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Geordnet
2013-02-25, 10:22 PM
So then, alignment seems to be a major sticking point in discussions. It is very common for two or more people to have irreconcilable differences in opinion of where a character or action would lie in terms of alignment.

I've noticed, though, that the vast majority of heated debate is over position on the Good/Evil axis, rather than the Law/Chaos axis. (Which doesn't make much sense to me, but I can work with it.) The most obvious response is to cut out that axis entirely, and go with a pure Law/Chaos alignment like in (for example) NetHack. However, that feels to me like it's missing something...

So, I developed this hybrid system:

{table]
–|
Good|

Lawful|Neutral|Chaotic

–|
Evil|
–[/table]

The first thing you'll probably notice is the lack of any combination alignments like "Lawful Good" or "Chaotic Evil". This is why I chose the name "Inverse Conjunction". That isn't the important part, though.

The key concept here is that over 99.99% of mortals will lie on the horizontal axis. The vertical axis is reserved only for supernatural creatures, and the most innocent or most vile of people. Many if not most settings will not have any amongst the ranks of mortals.

It's also important to bear in mind that Law is not Good and Chaos is not Evil. To the contrary, it's just as often the other way around. Hopefully though this distinction will be easier to grasp, though.

Alignment Sorting Algorithm:

Here are the rules for deciding what alignment to place a character. They are synonymous with the definitions thereof. (As in, "Good" alignment is defined by "those whom are sorted into 'Good' by this algorithm".)

(Note: The rules currently written are only for sorting mortals. Supernatural or superhuman characters follow a different set of rules, which I have yet to write down.)

Step 1: Sorting Good and Evil.

The first thing you'll want to do is figure out if a character qualifies for Good or Evil status.

When considering a character, ask yourself the following three questions:

Can the character be considered the absolute best or worst in his setting? If not, is it because there are others better/worse than him, or just (roughly) equal?
Does the character have any sort of moral flaws or "skeletons in the closet", (if considering Good) or any redeeming qualities or "moral fiber" (if considering Evil)?
How much attention does the story bring to the character's purity and innocence or wretched vileness? That is to say, to what lengths does it go to point it out to the audience? (If you are making a character for an adventure or campaign, instead ask yourself what your intent behind the character is. Are you trying to make a character who's ultimately Good/Evil at heart?)

If the answer to #1 is "no", then the character is probably not Good/Evil unless others on par with or 'superior' to him are also Good/Evil. (Evaluate them separately.) If it's "yes", then he'll probably qualify if anyone else in the setting will.

If #2 is "yes, several", then the character does not qualify. But if the answer is "yes, he has one- but he's been trying really hard to make up for it", then he could still qualify, but there are no guarantees. If the answer is "no, none at all", then the prospects of him qualifying are very good.

If #3 is "yes", then the character should qualify unless one of the answers to the other questions says that he shouldn't. If "no", then he probably doesn't qualify unless all other criteria are favorable.

Step 2: Sorting Law and Chaos.

Since most characters don't fall into Good or Evil, they'll have do be sorted by Law or Chaos instead.

Ask the following questions, in the following order:

Does the character feel compelled to obey the law, even when he doesn't agree with it? If so, he is Lawful.
Does the character act outside the law on a regular basis, without remorse? If so, he is Chaotic.
Does the character follow an externally formalized code, like chivalry? If so, he is Lawful. (Provided he does more than pay lip service to it, of course.)

(From this point on, the questions are in no particular order, nor definitive. I'm still working on a better definition.)

Can you trust the character at his word? What about a formal oath or vow?
Is the character in a position that is generally associated with Law or Chaos?
Is the character a member of a "usually Lawful" or "usually Chaotic" race?
Is the character associated with a strongly Lawful or Chaotic group or organization?
Was the character brought up amongst nobility, or amongst beggars and thieves?
Is the character very wild or disciplined?

I could probably go on, but I'm running out of ideas for now.

Here are some general concepts behind the alignments. Note, however, that these are not their exact definitions, and should not be treated as such.

(They're also in need of an update, and may not be entirely in line with the current concept I'm working with.)

Neutral:
Neutral is the default group. If there is ever significant doubt about a character's alignment, put them here. (Unless they are of a "Usually Lawful" or "Usually Chaotic" race.)

Lawful:
Lawful beings are more likely to adhere to a stricter set of rules than non-Lawful beings. This varies from person to person, but usually includes laws set down by local governments -yet not always (especially when the local laws vastly differ from those of one's home town). The key term here is consistency: a Lawful person doesn't change their principles on a whim. They are more likely to prefer stability over change, even if it's possible the change will be for the better. A tyrant who cracks down hard on crime and dissension, a nobleman who keeps his Machiavellian schemes subtle and covert, an assassin who refuses to kill when not being paid (but isn't necessarily picky about his targets), and an arrogant yet honorable knight are all examples of Lawful characters.

Chaotic:
Chaotic characters are more likely to ignore rules, especially those set up by others, and sometimes the consequences for breaking them too. Any rules they place on themselves are usually more or less arbitrary, although they may not change their mind very easily. They are more likely to seek change to escape from stagnation, occasionally even risking a change for the worse. A marauding brigand, a rebel against any government, a fiery public speaker, a vagabond street urchin (and most children for that matter), and a scientist who constantly pushes the limits of conventional thinking are all examples of Chaotic characters.

Good:
"Good enough" doesn't cut it. This alignment is probably impossible to achieve in real life; but that's okay, for what is the purpose of Fantasy if not to dream of the impossible? PCs are without exception not this, if only because Good people don't go off killing things for fun. Good also comes in humble packages: it is not the paladin that defends an orphanage from a band of orcs that is Good, instead it is the one child who thanklessly tends to the wounds of his fellow orphans.

Evil:
Unlike Good, Evil is far too realistic an alignment. Thankfully though, not one in ten thousand people is sufficiently vile to be so. Before classifying a villain as Evil, ask yourself "does he have a single shred of what could be called 'moral fiber', by any stretch?" If the answer is "yes", then you probably shouldn't dilute the potency of the word by including him under it. Even if a campaign has dozens of villains, if they have any characterization at all then only a fraction of them will be truly Evil.

When converting from the traditional 9 alignments to this system, prefer moving to the horizontal axis unless the being in question is more spiritual than physical, (i.e. angels, demons, etc.) in which case prefer the vertical axis. (Such beings with LN or CN alignments should be considered for optional transfer to Neutral as well.)

So, I guess some more examples are in order. (DISCLAIMER: these are all my personal opinions; yours may vary, but hopefully not as much as they would with the other system.)
OotS has at least two Evil characters: Xykon and Tarquin. Nale may count as well, but most of the other villains don't. Malak and Redcloak are more Lawful, for instance. Roy and Durkon are Lawful, Haley and Belkar are Chaotic, and since V's hard to place (s)he's Neutral by default. Elan is actually the closest character to Good in the comic IMO, because of his childish innocence; but failing that he's Chaotic.

The only Good mortal character I can think of might be Samwise Gamgee, although he isn't perfect. Just the closest. If he doesn't make that he's Lawful. Frodo would probably be Neutral, while Merry and Pippin (and sometimes Bilbo) would be Chaotic. Legolas and Gimli default to Chaotic and Lawful, respectively. Borimir, being a noble and captain of Gondor, would be Lawful. Aragorn would be more Chaotic as a ranger and more Lawful as a king, so I'd place him overall as Neutral. Gandalf is Good, although that's primarily because he isn't a mortal.

Superman would be Good, but I don't think he really counts as a "mortal". Batman is Chaotic, because the essence of his character is a masked vigilante. Lux Luthor probably would not be Evil (with a capitol 'E') because he's primarily after money, which isn't Evil in itself (though the love of it is the root all kinds of Evil). The Joker, however, would be.

The (old) Jedi Order was strictly Lawful, with few exceptions: Obi-Wan might be Neutral, and Anakin would be either Neutral or Chaotic. Darth Vader would be Evil, though, as would be the Emperor. Most Imperialists would be merely Lawful, though, while the Rebels are Chaotic.

Well, I'm getting tired of typing. I guess it's time to submit and see what everyone thinks. I'll warn you though that this is a purely theory-based system, and I have little to no practical experience to judge if it'll work.

FreakyCheeseMan
2013-02-25, 10:28 PM
I think that the reason why people argue less over "Law" vs. "Chaos" is, rather paradoxically, that those definitions are a lot less clear than good vs. evil. With "Good" vs. "Evil", there are strong opinions and arguments to be made; with "Law" vs. "Chaos", it's a lot easier to write changes off as a player or character's point of view.

There's also the fact that "Law" is pretty widely agreed to not be the same thing as "Local Law" - it just depends on the character's own code. Since the code is something defined by the player (While "Good" might be defined by the DM) there's less room for argument.

You might want to elaborate more on why you cut out the corner cases.

