Oh No! It's an Alignment Thread!

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Oh No! It's an Alignment Thread!

Post by Ashtagon » Wed Oct 07, 2015 11:07 am

D&D alignments have a long and convoluted history, and the specific terms haven't always been consistent.

---

In Classic D&D, we had a law-chaos axis only, in which law essentially equated to a combination of "the greater good" and "orderly society", and chaos was the opposite. The exact balance of law/goodness or chaos/evilness in a particular individual seemed to vary. In effect, multiples issues were being portrayed by a single axis, resulting in chaos (sic).

----

AD&D developed its alignment system most fully in Planescape, wherein the alignments had some specific meanings:

Law vs. Chaos: D&D Planescape defined law on whether the character worked for or against communities and large settlements, and rule of law, while chaos worked towards family/clan being the primary unit of social organisation, and what Traveller called "rule of men", where legal decisions are made on a case by case basis rather than by means of codified lawbooks.

Good vs Evil: D&D Planescape went for Good people striving to help their community (whether that meant cities or clans), whereas Evil meant striving to help oneself at the deliberate expense of others around you. Neutral meant helping oneself while not significantly hurting those around you (which, when analysed carefully, has serious philosophical problems).

Depending on the GM, a character's attitude towards their immediate family or travelling companions (i.e., "the party") did not have any bearing on their alignment. Looking out for them was simply within the bounds of self-preservation.

----

In 3rd edition, two things changed. First, a large number of magical effects which were keyed to alignment became generally available for those who sought them out, second, the definition of the law-chaos axis changed, and third, the alignment prerequisites for a large number of classes made it common for players to want to be a particular alignment for the mechanical benefits without actually role-playing that alignment.

Holy (and unholy, anarchic, and axiomatic) were no longer just for paladins. Their power against a large class of enemies made them a obvious choice for most PCs. Their existence also meant that PCs would occasionally want defences against similar weapons, as well as discouraging all-good parties (because NPCs with unholy weapons are a thing). The number of spells 9especially divine spells) with effects tied to alignment also raised the profile of alignment in the game, and later supplements only made that worse. Alignment was even built into the core mechanics of some later expansions (such as aligned psionic powers, aligned Tome of Battle material, and aligned incarnum).

The law-chaos axis changed from being about your relationship to the wider society to being about self-discipline and your relationship to a code of honour. This was the beginning of the alignment debate threads (some which Dungeons and Dragons and Philosophy did absolutely nothing to clear up (the author of that book was writing on the assumption that alignment terms had the meanings they have in classical philosophy rather than as defined in D&D).

Finally, the alignment-based class prerequisites proliferated. In older editions, paladins (always lawful good) and rangers (always good) had alignments restrictions that were essentially non-existent, as that almost always the default assumption of the game set-up. Druids (always neutral), monks (always lawful), and thieves (never good) made things more complicated, but not overly so. However, the open multi-classing meant that layers would sometimes plan their alignments around a build rather than a role-play concept, even so far as planning an alignment change (sometimes a radical one, and sometimes more than once) at a particular character level in order to meet prestige class prerequisites.

Most of the issues specific to D&D 3rd edition also apply to Pathfinder.

----

4th edition changed the alignment system again, defining five alignments that were broadly speaking, on a single axis. It retained the magic item powers against alignments, but removed most of the character-build alignment prerequisite issues. In retrospect, 4th edition was a commercial failure, but for reasons unrelated to alignment.

----

5th edition has, to my knowledge, made no mention of alignment beyond a single page in the PHB, where it has reverted to 3rd edition definitions. As it is still early in its edition cycle, the level of alignment-based mechanics may well change.

----
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Re: Oh No! It's an Alignment Thread!

Post by Ashtagon » Wed Oct 07, 2015 11:08 am

Outside D&D, other games have alignments too (really?!).

--------------------------------------------
GURPS Dungeon Fantasy

Broadly speaking, you have:

• Good: Orderly society, community, helping each other
• Evil: Conquer the world, chaos, neferarious selfishness
• Squid: Cthulhu-style motivations
• Bunny: Look after nature at the expense of everything else (nb this is not "agriculture")


--------------------------------------------

Magic the Gathering

I admit I am not familiar with Magic the Gathering. However, it has something that is either a set of five “teams” or a full-blown five-colour alignment system. Lord_Gareth over at giantitp made it into a D&D alignment system. This system plays up to the trope that D&D’s four alignments aren’t so much exemplifiers of the real-world meanings of those words, but merely rival “gangs” (along the lines of the crips and bloods).

http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthre ... -3-5-PEACH

Briefly, the alignments are as follows.

• White: order and community
• Blue: knowledge and discovery
• Black: power and individuality
• Red: freedom and emotion
• Green: Growth and nature

--------------------------------------------

Classical Greek Theory

The ancient Greeks had a four humors theory regarding personality and medicine.
• Sanguine (blood): Extroverted, emotional, and people-oriented
• Choleric (yellow bile): Extroverted, unemotional, and task-oriented
• Melancholic (black bile): Introverted, emotional, and task-oriented
• Phlegmatic (phlegm): Introverted, unemotional, and people-oriented

Wikipedia adds the following extra relationships:

Humour | Element | Season | Element | Organ | Qualities | Ancient name | Temperament | Temperament characteristics Blood | Air | spring | air | heart | warm and moist | sanguis | sanguine | courageous, hopeful, playful, carefree Yellow bile | Fire | summer | fire | liver | warm and dry | kholé | choleric | ambitious, leader-like, restless, easily angered Black bile | Earth | autumn | earth | spleen | cold and dry | melas kholé (?) | melancholic | despondent, quiet, analytical, serious Phlegm | Water | winter | water | brain | cold and moist | phlégma | phlegmatic | calm, thoughtful, patient, peaceful

While interesting, I’m not sure this is useful; as the basis for an alignment system. It focuses more on the small picture than on how characters stand on the big issues. The Greeks tied their four humors theory into four-element theory, which nicely segues into...

--------------------------------------------

Some time ago, I came up with the idea of an element-based alignment system, based on the idea of people acting in a manner related to how the element acts. In order words:

• Fire: The best way to solve a problem is to destroy it.
• Earth: The best way to solve a problem is to be strong enough to ignore it when it comes.
• Air: The best way to solve a problem is to work with it to come to a mutual beneficial solution.
• Water: The best way to solve a problem involves moving around it and leaving the problem behind.

I also came up with an alignment definition for law and chaos which ignores both of the previous D&D style definitions for that axis:

Chaos is based on the idea of strong emotions that cater to a person's primal; emotional wants: the urge for revenge, the urge to possess, the urge to be loved, and the urge for ambition. In contrast, Law is based on primal fears. I developed three "gods of law": Ilaki, The Blinding light, The fear of dark; Ishbok, The Spear of Justice, the fear of hurt; and Keso, The Eternal One, the fear of change. In this regard, Law as an alignment represents a primal urge to ensure that everything stays the same, perfectly lit, free of sensation, and immobile. Both Chaos and Law in this paradigm become "Squid" alignments.

