Thursday, July 19, 2012

House Rule: No Alignment

The chart at right should look familiar to old-school gamers.  It's the metric by which we have gauged character behavior for years (until 4th Edition, but that's beside the point).  As I was dreaming up the house rules that would define the setting I am using further (the originator of the setting, which is Antediluvia, dreamed up several things which I've posted and am using currently), I decided that in order to get a real sword & sorcery or sword & planet feel, I needed to abolish alignment.  Of course, this does have an effect on the game - not as much as in 3.X, but it does have one.  For instance, what do you do when an alignment-based spell is cast?  Well, in the case of something that detects evil, evil is defined morally for most of us from an early age.  Sure, someone will try to make the case that evil is "subjective," but that's a bunch of hogwash as far as I'm concerned.  The priest about to sacrifice someone in the evil temple?  Yeah, that's evil.  How about the goblin about to do 1d8 points of damage to your face?  Evil also.  So it can be done rather easily in many situations.

Instead of alignment, I have decided to have players choose 3 adjectives that describe the personality of their character best.  At the simplest level that means defining your character in 3 words.  I am also going to encourage them to pick at least one positive and one negative word - those being subjective to the viewpoint of the player, surely.  Every one of us has different facets to our personality.  If I was labeling myself, I might use "jovial" as a positive, "procrastinator" as a negative, and for an extra, "intense."  That's just how I see it.  This will allow players to worry less about the game mechanic of alignment dictating their character's behavior and facilitate the development of the character a bit more.  Think about it - Conan was honorable in many situations, yet there are numerous stories where he killed and thieved the whole way through.  Sword & sorcery characters should operate more in that gray area for which they are famous.  It also will not be random, since I want players to use their imaginations.  No d30 tables will appear on this blog for this rule, mark my words!

6 comments:

  1. It is something I have been considering in my own setting, as Alignment to me hampers, more than helps Role Playing. As a DM I tend to make sure that the players understand that they will be judged by their actions "in game".

    It may even serve me better to not even allow alignment to be discussed and simply track the actions of the players on a morality scale. However that may be subjective, as morality tends to be.

    What is Good and what is Evil? It all depends I would guess. I like your idea however, kinda reminds me of Pendragon's take on "Alignment".

    ERIC!

    P.S. Nice blog, thanks for visiting mine!

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    1. Thanks for the words - I've always dug your blog, great work there!

      I liked the idea in older editions of D&D where alignment was viewed as something best kept secret, so maybe in later games I'll bring it back, but not for this game world.

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  2. Right on, I've never been a big fan of alignment. Most especially alignment languages, though I've never gone so far as to remove alignment all together.

    I agree that in real life it is difficult to nail down "evil" without turning towards relativism. However, in a gaming world we can make "evil" objective or subjective since we're in charge of gameworld reality..

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    1. Spot on. Even from a Christian viewpoint, which I have, there are many gray areas that aren't spoken about exclusively in scripture, and even then some of those can be debated from theological standpoints. I'm a huge fan of the characters in a S&S adventure setting operating within those gray areas. Makes them interesting. Ugly characters make for interesting stories. I like to think of the characters from my favorite TV show of all time, The Shield - dirty cops, but some were good family men, etc. Just trying to make the game a little less constricting as far as what characters are required to maintain ethically. You can't put all that in a bucket on an axis.

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  3. I dropped alignment from my campaign some time ago and I have considered moving to an allegiance system of some sort allowing characters to have ties to various things. The allegiances might provide small mechanic bonuses but create an expectation of how a character will act (and react). Never quite committed to though.

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    1. I thought about the same thing - I like how Cavalier orders are handled in Pathfinder - codes of ethics that can be translated into game terms (I've always loved the way you can translate anything in 3.X into game terms - that's the rules wonk in me) but for the purposes of this campaign I moved all that stuff to the back seat. If the player really wants to have a code of honor or something like that, I have no problems. There's room for it. But they're going to come up with it with my input - I definitely want them using their imagination and making the characters theirs. I purposely imposed rules to keep them alive longer from Level 1 on (mainly padding hp deeply), and I want them to continue with the same characters for a while since all the stories had that continuity to them, whether it's Conan, Fafhrd/Grey Mouser, Brak, Solomon Kane, etc.

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