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D&D 5E Breaking down alignment to a basic core

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
9 alignments? Get rid of them. Sure, Lancelot is lawful good and Han Solo is chaotic good, but 90% of the time, players just ignore that level of detail anyway. Also, people are way more nuanced than that. Depending on scenario (and mood), a person could be lawful good one day, and chaotic neutral the next (well, maybe not that radical, but close).

Suggestion? Make alignment similar to B/X. Good, neutral, and evil. Good means you generally try to do things the society views as good, but aren't tied to always following the rules, or always willing to break the rules. You could, but no one cares about enforcing that in game for the entire campaign. Also, every humanoid species in the MM doesn't have a default alignment. It is whatever the DM put is at for that particular region and culture. Again, you absolutely can have all orcs evil, but maybe there's a clan that isn't.
 

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aco175

Legend
I'd be fore just having PCs be listed as good or maybe neutral. Most of my players play the same alignment all the time anyways. They are generally good and try to do the right thing. They bit on the normal plots of rescuing and saving things.

Monster on the other hand, I like having a general alignment for knowing that individuals can be different. If there is a new monster like a moon dog or something, I would like to know if they were intended to be more like NPCs or monsters.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
I'd be fore just having PCs be listed as good or maybe neutral. Most of my players play the same alignment all the time anyways. They are generally good and try to do the right thing. They bit on the normal plots of rescuing and saving things.

Monster on the other hand, I like having a general alignment for knowing that individuals can be different. If there is a new monster like a moon dog or something, I would like to know if they were intended to be more like NPCs or monsters.
Monsters, yes. Humanoids, no
 

I've thought about using a hybrid 1e/4e alignment system, inspired by this chart:

alignment-chart.jpg

Lawful Good Saintly
Good Beatific
Evil Diabolic
Chaotic Evil Demoniac

Creatures that fall in the middle are either Neutral or Unaligned depending on whether they are intelligent enough to have moral agency.
 

payn

Legend
I like the way Law/Chaos plays into games way too much to give up on it. It's easy enough to ignore alignment now anyways.
 

JustinCase

the magical equivalent to the number zero
I agree with your first paragraph, but disagree with the second. Then I agree once more on the "no default alignment for humanoids".

I'll refrain from voting, then.
 


My house rules about alignment:

Adding allegiance (race, tribe, religion, fatherland, family, brotherhood) and allowing opposite allegiance+alignment, for example a sheriff who breaks rules to defend the order would be chaotic with law allegiance, and a rebel who commits terrorist attacks in the name of the fight against the tyranny would be evil with "supreme good" allegiance. The spells and powers with key alignment can hurt enemies with same one but different allegiance, for example drow cleric vs orc shaman. Then being neutral doesn't help to avoid higher damage.

My idea of chaotic alignment is to be attuned with primal forces or nature, or only obeying code of rules linked with the allegiance. Sun Wukong, the famous Chinese monkey king (Dragon Ball was based in Journey into the West) would be an example of chaotic alignment but disciplined training as a monk.
 

Personally, I still use the 9 alignments with the alignment chart from the Old Dragon Lance Adventure in 1ed. You have 10 points. Playing your alignment moves you toward the right (10) of your alignment by one. Doing something against your alignment moves you to the left (1-0). If you hit zero, your alignement shifts toward the alignment zone that caused your shifts. A neutral component has -5/0/5. Only in doing extreme good, evil, lawful or chaotic actions will move the bar one way or the other.

Some actions will move the bar faster than other. The killing of innocents, refusing to get paid for a risky mission etc... might move the bar more than one notch. If you change alignment, -1 level for each component that moved. So a lawful Good character turning neutral will get -2 levels. I have done this for 30+ years and it works like a charm. It encourages players to play their alignment as best as possible. It also make players make characters that fits with each other's goals (but not always, that is the fun of it. Isn't it?).
 