--------------------------------------------

However, ALL of the above misses one important point: alignment is not a substitute for role-playing. If you develop your character's personality and motivations no further than "chaotic good" or some other two-word phrase, you've kind of missed an important point.
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Re: Oh No! It's an Alignment Thread!

Post by Ashtagon » Thu Oct 08, 2015 10:20 am

(ok, thread is open)
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Re: Oh No! It's an Alignment Thread!

Post by willpell » Fri Nov 13, 2015 10:09 pm

I want that book now.

But seriously, this is one of my favorite subjects in D&D, and one I've spent far too much time talking and thinking about. I had multiple threads on the Wotco forums, which will eventually reappear here, which debate alternate alignment systems, usually by virtue of adding a third axis (which may or may not be fully "cubic" and compatible with the rest, but almost certainly doesn't integrate into the game rules to the same extent - at least not so far).

Overall, I have a highly unconventional take, and my CS is built around a 90-degree twist of the classic assumption - in my game, it is presumed that Good is most pure when it is the moral choices of a single fundamentally moral person, and that the systems designed by Law are founded on a fundamental lack of trust in others, which makes it the first step on a downward spiral into increasingly onerous ethical commitments, where the greatest good for the greatest number absolutely *mandates* deeds of "evil" against a minority. Evil then becomes a progress away from the Lawful system, not necessarily becoming less wicked as it waxes Chaotic, but certainly tending to be less effective in its deviltry; eventually, the Chaotic Evil "turn a corner" from misanthropy into pure solipsism, and from that they may eventually start imposing a moral code upon themselves for the sake of their own self-esteem, wanting to perceive themselves as "more than merely this" and earn the legitimate esteem of others. Thusly, this system assumes that Lawful Good is a sort of compromise between idealism and reality, while Chaotic Evil is a fundamental disconnect between the self and the outside world...Chaotic Good individuals are the ultimate free-thinkers and big dreamers, who go Beyond the Impossible in order to save the day and protect the very *concept* of Good, while Lawful Evil is grounded in pragmatism, inevitability, and no-win situations that ultimately amount to the entire clockwork cosmos ticking down into oblivion.

On a more meta level, I see Lawful alignment as corresponding to a strict reading of RAW, enforcing fairness while rewarding system mastery (even unto the point of "munchkinism" and "rules lawyering" and other such disreputable activities), while Chaotic is more about fudging for the sake of a good story (at the risk of, if one fudges too much, said story becoming completely ridiculous, degenerate, and of interest to nobody other than its self-insert Mary Sue protagonist).

The first interpretation is Whiteleaf-specific, although it would certainly inform my roleplaying in any other setting, but I don't expect anyone to suspend the game's inherent prejudices solely for my benefit, unless I'm the only player (and not even then if it would require too much conversion work). However, I think the second is useful and applicable in any campaign setting.

---------------------

EDIT - I would also add that I see alignment as tending to correspond to age, probably in a sort of snaky pattern from CG to LE (as implied before, I see this as the real continuum in my setting, while conventional settings are more likely to run from LG to CE - the usual polarity seems to suggest "archetypal" while mine is more like "natural" or "nuanced", reflecting how things are in the real world better, instead of trying to seem legendary and larger-than-life).

The way I figure it, the stereotypical child is CG, innocent and well-meaning but naive and self-centered (babies are completely self-centered but too brainless to qualify as Evil, so they would probably be CN, although that distorts the pattern a little). Adolescents then become CE as they reject all external authority structures and lash out in the grip of angst and hormonal turmoil; eventually they start to grow up and internalize the need to function within society, waxing less Chaotic as they come to rely on authority structures for their own protection, then becoming Good as they develop friends, lovers, and eventually children. By this point, their concern for their young makes them increasingly paranoid, and they move into full Lawfulness while remaining Good at first; eventually the ennui of middle age erodes their morality and they are left cleaving solely to abstract principles (and a general backward-looking, nostalgic/traditional/curmudgeonly mentality, powered largely by their fear of their own impending old age and death). The potential exists for them to eventually become profoundly negative influences upon the world, no longer capable of anything but acquisitive and vengeful fixations within the framework of their ossified worldview...if senility doesn't claim them first.

Obviously all of this is very broad and does not reflect all, or even most, lifepaths - but I do believe it represents *many* of them, and in particular suits the well-understood stereotypes of life. If one is uncomfortable with the implication that old age is synonymous with Lawful Evilness, then one could instead tie that alignment to the "midlife crisis" which immediately precedes its onset, and regard senescence as being Lawful Neutral - this would mirror the association of Chaotic Neutral with babies, making the whole pattern shaped less like a backwards "N" (in a computerized font with no diagonals, where the central column is vertical), and more like a "G" connected to a rotated-90-degrees version of itself by the aforementioned central column.

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Re: Oh No! It's an Alignment Thread!

Post by Big Mac » Wed Nov 18, 2015 12:13 pm

Ashtagon wrote:GURPS Dungeon Fantasy

Broadly speaking, you have:

• Good: Orderly society, community, helping each other
• Evil: Conquer the world, chaos, neferarious selfishness
• Squid: Cthulhu-style motivations
• Bunny: Look after nature at the expense of everything else (nb this is not "agriculture")
Squid and Bunny? Really? :shock:

I guess Bunny would be the ranger/druid alignment and would be more important than being Good or Evil.
Ashtagon wrote:Magic the Gathering

I admit I am not familiar with Magic the Gathering. However, it has something that is either a set of five “teams” or a full-blown five-colour alignment system. Lord_Gareth over at giantitp made it into a D&D alignment system. This system plays up to the trope that D&D’s four alignments aren’t so much exemplifiers of the real-world meanings of those words, but merely rival “gangs” (along the lines of the crips and bloods).

http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthre ... -3-5-PEACH

Briefly, the alignments are as follows.

• White: order and community
• Blue: knowledge and discovery
• Black: power and individuality
• Red: freedom and emotion
• Green: Growth and nature
That's kind of what Dragonlance does with it's White, Red and Black Wizards, although Dragonlance does it within the standard Good, Neutral and Evil alignments of AD&D/D&D. In Dragonlance Neutrality is usually described as Balance.

It's a shame they didn't ever get the Magic: The Gathering campaign setting for Dungeons & Dragons organised.
Ashtagon wrote:Classical Greek Theory

The ancient Greeks had a four humors theory regarding personality and medicine.
• Sanguine (blood): Extroverted, emotional, and people-oriented
• Choleric (yellow bile): Extroverted, unemotional, and task-oriented
• Melancholic (black bile): Introverted, emotional, and task-oriented
• Phlegmatic (phlegm): Introverted, unemotional, and people-oriented

Wikipedia adds the following extra relationships:

Humour | Element | Season | Element | Organ | Qualities | Ancient name | Temperament | Temperament characteristics Blood | Air | spring | air | heart | warm and moist | sanguis | sanguine | courageous, hopeful, playful, carefree Yellow bile | Fire | summer | fire | liver | warm and dry | kholé | choleric | ambitious, leader-like, restless, easily angered Black bile | Earth | autumn | earth | spleen | cold and dry | melas kholé (?) | melancholic | despondent, quiet, analytical, serious Phlegm | Water | winter | water | brain | cold and moist | phlégma | phlegmatic | calm, thoughtful, patient, peaceful

While interesting, I’m not sure this is useful; as the basis for an alignment system. It focuses more on the small picture than on how characters stand on the big issues. The Greeks tied their four humors theory into four-element theory, which nicely segues into...
Interesting.

