Alignment Quantifiers

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Seethyr
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Alignment Quantifiers

Post by Seethyr » Tue Jul 03, 2018 3:42 pm

It’s no secret that I love 5e rules. Well, I love pretty much every edition but this one really seems like perfection to me.

What I do miss, however is the alignment quantifiers for creatures such as “Often, Usually, Always, etc.”. Does anyone use this still from 3e? I have kind of want to cross reference all the 5e produced monsters with their 3e equivalents and add this to their descriptions. What was the downside?

The quantifiers helped make decisions on what to do with villains (and their young especially). When you find slay a group of orcs and find young, you know what the right thing to do is because it was their society that made them evil, the young can be redeemed.

Does anyone still use these quantifiers or have they added them to existing monsters? What other decisions did it help you make?
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Re: Alignment Quantifiers

Post by zontoxira » Tue Jul 10, 2018 3:35 pm

Damn, quantifiers remind me of one class I had in my Linguistics BA, Logic and Semantics; it was a real pain to fully grasp what was going on (we jokingly called it Illogic and Semantics). It was the topic of my first presentation in an international conference, too.
Jokes aside, I remember AD&D had "tendencies", like a creature was chaotic neutral with evil tendencies meaning that it would occasionally favour evil doing. Other than that, my group held that alignment was mostly defined by a creature's society (willpell's thread has some interesting discussions).
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Re: Alignment Quantifiers

Post by finarvyn » Tue Jul 10, 2018 5:19 pm

For a guy who basically missed out on 3E, can you elaborate on the "quantifiers" concept and how you used it?
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Re: Alignment Quantifiers

Post by HawkDiesel » Tue Jul 10, 2018 6:48 pm

I personally don't use or bother with alignment. Not only in my experience did it lead to players going Chaotic stupid, but it just seemed too rigid and black and white for my tastes. I prefer relative morality rather than absolute morality.

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Re: Alignment Quantifiers

Post by shesheyan » Tue Jul 10, 2018 8:30 pm

HawkDiesel wrote:
Tue Jul 10, 2018 6:48 pm
I personally don't use or bother with alignment. Not only in my experience did it lead to players going Chaotic stupid, but it just seemed too rigid and black and white for my tastes. I prefer relative morality rather than absolute morality.
Same for me. Alignements are too rigid for my taste. Its not something I push in my games. Anyway people can have very different alignments depending on who they are dealing with. Towards familly someone can be lawful but chaotc towards against any other group.
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Re: Alignment Quantifiers

Post by Dread Delgath » Wed Jul 11, 2018 1:08 am

To me, Alignments have been just another long Gygaxian word for "which side are you on - the good guys, or the bad guys?"

The object for me & my players has always been centered on killing/destroy evil creatures, and saving/preserving the good, which to me is the simplest and best way to handle this.

The tl,dr version goes into First Edition statements to the effect that humans & half-humans have souls, and are thus worth saving. Non human creatures do not have souls and are incapable of performing good deeds in & of themselves, or for the deed itself. But this is coupled with the hard to grasp concept that even humans can be evil, and must be killed to preserve good, etc.

What I never attempt to put into D&D is the essence of realism that states that overall, humanity is capable of performing good and evil deeds, but is in itself non-aligned. Yes, there are good people, and they sometimes do evil things. But there are also people who habitually do evil deeds, or continually make bad-wrong decisions. Those people, IMO, are still worth trying to save, as I am still as optimistic as RotJ Luke Skywalker trying to save Darth Vader. ;)
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Re: Alignment Quantifiers

Post by HawkDiesel » Wed Jul 11, 2018 3:17 am

Dread Delgath wrote:
Wed Jul 11, 2018 1:08 am
To me, Alignments have been just another long Gygaxian word for "which side are you on - the good guys, or the bad guys?"

The object for me & my players has always been centered on killing/destroy evil creatures, and saving/preserving the good, which to me is the simplest and best way to handle this.

The tl,dr version goes into First Edition statements to the effect that humans & half-humans have souls, and are thus worth saving. Non human creatures do not have souls and are incapable of performing good deeds in & of themselves, or for the deed itself. But this is coupled with the hard to grasp concept that even humans can be evil, and must be killed to preserve good, etc.