Geordnet
2013-02-25, 10:39 PM
I think that the reason why people argue less over "Law" vs. "Chaos" is, rather paradoxically, that those definitions are a lot less clear than good vs. evil. With "Good" vs. "Evil", there are strong opinions and arguments to be made; with "Law" vs. "Chaos", it's a lot easier to write changes off as a player or character's point of view.
Well, that's still Mission: Accomplished for me. The system is intended to minimize arguments more than be a definitive answer.

There's also the fact that "Law" is pretty widely agreed to not be the same thing as "Local Law" - it just depends on the character's own code. Since the code is something defined by the player (While "Good" might be defined by the DM) there's less room for argument.
I don't think I refuted that here. I suppose it could be made more clear, though.

You might want to elaborate more on why you cut out the corner cases.

I cut out the corner cases because they weren't needed. Since Good and Evil only refer to extremes, any sort of additional classification would be superfluous and confusing.

Also, Good and Evil will be used for supernatural beings far more often than mortals. Such beings write the rules.

Tovec
2013-02-26, 12:31 AM
Superman would be Lawful, and Batman Chaotic.

DISAGREE.

Superman Good. Batman Law (or neutral depending on iteration).

That is all I have to say.

chaos_redefined
2013-02-26, 12:48 AM
So... what we have here is someone saying "here's an alignment system that fixes the arguments", and someone else disagreeing with the example characters?

I mean no disrespect, but that sounds like a case of "back to the drawing board".

Furthermore, let's say I have a character who disregards all rules, and has no shred of moral fibre? You have a character who fits into two categories. Cases like that is why the corner cases appeared in the first place.

Although you did hit a good idea in there... Express each alignment as a question. For example (and this is my preferred definition of lawful/chaotic)...

Your character made a promise. Assuming the circumstances do not change, does your character keep his/her promise? If not, s/he is chaotic. The circumstances change, and keeping the promise is now a lot worse than it was when s/he made the promise. Does s/he break the promise now, hoping the circumstances justify this action? If so, s/he is neutral (on the law/chaos axis). Otherwise, s/he is lawful.

Please note, this is my preferred definition, and I completely understand that other players may prefer a different definition. Please don't argue about the definition, just the concept of using questions to determine alignment.

LordErebus12
2013-02-26, 01:28 AM
Id simply fill in those blank spots with the actual alignments (lawful good, lawful evil, chaotic evil, chaotic good). benefits of both what you present, and what is already a given.

Geordnet
2013-02-26, 01:29 AM
So... what we have here is someone saying "here's an alignment system that fixes the arguments", and someone else disagreeing with the example characters?

I mean no disrespect, but that sounds like a case of "back to the drawing board".
I never said it would fix all arguments. :smalltongue:

(And yeah, I definitely considered Good for Superman. But Batman is definitely Chaotic though, IMO: he's a masked vigilante who uses fear as a weapon, after all. But then again, there's plenty of wiggle room in the Law/Chaos direction as well...)

Furthermore, let's say I have a character who disregards all rules, and has no shred of moral fibre? You have a character who fits into two categories. Cases like that is why the corner cases appeared in the first place.
Choose one. Which one is more important? Which defines the character more?

There's a lot of grey area as far as good vs. evil goes within the Lawful/Neutral/Chaotic spectrum. This was intended. The point is to make sure that the only people with an 'Evil' alignment are those whom everyone can accept is Evil.

And if you're that Evil, then concerns over your exact methods are a tad trivial, don't you think? Why bother even trying to draw a line between Hannibal Lector and the Joker? Does it really matter what the difference is?

Although you did hit a good idea in there... Express each alignment as a question. For example (and this is my preferred definition of lawful/chaotic)...
I would go so far as to say that everyone's measure of Lawful vs. Chaotic is a valid one; exactly which one will be used for any given campaign world is up to the GM though.

On a related note, I fully endorse having the GM define the PCs' alignments, based upon their actions and what alignment they're trying to be.

EDIT:
I finally came up with an example of a Good(ish) character. Corporal Carrot from Discworld probably qualifies. He'd be the only character in the entire franchise whom would, though.

EDIT2:

Id simply fill in those blank spots with the actual alignments (lawful good, lawful evil, chaotic evil, chaotic good). benefits of both what you present, and what is already a given.
I cut them out for a reason. There is no need for them, at all. If you're good or evil enough to quality for Good or Evil status, then you are beyond Law and Chaos.

Why have Lawful Good when just Good will suffice? Especially since doing what's right does not always line up with keeping the law. Similarly, why bother with Chaotic Evil when a truly Evil person only obeys the rules that it amuses him to follow? And how is Chaotic Good different from just always doing what's right? And Lawful Evil not just more organized Evil?

Frathe
2013-02-26, 02:37 AM
I never said it would fix all arguments. :smalltongue:

(And yeah, I definitely considered Good for Superman. But Batman is definitely Chaotic though, IMO: he's a masked vigilante who uses fear as a weapon, after all. But then again, there's plenty of wiggle room in the Law/Chaos direction as well...)

Geordnet
2013-02-26, 09:53 AM
This discussion showcases the reasons why I wanted to take "right" out of the equation entirely.

In fact, if you define Law/Chaos as one's willingness to obey rules and expectations set down by others, then decision becomes even less one of personal opinion.

I think I should explicitly define Law as this, here. Merely keeping one's own standards isn't Lawful, it's Good (relatively speaking). Classifying Batman as Lawful is pretty much entirely a case of "Law = Good" if I've ever seen one.

In this system, "right" or "wrong" doesn't come into the equation. If Bruce Wayne were Lawful, he would work within the system to stop crime, going outside of it only when it is irreparably broken, then coming back as soon as it's fixed.

Instead, he wears his underwear on the outside and beats people up with his own fists, defying convention and the law itself. He is definitively not Lawful. He may be considered Neutral if it is shown that he has a significant amount of Lawful actions in addition to his Chaotic ones, but that does not change the fact that his Chaotic actions are the ones that really define him.

I'd go back and rewrite the definitions of Lawful and Chaotic in these stricter terms, but I've got to go now.

inuyasha
2013-02-26, 09:59 AM
DISAGREE.

Superman Good. Batman Law (or neutral depending on iteration).

That is all I have to say.

batman could be evil...i saw a comic once where he kicked an innocent man in the back of the head for eating ice cream

Frathe
2013-02-26, 12:37 PM
I think I should explicitly define Law as this, here. Merely keeping one's own standards isn't Lawful, it's Good (relatively speaking). Classifying Batman as Lawful is pretty much entirely a case of "Law = Good" if I've ever seen one.

You're misunderstanding the argument for him as Lawful. It's not a conflation of Good with Lawful, it's because (in later incarnations of the character) he has a very strict moral code, that includes not killing any criminals, no matter what their crimes. That kind of rigid code, that doesn't change regardless of the situation, sounds pretty Lawful to me.

Edit: Okay, I see. You believe that keeping one's own standards isn't sufficient to qualify as Lawful. Remember that that discussion was about the standard D&D alignment system. Look at this:

Lawful Neutral, "Judge"
A lawful neutral character acts as law, tradition, or a personal code directs her. Order and organization are paramount to her. She may believe in personal order and live by a code or standard, or she may believe in order for all and favor a strong, organized government.

Lawful neutral is the best alignment you can be because it means you are reliable and honorable without being a zealot.

Geordnet
2013-02-26, 01:42 PM
Edit: Okay, I see. You believe that keeping one's own standards isn't sufficient to qualify as Lawful. Remember that that discussion was about the standard D&D alignment system.
Right. But this isn't the standard system, and this is a difference I'll need to make clear.

Chaos isn't exclusive with setting rules for oneself. Although doing so is a Lawful tendency, few if any people are entirely Lawful or Chaotic. In this case, the Chaotic aspect still shines through: the line between beating someone up and killing them may be clear, but it is also somewhat arbitrary (from a Law/Chaos perspective, at least).

You need to look at which aspect of a character defines him. Batman with a less rigid moral code is still a Caped Crusader. When you boil his character down to its essence, he's a guy in a bat suit who beats people up. And that should be unambiguously Chaotic.

I think all this discussion is good, though. It gives a good example about what is and is not important when deciding alignment.

batman could be evil...i saw a comic once where he kicked an innocent man in the back of the head for eating ice cream
That is not nearly Evil enough. In this system, Evil is EVIL. E-V-I-L.

It is not a label you should not apply to anyone you are not prepared to directly compare to the devil himself.

(Note: This is exactly the sort of thing this system is designed to stop. If a character does both good deeds and evil deeds, as most well-written characters will, then you'll have people who think the good deeds outweigh the evil ones, and that the character will therefore be Good; however, there will always be people who think the opposite. In this system, there is a lot less grey area.)

Frathe
2013-02-26, 02:46 PM
Right. But this isn't the standard system, and this is a difference I'll need to make clear.Okay, but let's not confuse things. I still don't agree that Law/Good confusion is happening in the case of Batman, and you haven't indicated your feelings either way since I last said something about it. However, that's a discussion about the D&D alignment system, not about yours, so I'm going to stop discussing it for now in interest in sticking to the thread topic. We can PM if you want to discuss it further.