I need to work on Greatspace at some point. That's a Hellenic crystal sphere for the Spelljammer Campaign Setting.

Greatspace is supposed to be in the process of "rejecting philosophy in favour of science" so I've been trying to work on science...but science as it would be if all the magic and legends were true (at least the Greek ones).

I don't know if I could use the humors to replace D&D alignments, but I wonder if I could make some Humor related 3rd Edition Feat chains or something like that, that people can use to unlock special abilities within themselves...or something of that ilk.

I don't want to threadjack your idea of using humors as alignments, as I would like to hear more about how you think that might work, but I might also split off a new topic from this. Thanks for bringing this up*! :)

* = I must be of the Phlegmatic Alignement. ;-)
Ashtagon wrote:Some time ago, I came up with the idea of an element-based alignment system, based on the idea of people acting in a manner related to how the element acts. In order words:

• Fire: The best way to solve a problem is to destroy it.
• Earth: The best way to solve a problem is to be strong enough to ignore it when it comes.
• Air: The best way to solve a problem is to work with it to come to a mutual beneficial solution.
• Water: The best way to solve a problem involves moving around it and leaving the problem behind.

I also came up with an alignment definition for law and chaos which ignores both of the previous D&D style definitions for that axis:

Chaos is based on the idea of strong emotions that cater to a person's primal; emotional wants: the urge for revenge, the urge to possess, the urge to be loved, and the urge for ambition. In contrast, Law is based on primal fears. I developed three "gods of law": Ilaki, The Blinding light, The fear of dark; Ishbok, The Spear of Justice, the fear of hurt; and Keso, The Eternal One, the fear of change. In this regard, Law as an alignment represents a primal urge to ensure that everything stays the same, perfectly lit, free of sensation, and immobile. Both Chaos and Law in this paradigm become "Squid" alignments.
How well do you think this fits in with the behaviour of D&D elementals...both under Manual of the Planes and Planescape?

And do you think that 4e's "Elemental Chaos" conflicts with your system or has no effect on it?
Ashtagon wrote:However, ALL of the above misses one important point: alignment is not a substitute for role-playing. If you develop your character's personality and motivations no further than "chaotic good" or some other two-word phrase, you've kind of missed an important point.
True. But then again, all these things should be inspiration. :)
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Re: Oh No! It's an Alignment Thread!

Post by Ashtagon » Wed Nov 18, 2015 12:39 pm

Big Mac wrote:
Ashtagon wrote:GURPS Dungeon Fantasy

Broadly speaking, you have:

• Good: Orderly society, community, helping each other
• Evil: Conquer the world, chaos, neferarious selfishness
• Squid: Cthulhu-style motivations
• Bunny: Look after nature at the expense of everything else (nb this is not "agriculture")
Squid and Bunny? Really? :shock:

I guess Bunny would be the ranger/druid alignment and would be more important than being Good or Evil.
Okay, officially they are good, evil, insane, and nature. But gurps fandom calls them squid and bunny. :halo:
Ashtagon wrote:Magic the Gathering

I admit I am not familiar with Magic the Gathering. However, it has something that is either a set of five “teams” or a full-blown five-colour alignment system. Lord_Gareth over at giantitp made it into a D&D alignment system. This system plays up to the trope that D&D’s four alignments aren’t so much exemplifiers of the real-world meanings of those words, but merely rival “gangs” (along the lines of the crips and bloods).

http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthre ... -3-5-PEACH

Briefly, the alignments are as follows.

• White: order and community
• Blue: knowledge and discovery
• Black: power and individuality
• Red: freedom and emotion
• Green: Growth and nature
That's kind of what Dragonlance does with it's White, Red and Black Wizards, although Dragonlance does it within the standard Good, Neutral and Evil alignments of AD&D/D&D. In Dragonlance Neutrality is usually described as Balance.

It's a shame they didn't ever get the Magic: The Gathering campaign setting for Dungeons & Dragons organised.
I'm not sure there's that much of a parallel in there between MtG and DL. The MtG colours were chosen without reference to DL, so its just coincidence that there's a superficial resemblance there.
Ashtagon wrote:Classical Greek Theory

The ancient Greeks had a four humors theory regarding personality and medicine.
• Sanguine (blood): Extroverted, emotional, and people-oriented
• Choleric (yellow bile): Extroverted, unemotional, and task-oriented
• Melancholic (black bile): Introverted, emotional, and task-oriented
• Phlegmatic (phlegm): Introverted, unemotional, and people-oriented

Wikipedia adds the following extra relationships:

Humour | Element | Season | Element | Organ | Qualities | Ancient name | Temperament | Temperament characteristics Blood | Air | spring | air | heart | warm and moist | sanguis | sanguine | courageous, hopeful, playful, carefree Yellow bile | Fire | summer | fire | liver | warm and dry | kholé | choleric | ambitious, leader-like, restless, easily angered Black bile | Earth | autumn | earth | spleen | cold and dry | melas kholé (?) | melancholic | despondent, quiet, analytical, serious Phlegm | Water | winter | water | brain | cold and moist | phlégma | phlegmatic | calm, thoughtful, patient, peaceful

While interesting, I’m not sure this is useful; as the basis for an alignment system. It focuses more on the small picture than on how characters stand on the big issues. The Greeks tied their four humors theory into four-element theory, which nicely segues into...
Interesting.

I need to work on Greatspace at some point. That's a Hellenic crystal sphere for the Spelljammer Campaign Setting.

Greatspace is supposed to be in the process of "rejecting philosophy in favour of science" so I've been trying to work on science...but science as it would be if all the magic and legends were true (at least the Greek ones).

I don't know if I could use the humors to replace D&D alignments, but I wonder if I could make some Humor related 3rd Edition Feat chains or something like that, that people can use to unlock special abilities within themselves...or something of that ilk.

I don't want to threadjack your idea of using humors as alignments, as I would like to hear more about how you think that might work, but I might also split off a new topic from this. Thanks for bringing this up*! :)

* = I must be of the Phlegmatic Alignement. ;-)
I have a feeling that BECMI's immortal spheres were inspired by Greek philosophy, but I've never really tried to pair them up properly.