Orius

Hero
Not a good idea, IMO. Alignment arguments seem to break down along the good-evil axis more often than law-chaos because good and evil are more subjective than law and chaos and generate more heated disagreement.
 


akr71

Hero
I've thought about using a hybrid 1e/4e alignment system, inspired by this chart:

View attachment 127205

Lawful Good Saintly
Good Beatific
Evil Diabolic
Chaotic Evil Demoniac

Creatures that fall in the middle are either Neutral or Unaligned depending on whether they are intelligent enough to have moral agency.
I've thought about giving my players that graphic and plot out where they are on it. Maybe no literally plot it out, but just think about it, so that it drives home that it is a sliding scale - not absolute values to choose from.

However I really don't pay that much attention to alignment unless the characters do something that feels really off - like a necromancer claiming she's CG and then cheerfully murdering an unconscious person just to regain some lost HP. An unconscious person they were supposed to rescue, btw.
 

Gadget

Adventurer
I've always thought that the Cartesian Coordinate Alignment system was trying to do too much for too little benefit. I get that Good vs Evil, and to a somewhat lesser degree, Law vs Chaos, have been important parts of the fantasy genre. But I feel it leads to too much of 'filling in the matrix syndrome' with mechanics and game design. It really isn't need for players so much, especially now that alignment has been largely divorced from mechanics (though I can see a counter argument with paladins & clerical types).

I enjoyed 4e's take on it where it was more along the spectrum of Lawful Good, Good, Unaligned, Evil, & Chaotic Evil. Not ideal for all cases, but I especially liked the 'Unaligned' option, as I thought it felt much better than 'Neutral.' You may have had your own values and priorities, but on the cosmic scale, you weren't really involved.

That said, I can see a more BECMI system filling in the alignment role better. Instead of Good, Neutral, & Evil, I would go along the lines of Law, Unaligned, & Chaos. Many instances would seem to have Law = Good & Evil = Chaos, but this would leave some wiggle room for Chaos serving a good purpose, and Law being used for evil.
 

Stormonu

Legend
I really liked how d20 modern handled this sort of thing with Allegiances. You chose up to three descriptors that described things that your character believes in. They could be things like Law/Order, Chaos/Self/Anarchy, Good, Evil, Church, Government, State, Freedom, Nine Inch Nails or whatever else you wanted. Interacting with someone with the same allegiance gave you a +2 bonus to Charisma checks and might open up certain avenues or options (for example, someone with allegiance to the Harpers might be able to call on a fellow Harper for aid or a place to stay, or might make a certain subclass available. Maybe certain magic items only work for those who pledge allegiance to the Harpers, and so on.).
 

DammitVictor

Druid of the Invisible Hand
Just. Kill it. Already.

This mechanic has never been good, and WotC has already removed its influence from every other mechanic it previously touched.

It doesn't add anything to the game, it never did, and it has finally-- finally-- stopped dragging the game down. It doesn't need to be fixed any further; it's time to let it go.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Just. Kill it. Already.

This mechanic has never been good, and WotC has already removed its influence from every other mechanic it previously touched.

It doesn't add anything to the game, it never did, and it has finally-- finally-- stopped dragging the game down. It doesn't need to be fixed any further; it's time to let it go.

This is a bit hyperbolic. From the perspective of verisimilitude to real life, sure. But the nine-alignment system has been a long-time aspect of D&D lore AND mechanics. Over time, the mechanics related to alignment have been watered down (e.g. no more alignment languages) but 5e still nods to those of us who continue to use alignment by having some magic items usable only by characters of certain alignments.

In my current campaign, alignment is important. It is less about a character's psychology and character (although it can affect both) and more about a cosmic battle over how reality should be ordered. Yes, the great-wheel and similar cosmologies aligned to alignment are ham-fisted, but this is a game, not an exercise in philosophy.

At some point, if you keep taking away these weird bits of D&D, it stops becoming D&D. Already alignment is clearly an optional subsystem in 5e. I don't see needing to get rid of it entirely. You can have settings that don't use alignment and those where it features front and center.
 

DammitVictor

Druid of the Invisible Hand
TBut the nine-alignment system has been a long-time aspect of D&D lore AND mechanics.
That's really nowhere near the same thing as being good. There are a lot of other game concepts that were introduced between OD&D and AD&D that were just plain terrible, inexcusably bad, that were thankfully removed much earlier than racial ASIs and the alignment rules. Exceptional Strength. Separate Strength maximums for female characters. The weapons vs. armor tables. Training rules.

