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D&D General More Nuanced Alignment?

Zardnaar

Legend
Alignment arguements are always fun. My belief is that it's mostly subjective, most people like to think of themselves as good and their beliefs are what counts as good. I'm more cosmic scale.

Good. Willing to help others.

Neutral Indifferent or screw you I got mine.

Evil. Willing to hurt or exploit others.

Very simple. Anyway I play a game czked Stellaris and it has 8 ethics. You can be normal or fanatic.

Materialist oppose by Spiritualism.
Xenophile opposed by Xenophobes.
Pacifism opposed by Militarist.
Authortarian opposed by Egalitarian.

You get there point to distribute (fanatic counts as two points). You then layer civics on top of that.

In the Stellaris universe the equivalent of alignment debates is assigning real life countries ethics and civics espicially the USA. Probably a lot easier as New Zealand (egalitarian, xenophile, pacifist with agricultural trait, welfare state good at trade).

Anyway no human culture is really fanatic anything (Sparta and North Korea might be exceptions). Dalejs fanatic Xenophobes.

Anyway if you were working on a value system to replace alignment what do you think of something like this as a basic starting point? It's still simplified but having a 20 point system or whatever is getting very complicated. Instead if a 3 by 3 alignment table you have a circle of values. I would probably tweak it to maybe 10 and gave Egalitarian oppose Materialism (in game materialism is science).
 

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Zardnaar

Legend
Or Ten.

Authortarian/Liberalism
Egalitarian/Materialism
Science/Spiritualism
Xenophile/Xenophobe
Militaristic/Pacifism.

3 points can't mix opposing ethics.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
I get alignment for monsters, it’s a good starting point for their motivation. But what purpose does it serve for players. For clerics and paladins, sure I can see that veering from Good might cause their gods to question their devotion (or whatever alignment the god cares about) but for most other classes what purpose does it serve?

To me the ideals and bonds serve as a better source of alignment. Is the character considering those or dismissing them? If so why, and what story elements can I introduce to challenge that?
 

Zardnaar

Legend
I get alignment for monsters, it’s a good starting point for their motivation. But what purpose does it serve for players. For clerics and paladins, sure I can see that veering from Good might cause their gods to question their devotion (or whatever alignment the god cares about) but for most other classes what purpose does it serve?

To me the ideals and bonds serve as a better source of alignment. Is the character considering those or dismissing them? If so why, and what story elements can I introduce to challenge that?

Seems a great idea for videogames where whatever you use one can get mechanical effects.

IRL what happens if a player just ignores whatever you're using though?

Older D&D punished you my one rewards you the punishment as such is opportunity cost.
 

DrunkonDuty

Adventurer
I would (and do) drop alignment entirely. People be people. Even the BBEGs should have something more to them than LE or CN or whatever.

The Stellaris options you mention are a better starting point than DnD alignments. But I still feel there's still no real need to have such simplistic system.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
I would (and do) drop alignment entirely. People be people. Even the BBEGs should have something more to them than LE or CN or whatever.

The Stellaris options you mention are a better starting point than DnD alignments. But I still feel there's still no real need to have such simplistic system.

Stellaris is basically point buy race, ethics and civics pick an authority (democracy, imperial etc) build your own civilization.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Hand each of your players a Political Compass and tell them to put a dot where their character is.

Or give 'em a basic rundown of the different moral philosophies and ask them to choose a moral philosophy and their values.

Or give them "Selfless, Ambitious, Responsible, Independent, Kind, Spiteful" and tell them to roll 6d6 to get their total points to spend on their different alignments. Max of 10 to any one alignment.

A person who is Ambitious and Spiteful is likely focused on their own desires and unkind to others. They may value their independence or prefer the responsibility of society.

A person who is mostly Ambitious and Kind is pretty much NG rogue. Could feel Responsibility to others or have an Independent streak.

Making them roll for their alignment points makes them think harder about the aspects of their character and how much "Spite" they want to add to their otherwise good person who throws out snarky spiteful answers.
 

Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
If you aren't attaching rules interactions to an alignment system....then it seems wasteful to develop the system in the first place.

So to develop a good alignment system I think you first need to identify how it will be used.
 

I do play Stellaris from time to time and keep I up to date but I do not think that the Civilisation compass works well with individuals. For those that do not like alignment; The current alignment system might not be perfect because it is either too restrictive for some, not enough for others and all the variations in between.

As long as what you do with alignment suits you and your players I really don't see the problem with the current system that we have. As I and many others have said in other threads, the current alignment system is a good tool. It is easy to use and to adapt.

The attempt you are doing with the Stellaris system is a perfect example of the current system not being precise enough for you. Thus, you are searching for a way to make it more precise and less "offensive" and thus, over complicating it in the end.

When you will be finished with your adaptation of the Stellaris system, you find that if you want to share your system that you will have to put a note saying that when applied to a race/ancestry/culture your system allows for individuals to be different from the usual member of their race/ancestry/culture ad no one wants to be part of a fanatical xenophobic expansionist race/ancestry/culture. And guess what? We already have that kind of warning in the MM and many do not even read it or accept that it is a good way to mitigate the effect of cultural alignment on individuals....

But if you really go for such a system as in Stellaris, you will see that you will have a lot of work ahead of you. With hundreds of entries in the MM and so many cultures in a campaign setting you're in for quite a task. I would take time to explain my goal to my players and have them help me out with the actual MM and campaign setting. Maybe you might start small with a small zone and just a few monsters/foes to see where this lead and if it works out for everyone. Again, not an easy task you ate undertaking here.
 

Hand each of your players a Political Compass and tell them to put a dot where their character is.

Or give 'em a basic rundown of the different moral philosophies and ask them to choose a moral philosophy and their values.

Or give them "Selfless, Ambitious, Responsible, Independent, Kind, Spiteful" and tell them to roll 6d6 to get their total points to spend on their different alignments. Max of 10 to any one alignment.

A person who is Ambitious and Spiteful is likely focused on their own desires and unkind to others. They may value their independence or prefer the responsibility of society.

A person who is mostly Ambitious and Kind is pretty much NG rogue. Could feel Responsibility to others or have an Independent streak.

Making them roll for their alignment points makes them think harder about the aspects of their character and how much "Spite" they want to add to their otherwise good person who throws out snarky spiteful answers.
this will end in alignment minmaxers
 

Zardnaar

Legend
I do play Stellaris from time to time and keep I up to date but I do not think that the Civilisation compass works well with individuals. For those that do not like alignment; The current alignment system might not be perfect because it is either too restrictive for some, not enough for others and all the variations in between.

As long as what you do with alignment suits you and your players I really don't see the problem with the current system that we have. As I and many others have said in other threads, the current alignment system is a good tool. It is easy to use and to adapt.

The attempt you are doing with the Stellaris system is a perfect example of the current system not being precise enough for you. Thus, you are searching for a way to make it more precise and less "offensive" and thus, over complicating it in the end.

When you will be finished with your adaptation of the Stellaris system, you find that if you want to share your system that you will have to put a note saying that when applied to a race/ancestry/culture your system allows for individuals to be different from the usual member of their race/ancestry/culture ad no one wants to be part of a fanatical xenophobic expansionist race/ancestry/culture. And guess what? We already have that kind of warning in the MM and many do not even read it or accept that it is a good way to mitigate the effect of cultural alignment on individuals....

But if you really go for such a system as in Stellaris, you will see that you will have a lot of work ahead of you. With hundreds of entries in the MM and so many cultures in a campaign setting you're in for quite a task. I would take time to explain my goal to my players and have them help me out with the actual MM and campaign setting. Maybe you might start small with a small zone and just a few monsters/foes to see where this lead and if it works out for everyone. Again, not an easy task you ate undertaking here.

I don't mind alignment that much although it's semi pointless in 5E.
 