GURPS has a supplement called Chinese Elemental Magic, which plays up the historical mysticism associated with Chinese elements. I think something similar for Greek philosophy would be awesome, but that's going away from alignment. I'm not sure how useful the Greek system really is though, since it seems to describe personality types rather than what the person believes in.
Ashtagon wrote:Some time ago, I came up with the idea of an element-based alignment system, based on the idea of people acting in a manner related to how the element acts. In order words:

• Fire: The best way to solve a problem is to destroy it.
• Earth: The best way to solve a problem is to be strong enough to ignore it when it comes.
• Air: The best way to solve a problem is to work with it to come to a mutual beneficial solution.
• Water: The best way to solve a problem involves moving around it and leaving the problem behind.

I also came up with an alignment definition for law and chaos which ignores both of the previous D&D style definitions for that axis:

Chaos is based on the idea of strong emotions that cater to a person's primal; emotional wants: the urge for revenge, the urge to possess, the urge to be loved, and the urge for ambition. In contrast, Law is based on primal fears. I developed three "gods of law": Ilaki, The Blinding light, The fear of dark; Ishbok, The Spear of Justice, the fear of hurt; and Keso, The Eternal One, the fear of change. In this regard, Law as an alignment represents a primal urge to ensure that everything stays the same, perfectly lit, free of sensation, and immobile. Both Chaos and Law in this paradigm become "Squid" alignments.
How well do you think this fits in with the behaviour of D&D elementals...both under Manual of the Planes and Planescape?

And do you think that 4e's "Elemental Chaos" conflicts with your system or has no effect on it?
D&D elementals never really had a personality defined, except as unwilling servants conjured by various summoning and calling spells. In as much as elemental society can be said to have an alignment at all though, these do seem to give a good way to reflect that, and one that doesn't (to my knowledge) intensely conflict with existing lore. Unlike with the conventional alignment system, I wouldn't want to enforce an "always this alignment" restriction; outer planar outsiders are literally made of the ethos and belief in a way that elementals (which are literally made of that 'element') aren't. For Planescape campaigns, that makes for an interesting contrast, with elementals to have motivations that are blue and orange rather than the conventional four.

Don' really know enough about 4e to comment on that one in depth.
Ashtagon wrote:However, ALL of the above misses one important point: alignment is not a substitute for role-playing. If you develop your character's personality and motivations no further than "chaotic good" or some other two-word phrase, you've kind of missed an important point.
True. But then again, all these things should be inspiration. :)
tbh, I think one of the big mistakes that 3e made was tying PC powers to alignment, because then it made alignment into a character-optimisation tool rather than a role-play tool.
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Re: Oh No! It's an Alignment Thread!

Post by willpell » Wed Nov 18, 2015 2:07 pm

Ashtagon wrote:Magic the Gathering
I'm extremely familiar with this franchise and can provide substantial information about the "color pie". I do agree that it can function as an alignment system, but I disagree strongly that it's a matter of "gangs"; each of the colors has an overriding and very complex vision of the world, and commits to that perception totally (at least in theory; in actuality Wotco often says one thing and does another, explaining how Black has philosophical underpinnings that don't necessarily have to amount to Evil, but constantly making nothing but assassins, warlords, and necromancers as the black mages).

I could write page after page on the topic, but for the sake of brevity, here is my one-line summary of what each color stands for overall.

* White - Rules keep everyone equal, peace is worth any price, life should be fair and just, blessed are the meek, never suffer a heretic or a rabble-rouser, else you're Evil.
* Blue - Knowledge is power; everyone has infinite potential, for right or wrong; anything's possible, but almost never easy; it takes intelligence, planning, and flexibility to succeed.
* Black - Life sucks and then you die; there is no Grand Plan or Ultimate Authority, so do as you choose and live (or don't) with the consequences, or accept rule by the stronger.
* Red - The right answer always comes from your gut; nothing is more important than having total freedom to do anything you feel compelled to, consequences be damned.
* Green - Nature is a vast self-balancing system, and the world got it right the first time; know your role and accept the truth at face value, changing only to evolve over time.

There's obviously a lot more to it than that; Mark Rosewater, the #1 head guy at MTG, has written no less than 25 articles (I'm betting there are 5 or 10 more I've missed) on the topic of alignment, constantly refining his vision of what the colors mean (while not changing what they're allowed to do gameplay-wise very much). It's a magnificent system and I know it intimately, but it's far from perfect.
Big Mac wrote:It's a shame they didn't ever get the Magic: The Gathering campaign setting for Dungeons & Dragons organised.
Agreed. It's an impossibly huge task, and I've done some little work on it myself, but ultimately it's very difficult to do it justice. If anyone's interested, though, I'll happily try again here. Running a standard D&D game with the Alignment system reskinned onto it is pretty easy, but coming up with full D&D stats for all the unique monsters of MTG is another story. Even just the basic worldbuilding is tough; you'd have to take both a scalpel and a backhoe to the D&D setting in order to remove things that are out of place (notably Vancian Magic, but also all sorts of economic systems and so forth), and then homebrew a ton of things to fill the gaps. Insanely tall order, only barely worth considering, and definitely not worth actually doing thus far.
I need to work on Greatspace at some point. That's a Hellenic crystal sphere for the Spelljammer Campaign Setting.
Sounds interesting. Can I haz link?
Ashtagon wrote:• Fire: The best way to solve a problem is to destroy it.
• Earth: The best way to solve a problem is to be strong enough to ignore it when it comes.
• Air: The best way to solve a problem is to work with it to come to a mutual beneficial solution.
• Water: The best way to solve a problem involves moving around it and leaving the problem behind.
I like this. I'm not convinced it's all-encompassing enough, but it might well make a good starting point. Have you tried putting it into practice, or are you interested in doing so?
Chaos is based on the idea of strong emotions that cater to a person's primal; emotional wants: the urge for revenge, the urge to possess, the urge to be loved, and the urge for ambition. In contrast, Law is based on primal fears. I developed three "gods of law": Ilaki, The Blinding light, The fear of dark; Ishbok, The Spear of Justice, the fear of hurt; and Keso, The Eternal One, the fear of change. In this regard, Law as an alignment represents a primal urge to ensure that everything stays the same, perfectly lit, free of sensation, and immobile. Both Chaos and Law in this paradigm become "Squid" alignments.
[/quote]