Chaos isn't exclusive with setting rules for oneself. Although doing so is a Lawful tendency, few if any people are entirely Lawful or Chaotic. In this case, the Chaotic aspect still shines through: the line between beating someone up and killing them may be clear, but it is also somewhat arbitrary (from a Law/Chaos perspective, at least).

You need to look at which aspect of a character defines him. Batman with a less rigid moral code is still a Caped Crusader. When you boil his character down to its essence, he's a guy in a bat suit who beats people up. And that should be unambiguously Chaotic.

I think all this discussion is good, though. It gives a good example about what is and is not important when deciding alignment.From an ethical perspective, I can't agree that the difference between killing people and merely injuring or jailing them is "arbitrary".

That is not nearly Evil enough. In this system, Evil is EVIL. E-V-I-L.

It is not a label you should not apply to anyone you are not prepared to directly compare to the devil himself.

(Note: This is exactly the sort of thing this system is designed to stop. If a character does both good deeds and evil deeds, as most well-written characters will, then you'll have people who think the good deeds outweigh the evil ones, and that the character will therefore be Good; however, there will always be people who think the opposite. In this system, there is a lot less grey area.)I'm curious; would you consider an individual like Hitler Evil? What about a mass conqueror like Genghis Khan?

Geordnet
2013-02-26, 03:51 PM
From an ethical perspective, I can't agree that the difference between killing people and merely injuring or jailing them is "arbitrary".
And you would be right not to!

But we aren't talking about ethics. That's the Good/Evil spectrum. We're solely concerned with the Law/Chaos spectrum here. And there's a reason I chose the colors I did (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BlueAndOrangeMorality) for Law and Chaos...

From this perspective, the value of human life is irrelevant. Law doesn't care if you kill criminals or imprison them, as long as the proper procedure is followed. Then again, it might favor capitol punishment slightly, because of its ruthless efficiency (no need to keep prisoners fed).

I keep stressing that "Law =/= Good" because I don't know if I can do so enough. Both extremes are equally as alien and terrible as the other. We should be thankful, then, that we do not see the extreme of Law as often we do that of Chaos... Anarchy is much preferable to INGSOC.

I'm curious; would you consider an individual like Hitler Evil? What about a mass conqueror like Genghis Khan?
Personally? Yes. But for the purposes of this system?
...That's much more of an edge case.

The Good and Evil alignments are explicitly intended to be beyond the scope of human capability. In fact, they may not be physically possible outside the realm of fantasy.

For Evil, mere insanity or lust for power isn't enough. It must boggle the mind that this person could be so utterly abominable. Anything short of that dilutes the power of the word.

And as for Good, no one is perfect. But one has to be in order to qualify. If a character has a single moral deficit, then he is merely "good enough". Again, anything less is unworthy.

The point is to put power back in those words. When everyone who's nicer than average is "Good", and everyone meaner "Evil", then nobody bats an eye at the terms. But this way, Good can be the precious commodity it really is, and Evil truly horrifying.

Frathe
2013-02-26, 04:05 PM
I keep stressing that "Law =/= Good" because I don't know if I can do so enough. Both extremes are equally as alien and terrible the other. We should be thankful, then, that we do not see the extreme of Law as often we do that of Chaos... Anarchy is much preferable to INGSOC.I see... These are quite different from the D&D Order and Chaos.

The Good and Evil alignments are explicitly intended to be beyond the scope of human capability. In fact, they may not be physically possible outside the realm of fantasy.

For Evil, mere insanity or lust for power isn't enough. It must boggle the mind that this person could be so utterly abominable. Anything short of that dilutes the power of the word.

And as for Good, no one is perfect. But one has to be in order to qualify. If a character has a single moral deficit, then he is merely "good enough". Again, anything less is unworthy.

The point is to put power back in those words. When everyone who's nicer than average is "Good", and everyone meaner "Evil", then nobody bats an eye at the terms. But this way, Good can be the precious commodity it really is, and Evil truly horrifying.I see a potential problem--if you have such high standards for qualifying as an alignment, is the system even going to be in significant use? From what you say, no one will be good except for angels, gods and saints, and no one will be evil except for devils and maybe mass murderers. You have such extreme requirements for being anything but neutral on that axis that it almost seems useless for anything but religious-ish cosmology.

Razanir
2013-02-26, 04:09 PM
The Good and Evil alignments are explicitly intended to be beyond the scope of human capability. In fact, they may not be physically possible outside the realm of fantasy.

For Evil, mere insanity or lust for power isn't enough. It must boggle the mind that this person could be so utterly abominable. Anything short of that dilutes the power of the word.

And as for Good, no one is perfect. But one has to be in order to qualify. If a character has a single moral deficit, then he is merely "good enough". Again, anything less is unworthy.

The point is to put power back in those words. When everyone who's nicer than average is "Good", and everyone meaner "Evil", then nobody bats an eye at the terms. But this way, Good can be the precious commodity it really is, and Evil truly horrifying.

The problem which others have pointed out is that Good and Evil are the agreed upon alignments. Everyone (I think) already agreed that Good is people who help others, Evil is people who only help themselves, and Neutral is people who help friends and family. More vague and more in need of a fix is Law v Chaos.

For reference, my descriptions of everything:
LG– Help others and obey laws. Examples: Hermione and the Bishop of Digne
LN– Enforce the law first, help others second. Examples: Cornelius Fudge and Inspector Javert
LE– Hurt others within the law. Example: Dolores Umbridge
CG– Help others outside of the law. Examples: Robin Hood and Batman
CN– Wee! I rebel while only really caring about me and my friends! Example: Peeves, actually. He's a trickster, but not actually malicious
CE– Wanton destruction. No care for others and no care for the law. Example: Tom Marvolo Riddle or Bellatrix Lestrange
NG– Helps others, doesn't care either way about the law. Example: Harry Potter
N– Doesn't care either way about the law, cares mostly about friends and family. Example: Radagast the Brown
NE– Only cares about themselves/Wants to hurt others, but feels neither a compulsion to do so entirely within the law or entirely outside of the law. Example: Most Death Eaters

If any alignments in your chart are beyond human capabilities, it would be Law and Chaos. Strict adherence to rules and complete anarchy?

Good: NG
Evil: CE
Lawful: LG, LN, LE, CN (the assassin)
Chaotic: CG, CN, CE, N (children)
Neutral: N, NG, NE

Plato Play-Doh
2013-02-26, 04:15 PM
Honestly, the way I see it, the problem with the alignment system is that it forces people into one of 9 categories, and oversimplifies characters. It just doesn't feel fluid or at all realistic. Personally, I feel that alignment in general shouldn't have a mechanical presence, and should be solely based on story and roleplay. I am truly annoyed by the idea of things like "detect evil," since the definitions of good and evil, law and chaos, are subjective, and it forces the game into ideas of black and white morality that hinder good storytelling. "Good" isn't something you are, it's the way you act, and if someone thinks that your actions are evil, then they become evil from their perspective. There is no concrete way to define these things. Coming from this perspective, it seems like you are simplifying things even farther, which is, in my opinion, going in the exact wrong direction.

Frozen_Feet
2013-02-26, 05:25 PM
The thought that alignment can't be objective is baloney. It can be so trivially within context of a single game. People just needlessly object when some definition offends their real world moral sensibilities, or when some alignment system doesn't give just the right adjectives to their favorite character.

For example, you can make a system under which Hitler can without contradiction be Good. People will cry foul because he should "obviously be evil". That's not necessarily because the system is illogical or even bad, it is simply because people can't accept either its conclusions or underlying premises.

On that note, I dislike the system presented in this thread for three reasons. First, your definitions are poor and near non-existent for what the alignments mean. You attempt to define them mostly through examples, but that brings me to my second point: your examples are god-awful, and you must explain why they fall in their respective categories.

Third, barrier of entry for both good and evil are both ridiculously high. You're short-shelling how good people can be without being flawless, and how evil seemingly ordinary people can be. People like the Joker do exist, but they make up more like 1% of population rather than 0,0001%. Likewise, people like Ghandhi might make up just 1% of mortals, but that's still a significant number.

You just don't hear about all of them, because neither good or evil are (or should be) synonymous with famous.

I do like your attitude towards law and chaos, though. Too many people dismiss obedience towards actual laws when determining whether a character is lawful. This leads to such funny claims like saying a self-confessed nihilist vigilante and demonstrated hypocrite is lawful just because he says "never compromise" a couple of times.

Plato Play-Doh
2013-02-26, 05:55 PM
The thought that alignment can't be objective is baloney. It can be so trivially within context of a single game. People just needlessly object when some definition offends their real world moral sensibilities, or when some alignment system doesn't give just the right adjectives to their favorite character.

For example, you can make a system under which Hitler can without contradiction be Good. People will cry foul because he should "obviously be evil". That's not necessarily because the system is illogical or even bad, it is simply because people can't accept either its conclusions or underlying premises.