I don't mind alignment that much although it's semi pointless in 5E.
I more or less agree. It was really defanged in 5ed because of some of the abuses some players and DM were doing with it in previous edition. We still have some magical items with which alignment will have a big impact but otherwise, it is entirely on the table to "enforce" or not alignment and the degree of which they are ready to have alignment being truly meaningfull beyond a simple guideline on how to play a creature or a PC...
 


Voadam

Legend
I think a 3 point good, neutral, evil alignment scale would be useful for quickly saying something is generally a good guy, bad guy, or meh/gray.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I don't have a problem with alignment as is, I would just add additional descriptors. Whether that's the TBIF or something else it doesn't really matter.

I don't really care what my players use to describe their PCs - that's up to them to use as they see fit. When it comes to NPCs and monsters, alignment still serves a purpose but having some additional descriptors that I can just glance at as a reminder or quick guide wouldn't be a bad thing.
 

We just had a big alignment thread where I said my piece, but I can't help but post a little something on the subject.

I prefer to think of alignments beyond Neutral as being held by exceptional people and think that D&D in general has been too free about assigning them to NPCs. I also usually imagine that when a player says their character is Chaotic Good, for example, what they really mean is "Neutral, with Chaotic Good tendencies".

In the general sense, Chaos promotes possibility and Law restricts it, with the reasons for that varying based on whether they are pure or diluted by Good or Evil.

  • A proponent of Chaotic Good believes that freedoms should only be restricted if it will almost certainly lead to evil. They believe that authority and hierarchy inevitably lead to oppression and advocate for a society where no one has authority over anyone else and all work for the collective good. They are optimistic about change and believe in the possibility of a society where selfishness does not exist.
  • A proponent of Chaos values change for its own sake, no matter what the result may be. They oppose a stagnant status quo and seek to drive change for the emergency of novelty. They believe that Good and Evil ideologies are inherently limiting and impose restrictions on themselves and existence itself.
  • A proponent of Chaotic Evil is concerned only with their own will and hates any limitations that would be placed upon it for the sake of others. True freedom for the individual comes from self-sufficiency and an ability to impose one's will on others not through outside authority, but one's own personal power. The ultimate goal of existence is to need nothing from anyone and to be able to do whatever you desire, even imposing upon others, without fear.
  • A proponent of Lawful Evil believes that a strong, central authority and regimented hierarchy is needed to guarantee the greatest possible benefits for the individual through the influence and power that central authority invests them with. Personal advancement in the hierarchy is the driving purpose of life. Though one may currently dislike their place in the system and strive to achieve greater heights, authority must be protected at all costs if one wishes to protect their position and capability for promotion.
  • A proponent of Law values certainty and conformity above all else. Everything must be standardized, regimented, categorized, and strictly controlled by a central authority. Good and Evil threaten Law by encouraging one care more about others or oneself more than the overarching authority. The system is more important than anything or anyone else; it must be dominant and eternal so that it can ensure continued stability and eliminate all uncertainties that could threaten order, and possibly existence itself.
  • A proponent of Lawful Good believes that a strong central authority is vital to maintain order and create an environment where people need not struggle against one another. They believe that all people should conform to the same values lest a diversity of opinion lead to conflict. They value a time-tested status quo and distrust those who advocate for change without compelling evidence that said change will be for the better of society. Even when they themselves believe that change is needed to better realize the aims of Good, they are cautious and work through official channels to make that change happen, fearful that too quickly forcing change will result in unintended consequences that degrade society by bringing about conflict and uncertainty.
Lawful Good and Chaotic Good fundamentally oppose one another, with Lawful Good condemning the latter as dangerously reckless and foolishly optimistic, while Chaotic Good decries the former as valuing order over justice and being so pessimistic about change that they would rather existing evils continue than take a chance at improving things for the better.

Lawful Evil and Chaotic Evil fundamentally oppose one another, as well. Lawful Evil individuals value both the power and certainty that authority grants. For example, the devils of the Nine Hells believe in the rulership of Asmodeus and in the system he has created and invested with his own power. It is through the authority granted by Asmodeus that a devil can be certain they will be promoted if they perform well and that they need not fear being stripped of power or destroyed at a whim. In contrast to Asmodeus, demon lords cannot be trusted to honor their word or reward those they have cowed into servitude under threat of destruction.