This is pretty neat as well. Although "fear of hurt" leading to Justice is pretty contradictory, given that Justice is almost always the process of destroying what you believe shouldn't exist. Also, the urge to stay free could easily be reframed as a fear of being confined, which seems pretty primal to me, but obviously fits closer with your definition of Chaos than of Law.
Big Mac wrote:How well do you think this fits in with the behaviour of D&D elementals...both under Manual of the Planes and Planescape?
I would guess "not that well", at least on the Monster Manual and MOTP front (don't know too much about the Planescape version). Pretty much all elementals are described as despising all other elements, so whether they try to destroy them or move away from them is probably a strictly practical consideration.
Ashtagon wrote:However, ALL of the above misses one important point: alignment is not a substitute for role-playing. If you develop your character's personality and motivations no further than "chaotic good" or some other two-word phrase, you've kind of missed an important point.
Big Mac wrote:True. But then again, all these things should be inspiration. :)
I want the most sophisticated alignment system possible, not so that it can substitute for roleplaying, but so that it can perfectly DESCRIBE roleplaying. I like the way D&D 3E is founded on modularity, as long as I have access to hyperlink technology to navigate among the modules; doing this with alignment too seems like an easy way of standardizing and encapsulating the various turning wheels within the possibilities of human thought, so that you can select something like 8 profiles from lists of 24 possible values of each, resulting in you only having to read 32 chunks of test in order to be able to assemble them into close to 200 comprehensive personality profiles. Even that might not be enough...but it's a heck of a lot better than saying that all beings in the cosmos, or even just all humans, fit perfectly into a number of boxes small enough to roll on a d20 with change to spare!
Ashtagon wrote:Okay, officially they are good, evil, insane, and nature. But gurps fandom calls them squid and bunny. :halo:
Cute. And I guess Gurps fandom is onboard with my third alignment axis for MTG...now they just have L/C to figure out.
I'm not sure there's that much of a parallel in there between MtG and DL. The MtG colours were chosen without reference to DL, so its just coincidence that there's a superficial resemblance there.
Not so much coincidence, I think, as parallel-processing and following similar patterns of folklore/stereotype regarding color symbology.
I have a feeling that BECMI's immortal spheres were inspired by Greek philosophy, but I've never really tried to pair them up properly.
What's BECMI? I've seen it a lot around here.
GURPS has a supplement called Chinese Elemental Magic, which plays up the historical mysticism associated with Chinese elements. I think something similar for Greek philosophy would be awesome, but that's going away from alignment. I'm not sure how useful the Greek system really is though, since it seems to describe personality types rather than what the person believes in.
The WOD system uses various pairs of stereotype lists (generally five of each) to create their "splats", and you could pretty easily do something like that here. Off the cuff, combining Four Humors with Four Elements (and ignoring that they're supposed to be the same) gives 16 profiles, which is the same as the number of Meyers-Briggs types. Mapping one to the other might involve a bit of sawing and gluing, but it could probably be made to work. Now, if you crossed Meyers-Briggs with the Elements and Paraelements....
For Planescape campaigns, that makes for an interesting contrast, with elementals to have motivations that are blue and orange rather than the conventional four.
I love Orange and Blue Morality so much, although I don't know if elemental conflict is the best place to explore it. Still, this is one more reason for me to desperately want to explore Planescape.
tbh, I think one of the big mistakes that 3e made was tying PC powers to alignment, because then it made alignment into a character-optimisation tool rather than a role-play tool.
This is only a little bit true. There are very few really strong tools in Good's toolbox, so the reasons for playing a "good in name only" Paladin or the like are pretty slim, even if your DM is sloppy enough to let you get away with it. And if the GM lets you take Vile feats and then threatens to deactivate them because your behavior is "not evil enough", he's going to get exactly what he deserves....

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Re: Oh No! It's an Alignment Thread!

Post by Ashtagon » Wed Nov 18, 2015 2:21 pm

willpell wrote:
tbh, I think one of the big mistakes that 3e made was tying PC powers to alignment, because then it made alignment into a character-optimisation tool rather than a role-play tool.
This is only a little bit true. There are very few really strong tools in Good's toolbox, so the reasons for playing a "good in name only" Paladin or the like are pretty slim, even if your DM is sloppy enough to let you get away with it. And if the GM lets you take Vile feats and then threatens to deactivate them because your behavior is "not evil enough", he's going to get exactly what he deserves....
It's true whether looking at good-powered feats or evil-powered feats. The reward for playing an alignment should be a richer storytelling experience, not a feat.

IN my homebrew, I re-flavour clerics and paladins are being powered by a specific deity. While that deity will doubtless have alignment preferences, those alignments have no mechanical effects; it is the favour of the deity that grants the character a semi-divine aura that might allow them to more effectively wield certain weapons (cf holy avenger). If they fall, it is as a result of the deity withdrawing their favour; this is not necessarily the same as changing alignment. Considering how badly a cleric would have to RP to fall from grace, this is in effect more of a class feature than an alignment feature.

Batting for team good (or team evil) should be its own reward.
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Re: Oh No! It's an Alignment Thread!

Post by willpell » Wed Nov 18, 2015 2:34 pm

Ashtagon wrote:It's true whether looking at good-powered feats or evil-powered feats. The reward for playing an alignment should be a richer storytelling experience, not a feat.
One, there are people for whom that simply isn't true; if a person cares only about game mechanics, a shiny exclusive feat might "bribe" them into widening their perspective, getting their foot in the door so that their opinions can grow and evolve over time. But two, even for "pure" roleplayers like you and me, mechanical restrictions can help to reinforce flavor and improve the storytelling experience in a lot of ways, if they're applied correctly. Put it this way - do you really want an Evil character to be able to take the Saint template, the Nimbus of Light and Stigmata feats, and cast a version of the Sanctify the Wicked spell which turns Good creatures permanently Evil by imprisoning their soul for a year? Having all those classically Good archetypes restricted to characters who are acting the part of Good (and the DM can even police the character's thoughts, asking "what does your character feel right now" and then holding the player to that answer) is more than appropriate IMO.

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Re: Oh No! It's an Alignment Thread!

Post by Ashtagon » Wed Nov 18, 2015 2:37 pm

No. Frankly, I wouldn't have those in my game at all, because they are powers that are keyed to alignment. Powers that are keyed off a divine aura, fair enough. But not alignment.
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Re: Oh No! It's an Alignment Thread!

Post by willpell » Wed Nov 18, 2015 2:48 pm

Ashtagon wrote:No. Frankly, I wouldn't have those in my game at all, because they are powers that are keyed to alignment. Powers that are keyed off a divine aura, fair enough. But not alignment.
The problem I have with tying everything to gods is that gods are individuals, and individuals have personalities, and personalities tend to be flawed and fallible. This is exactly what will push things into "crips vs. bloods" territory; I don't buy that this can happen when the paladin is directly empowered by the force of Good itself. You do have to figure out exactly what the definition of Good is, but I don't consider this incredibly hard. And once you've settled on your definition, you use feats to enforce that following a specific path leads to certain rewards, not because you answer to a higher authority, but because your actions themselves reflect a powersource which itself emanates from your actions, and is constantly reinforced by them, as long as they remain on the correct "wavelength".

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Re: Oh No! It's an Alignment Thread!

Post by Ashtagon » Wed Nov 18, 2015 2:50 pm

Personally, I see that as an advantage. It removes the whole question of "what does it mean to be good?", and replaces it with "wanna join my gang?". That makes it very suited to "shades of grey morality" settings.

And yes "what is good?" is a very real philosophical problem. People cleverer and wiser than any of us here have been working on it for millennia.
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Re: Oh No! It's an Alignment Thread!

Post by willpell » Wed Nov 18, 2015 2:54 pm

Ashtagon wrote:People cleverer and wiser than any of us here have been working on it for millennia.
I think that it was solved millenia ago, but the reality keeps changing and so it needs to be re-solved over and over again to reflect the current truth. I'm firmly convinced that I have the answer which either is correct, or more depressingly, recently was.