On that note, I dislike the system presented in this thread for three reasons. First, your definitions are poor and near non-existent for what the alignments mean. You attempt to define them mostly through examples, but that brings me to my second point: your examples are god-awful, and you must explain why they fall in their respective categories.

Third, barrier of entry for both good and evil are both ridiculously high. You're short-shelling how good people can be without being flawless, and how evil seemingly ordinary people can be. People like the Joker do exist, but they make up more like 1% of population rather than 0,0001%. Likewise, people like Ghandhi might make up just 1% of mortals, but that's still a significant number.

You just don't hear about all of them, because neither good or evil are (or should be) synonymous with famous.

I do like your attitude towards law and chaos, though. Too many people dismiss obedience towards actual laws when determining whether a character is lawful. This leads to such funny claims like saying a self-confessed nihilist vigilante and demonstrated hypocrite is lawful just because he says "never compromise" a couple of times.

I disagree. To Hitler, what he was doing was right (I personally disagree, and think that it would be wrong to not oppose him, but I still wouldn't call even him objectively evil, only evil in my subjective worldview). I guarantee there is no person who cannot find some way to rationalize why what they are doing is good. Why? Because it isn't objective. If there is a character who doesn't see themselves as in the right, then in my opinion, that's just bad storytelling, since it's not something that is believable to the players, and it severely limits character development. Everyone has good intentions, and to not have that fact included in a story is to distance the players from the plot and the characters. A similar concept applies to perfectly good characters. It's impossible to have a concrete definition (that not quite good enough character thinks that the perfect character is evil in some things that they do, and vice versa). Honestly, if you have any characters that are fitting the OP's definition of "good" or "evil," then they don't belong in anything that contains any focus on story whatsoever, because it's impossible to have character development, and the players have no way to view that "character" as anything more than an unthinking robot programed to be the way that they are, rather than an actual character.

Yitzi
2013-02-26, 06:53 PM
I disagree. To Hitler, what he was doing was right (I personally disagree, and think that it would be wrong to not oppose him, but I still wouldn't call even him objectively evil, only evil in my subjective worldview). I guarantee there is no person who cannot find some way to rationalize why what they are doing is good. Why? Because it isn't objective. If there is a character who doesn't see themselves as in the right, then in my opinion, that's just bad storytelling, since it's not something that is believable to the players, and it severely limits character development. Everyone has good intentions, and to not have that fact included in a story is to distance the players from the plot and the characters. A similar concept applies to perfectly good characters. It's impossible to have a concrete definition (that not quite good enough character thinks that the perfect character is evil in some things that they do, and vice versa). Honestly, if you have any characters that are fitting the OP's definition of "good" or "evil," then they don't belong in anything that contains any focus on story whatsoever, because it's impossible to have character development, and the players have no way to view that "character" as anything more than an unthinking robot programed to be the way that they are, rather than an actual character.

Not true. There are people who recognize what they do as evil, and do it anyway. Real-life examples are hard to find, but certainly good storytelling has plenty; Xykon is actually a pretty good example.

Frozen_Feet
2013-02-26, 07:00 PM
Thank you for illustrating my point.:smalltongue: What you failed to understand is that within specific framework, such as defined game rules, you can logically attach labels to things, and those labels will hold regardless of opinion. The only way to deny those labels is to deny the underlying rules.

For example, I can make a system where eating sugar is always evil. Even if a character thinks it is not, within that system, he is. The only way eating sugar won't make him evil is going outside the system, which he can't do because he is defined by it. In the same manner as you can't defy natural laws.

Saying "but it is subjective!" is synonymous to "you can't make binding rules for it!", which is false in the context of a game. The only thing that prevents a rule from being binding is unwillingness of people to follow it.

Plato Play-Doh
2013-02-26, 07:20 PM
I suppose that's true, though I'm pretty sure I remember (not quite sure where) a time or two where Xykon essentially said that calling things "good" or "evil" was naive...personally, I think Xykon sees morals as meaningless, rather than actively trying to be immoral. He's more nihilistic than anything else. I suppose that it is true that people can recognize their own evil, Tarquin being an example of this, though he thinks that his evil actions are going to lead to peace. I suppose that even someone who intentionally acts immorally, simply because it's immoral, could actually be a pretty significant plot point given good characterization, so my argument that it was impossible to make a good story containing those sorts of characters was wrong, I suppose. However, the subjectivity of the matter (which is shown by how much people argue over definitions) still leads me to believe that alignment should not be enforced, and more a part of roleplay, and that the OP is increasing the amount that it is oversimplified, and that this is the opposite of what I would like to see. I guess that is just my personal preference, though, and I can see why some people may have a desire for such a guideline. However, I do disagree with the changes that the OP has made, even assuming that the alignment system works. To me, it should at least be a spectrum, rather than the very distinct points that this alternative creates.

Edit: The above was a reply to Yitzi, and Frozen Feet posted while I was typing, so I'll respond FF here. It's not that you can't have a system where alignment makes sense; a world where those subjective things were enforced objectively as part of the fundamental laws of the universe could create a good narrative, but I don't think that it should be the default. I don't think that world is nearly as interesting if it is the norm, as its coolness lies in its uniqueness, in my opinion, and it loses that from being commonplace.

Frozen_Feet
2013-02-26, 08:11 PM
In D&D it *is* the default. You want something else, don't play it. More spefically, this variant seems to aim at making alignment more objective, though in a limited sense. It runs counter to your philosophy.

Plato Play-Doh
2013-02-26, 08:24 PM
In D&D it *is* the default. You want something else, don't play it. More spefically, this variant seems to aim at making alignment more objective, though in a limited sense. It runs counter to your philosophy.

It does indeed, which is why I stated my reasons for objecting to it. I personally think that if you are going to modify the alignment system, it should be to make it more subjective, rather than the other way around. Obviously, the OP does not share my preferences, but that is what this forum is for: sharing and discussing ideas. I decided to add my thoughts to the discourse, and anybody else can look at it and agree or disagree as they see fit.

Geordnet
2013-02-26, 08:25 PM
I see a potential problem--if you have such high standards for qualifying as an alignment, is the system even going to be in significant use?
No, not really.

Which is kinda the point.

The problem which others have pointed out is that Good and Evil are the agreed upon alignments. Everyone (I think) already agreed that Good is people who help others, Evil is people who only help themselves, and Neutral is people who help friends and family. More vague and more in need of a fix is Law v Chaos.
Apparently the traditional Good vs. Evil system is not so clear, since I saw just the other day a definition of that axis which used the same definition for Neutral as you used for Evil.

And if Law vs. Chaos is currently vague, that's to this system's advantage: players won't have as many preconceptions to get in the way.

If any alignments in your chart are beyond human capabilities, it would be Law and Chaos. Strict adherence to rules and complete anarchy?
Those are only the extremes. And yes, they are as humanly impossible as the extremes of Good and Evil. (But people romanticize about them much less often, which is why they don't need a separate category.)

Honestly, the way I see it, the problem with the alignment system is that it forces people into one of 9 categories, and oversimplifies characters. [...] Coming from this perspective, it seems like you are simplifying things even farther, which is, in my opinion, going in the exact wrong direction.
I think that's more a problem with the way people treat the system than with the system itself, but even if so I think this system would decrease the "straightjacket effect". Since there's basically 3 categories to chose from instead of 9, each category would contain a wider range of variability.

Hopefully, when people realize that Robin Hood has the same alignment as an orc, they'll get the message.

For example, you can make a system under which Hitler can without contradiction be Good.
INGSOC. :smallamused:

First, your definitions are poor and near non-existent for what the alignments mean. You attempt to define them mostly through examples, but that brings me to my second point: your examples are god-awful, and you must explain why they fall in their respective categories.
I'm working on it. I'm not a no expert writer, though. For what it's worth, though, I'll answer as many questions as you'd like.

Third, barrier of entry for both good and evil are both ridiculously high. You're short-shelling how good people can be without being flawless, and how evil seemingly ordinary people can be.
Then it seems to me like you don't get the point of it. The thresholds for Good and Evil are defined in terms of what humans are psychologically capable of. If a large number of people fall into of of these two categories, then the bar needs to be raised.

People like the Joker do exist, but they make up more like 1% of population rather than 0,0001%. Likewise, people like Ghandhi might make up just 1% of mortals, but that's still a significant number.
There are NOT seventy million insane, sadistic, psychopathic serial killers in the world. (I could be wrong, but I certainly hope not!) I doubt there's even seven thousand. I'll admit to the possibility of that many saintly people existing, though, since they don't call attention to themselves like pure Evil does.

I disagree. To Hitler, what he was doing was right (I personally disagree, and think that it would be wrong to not oppose him, but I still wouldn't call even him objectively evil, only evil in my subjective worldview). I guarantee there is no person who cannot find some way to rationalize why what they are doing is good.
You see, this is why the criteria for mortals are so extreme.