What I never attempt to put into D&D is the essence of realism that states that overall, humanity is capable of performing good and evil deeds, but is in itself non-aligned. Yes, there are good people, and they sometimes do evil things. But there are also people who habitually do evil deeds, or continually make bad-wrong decisions. Those people, IMO, are still worth trying to save, as I am still as optimistic as RotJ Luke Skywalker trying to save Darth Vader. ;)
See, I love the complexity and potential stories that can develop when good and evil are ill-defined. It forces players to question whether their quest is a worthy one, and allows players to sympathize with their foes. Anyone could have ended up in the position of their adversary had they made different choices or had different experiences. Even the heroes of the game.

But I also really dislike games where murder is an acceptable way to deal with villains. It's much easier to kill bad guys when you know they are inherently evil and irredemeable. I want my players to struggle with what is the right thing to do and think about their actions. I don't want them to be absolutely sure that their course of action is right or even righteous, and my players tend to respond well to this.

Of course, people play for different reasons, so I am not suggesting that any way is superior to another. But then, I'm a therapist for DCFS kids, so I gravitate more to stories where the world exists in shades of gray, because I just can't see or accept the idea of an absolute morality. Also, my entire job is about finding the redemptive qualities in those society has rejected, and having hope that everyone has potential to repair whatever harm they caused or were involved in.

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Re: Alignment Quantifiers

Post by willpell » Wed Jul 11, 2018 3:36 pm

I like alignment a lot, as long as it's applied with a degree of nuance. I've attempted to create a "points" system for measuring how far toward one extreme or the other it is, using as loose inspiration the Renown system from Werewolf: the Apocalypse, where your werewolf is evaluated by The Spirits in terms of how well he has upheld the three expected forms of Renown (Glory, Honor and Wisdom), with bonuses or penalties based on behavior. I've never been up to the effort of creating and rigidly enforcing a similar system for Good, Evil, Law and Chaos, but it could be done.

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Re: Alignment Quantifiers

Post by Havard » Wed Jul 11, 2018 3:49 pm

Alignment debate! :D

I didn't know about Alignment Quantifiers. That is interesting.

There are alot of problems with Alignments, but most of them can be avoided if you have a relaxed attitude towards them.

To me as a DM, the most important function of alignments is that PC alignments tell me what to expect in terms of their behaviour. Will they be interested in saving the princess and protecting the realm out of a wish to help? Or are they going to persue tasks that provide them with the most gold? Or are they in town mainly to wreck havoc and might even ally themselves with the horde of Orcs if promised a share of the spoils?

I suppose a new DM might also find it useful to know that Orcs are bad and Unicorns are nice. Maybe quite obvious with those two, but less obvious for some other creatures?

I think one problem with how alignments are often seen is the assumption that alignments are static and that acting against your alignment means you are playing your character wrong. Maybe that was more widespread in the past. These days I would allow pcs to change alignments at the end of any session where they felt like their characters had undergone some experience that would change them. There would be no particular punishment for this except for some magic items and perhaps some Cleric and Paladin types might find themselves in a difficult relationship with their deity.
HawkDiesel wrote:
Wed Jul 11, 2018 3:17 am
See, I love the complexity and potential stories that can develop when good and evil are ill-defined. It forces players to question whether their quest is a worthy one, and allows players to sympathize with their foes. Anyone could have ended up in the position of their adversary had they made different choices or had different experiences. Even the heroes of the game.

But I also really dislike games where murder is an acceptable way to deal with villains. It's much easier to kill bad guys when you know they are inherently evil and irredemeable. I want my players to struggle with what is the right thing to do and think about their actions. I don't want them to be absolutely sure that their course of action is right or even righteous, and my players tend to respond well to this.
If that works well with your group, then I say you should keep doing it. I have mixed experiences with too much shades of gray attitude myself. This just shows that there are many ways to have fun in an RPG. If noone is good or bad then why do anything at all? On the other side adding some complexity will make for a more interesting story than a completely black and white cartoony world.

To be, part of the appeal of RPGs is an escape from the real world, so 100% realism would take away some of the fun. I guess there is a balance of those extremes out there :)

I would consider handing out additional XPs for allowing villains to live. Some villains will come back and become recurring opponents. In other cases there could be a chance of redemption. That could award even more XP. This is something you could be open to the players about in advance.