The Lawful <-> Balance <-> Chaos alignment system of Moorcock is weirdly specific compared to non-Moorcockian fantasy but at least it's a consistent and coherent system.

Adding the Good <-> Evil axis forces it to break down entirely, especially when you try to retain the concept and value of Balance between Good and Evil, which some AD&D (and later) material tries to flirt with. Then there's the fact that almost all AD&D (and later) material directly states that Lawful Good and Chaotic Good are equally good, then heavily implies that Lawful Good is the "greater good" of Good alignments, and then in practice in most D&D settings established that Lawful Good is an oxymoron.

No, it's not hyperbole. The rules and mechanics surrounding the nine-axis alignment system in AD&D (and later) have always been a treacherous mess because they're built on a foundation of absolute goddamned nonsense.

If we're going to start resurrecting incoherent jank from last century's D&D, why can't we start with multiclassing or something? Those rules were bad, but at least they did what they were supposed to do and they're better than we have now.

Over time, the mechanics related to alignment have been watered down (e.g. no more alignment languages) but 5e still nods to those of us who continue to use alignment by having some magic items usable only by characters of certain alignments.
You don't need the existing alignment rules for this. You especially don't need someone to bring them back for this.

Does the item have an ethos? Does the player fit that ethos? Done. Simply having that conversation with the player, on a case by case basis is simpler, easier, and more fair than trying to lump every sentient being in your world into that ridiculous 3x3 grid.


In my current campaign, alignment is important. It is less about a character's psychology and character (although it can affect both) and more about a cosmic battle over how reality should be ordered. Yes, the great-wheel and similar cosmologies aligned to alignment are ham-fisted, but this is a game, not an exercise in philosophy.

So... to be clear, the reason that everything in the game world needs to be assigned an arbitrary spiritual/ideological category pertaining to the metaphysical underpinnings of the cosmology... is because you don't want your game to be bogged down in a bunch of philosophical minutia? Is that really an accurate summary of the position you're taking here?


At some point, if you keep taking away these weird bits of D&D, it stops becoming D&D. Already alignment is clearly an optional subsystem in 5e. I don't see needing to get rid of it entirely. You can have settings that don't use alignment and those where it features front and center.
Sure. I agree with this. But that means that the alignment rules need to be marked (optional) the way feats and multiclassing are, and the list of D&D settings that use those rules wouldn't be "all of them". They shouldn't even be in the core rulebooks, because if multiple settings are going to be based on such a weird and specific and frankly boring and awful concept, they should at least do it differently.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Adding the Good <-> Evil axis forces it to break down entirely, especially when you try to retain the concept and value of Balance between Good and Evil, which some AD&D (and later) material tries to flirt with. Then there's the fact that almost all AD&D (and later) material directly states that Lawful Good and Chaotic Good are equally good, then heavily implies that Lawful Good is the "greater good" of Good alignments, and then in practice in most D&D settings established that Lawful Good is an oxymoron.
To the great surprise of no one, I liked how 4e did Alignment, which IMHO, captured (1) Basic D&D's Law vs. Chaos paradigm while also (2) reflecting mythic values of Order being "good" and Chaos being "bad," wherein Evil is regarded as both a perversion of Cosmological Order and Goodness. This also avoids the whole "equal goodness" bit.
 

embee

Lawyer by day. Rules lawyer by night.
Good means you generally try to do things the society views as good, but aren't tied to always following the rules, or always willing to break the rules.

Define "society." And define "good."

Otherwise, under your proposal, you could defend apartheid and be "good" so long as "society" deems apartheid as for its own subjective good.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
So... to be clear, the reason that everything in the game world needs to be assigned an arbitrary spiritual/ideological category pertaining to the metaphysical underpinnings of the cosmology... is because you don't want your game to be bogged down in a bunch of philosophical minutia? Is that really an accurate summary of the position you're taking here?

Depends on the campaign, but often, yep!
 

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