And, believe it or not, they are actually slacker than I'd like. They would be by definition things which are impossible to rationalize, if this didn't mean that we (as humans) wouldn't be able to even imagine it!

Not true. There are people who recognize what they do as evil, and do it anyway. Real-life examples are hard to find, but certainly good storytelling has plenty; Xykon is actually a pretty good example.
It is not a coincidence that I listed Xykon as Evil...

More spefically, this variant seems to aim at making alignment more objective, though in a limited sense. It runs counter to your philosophy.
I suppose there will always be such differences. I'm just trying to make a system that I'm happy with; I make no guarantee about others.

TuggyNE
2013-02-26, 08:45 PM
So, OP, it would seem that your solution to the problem of ill-defined alignments is to define them entirely out of use, reducing the effective number of alignments from 9 to 5, and then to 3. This is likely to rub a lot of people the wrong way, because (however unarguably correct it may be) it has very little descriptive power. If, as you say, both Robin Hood and average orcs are both Chaotic (with no other qualifiers), why bother even describing them as such at all? What meaningful information is conveyed?

The existing 9-point alignment system suffers this to some extent as well, of course, but making it more blatant does not seem to be a good development. (If anything, I might want to reverse the process.)

Frathe
2013-02-26, 09:22 PM
So, OP, it would seem that your solution to the problem of ill-defined alignments is to define them entirely out of use, reducing the effective number of alignments from 9 to 5, and then to 3. This is likely to rub a lot of people the wrong way, because (however unarguably correct it may be) it has very little descriptive power. If, as you say, both Robin Hood and average orcs are both Chaotic (with no other qualifiers), why bother even describing them as such at all? What meaningful information is conveyed?

The existing 9-point alignment system suffers this to some extent as well, of course, but making it more blatant does not seem to be a good development. (If anything, I might want to reverse the process.)

This is kind of what I was trying to say earlier. If (the vast majority of) mortals can only achieve one of three alignments, how much of a point is there to the system? Dividing everyone into three groups doesn't seems very helpful for a granularly descriptive system; rather, it seems like such broad strokes that it becomes largely meaningless. If two people who are utterly unlike and would fight each other on the opposite sides of a moral battle are classified as the same alignment, what's the point? (take a Robin Hood-esque adventurer in a D&D setting battling orcs as an example) You've lost part of the point of D&D alignment, as inconsistent as it can be: that people of the same alignment have enough in common that they generally might plausibly work together.

Razanir
2013-02-26, 09:54 PM
INGSOC. :smallamused:

Ingsoc doubleplusgood. Geordnet crimethinked. Geordnet will come with Razanir to Miniluv. :smallamused:

This is kind of what I was trying to say earlier. If (the vast majority of) mortals can only achieve one of three alignments, how much of a point is there to the system? Dividing everyone into three groups doesn't seems very helpful for a granularly descriptive system; rather, it seems like such broad strokes that it becomes largely meaningless. If two people who are utterly unlike and would fight each other on the opposite sides of a moral battle are classified as the same alignment, what's the point? (take a Robin Hood-esque adventurer in a D&D setting battling orcs as an example) You've lost part of the point of D&D alignment, as inconsistent as it can be: that people of the same alignment have enough in common that they generally might plausibly work together.

This. The nice thing about the traditional alignment system is that any two people should be able to find a common cause, although it's much less likely with the Evil alignments and especially with Chaotic Evil. That and Frathe makes a good point about it being too vague of an alignment system if Robin Hood and orc bandits are the exact same

Yitzi
2013-02-26, 10:57 PM
I suppose that's true, though I'm pretty sure I remember (not quite sure where) a time or two where Xykon essentially said that calling things "good" or "evil" was naive...personally, I think Xykon sees morals as meaningless, rather than actively trying to be immoral. He's more nihilistic than anything else.

Nihilism, at least of Xykon's style, has pretty strong tendencies toward evil.

I suppose that it is true that people can recognize their own evil, Tarquin being an example of this, though he thinks that his evil actions are going to lead to peace.

Unless that whole monologue was just to play with Elan's mind.

I suppose that even someone who intentionally acts immorally, simply because it's immoral, could actually be a pretty significant plot point given good characterization

Nah, such people are very rare and almost impossible to characterize well. A better example would be someone who knows that it's immoral and simply doesn't care.

However, the subjectivity of the matter (which is shown by how much people argue over definitions) still leads me to believe that alignment should not be enforced, and more a part of roleplay

I think alignment definitely should be mainly an aspect of roleplay, and should be enforced only in that roleplay decisions have consequences.

Saying "you have to act in way X because you're alignment Y" is absurd; if the DM feels that someone is not acting according to their stated alignment, the answer is to change their alignment to match their actions, not to restrict their actions.

even assuming that the alignment system works. To me, it should at least be a spectrum, rather than the very distinct points that this alternative creates.

I think it's easiest to describe things with discrete points, and as long as people keep in mind the limitations of such a method it's not really a problem.

INGSOC. :smallamused:

No; Ingsoc would actually consider Hitler to be doubleplusungood due to his opposition to communism.

The easiest way to design a self-consistent moral system that would mark Hitler as good is to take a normal self-consistent moral system (e.g. utilitarian or whatever) which marks him as evil, and simply reverse it (exchange "good" with "evil" throughout).

It is not a coincidence that I listed Xykon as Evil...

That listing is what I was referring to when I said that it's a pretty good example.

Geordnet
2013-02-26, 11:03 PM
This is likely to rub a lot of people the wrong way, because (however unarguably correct it may be) it has very little descriptive power.
I would say that is a good thing, since it forces the player to fill in the holes.

Dividing everyone into three groups doesn't seems very helpful for a granularly descriptive system; rather, it seems like such broad strokes that it becomes largely meaningless.
Granularity is not the goal here. In fact, the opposite is true: it's the fine details that are easier to argue over.

And three alignments is more than enough. If I had limited alignments to Good-Neutral-Evil instead of Lawful-Neutral-Chaotic, would you have objected as much?

If two people who are utterly unlike and would fight each other on the opposite sides of a moral battle are classified as the same alignment, what's the point? (take a Robin Hood-esque adventurer in a D&D setting battling orcs as an example) You've lost part of the point of D&D alignment, as inconsistent as it can be: that people of the same alignment have enough in common that they generally might plausibly work together.
Good then! This is the sort of thinking we're probably better off without, I think.

The point of alignment is a game mechanic (for spell effects and such). It is not supposed to decide if you should fight or befriend someone: that's what roleplay is for.

At least, that's my philosophy- and ergo the philosophy behind this system.

Frathe
2013-02-26, 11:24 PM
I would say that is a good thing, since it forces the player to fill in the holes.

Granularity is not the goal here. In fact, the opposite is true: it's the fine details that are easier to argue over.

And three alignments is more than enough. If I had limited alignments to Good-Neutral-Evil instead of Lawful-Neutral-Chaotic, would you have objected as much?It would depend how you defined them. In this case, what I object to is your grouping as one alignment of utterly unalike beings.

Good then! This is the sort of thinking we're probably better off without, I think.

The point of alignment is a game mechanic (for spell effects and such). It is not supposed to decide if you should fight or befriend someone: that's what roleplay is for.

At least, that's my philosophy- and ergo the philosophy behind this system.No one said anything about alignment replacing roleplay--it's that your alignment system appears pretty much meaningless in terms of "people sharing views or methods". The normal alignment system doesn't "decide" if you fight or befriend someone--it doesn't come in from above and dictate how players or NPCs must behave, and you're misrepresenting or misunderstanding it if you think it does--but it seems only logical if two people of similar worldviews and philosophies are more likely to realize that they get along and decide work together, than if two very different individuals with completely incompatible worldviews decide to work towards a common goal.

Geordnet
2013-02-27, 12:21 AM
It would depend how you defined them. In this case, what I object to is your grouping as one alignment of utterly unalike beings.
Ah, but not all differences are created equal. Instead of comparing Robin Hood to an orc, compare him to a common bandit. Now they're not so different, are they? From bandit it's a short step to brigand, and from brigand it's a short step to orc. On each step along the line, the two are close enough to cooperate easily. There is no one spot where you can draw the line and say "this is where the division should be". Or, at least you can't get everyone to agree on where you draw it.

Besides, the traditional D&D alignment system is no better. Just look at Nale and Tarquin, for instance.

it's that your alignment system appears pretty much meaningless in terms of "people sharing views or methods".
I could argue that it isn't meaningless, but that isn't the point of the system anyways.

but it seems only logical if two people of similar worldviews and philosophies are more likely to realize that they get along and decide work together, than if two very different individuals with completely incompatible worldviews decide to work towards a common goal.

Counterpoint one: Roy and Belkar.

Counterpoint two: Roy and Miko.

Razanir
2013-02-27, 12:48 AM
No; Ingsoc would actually consider Hitler to be doubleplusungood due to his opposition to communism.

Hitler is doubleplusungood because he crimethinked.

