblins to be altruistic towards their own tribe, even if it rarely extends beyond that, given just how many babies they are raising in such squalid conditions and yet still manage to get a remarkable number of them alive to adulthood.... Bugbears, however, might be on the opposite end of that. It always seemed to me that Bugbears were characterized by no more than a few of them sticking together and liking to live somewhere deep in the wilds where no one else can bother them. They must get tired of being around others for too long and their self-serving attitude means that if there are ever more than a few of them living together, they must start to bicker and the groups splits up and going their separate ways.
 

BookTenTiger

Adventurer
I think an outsider race (lizardfolk is a really good candidate IMO) would ad some variety... aaaaand you know some players really like to play the outsider, it gives them an outlet to do that.
In the 5e game I'm playing in, there are three Dwarves, two half-elves, and a Goliath. The Goliath is definitely the outsider character.

In the game I'm running, there are three players playing "native" or local races (Tortle, Aasimar, Tiefling), and one playing a Goliath. The Goliath is, again, the outsider.

So I think it is a good idea to have a Goliath analogue.
 

BookTenTiger

Adventurer
An alternate alignment system isn't such a terrible idea in this regard.

In fact, something like this certainly gets more at the heart of "who are you and what drives you?" than the classic alignment system does. "good" and "evil" are so hopelessly nebulous and "law" and "chaos" can be entirely unhelpful too as it often depends very much on where the rules on coming from in regards to a character's likelihood to obey them. And someone saying that they follow their own internal code is well... totally not helpful, everyone follows their own internal code.
I think that's it right there.

I feel like traditional alignment fits in campaigns in which law and chaos, good and evil, really mean something and are thematic to the events. But often alignment gets ignored because it's just not important to the storytelling.

I guess this whole experiment shows me that you CAN use alignment as part of the world building.

In fact, it would be fun to develop unique alignment axes with the players as part of a Session 0!

For example, if the group decides they want a campaign themed around survival and the outdoors, you could ask:

Who are you?
Woodsmen, travelers, barbarians, druids...

What do you want?
Conservation, hunting, exploration...

So you might wind up with:
Cosmopolitan - Rural - Wild

Conservationist - Explorer - Poacher

Or something like that!
 

I was avoiding this thread at first, but after reading the OP, I actually like it. Not sure about the Indivualist - Partisan - Nationalist axis though. The first one feels really goblin-ish. Though I also admit I like the idea of instead of a couple of alignment axis, to have the players pick some traits. Perhaps group them similar to axis, but I don't think I would force a player to pick from each group. Maybe having 4-6 groups and having players pick from 3 or more would be sufficient.

Now I'm wondering how I could use a similar idea is a regular campaign. More than just Bonds, Flaws, etc...
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
Perhaps a good "outsider" would be a troll-kin. Some creature that isn't a full blown troll, but has perhaps a weak regeneration and scent?

Or a half ogre?
 

KahlessNestor

Adventurer
I've been going back and forth on that. It might be fun to have one "outsider" race, like orc or lizardfolk. But if I want this imaginary campaign to be focused on the story of the Goblinoid Empire, then it would be interesting to limit it to goblin races.

To add some variety to the three goblin races, I could borrow subraces from other D&D races... Maybe some Gnome and Halfling subraces for the goblins, and so on.
If it is a Goblinoid Empire, this shouldn't be too hard. Empire implies rule over people other than your own (as opposed to kingdom, which typically meant a more homogeneous population). The Bourbon Kingdom of France vs the Hapsburg Empire. So it isn't inconceivable that your Goblinoid Empire has an elite Elven archery unit drawn from conquered elven lands. Something like the Jannisaries. Or maybe a dwarven mountain unit, or a halfling spec ops team.
 

BookTenTiger

Adventurer
If it is a Goblinoid Empire, this shouldn't be too hard. Empire implies rule over people other than your own (as opposed to kingdom, which typically meant a more homogeneous population). The Bourbon Kingdom of France vs the Hapsburg Empire. So it isn't inconceivable that your Goblinoid Empire has an elite Elven archery unit drawn from conquered elven lands. Something like the Jannisaries. Or maybe a dwarven mountain unit, or a halfling spec ops team.
Love these ideas!
 

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