14 January 2013

Distilling Alignment

My search for a usable alignment system that doesn't make my eye twitch continues and is quite unrelated to any discussions that are occurring on any forum. (I don't currently read any fora.) Of the published role-playing games I've read, Lamentations of the Flame Princess has the alignment system I like the best, but it only really works for a specific sort of campaign. I am seeking an alignment system with rather more universal applicability. My first attempt was unsatisfying, although it produced some thought-provoking comments. My second attempt is closer to the mark, but is just shy of the target. This third attempt brings me full circle to the origins of the alignment system as a war game rule and its early use as a role-playing game rule for governing character actions and identifying character spirituality.

The terms "Law" and "Chaos" create a great deal of confusion when applied indiscriminately. In some literature, Law means Civilization, Enlightenment, Order, or Science, whereas Chaos means Wilderness, Darkness, Disorder, or Superstition. In a role-playing game, sometimes Law is degraded to law and order and Chaos is reduced to freedom and randomness. Obviously, law and order could just as easily be good or evil, and the same holds true for freedom and randomness. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in its first edition attempted to clarify this with the ninefold alignment system, but did so at the expense of simplicity. The following system is an attempt to distill alignment to its essence so that it functions equally well in governing actions, identifying spirituality, and encouraging appropriate alliances. In this system, the tensions between regulation and liberty exist within each alignment.

Distilled Alignment System

Law: Those of a Lawful alignment strive to do what is right. At the very least, they try to cause no suffering. Ideally, they try to alleviate and prevent suffering. Pursuing justice and protecting the weak are also Lawful agendas. Synonymous with Good.

Chaos: Those of a Chaotic alignment pursue their own ends with little or no regard for what is right or any suffering that may result. Some even go out of their way to cause suffering. Pursuing power for its own sake and preying on the weak are also Chaotic agendas. Synonymous with Evil.

Neutrality: Those of a Neutral alignment choose not to align themselves with Law or Chaos. They tend to promote a balance of the two, but often prefer an absence of both. To be neither helpful nor harmful is their creed. Thwarting the perceived excesses of Law and Chaos or voluntary removal from their influence are Neutral agendas.

Indecision: Those of an Undecided alignment are unable to choose. There is no Undecided agenda unless it is to postpone making a decision.

Alignment is n/a (not applicable) for creatures of insufficient intelligence or awareness (such as golems, most animals, etc.).

Characters may choose an alignment or elect to be Undecided. Characters may opt to change their alignment if their actions (and their referee) support the change, and this may be done without penalty unless their class has alignment requirements.

Alignment languages do not exist, but personality traits indicative of one's alignment may sometimes be revealed by facial expressions, body language, word choice, or other behavior.

Spells, magic items, artifacts, and other phenomena may exist that are attuned to specific alignments.

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