And three alignments is more than enough. If I had limited alignments to Good-Neutral-Evil instead of Lawful-Neutral-Chaotic, would you have objected as much?

The way I see this debate? No.

Frathe
2013-02-27, 01:37 AM
Ah, but not all differences are created equal. Instead of comparing Robin Hood to an orc, compare him to a common bandit. Now they're not so different, are they? From bandit it's a short step to brigand, and from brigand it's a short step to orc. On each step along the line, the two are close enough to cooperate easily. There is no one spot where you can draw the line and say "this is where the division should be". Or, at least you can't get everyone to agree on where you draw it.Nice use of foot-in-the-door technique (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foot-in-the-door_technique). Just because people can be connected by a spectrum doesn't mean that you shouldn't draw a line anywhere. Of course the alignments are a spectrum; that's why there's a neutral between good and evil, and between lawful and chaotic. But your claim is like saying that red and green can't be distinguished, because red is pretty much like orange, and orange is pretty much yellow, and yellow is pretty much green.

I could argue that it isn't meaningless, but that isn't the point of the system anyways.Don't take my words out of context. I said a part of your system appeared meaningless. I'm not sure what your response is trying to say.

If it's not the point, then it's not the point. Don't try to have it both ways, and argue that your system both de-emphasizes that aspect, and yet has a more sensible version of it.

Counterpoint one: Roy and Belkar.

Counterpoint two: Roy and Miko.Again, either you're misunderstanding me or misrepresenting my position. What are those meant to be counterpoints to? :smallconfused: I said people of the same alignment would logically be more likely to work together. I said absolutely nothing about people of differing alignments not working together.

You seem convinced that the standard alignment system must restrict choices, such as who someone chooses to work with. All I spoke of was likelihood. For example, would you want to work with someone who you personally considered morally bankrupt? I wouldn't. What about someone you thought was irritatingly self-righteous?

Geordnet
2013-02-27, 01:39 AM
The way I see this debate? No.
And yet, there's as many differences in view laterally as there are vertically.

Honestly though, if you have a problem with Robin Hood being in the same alignment category (which does not by any means indicate equality) as an orc, then this probably isn't the system for you.

I'm just writing the system I'd like. You can take it, leave it, or modify it for your own use; it doesn't really matter to me.

Nevertheless, I'm still willing and eager to clarify any questions you have about how it works.

Frozen_Feet
2013-02-27, 07:51 AM
Then it seems to me like you don't get the point of it. The thresholds for Good and Evil are defined in terms of what humans are psychologically capable of. If a large number of people fall into of of these two categories, then the bar needs to be raised.

The problem here is that I'm not convinved you can define Good in a way that is good in both letter and spirit and still exclude all non-superhuman people.

The core D&D essentially defines Good alignment in three ways:

Absense of evil; lack of evil personality traits and lack of purposeful evil actions.
Presence of good; abundance of good personality traits and continuous purposeful good actions.
Inheret quality; you are born [Good]

Out of these, 2nd is most important - 1st can only get you to neutral. I think this is what you meant with "good enough" not qualifying for good - lack of traits or actions is not enough to make you good. So far, so good, core agrees with you.

3rd is reserved for essentially Angelic beings. And here's where the problems start.

If 2nd is the most important factor, then you'll have a hard time justifying why a mortal person who spends significant part of his life in toil to aid others is not Good, while an Angel who sits on his ass in high heavens is. If 2nd and 3rd are equally important, you will run into Theodicy - why aren't inherently good beings constantly running around helping people? This problem is solved if you say "there are none". It becomes magnitudes harder to reconcile in a fantasy setting where these creatures demonstrably do exist.

If 3rd is the most important, you have a different problem: Angels who follow the letter of good, but not the spirit of it. You will have nominally good beings who can be extremely repulsive jerkasses in practice. You can embrace this direction, but it might be better to rename "Good" and "Evil" to "Angelic" and "Monstrous" respectively. (etc.)

But the biggest problem in regards to defining good right now are your given examples. You listed Captain Carrot and Samwise Gamgee as plausibly good characters. The problem is that neither character is truly superhuman - they are both good entirely because of points 1st and 2nd.

Samwise Gamgee especially. Any grounds for calling him good consist entirely of his (extreme) lack of evil, and the lenghts of self-sacrifice he is willing to go to for Master Frodo and good of Middle-Earth. Using Samwise as an example of good, it's pretty obvious you can be good through toil, which is not especially rare, especially if you're running a fantasy setting where PCs can be knights in shining armor.

There are NOT seventy million insane, sadistic, psychopathic serial killers in the world. (I could be wrong, but I certainly hope not!) I doubt there's even seven thousand. I'll admit to the possibility of that many saintly people existing, though, since they don't call attention to themselves like pure Evil does.

You'd be sadly mistaken. Depending on who you ask, the percentage of people antisocial enough to be called psychopaths varies between 1% to 4%. Of course - not all of those are serial killers - but that's because many of them usually get incarcerated and/or killed before they get a chance. A large portion of those people are, however, sadists, psychopaths, and killers.

There are also many psychopaths who are not killers, because they are savvy enough to understand that wanton murder gets them put out of society. They are still sadists, dangerously unempathetic, and exploitative of their neighbours. If you make "murder" a requirement of Evil alignment, then they might not be Evil under your system, but they're almost as diabolical as actual Evil people.

But that's just the psychopaths. It's not counting completely normal Joes and Janes who through "just following their orders" are convinced to treat their fellow men as vermin and exterminate them with no remorse. Here's something to ponder upon from Wikipedia: "The majority of crimes, including violent crimes, are committed by a small part of the population (5-7%)" You can assume that only one-seventh to one-fifth of habitual criminals are also habitual murderers, and you still get a figure of Evil people equal to 1% of the population.

EDIT: One thing I forgot to say to all the nay-sayers: Alignment with just Law - Chaos axis can work. Again, it's just a matter of proper definitions.

For example, in Lamentations of the Flame Princess, the difference is obvious: if you're Lawful, you're essentially pawn of a greater destiny or prophecy. You only get to be Lawful if you're essentially a Paladin or Cleric. If you're Chaotic, you're in cahoots with supernatural forces of change and entropy. You only get to be Chaotic if you've essentially sold your soul to Cthulhu, or are an inherently magical being like Elf or magic-user. All other people and creatures are neutral. All real people are assumed to be neutral based on the assumption that neither destiny nor magic exist in the real world.

Geordnet
2013-02-27, 09:11 AM
The problem here is that I'm not convinved you can define Good in a way that is good in both letter and spirit and still exclude all non-superhuman people.
You're probably right, too. Which is why I've been relatively lax in my example choices.

But the biggest problem in regards to defining good right now are your given examples. You listed Captain Carrot and Samwise Gamgee as plausibly good characters. The problem is that neither character is truly superhuman - they are both good entirely because of points 1st and 2nd.
I said plausibly. In fact, I specifically pointed out that they were edge cases.

In order to have an interesting game, there should be some mortals with the Good alignment. So, I've picked out characters for whom I can say "If anyone is Good, it's them".

Samwise Gamgee especially. Any grounds for calling him good consist entirely of his (extreme) lack of evil, and the lenghts of self-sacrifice he is willing to go to for Master Frodo and good of Middle-Earth.
That's pretty much it, right.

Using Samwise as an example of good, it's pretty obvious you can be good through toil, which is not especially rare, especially if you're running a fantasy setting where PCs can be knights in shining armor.
Ah, then you've missed one critical factor in being Good: humility. Knights are not Good, they're Lawful.

(And Fantasy doesn't have to hold to the same standards as real life.)

You'd be sadly mistaken. Depending on who you ask, the percentage of people antisocial enough to be called psychopaths varies between 1% to 4%. Of course - not all of those are serial killers - but that's because many of them usually get incarcerated and/or killed before they get a chance.
Psychopaths are Chaotic, not Evil. (At least, the proper definition is.)

But that's just the psychopaths. It's not counting completely normal Joes and Janes who through "just following their orders" are convinced to treat their fellow men as vermin and exterminate them with no remorse.
That's not Evil, that's Lawful.

All real people are assumed to be neutral based on the assumption that neither destiny nor magic exist in the real world.
I would say the difference isn't so extreme, but then again I don't know the setting.

Anyways, if you want to play a setting where a relatively large proportion of people are totally abominable, nobody's stopping you. Just be careful of watering down the emotional impact of Evil.

Frozen_Feet
2013-02-27, 09:44 AM
Actually, humility is part of many codes of chivalry. It is especially important part of the Scout Law, which is descendant of chivalry, bushido and Zulu warrior tradition.

Of course, this doesn't mean all knights are humble. It was hardly uncommon for knights to only follow letter, not the spirit, of chivalry, or to be pragmatists who only paid lip service to chivalry.

Regarding psychopaths, if you make murder a requisite of evil, then you are right, a lot of psychopaths will be either Lawful or Chaotic, depending on specifics of their behaviour. But if antisocial behaviour combined with habitual murder is definition of evil, then you will end up with a lot of psychopaths who are also evil. This doesn't dilute the word "evil" in the slightest, though, because those people are every bit as nasty as the word implies.