Lawful Neutral and Chaotic Neutral oppose each other the most of all. At its furthest extreme, Law would eliminate all possibilities save for the one which is most ideal for its own certain, indefinite existence, eliminating free will in the process.
 
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MechaTarrasque

Adventurer
Given that we are in a game where many players expect their PC's to engage in aggravated robbery and murder and still be "good" on the character sheets, I generally avoid overly deep views of good and evil.

Premise: you will do terrible things to someone or something (probably often). When you do, what is your primary feeling about it (on average)?

Enjoy it--you are evil.
Think of it as just business and try not to think any more--you are neutral
Feel bad about it--you are good.

One off things like feeling good about killing the demon that just ate your mama aren't going to change things, but the insidious thing about fiends is that if you also feel good about killing a different demon that ate your dog, that isn't a one-off anymore.... {two-offs probably won't do it either, but who is to say when it becomes a habit?]

For law and chaos, it is about how you want other people (elves, orcs, or what not) to think about you:

If your primary interest is to be respected--you are lawful (lawful types can also want to be [in]famous, but not at the expense of respectability)
If your primary interest is for everyone else not to think about you too much--you are neutral
If your primary interest is for other people to be impressed (or scared) by your strength, beauty, goodness, wealth, or anything else--you are chaotic (chaotic people can also want to be respectable, but not at the expense of their fame or infamy).

While this doesn't completely eliminate the crazy CN guy, it does make his player work a little harder.

In short:

LE: like hurting others and want to be respected (really like it if someone breaks the rules and becomes subject to the LE's tender [i.e., nonexistent] mercies)
LN: hurting others is "just business" and want to be respected
LG: feel bad about hurting others and want to be respected
CE: like hurting others and enjoy the infamy that comes with it (to paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy: if you always make sure there is one traumatized witness to spread tales of your greatness, you might be CE)
CN: hurting others is "just business" because you are too busy being awesome to develop any malice towards them
CG: feel bad about hurting others and want to show everyone that "good can be cool"
NE: like hurting others and don't want any witnesses
NN: hurting others is "just business" and might have to do some "business" with you if you don't stop thinking about me
NG: feel bad about hurting others and feel bad if anyone makes a big deal about you doing something nice
 


I think a DM should simply note defining actions character pose. Noting more.
Typical list will include
disobey local law
take risk to help a nobody
take risk to get retribution on a past en enemy
lie and screw honest deal

after several occurrence, a DM may find tendencies and make NPC react according to those.
 

I was brainstorming a PC idea today and came up with one who has an archfey of anarchy as their patron: Hyrsam, Prince of Fools.

Hyrsam was essentially an anarchist who opposed the influence of civilization on the Feywild. He openly resented the presence of fomorians in the Feywild, but also secretly shared similar sentiments toward elves, eladrin, and the Seldarine.
He traveled between fey kingdoms with his band of revelers and followers, purportedly to entertain the various courts. In reality, Hyrsam sought to foment political unrest by singing songs of sedition in secret. Many kingdoms fell in the wake of his visits.
Source

I was also inspired by an old 4E article featuring various pact details a Warlock could make with the Prince of Frost to create one for this character who receives aid from Hyrsam:
  1. Betray Authority. Gain the trust of authority figures, all the while plotting how to betray that trust in the most spectacular fashion.
  2. Punish the Deserving. Strike against those who despoil nature or arrogantly lord their authority over others.
  3. Spread Sedition. Covertly inspire ill will against authority figures and undermine their credibility.
So there you go, a code of behavior for a Chaotic Neutral character who opposes authority on principle. I also worded it to encourage long term subterfuge rather than spontaneous action (though they'll do that, too, if they think they can get away with it without jeopardizing schemes of grander scope).
 
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