Friday, April 9, 2010

Friday Discussion: Alignment

We’ve had a great week here at RPG Blog 2, and I wanted to thank everyone for their comments and participation. Today’s Friday, and we’re going to keep things moving with a bit of Friday Discussion. Nothing too serious, nothing too heavy—just gamers talking about the hobby they love.

Today’s questions pertain to one of those topics that really seem to fire people up: Alignment. Do you use alignment for characters in your game? If so, what system or method do you use? If not, why not?

I’m interested to hear how everyone treats alignment in their campaigns. Have a great weekend!

26 comments:

Tim Shorts said...

In some games I use alignment, but I have to say not very often. When I do use alignments it's the nine alignment system.

The times I use alignment is when I plan to run a certain pantheon of gods. That's what usually determines the if I do or not. I just find it easier when using aspected mythologies. Each worshipper has their niche to fill.

Stuart said...

In our current Weird West game we're using White Hat / Grey Hat / Black Hat for character alignment.

Gleichman said...

I ditched D&D alignment almost before ditching D&D.

The concept of Good and Evil however remains as very strong core in my campaigns, as one would expect with a Middle Earth focused campaign world. But it's not a fixed and detailed subsystem.

mthomas768 said...

I have used alignment in games in the past, more as guidance to character behavior than as a hard and fast rule. Lately I've been ignoring it, though a couple of my players still note their chosen alignment on their character sheet.

clash bowley said...

In games I run, good and evil are things you do, not things you are.

-clash

rologutwein said...

When I play D&D, I use the 9 Alignment system. However, as a GM, I find this more useful for helping decide how NPCs act and react. Players I give a bit more leeway (except in the case of Paladins and folk with more specific codes of conduct).

Outside of D&D, I do not use alignments at all.

Zachary The First said...

@mthomas: I’ve found that generally to be the rule for me, as well. I tell people they can use alignment if they so choose, be it 9-step, Palladium (Aberrant, Unprincipled, Principled, Anarchist, etc.), or some X-Y axis.

Like clash says, I think actions speak louder than labels. Plus, very few people are all of one thing or another. I’m reminded of T.H. White’s description of Guinevere in The Once And Future King on that account.

jonbrazer.com said...

Standard alignment system, although I am not a fan of it. I also would not use anything else while playing D&D/Pathfinder. Playing any other game however, I use no alignment system at all.

HinterWelt said...

I have used Codes for so long as to make alignment seem a strange concept. Codes are your goals, aspirations, hopes, a base description of who you are. Example: Stoic, Helps Others, Selfless might be a way to describe a paladin...or Law, God, Unswerving loyalty to the Pope another way.

I am with Clash though, I have always viewed it as "good" and "evil" are actions not who you are.

WalkerP said...

Dropped alignment ages ago and haven't used a system that requires it since then. Now that I've played in morally ambiguous, 'realistic' games, I probably wouldn't have a problem doing a campaign in an alignment-constrained world. While I don't like how simplistic and prone to confusion alignment-based settings can be, I do kind of enjoy the connection with the mechanics (like what spells you can get, bonuses against opposing alignments and so on). But such a return to alignments would probably not last long for me.

BlUsKrEEm said...

I use Lawful/Neutral/Chaotic alignments in my game, although rather than reflecting your moral com pass I like to use them as a culture.

BlUsKrEEm said...

I use Lawful/Neutral/Chaotic alignments in my game, although rather than reflecting your moral com pass I like to use them as a culture.

sacha3791 said...

Alignment rules work well within systems that contain such rules as an important design element. I'm thinking primarily of D&D and Palladium. I enjoy using such rules when the system has been designed with them in mind. I've never been a fan of grafting alignment rules onto systems that don't have them to begin with. Other systems have equally interesting and useful ways of guiding or governing PC behaviour, whether that is represented by the corruption rules in MERP or the traits and passions of Pendragon.

As an aside, my favourite alignment system is definitely the one to be found in Palladium FRP.

seaofstarsrpg said...

Been without alignments for years now and feeling fine. The classic D&D 3x3 axis just does not work for me so I got rid of it. However, there are evil beings (demons for example, the physical embodiment of a metaphysical concept), which are rare, and evil deeds, which are not, in my campaign. But mostly, the players can make their own judgments on such.

Jason Richards said...