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Re: Oh No! It's an Alignment Thread!

Post by Ashtagon » Wed Nov 18, 2015 3:04 pm

willpell wrote:
Ashtagon wrote:People cleverer and wiser than any of us here have been working on it for millennia.
I think that it was solved millenia ago, but the reality keeps changing and so it needs to be re-solved over and over again to reflect the current truth. I'm firmly convinced that I have the answer which either is correct, or more depressingly, recently was.
The quickest way to get two different answers to the question "what is Good?" is to ask two different people. Ditto for the opposite question "What is Evil?". If either has ever been solved, no on has ever convinced the majority of the world of it. That's partly why we have religion-inspired warfare (and we will not discuss those wars any further). If the answer to "What is Good?" changes and needs re-solving, that suggests to me that the supposed answer was incorrect, since an absolute alignment should not be swayed by such things as current affairs. That is, the answer to the question "What is Good?" should be the same whether asked by a primitive hunter-gather, a modern retail worker, or a space explorer.

This drives a large part of why I avoid using alignment. Peoples opinions of what constitutes Good and Evil (and even more so Law and Chaos) really do differ, even within gaming communities. That's one of the reasons I was so disappointed with that book Dungeons and Dragons and Philosophy -- it analyses D&D alignments using conventional philosophy definitions, which I quickly noticed differ substantially from the definitions used within the game itself. Changing the paradigm from absolute alignments to "deities" removes the baggage those words carry.
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Re: Oh No! It's an Alignment Thread!

Post by willpell » Wed Nov 18, 2015 3:29 pm

Ashtagon wrote:The quickest way to get two different answers to the question "what is Good?" is to ask two different people.
This only indicates that neither of them has enough information to have derived the correct answer as yet.
Ditto for the opposite question "What is Evil?"
That one I can answer right now, at least in a real-world context: "Evil" is a charged label which (usually self-appointed) "Good" authorities use to stigmatize anyone who disagrees with them. There are no actions which are inherently wrong (although some are certainly not usually good for one's mental health); there are only actions which cause more harm than good under the circumstances, actions which are unwise and detrimental to take. But calling the people who take them anyway "Evil" is pointless mudslinging. We should seek to prevent these actions, and punishing people who take them only demonstrates your willingness to punish people, which widens the gulf between a society's authorities and its actual populace. The most stable society is one where that gulf is all but eliminated, and thus this kind of divisive labeling is counterproductive.

IMO pretty much all contrary real-world interpretations of this issue do pretty much boil down to "crips vs. bloods". They might serve as a convenient source of plot-driving conflict for an RPG, but they have no place in the reality where pain actually hurts and death is (apparently, at least for general purposes) irreversible.
If the answer to "What is Good?" changes and needs re-solving, that suggests to me that the supposed answer was incorrect, since an absolute alignment should not be swayed by such things as current affairs. That is, the answer to the question "What is Good?" should be the same whether asked by a primitive hunter-gather, a modern retail worker, or a space explorer.
On this, we could NOT possibly disagree more. The primitive hunter-gatherer must kill to survive; his circumstances are so marginal that he has no ability to seek better solutions. His life is defined by urgency; the choices he has to decide among are so limited that he virtually never has the luxury of balking at extreme action. Conversely, in a high-technology future setting, almost no resources are so scarce that resorting to violence over their possession could be acceptable. But ideological concerns, which would seem absurdly silly to the caveman, could be of the greatest possible importance in a setting where a ticked-off 4-year-old can write malicious code on his toy computer, hack into a military satellite with outdated security protocols, and activate an orbital laser that wipes out an entire city, just because he was butthurt that morning. Such an action would never occur to the caveman, who routinely tolerates indignities that would be unthinkable to the 23rd-century kindergarden hacker; if the caveman could get over the sheer absurdity of the idea enough to take it seriously, he would be utterly horrified of the idea of someone destroying an entire landscape, just because they had the necessary ability and they were in a foul mood. In the future, the most important thing isn't getting the 4-year-old enough food that he survives to turn 5, it's making sure he's emotionally healthy enough that anyone else will survive this prodigy's periodic outbursts. And that's assuming that we're even talking about a human being; in the future, artificial intelligence and genetic uplift will change the very definition of personhood, so that even a minor act of property damage, like smashing somebody's next-generation equivalent of an Iphone, might actually involve murdering a computer that has more intellect and more personality than a 21st-century human. So there really isn't any equivalence possible between our caveman and one of these temper-tantruming future children; the two are working from such utterly different sets of parameters that they're virtually incapable of even perceiving the same reality.

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Re: Oh No! It's an Alignment Thread!

Post by Ashtagon » Wed Nov 18, 2015 3:43 pm

It sounds like you are using an insufficiently narrow definition of "good". If we equate utilitarianism with "good" (which I am not saying is correct in absolute terms), and assume both the caveman and script kiddy are "good", then neither would be motivated to nuke the landscape, and for the same reason. But other definitions of "good" might result in other decisions.

A script kiddy who would nuke the landscape because he was butthurt that morning isn't thinking within my personal definition of good, although certainly some self-professed "good" people would have considered it acceptable.

So. Utilitarianism, Arnaud Amalric, and Lawrence Kohlberg. Three different definitions of "good". And they will all result in different actions if followed absolutely. That's why I don't want to define "good". Because no one truly agrees on what it is.
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Re: Oh No! It's an Alignment Thread!

Post by willpell » Wed Nov 18, 2015 4:00 pm

Ashtagon wrote:A script kiddy who would nuke the landscape because he was butthurt that morning isn't thinking within my personal definition of good
That analogy was rather poorly constructed, I admit. I never meant to imply that the "script kiddy" (thanks for reminding me of that term) was good. He definitely isn't (nor is he evil, any more than a sabertooth tiger is evil for eating the caveman, or the caveman evil for killing the tiger to stop it from eating him). The good people, in my contrived future postulate, are everyone involved in keeping the script kiddy sane and happy (the people who think it's more important to keep him from learning the skills or gaining access to the technology are more likely Lawful Neutral pragmatists, and Chaotic Good people will assume that their failure in such efforts are preordained, which is why it's important to solve the problem at its root by properly parenting the kid, so that he remains stable and grows up to be a productive adult).
Ashtagon wrote:certainly some self-professed "good" people would have considered it acceptable.
"Self-professed" would seem to be the key word on that one. Since you have forbidden discussion of the topic, I will say only that I personally do not accept any definition of good which results in the murder of 20,000 people to be valid, at least not unless you have MUCH more sophisticated technology for predicting future outcomes than exists even today, let alone in the Dark Ages. Perhaps Amalric legitimately believed that putting an entire city of heretics to the sword would ultimately save many times that number of lives, and perhaps that wasn't just him being completely insane and/or stupid. I'll grant for the sake of argument that MAYBE he wasn't just a psychopath using his power to go all Charles Manson on an unfathomably huge scale, and that the logic he was using could still be considered a "definition of good". But....
So. Utilitarianism, Arnaud Amalric, and Lawrence Kohlberg. Three different definitions of "good". And they will all result in different actions if followed absolutely.
Not coincidentally, D&D gives us three versions of Good - Lawful, Neutral, and Chaotic. I doubt they actually map to these three philosophies, but regardless, they are all slanted perspectives on a pure truth (even Neutral Good is not pure Good, it is Good mixed with roughly equal quantities of Law and Chaos). That does not mean the pure truth cannot exist, only that it's VERY difficult for any biased being to attain an unbiased perspective. The closest you could get to identifying Pure Good would be to derive ALL valid definitions of "good", then create a single theory which reconciles all of them. But that's probably an impossible task, and certainly one beyond human ability. As DM in my campaign, I simply try to present a good enough semblance, a facade if you will, of this unachievable whole - like drawing a cube as two squares connected by diagonal lines, because that's as close as you can get to showing the third dimension within the restrictions of two.