In my experience, impact of evil is diluted not by its abundance, but by lack of proper reaction of it. Being a murder-hobo will hardly seem special if you don't routinely remind players that most people actually have homes and recoil at the thought of slaughtering other sentient beings for a living. :smallwink:

Deepbluediver
2013-02-27, 09:56 AM
One of the few things that I really liked about 4th edition was the idea of an unaligned "alignment", in the sense that you didn't feel or act particularly strongly in any one direction.

That way, nuetral could be "actively persuing balance, and believing that extremes are bad", and unaligned is it's more apathetic and/or introverted counterpart.

Geordnet
2013-02-27, 12:00 PM
One of the few things that I really liked about 4th edition was the idea of an unaligned "alignment", in the sense that you didn't feel or act particularly strongly in any one direction.

That way, nuetral could be "actively persuing balance, and believing that extremes are bad", and unaligned is it's more apathetic and/or introverted counterpart.
Um, "Unaligned" is Neutral. Seeking balance and compromise would be a Lawful act.

Of course, this doesn't mean all knights are humble. It was hardly uncommon for knights to only follow letter, not the spirit, of chivalry, or to be pragmatists who only paid lip service to chivalry.
This is why knights are Lawful by default: even if the code they follow is Good in spirit, following it to the letter is Lawful. (Of course, there can be Good Knights and Evil ones too.)

Regarding psychopaths, if you make murder a requisite of evil, then you are right, a lot of psychopaths will be either Lawful or Chaotic, depending on specifics of their behaviour.
Murder isn't a requisite of Evil. In fact, if one manages to pull it off without mass murder, that's even worse.

Being a murder-hobo will hardly seem special if you don't routinely remind players that most people actually have homes and recoil at the thought of slaughtering other sentient beings for a living. :smallwink:
This is what I mean. This is what the key is, I think.

The point of the Evil alignment is to be "Evil so vile that it is instantly recognizeable, such that none can deny it". (True, hidden evil is in many ways even worse than this, but this is Fantasy after all. True Evil is by definition not a fun thing for anyone, but rooting it out is.)

But since Evil isn't quantifyable, perhaps I should make a comparitive system...

So, maybe there should be three questions:

Is the character the absolute BEST or WORST in his setting (and/or very similar ones)?
Does the character have any "moral flaws"/"moral fiber"?
How much attention is brought to his purity/vileness?

(Not necessarily the best questions, but I need to go now.)

Plato Play-Doh
2013-02-27, 01:36 PM
One of the few things that I really liked about 4th edition was the idea of an unaligned "alignment", in the sense that you didn't feel or act particularly strongly in any one direction.

That way, nuetral could be "actively persuing balance, and believing that extremes are bad", and unaligned is it's more apathetic and/or introverted counterpart.

Actually, 4e basically brings it down to 5 alignments. Good, Lawful Good (basically extra good), Evil, Chaotic Evil (extra evilness), and unaligned (pure neutral). Normally, apathy is a Neutral trait, and actively pursuing balance is Lawful Neutral, not Pure Neutral. 4e adds nothing to the alignment system, but rather lessens the number of categories.

hamishspence
2013-02-27, 01:40 PM
In early Basic D&D, there were also 5 alignments- CE, LE, CG, LG, N- none of the intermediates.

4E could be said to be repeating that- only changing two of the names.

Frathe
2013-02-27, 01:49 PM
So I guess you're not going to respond to what I said (or you haven't yet, anyway).

Murder isn't a requisite of Evil. In fact, if one manages to pull it off without mass murder, that's even worse.Could you explain this? :smallconfused: Especially because later on you say that "[t]he point of the Evil alignment is to be 'Evil so vile that it is instantly recognizeable [sic], such that none can deny it'". Wouldn't mass murder be more recognizable?

But since Evil isn't quantifyable, perhaps I should make a comparitive system...

So, maybe there should be three questions:

Is the character the absolute BEST or WORST in his setting (and/or very similar ones)?
Does the character have any "moral flaws"/"moral fiber"?
How much attention is brought to his purity/vileness?

(Not necessarily the best questions, but I need to go now.)

It seems like you're shifting away from the earlier claim that it would dilute the terms "good" and "evil" and therefore the system by including any mortals under those categories. Now after people pointed out that you yourself were using very good mortals like Samwise for your examples of the Good alignment, you couldn't really reasonably continue to argue that no mortals could ever achieve that alignment. But now you've just shifted over a single step and are saying that: oh, they can be mortal, but they just have to be absolutely perfect. No Gandhi as good: he made a young girl sleep naked next to him; no Martin Luther King, Jr.: he was a plagiarizer and a womanizer.

Plato Play-Doh
2013-02-27, 01:51 PM
In early Basic D&D, there were also 5 alignments- CE, LE, CG, LG, N- none of the intermediates.

4E could be said to be repeating that- only changing two of the names.

I suppose. Either way, it's not introducing a new "unaligned" alignment.

Also, to respond to Geordnet (I previously posted before I was actually done accidentally):

The point of the Evil alignment is to be "Evil so vile that it is instantly recognizeable, such that none can deny it". (True, hidden evil is in many ways even worse than this, but this is Fantasy after all. True Evil is by definition not a fun thing for anyone, but rooting it out is.)

No, that's the point of what you want the evil alignment to be. It was originally a spectrum, with anything on the evil end being called "evil" and anything on the good end "good." Anything in the middle is "neutral." You are changing the definitions to fit your conceptions, and then changing the system to fit those, not changing the system to fit the original definitions. Also, I think it's pretty much impossible to find a point where nobody could come up with ways that an entity is virtuous.

Example:
-Person 1: "That psychopathic tyrant hates puppies, and they are cute and cuddly! He must be pure evil, rather than just mostly evil!"
-Person 2:"No, puppies end up teething and biting people, and destroying couches, they're terrible!"

If that tyrant can't both hate and love puppies at the same time, he doesn't fit your definition of evil. The same concept applies to pure good.

Also, I agree with what other people have said about your alignment system having no descriptive power, and thus losing all practical application.

Jota
2013-02-27, 09:17 PM
I like the dichotomization of good and evil. I once tried to make an alignment system based on Freudian constructs (id, ego, and superego), and I ended up agreeing with you in that neutral is most common and good and evil are rare by comparison (though not necessarily reserved for outsiders).

I used the combination of id (primal desires) and superego (personal code) to represent the good-evil axis, with ego by itself representing adherence to local law, each being ranked on a scale of one to three, but the id and superego cannot add up to more than 5, the idea being at such a strength (three on the scale) one must win out over the other. Evil is therefore someone who has evil desires and acts on them because they have no (or a limited) personal code to restrain their actions, regardless of law. You don't see a lot of evil people (in real life, my opinion) because evil people are genuinely evil -- they are the murderers, the genocides, the rapists. They are an extreme minority, and so most people who do evil are not in fact of the alignment, but a product of situation and social forces. By the same token, it's not enough to have a strong moral code to be good. Neutral characters are capable of good, but only a character lacking based drives (low id) and possessing a strong, principled conscience (superego) is capable of good, and a good person can easily break the (local) law to do good. This meant there were two good configurations (id 1, superego 2 or 3) juxtaposed with three evil configurations (id 2 or 3, superego 1 or 2, but only a 2 if id is 3).

My other finding was both unlike yours and like yours in the sense that I found law and chaos to be extremes to the same extent the good and evil were. It often doesn't take much effort to obey the law, but to break it, or to be able to live in absolute disregard for it, as I imagine a truly chaotic individual to do, is just exceedingly rare. More likely, individuals follows the laws when it is convenient to do so, and break them when it is convenient to do so. Both ego and superego can regulate evil behavior, however, so there's certainly room for debate as to who is what.

I liked the idea because it offered an interesting way to categorize people that I thought could work really well with a refined detect/smite/protection from X system (rather than solving any alignment debates), but ultimately I never really liked where I ended up with it, so I never posted it.

For the record, what I wrote about Batman:

This revision does not mean there isn't room for debate about which particular category a character falls under, though it is meant to eliminate some of the ambiguity. Take Batman, for example. Under this system, Batman cannot be considered a Lawful character because he acts outside the law and freely ignores it when it is to his benefit, but it would be unfair to call him Chaotic. As far as id-superego goes, his superego is a two or three, and I would rate his id at a one or a two, depending on how much you want to play up his "need" to run around at night and beat up hapless criminals. That gives us four possibilities, 1-2, 1-3, 2-2, and 2-3, so Batman is clearly not evil. I don't claim to be a rabid fan, but his personal code seems fairly limited outside of his refusal to kill (so say superego 2). So the question then becomes a matter of whether Batman is a step or two giving in to his dark side and losing it or whether there is a dark side at all. That's the difference between neutral good and true neutral (albeit perhaps leaning towards good), and probably one that varies from writer to writer (never mind what WotC says).