I've started using simple adjectives for pretty much everything, including alignment. To determine what type of character you have, you just assign some descriptive language. Superman may have a list like "Honest, Lonesome, Compassionate, Confident" while Batman would be "Meticulous, Tortured, Obsessive, Restrained" or some flavor of that. Once set, I just ask that the players be consistent in their portrayal of the character. I think this method allows the player more freedom than if they try to conform to a set list from which they must choose.

Carpe Guitarrem said...

I'll play with alignment in the classic way, but I far prefer alternate systems. My two favorite are the Morality/Virtue/Vice system from World of Darkness, and the Beliefs system from Mouse Guard and Burning Wheel.

Swordgleam said...

Never used alignment, doubt I'm ever going to. But I do find it hilarious that most of my current party has "chaotic good" down on their sheets (mostly out of habit) while their actions as a group most closely resemble Lawful Evil.

I'm just one who got burned early with a "you can't/must do that, your alignment forbids/commands it" kind of DM. Most people who shun alignment as thoroughly as I do seem to have had similar early experiences.

Rob Conley said...

I don't bother with alignment. Allegiance counts much more heavily and has natural consequences that players easily understand.

Amanda said...

When we're playing d&d we try to stick to alignment pretty faithfully, though I think we all realize that it's not exactly the perfect measuring stick. In my upcoming sandbox games though I am going to try an experiment that I got from Daddy Grognard and report back on how well it works. We're going to go with his Statement of Principles idea instead of alignment or something else.

http://daddygrognard.blogspot.com/2010/03/good-evil-and-line-between-them.html

clash bowley said...

@ Swordgleam:

A Alignment-abusive GM is not a reqirement. I've been "the GM" since I started in 1977, and I'm the same way. A rigid "Alignment" system just doesn't make sense outside of game-mechanics uses - it's in-game justification is weak.

Stuart said...

I think it's okay to say "you said you were playing a 'good guy' so you can't rob your guide' just as well as saying "you gave your guy a low (S/I/W/D/C/C) they fail at action X".

Aaron said...

I really only use Alignment when I play Dungeons and Dragons, and I try to make it really "which group are you aligned with," going for the Nine Faces of the Illuminati. So it's less about one's direct moral standards, and which group you'd like to see take over the world. A good analogy would be political party. Your party doesn't absolutely dictate one's ethics, although if one strays too far from the norm, you're given the boot.

But I found that it works best if "good" and "evil" are objective and unambiguous terms, so I sat down and worked out what exactly "good" is, for the purposes of the game world.

Norman Harman said...

Since AD&D I have never have liked alignments. Actually, I abhor them, esp alignment languages.

Most games I run if players want to use them to define their char, fine. I ignore it though.

Since learning of Jeff Rients LNC descriptions I've become fond of that for simple/pulply/less serious games like Labyrinth Lord.

I enjoy systems where character's have one or more trains or allegiances. such as "Follower of Mitra", "greedy", "Member of thieves guild", "honorable", "Supporter of King".

In my next campaign I hope to use the five color system from Magic the Gathering as fundemental meta-physical forces in much the way Alignments are sometimes used. Still not going use flippin lame alignment languages.

mxyzplk said...

In D&D, I use the "nine alignments." In other games, I totally don't.

I use them as descriptive, not prescriptive. Your character acts how they want, and I assign them a new alignment if it's needed. Unless you're a paladin/cleric it doesn't really matter except for interaction with Holy/Unholy type spells. Specific codes, beliefs, and stuff are also important though I don't bother to rules-ize them.

I also assume humans, and other rational creatures, are pretty much on a bell curve of alignment. Most are neutral, some lean one way, fewer lean two ways.

Vincent Diakuw said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sakusammakko said...

In the my new campaign, I am going to eliminate traditional alignments. Instead, the players need to decide who they owe their allegiance to:

the exiting power structure of Church and State;
the Merchant and Master Craftsman class with its familial and social obligations;
or to themselves alone, whether they be Outcasts or Outlaws.

Your allegiances offer different advantages and disadvantages as well as restrict the classes you can play. For example, Knights, Paladins, Rangers, Clerics and Monks are only available if you are part of the Church and State.

Good and evil are entirely subjective, both by the players AND the NPCs. I am not going to automatically penalize PCs for being cynical or opportunistic.

FYI, 'Good' and 'Evil' spells will still work as some things are seen by a person or a group as universally good or evil. For another group, these same spells might work differently.