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Re: Oh No! It's an Alignment Thread!

Post by Sturm » Thu Nov 19, 2015 10:32 am

willpell wrote:What's BECMI? I've seen it a lot around here.
BECMI is Dungeons and Dragons divided in Basic, Expert, Companion, Master and Immortal rules, i.e. Frank Mentzer's edition i.e the 1983 revision of the rules, i.e. the ruleset used by Known World/Mystara:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dungeons_ ... 3_revision
Later revised and unified in the Rules Cyclopedia, 1991:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dungeons_ ... Cyclopedia.

About alignments, Mystara only had Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic. At the beginning of the setting, this was just a over-semplification, and chaotic characters were more or less assumed to be also evil. But later, in the Gazeeteer series and beyond, it became more and more clear that chaotic characters were not necessarily evil. The point of view of humanoids and other classic "villains" were developed for example, and different players and characters could well consider a nation "good" and the rival nation "evil" just because they were told so. The setting therefore developed a relative morality.

That said, I don't think good is really hard to define. The Golden Rule is the basis of any morality (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Rule) and even if human societies and groups have tried and still try to bend it or circumvent it in an infinite variety of ways, do something to another that you will not really like done to you is evil to me, no matter the justification you give yourself.
Therefore even to fine or to imprison someone for a crime cannot be considered a "good" action, nor to eat a living creature, even if such actions could be considered necessities in several circumstances and societies. You would not like to be fined, even if you know you are guilty. You would not like to be eaten, even if you know "that's the way of nature".
Yet there is a relativity of evil actions: to imprison someone because he rightfully accused you of murder, as dictators do, is very different from imprisoning someone because he is a dangerous mass murderer. The first action should be considered evil, the second one neutral, because it's an appropriate response to a measurable menace.
Therefore, to kill someone who is trying to kill you in this very moment is not an evil, but a neutral action.
The good action would be to love and forgive your enemy.
The evil action would be to maim him, then massacre his family who did nothing against you, then torture and murder him in cold blood. A disproportionate response to a menace.
Evil, IMO, is a disproportionate response to a perceived or existing menace.
Such is hate towards anyone who is different from you. You hate him because you think, often wrongly, that he could somehow contaminate or endanger you. Disproportionate response to a perceived menace.
A paladin who seek out and massacre random humanoids is not good in my book, it's not even neutral. He is evil, even if his society consider him "one of the good guy".
Also, I refuse the very concept of "evil races", as the "disproportionate response to a perceived menace" above is not something you could be born with, but always something which is taught to you by your environment.
My 2 cents.

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Re: Oh No! It's an Alignment Thread!

Post by willpell » Fri Nov 27, 2015 4:35 pm

I've always found the Golden Rule completely worthless as a moral guideline; people are all different, and what one person wants desperately to experience, another person dreads. So under a literal interpretation of said Rule, the masochist would act like a sadist toward everyone, and think he was doing them a favor, because pain is totally awesome in his opinion.

But I do agree that the concept of "always evil" races is deeply disturbing, especially when considered in real-world context. I'm comfortable with it for Fiends, since they literally embody Evil and exist for no other purpose; in general I figure they shouldn't be able to stop being Evil without stopping being Demons or Devils, physically transmuting into Exemplars for whatever new alignment they adopt. I'm also willing to accept the idea that a Black or Red dragon is always CE, because it suits the nature of dragons for them to have unrealistically stilted personalities, where evil ones are marauding beasts of pure physical power and lust and rage, and good ones are wise and noble patrons to human societies. But that is where the line stops; any being with an intelligence even vaguely comparable to humans, IMO, should be free to choose any alignment if they're not forced toward it by cultural programming (ie killing orcs is maybe okay, since they've spent their entire lives learning nothing but antisocial behavior, but killing orc babies is definitely not ever a Good-compatible act; raise those little orclings among humans, and they will turn out just as good as humans do - which is not necessarily all that good after all, but that's beside the point).

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Re: Oh No! It's an Alignment Thread!

Post by willpell » Fri Dec 04, 2015 2:35 am

One new thought I wanted to add on the topic; it's in the voice of an unidentified NPC, so take it as one description of the "truth", rather than as gospel-according-to-me, but I do think it's a potentially valid understanding of the two poles.

"Chaos does not mean having no guidelines to follow, ever; you're not required to remain lost in the wilderness with no maps, no roads, no signposts to point you toward your destination. Rather, Chaos is the belief that those things are optional. Law doesn't create suggestions or even instructions; it creates rules, which by definition must be obeyed, at all times and under all circumstances, to the letter, without question. Law does not compromise; it allows for the possibility that the rules can be changed, but ONLY by following specific pre-existing procedures for changing the rules, which are defined in the rules themselves. Anyone who doesn't think that's good enough, Law just says 'tough'; the moment you cross the line and deviate from the broadest category of 'expectations', you become a criminal, and everyone is mandated to enforce the prescribed punishment upon you, with no mitigating factors other than those specifically outlined in the rules."

(I had a "put more simply" to follow all that, but now I've forgotten how it went. As always, I have so many ideas that it's very hard for me to find the good ones. Hopefully the above thread can be followed as far as it goes; I'll shut up for now and avoid making the confusion worse.)

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Re: Oh No! It's an Alignment Thread!

Post by Philosopher » Tue Dec 08, 2015 5:45 am

Speaking as a professional philosopher (yup, it's not just a name) who teaches courses in ethics, I really think that morality and moral philosophy have nothing to do with alignment, even if "good" and "evil" are included. If you want it to describe a character, you're dealing with moral psychology, how the individual understands morality, and how they conceive of right and wrong.

Insofar as you want to use moral philosophy, alignment could be a reflection of what a character believes to be the correct view of morality. Your character might be a utilitarian. Maybe another character tries to live by Aristotle's virtues. Maybe paladins have to be Kantians (or whatever). Perhaps the sorcerer terrorizing the land is an egoist.