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Re: Alignment Quantifiers

Post by Dread Delgath » Fri Jul 13, 2018 1:44 am

In our session last night (D&D5e) the players were after some bad-guys that had plagued their existence for quite awhile now, and the bad-guys actually got their comeuppance! I'd call it a good end to a great campaign arc.

We'll eventually wrap things up and move to new vistas in my barely explored campaign world, but, I'm getting ahead of myself a bit; the campaign and the bad-guys all had raison d’etre, and I put a bit of thought into it.

Basically, the players often look for bad guys to kill, so that is what I give them. I've tried a few gray area NPCs early on, but the PCs react to them as though they should kill them so they don't come back later to harass the party.

So, I give them reealllly evil bad guys to go after. Its a simple, popcorn fun game for us, and this is how we like to play. The main bad gal was a chaotic evil female halfling assassin (18th level) named Slit-Nose Hali. She had taken exception to the party's presence in town, and decided to take them out. Her plans kept failing, and the PCs were wanting payback in the worst way possible. However, they were given an option to see if Hali could take the contract off their heads in a meeting with a boastful halfling who promised to be the party's "ace in the hole" at the meeting.

This NPC turned out to be Hali's brother, and he wanted to talk some sense into his sister. The meeting was a ruse - the party knew it, and were somewhat prepared, but they wound up captured and ready to be tortured for their trouble. Fortunately, the scenario was designed around my expectation that the PCs would try to escape and make allies out of low-level enemies - which they did. They managed to escape their bonds, kill their worst captors* and confront Hali again. Again, she proved that she would give no quarter and sought to make the party suffer.

She tried to assassinate her own twin sister (Hali's captive) before her brother landed the killing blow (after the party fought her to nearly a stand-still) and took her life. (Yes, my own NPC took out the bbeg, by necessity as we were missing two/three key players last night, and the players were completely invested in the battle, and we were all satisfied with the end of the battle...)

*Their worst captor was most likely Hali - she was the cruellest, but she employed a chaotic evil gnome sorcerer "wild mage" who delighted in proving that he was as crazy as the Joker. He cast some very cruel spells on the party, nearly killing them all with a well-placed wall of fire spell before the party's half-orc got close enough to take the gnome out. The party's own fire-mage asked the half orc not to kill him, but maim him and she'd torture him later. I asked the fire-mage what her alignment was - (it was chaotic good) - and I told the player that if she played this through, I'd shift her alignment to chaotic neutral - and the player was ok with this.

(Not the first time one of my players decided to take out a few innocent NPC bystanders to take out an entire room full of Sekolah worshipping sahuagin. When I told him his CN alignment would shift to CE until he did a 'good' deed to counteract it, he could shift back to CN, but he declined, saying that he was fine with running a CE character. He's since slide to NE, since he's more greedy than gonzo CE.

I am fine with evil characters, as long as it does not interfere with PCs getting along with each other. As soon as that becomes a problem, then the party needs to talk "out-of-character" to keep them all on the same page.

We're a good group and not prone to fighting over stupid shit, and we generally like each other well enough to admit this is a game, and its not worth upsetting one another over it.
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Re: Alignment Quantifiers

Post by Morfie » Fri Jul 13, 2018 6:43 am

I was fairly familiar with 3e/3.5e rules, but I don't recall Alignment Quantifiers.. what book was this from?

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Re: Alignment Quantifiers

Post by willpell » Fri Jul 13, 2018 3:14 pm

Morfie wrote:
Fri Jul 13, 2018 6:43 am
I was fairly familiar with 3e/3.5e rules, but I don't recall Alignment Quantifiers.. what book was this from?
The OP was referring to the line saying that Orcs are "Often Chaotic Evil" or the like. The discussion has since drifted into more general alignment stuff, but that was specifically what the OP meant by "quantifiers".

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Re: Alignment Quantifiers

Post by HawkDiesel » Fri Jul 13, 2018 6:04 pm

One thing that I would wonder for those using alignment quantifies (for example, that orcs tend to be evil or chaotic evil) is how do these races see themselves? If we imagine that intelligent races think and see the world as we do (of course there's no reason to assume as much, but most races seem to be humans with different colors or abilities) then wouldn't they tend to view their lives in a narrative with themselves being the hero of their own story? We all think and conceptualize in this way. Very few people see themselves as the villain or as evil. So given this, how would a "typically evil" race see themselves, and how might they see other races that are "typically good" or "neutral" (whatever that means).

