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What's your Alignment?

Over at Anyway, Vincent posted the first in a series of "Unpopular Ideas for 2006", the first one being "have stats." Down in comment 13, someone suggested that "character classes" would show up in Vincent's series. To that I say, classes shmasses - how about alignment? There's an idea so unpopular that D&D is still the only game using it today. Is there a place for a mechanically-enforceable alignment system? where by "mechanically-enforceable" I mean the game offers rewards for following the dictates of your alignment and penalties for breaking it.

Back in first-edition D&D there actually were XP penalties and other consequences for drifting or changing alignments, but I can't remember whether the third edition even suggests doing such a thing. Sure, there are still alignment-based spells and powers, and Paladin characters still have to maintain a Lawful Good alignment in order to keep their abilities; but there's no necessity for all characters to conform to a predefined alignment of the player's choice, and so far as I recall, no penalty for nonconformity. This makes some sense too, as the game isn't really about differing moral/ethical viewpoints and the clashes between them, and hasn't been in a long time if ever.

However, that doesn't mean the concept of an alignment system is necessarily totally bogus. Are there games today that do make use of defined moral codes and penalize or reward players based on their conformity to the code of their choice? Can a good game be made around an alignment system, and if so, to what end?

Maybe it's because I just read it, but Burning Wheel might have some good ways to be adapted. Like Use action points with the idea of beliefs, and you set up a character belief set consistent with your alignment.

Shadows of Yesterday could very easily be adapted to use alignments. Creating a Lawful Good Key would be fairly easy to do and then you have mechanical reward system for playing your alignment. In this case using a mechanical carrot rather than a mechanical stick.

Doesn't Palladium have alignments, too? It did when I was playing it back in the 80s, I don't know how much it's changed since then.

My TSoY-based game The Fifth World is going to have a sort of alignment system, based on an adjustment to the three pools in the game. There will be an explicit, rules-based set of consequences for performing antisocial behaviors in the game.

So, obviously, I think alignment could still have a place in game design, and taking an innovative look at it makes a strong statement about setting, I'd say. I think D&D's alignment system does this, too.

It has been suggested that this is the whole point of Sorcerer.

I have had a game idea on the backburner for a while; it's called Malignment (at least for now.) My goal was to create a couple games that twist and reshape some of the tropes of old-school RPGs. In Malignment I revert to the original D&D single-axis alignment system, but instead of Law and Chaos (or Good and Evil,) it's Legend and Dream; I'm trying to create an entirely non-standard alignment system.

Also, the extremes are bad, the middle is good.

When I wrote up a Planescape mod for TSoY alignments were splendid in their key-ness.


It was really stupid of me to forget about TSOY, precisely because I saw your threads on RPG.net about keys for Planescape, Judd. (Also, thanks for posting the link to your LiveJournal - when I first saw the threads, I found my way to your journal; then a few weeks later when I wanted to go back and grab the whole set of keys, I couldn't find any links anywhere to your journal and couldn't remember how I'd found it in the first place.)

Brennan, I originally had a note about Palladium and then deleted it as unnecessary. I don't know whether the current version of Rifts/Palladium uses alignments.

A little horn tooting. The Piety mechanic in CoS penalizes and rewards players for make decisions for or against their code of choice. It ain't the central focus of the game, but a big part since the question being asked is how far are you willing to go to learn the truth?

Funny you should bring this up, since Alignment is one of the key issues discussed in an article that John Kim pointed out in his blog. I don't think the article was quite correct in its analysis of Alignment but the whole thing (including our discussion) might interest you.

I recall back in high school I worked on an alignment drift system that mechanically charted your movement around the alignment chart. You'd move X points in whatever direction depending on certain actions, but there were diminishing returns built in--it was sort of logarithmic--so that it was always harder to move away from the center than toward it. The "output" of alignment, though, was mainly useful for character classes with forced alignment; for other characters, it was intended to simply chart your "reputation" and thus how other people would react to you, if they had any idea who you were.

Pendragon has some sort of morality-charting but since I don't have the game, I don't know exactly how it works. Elric also uses mechanical alignment charting (points gained for doing things related to Law, Chaos, or Balance), with effects that benefit characters that align closely with one of the forces.

I seem to recall a player in my group who kept his Druid true neutral by alternating particuarly nasty acts with particularly selfless ones.

I think the D&D alignment system with the 3x3 matrix does capture different morale codes quite good for only using 6 terms. Of course you have to use them open minded... but then i think its hart to find a different method to discribe a moral code of a charakter without using more words - whatever that counts

Alignment is stupid. I can understand the concept, but in reality it's just unplayable. Apart from the fact that it quite often just gets ignored by players, it hardly ever gets policed by DM's (probably because there are no real rules that define the penalties).

The main problem is that everyone has their own interpretation of what a particular alignment means, leading to arguments over what a particular character should and shouldn't do in certain situations.

Face it, in the end the only real relevence for alignment is for Cleric/Priest classes. My solution is to replace spell points for clerics with "Karma points", requiring them to perform actions that fulfill the stated objectives of their diety before they are entitled to get these points back next time they meditate. Transgressions also result in immediate loss of these "Karma Points". After all, it is from their diety that they draw their power, so why would a god allow them to keep doing so if they violate the moral standards that diety wants upheld?

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