I'm with Ashtagon, however, in thinking that alignment works best when used to determine whose side the characters are on. That will carry with it the sort of (moral) values that a person tends to hold, but still allowing variation. During the Crusades, the alignments could be Christian and Muslim. During the European Wars of Religion, the alignments could be Catholic and Protestant. In modern times, the alignments could be liberal and conservative. (All of these could have further categories, along with neutral/moderate, or whatever.)

In any case, at no point does the use of alignment require an actual definition of "good". It's not because there's no answer to the question; it's because that answer is not needed to play the game. I likewise don't need to do epistemology or philosophy of science to explain how a wizard researches a new spell.

Personally, I like using a simple Law/Neutrality/Chaos system the best. What I like about it is that each campaign can simply define them in different ways (within limits) to evoke a different sort of flavour, while maintaining a degree of familiarity. Civilization vs. barbarism, gods vs. demons, tyranny vs. freedom, whatever it is, it's simple and effective. Pick the side you want to fight for, or decide to stay out of the fight.
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Re: Oh No! It's an Alignment Thread!

Post by Ashtagon » Tue Dec 08, 2015 8:49 am

willpell wrote:
Chaos is based on the idea of strong emotions that cater to a person's primal; emotional wants: the urge for revenge, the urge to possess, the urge to be loved, and the urge for ambition. In contrast, Law is based on primal fears. I developed three "gods of law": Ilaki, The Blinding light, The fear of dark; Ishbok, The Spear of Justice, the fear of hurt; and Keso, The Eternal One, the fear of change. In this regard, Law as an alignment represents a primal urge to ensure that everything stays the same, perfectly lit, free of sensation, and immobile. Both Chaos and Law in this paradigm become "Squid" alignments.
This is pretty neat as well. Although "fear of hurt" leading to Justice is pretty contradictory, given that Justice is almost always the process of destroying what you believe shouldn't exist. Also, the urge to stay free could easily be reframed as a fear of being confined, which seems pretty primal to me, but obviously fits closer with your definition of Chaos than of Law.
Bear in mind, this axis was designed to be these are fears and wants from the point of view of a months-old infant. Freedom and confinement have no meaning until you have the potential to move around under your own steam. And yes, "revenge" is rather a strong word to describe what they are physically capable of at that point.
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Re: Oh No! It's an Alignment Thread!

Post by willpell » Tue Dec 08, 2015 2:18 pm

Philosopher wrote:Speaking as a professional philosopher (yup, it's not just a name) who teaches courses in ethics, I really think that morality and moral philosophy have nothing to do with alignment, even if "good" and "evil" are included. If you want it to describe a character, you're dealing with moral psychology, how the individual understands morality, and how they conceive of right and wrong.
is raptly fascinated Please, continue....
Insofar as you want to use moral philosophy, alignment could be a reflection of what a character believes to be the correct view of morality. Your character might be a utilitarian. Maybe another character tries to live by Aristotle's virtues. Maybe paladins have to be Kantians (or whatever). Perhaps the sorcerer terrorizing the land is an egoist.
That gets to be a slippery slope. I come from WOD fandom before I got into D&D, and in Vampire the Masquerade, there's a mechanic called Humanity which measures your character's moral degradation, from "feeds only consensually and takes great pains to leave no lasting harm on the victim" to "regularly commits mass murder, torture, and enslavement with magic drug-blood", with profound mechanical effects. In theory, this means characters have consequences for their actions and can't just act like murderhobos (y'know, typical D&D characters). But then they came up with this concept of "paths of enlightenment", which were alternatives to Humanity for vampires that had a really alien mindset. There was the Path of Honorable Accord for vampire "knights", the Path of Power and the Inner Voice for "noblesse oblige" types, and the Path of Harmony for an "ethical apex predator" upon humans, who fits into the natural cycle and doesn't do things that a carnivorous animal woulnd't have any reason to. But those were among the few relatively reasonable seeming ones, and there were more than a DOZEN that were some variation of "be as evil as humanly possible", justified in terms of either serving some more powerful master or on a completely topsy-turvy view of ethics (one was based on a super-twisted version of the Catharist Heresy, for instance - given that the soul is good and the body is evil, actual Albigensians believed in denying the flesh in order to grow closer to Sophia the True Godhead, but these vampires instead take it as a given that they have no souls, and try to revel in sin as much as possible, hoping to serve as a negative example that "scares straight" humans and drives them closer to God, or else makes them abandon the concept entirely - it wasn't exactly all that sane an interpretation, and that may have been the author's point, but it went pear-shaped fast). With so many variations on the concept of "murder is now totally fine as long as you do a few mental gymnastics first", the community started referring to the entire "choose a Path" system as "The Path of What I Was Going To Do Anyway". It kind of ruined the entire Humanity concept, and when they rebooted into Vampire the Requiem, they very deliberately left that part out 100%, and never really even began to suggest a way of bringing it back (there's like one page in one of the later supplements that loosely suggests the ability to revise your ethical code, but no mechanics to support it, meaning that the vast majority of campaigns won't even consider its inclusion).
During the Crusades, the alignments could be Christian and Muslim.
AAAAGH NONONONONO please God let's not start down that road...it can only possibly end with Smite Muslim class features and Protection from Christian spells and +3 Jesusbane Maces and a Foe to Islam prestige class. This is not a funny topic, given the amount of real-world bloodshed between these two groups. I love the concept of objective Good and Evil specifically because of how much it contrasts with the reality we're currently living in.
]In modern times, the alignments could be liberal and conservative.
That on the other hand is kind of funny. They don't literally come to blows, but watching them go at it in the media, it's fairly clear that some of them wish they could. A fantastic metaphor in which their "war of words" gets an S in front of the third part...that would be quality entertainment, rather than Unfortunate Implications.
In any case, at no point does the use of alignment require an actual definition of "good".
It does if an angel is a creature literally made of Good... Deities might have their own relativism, but if you can be a cleric of Good itself, or a Paladin whose powers don't derive from any deity (which is the case in 3E core), then you have to decide what Good is exactly. Treating it as just a "gang" is valid (in opinions other than mine), but having no definition at all doesn't really work.
Last edited by willpell on Wed Dec 09, 2015 1:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Oh No! It's an Alignment Thread!

Post by Philosopher » Wed Dec 09, 2015 3:29 am

willpell - Every single one of your objections is based on an assumption that I explicitly denied in my post.

Having a setting in which there are elves does not mean that I believe elves are real. Playing an elf as my PC does not make me an elf. I'm making the exact same point about morality.
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Re: Oh No! It's an Alignment Thread!

Post by willpell » Wed Dec 09, 2015 1:36 pm

Philosopher wrote:willpell - Every single one of your objections is based on an assumption that I explicitly denied in my post.
I don't quite follow you...could you point out what you mean, both in your post and mine?
Having a setting in which there are elves does not mean that I believe elves are real. Playing an elf as my PC does not make me an elf. I'm making the exact same point about morality.
I'm not sure that the analogy is valid. Elves are a thing that physically does or does not exist. Morality IRL is all in the mind, but the basis of D&D is the assumption that it is a cosmic force as real as gravity. So I don't know that the two can translate.

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