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Re: Alignment Quantifiers

Post by Seethyr » Fri Jul 13, 2018 8:14 pm

HawkDiesel wrote:
Fri Jul 13, 2018 6:04 pm
One thing that I would wonder for those using alignment quantifies (for example, that orcs tend to be evil or chaotic evil) is how do these races see themselves? If we imagine that intelligent races think and see the world as we do (of course there's no reason to assume as much, but most races seem to be humans with different colors or abilities) then wouldn't they tend to view their lives in a narrative with themselves being the hero of their own story? We all think and conceptualize in this way. Very few people see themselves as the villain or as evil. So given this, how would a "typically evil" race see themselves, and how might they see other races that are "typically good" or "neutral" (whatever that means).
That's a great question. In the recent book Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes, even Asmodeus thinks of himself as a hero of the planes (he keeps back the tides of ultimate destruction of the Abyss) who wants to create a utopia where everyone has their place. To be perfectly honest, I try to avoid this whole topic in gaming, not because it isn't interesting or make for great storytelling, but because it hits too close to home and real life. I refuse to even mention the political topics it could tie into, but you know where I am going (and utterly refuse to). Personally, I just want the quantifiers to make the most basic of moral decisions. What do I do with prisoners? Can I kill indiscriminately? What do I do with the young? Can they be redeemed or rehabilitated? Personally, for me, unless my character was being attacked, I don't think it is okay to slaughter anything that had the word Often as a quantifier. Conversely, Always, like for demons and devils, was license to just be an utter savage.

I know moral dilemmas make for great storytelling, but I am willing to sacrifice that benefit for the sake of not bringing too much RW drama into my gaming. I want a set of rules to follow and then my characters will stick by them based on their alignment. It's just my style of gaming - but not something I'd hold to if I were writing a novel.
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Re: Alignment Quantifiers

Post by willpell » Sat Jul 14, 2018 4:21 pm

HawkDiesel wrote:
Fri Jul 13, 2018 6:04 pm
One thing that I would wonder for those using alignment quantifies (for example, that orcs tend to be evil or chaotic evil) is how do these races see themselves?
My lifestyle has given me a great deal of empathy for the worldview of the "savage races". I look around at human civilization, and I see a paper-thin illusion, propped up by the mean-spirited selfishness and small-minded pettiness of both society's upper and lower classes. I think there is a purity to the idea of admitting that living beings are essentially all-devouring, foulness-exuding monstrosities, who care only about their own venal satisfaction, and almost accidentally self-perpetuating their own lineage. I often think the same is usually true of any ordered society, they just conceal it through dishonest and hypocritical indoctrinations.

Conversely, of course, there's the basic fact that if we had a more honestly survivalistic society, someone as pathetic and useless as myself would be first up against the proverbial wall; I'd either be dead, or be forced to become something I don't like in order to survive. So I'm not actually trying to live like an orc, but I can definitely understand why an actual orc would feel that was the correct way to live. Orcs don't sit around and play games to amuse themselves, because they don't have excessively comfortable lives that force them to seek out imaginary challenges to channel their evolutionary imperative to conquer all obstacles. There's an admirable quality to the fact that an orc knows exactly what he is, and honestly does exactly what most people would do as well, if they had +2 Strength and -2 Intelligence and Charisma, so it was no longer worth the effort to try and play the game of society, when he can simply push down and "roll" the people who do. He's a miserable sort of creature, and we wouldn't want to live the way he does, but he's playing the hand that the world dealt him, and I think that's something worth thinking about, even if probably not something anyone should actually do.
If we imagine that intelligent races think and see the world as we do (of course there's no reason to assume as much, but most races seem to be humans with different colors or abilities) then wouldn't they tend to view their lives in a narrative with themselves being the hero of their own story? We all think and conceptualize in this way. Very few people see themselves as the villain or as evil. So given this, how would a "typically evil" race see themselves, and how might they see other races that are "typically good" or "neutral" (whatever that means).
Moral relativism itself may well be a human cultural trait; it's entirely reasonable that other races, especially those who have not had enough positive interactions with humanity that they'd want to behave the way we do. I for one have come to deeply question whether thinking in narrative terms is beneficial; there are certainly good reasons why a culture might not want their people encouraged to think in terms of stories, because stories create a distorted understanding of reality.

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