Tovec
2013-02-27, 09:29 PM
I never said it would fix all arguments. :smalltongue:
It fixed no arguments. A Good-Evil scale is much more valuable and easier to adopt than the pure Law-Choas scale you are (currently) using.

(And yeah, I definitely considered Good for Superman. But Batman is definitely Chaotic though, IMO: he's a masked vigilante who uses fear as a weapon, after all. But then again, there's plenty of wiggle room in the Law/Chaos direction as well...)
You. Are. Wrong.
How is using fear as a weapon inherently chaotic? I must have missed "fear as a weapon" = chaos. Beyond that, many tyrants would be Lawful, hugely lawful in fact and yet use the threat of force (fear of the threat of force) as a weapon. (In case you have forgotten.)

Chaotic characters are more likely to ignore rules, especially those set up by others, and sometimes the consequences for breaking them too. Any rules they place on themselves are usually more or less arbitrary, although they may not change their mind very easily. They are more likely to seek change to escape from stagnation, occasionally even risking a change for the worse. A marauding brigand, a rebel against any government, a fiery public speaker, a vagabond street urchin (and most children for that matter), and a scientist who constantly pushes the limits of conventional thinking are all examples of Chaotic characters.

This discussion showcases the reasons why I wanted to take "right" out of the equation entirely.

In fact, if you define Law/Chaos as one's willingness to obey rules and expectations set down by others, then decision becomes even less one of personal opinion.
You didn't do that.

Lawful beings are more likely to adhere to a stricter set of rules than non-Lawful beings. This varies from person to person, but usually includes laws set down by local governments -yet not always (especially when the local laws vastly differ from those of one's home town). The key term here is consistency: a Lawful person doesn't change their principles on a whim. They are more likely to prefer stability over change, even if it's possible the change will be for the better. A tyrant who cracks down hard on crime and dissension, a nobleman who keeps his Machiavellian schemes subtle and covert, an assassin who refuses to kill when not being paid (but isn't necessarily picky about his targets), and an arrogant yet honorable knight are all examples of Lawful characters.

Batman:
Adhere to a strict set of rules. Check.
Consistency. Check.
Does not change their principles on a whim. Check.
Also.. (from chaotic)
Ignore rules? Nope. He SETS them.
Ignore consequences? Nope. He trains tirelessly for YEARS to avenge the murder of his parents.
Rules arbitrary? Nope. (Well, a little if you define arbitrary as in "I wouldn't have adhered to that rule that strictly or that long," but otherwise.. nope.)
Likely to escape stagnation. Nope.
Change things for the worse. Nope.

I wasn't using another thread, or even DnD's definitions. I was using YOURS. And you are still wrong.

I think I should explicitly define Law as this, here. Merely keeping one's own standards isn't Lawful, it's Good (relatively speaking). Classifying Batman as Lawful is pretty much entirely a case of "Law = Good" if I've ever seen one.
No, relatively speaking being Good (as per the conversation you have been having after the post I quoted) is the standard of being Good.
He is lawful in that he acts lawfully. He is strict to a discipline. He is only unlawful in that he does not follow the local laws (assuming they exist at all, which I'm not entirely sure they do) of "no vigilantism". Though by most incarnations of Batman he is operating within the rules of being a masked superhero and is working with a "lawful" team and is allied with the cops, etc.

In this system, "right" or "wrong" doesn't come into the equation. If Bruce Wayne were Lawful, he would work within the system to stop crime, going outside of it only when it is irreparably broken, then coming back as soon as it's fixed.
I did not enter right and wrong into the equation. He can't work within the system. The system is broken. If being a cop would stop criminals from being criminals he would do that. He works outside the law in order to stop crime and protect Gotham. He does so because it is the only way that works. It is FREQUENTLY established in the comics, shows, movies and almost any media that he is doing what he is doing because it is the best way for him to help out. In fact during Golden Age, he was .. a governor (I think) and tried hard to work inside the law. When Gotham became a prison/asylum-city he worked within the law (as Bruce Wayne) to get it turned back into the city that he loved and protected. He also worked as Batman within the city during that time when he could (as Batman) to stop it from going into melt down when the criminals run amok.

Instead, he wears his underwear on the outside and beats people up with his own fists, defying convention and the law itself. He is definitively not Lawful. He may be considered Neutral if it is shown that he has a significant amount of Lawful actions in addition to his Chaotic ones, but that does not change the fact that his Chaotic actions are the ones that really define him.
He wears underwear on the outside of his pants, first, isn't accurate. Nor is the entire characterization here. Second, saying this is like saying, Jesus was a zombie who wore rags and healed people, and he was chaotic because he didn't like the established rules. Saying this misses the point of batman. Just as saying, Superman is a freak from another planet who dresses with his underwear on the outside of his pants and shoots lazer beams out of his eyes, therefore chaotic. Or, Darth Vader is a goth, who wears black and likes to get in fights with a sword (how primitive), therefore chaotic.

I'd go back and rewrite the definitions of Lawful and Chaotic in these stricter terms, but I've got to go now.
This was yesterday at 10pm. I'ts been almost a full 24 hours. I'll keep waiting.

Right. But this isn't the standard system, and this is a difference I'll need to make clear.
YES. It is something you need to clear up, since I quoted you and showed how Batman is lawful by your own definition.

You need to look at which aspect of a character defines him. Batman with a less rigid moral code is still a Caped Crusader. When you boil his character down to its essence, he's a guy in a bat suit who beats people up. And that should be unambiguously Chaotic.
Superman with a less powerful set of .. powers.. is still the man of steel. When you boil his character down to its essence, he's is a freak from another planet who beats people up. And that should be unambiguously Chaotic.

Sounds silly doesn't it? How about another, more poignant example.

Angels with a less angelic form are still creatures who follow the edicts of God. When you boil their character down to their essence, they are creatures capable of causing bushes to burn, armies to fall/retreat, floods to happen, and plagues to fall upon Egypt. And those should be unambiguously Chaotic (actually, most of those strike me as evil :P).

I think all this discussion is good, though. It gives a good example about what is and is not important when deciding alignment.
Actually, this discussion of Batman is rather pointless. You seem to be stuck between two different definitions of Good and have no coherent definition of Law over Chaos.

I am a philosopher (in training, philosophy major) and I have to tell you that I don't see a definition of Good, Evil, Chaos, or Law. I see examples of these, but no definition.

Beyond that, on the issue of Good/Evil. You need to decide how you classify these in terms of intentions, actions, motives or general morality. I think you have a poor system (to include G/E) if people are incapable of BEING certain alignments. If they are reserved for Angels and Demons, then you do not need those alignments. Say all Angels are good, all Demons are evil, say everyone else is neutral or human or mortal or whatever you are using.

On the same coin though, you will find very few people who will agree that a law-chaos spectrum is needed in a vacuum. What good is there in knowing robin hood and an orc are the same alignment?

Now, if you open it up more, as I thought you initially intended to, then have Good be everyone who is more Good than Law (who was LG) then that is fine. Have Exalted and Vile for your angels and demons and let everyone else be good and evil (notice the small letters). THAT is your problem solved. Not the problem, but certainly the one we have here.

When I first posted I found your alignment system to have problems. Several. Too many probably. My only problem problem was the misrepresentation of Batman and Superman in YOUR OWN SYSTEM.

Hopefully I've now clarified myself. (Still waiting on those rewrites.)

Geordnet
2013-02-27, 09:37 PM
So I guess you're not going to respond to what I said (or you haven't yet, anyway).
Oops, I missed it. :smallfrown:

Nice use of foot-in-the-door technique (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foot-in-the-door_technique). Just because people can be connected by a spectrum doesn't mean that you shouldn't draw a line anywhere. Of course the alignments are a spectrum; that's why there's a neutral between good and evil, and between lawful and chaotic. But your claim is like saying that red and green can't be distinguished, because red is pretty much like orange, and orange is pretty much yellow, and yellow is pretty much green.
There are two major differences between drawing lines between good and evil and drawing lines between red and green:

Unlike the difference between good and evil, the difference between red and green is quantifiable. This means that once you draw a line, there is no doubt concerning on which side of it any given color will be.
People don't have anywhere near as strong opinions about the difference between red and green as they do about the difference between good and evil.

Besides, I never said it was impossible to differentiate between good and evil at all, just impossible to get everyone to agree on where to draw the line.

As this thread has shown, even where I'm drawing the line isn't good enough for everyone. At this point, I've given up on trying to get it perfect, instead settling for nobody (or less than 1%) honestly thinking someone classified as Evil should be Good or vise-verse.

Don't take my words out of context. I said a part of your system appeared meaningless. I'm not sure what your response is trying to say.

If it's not the point, then it's not the point. Don't try to have it both ways, and argue that your system both de-emphasizes that aspect, and yet has a more sensible version of it.
I mean to say that it isn't the point of the system to catagorize worldviews; but that it does in some ways. Just not enough to make any sort of judgement based solely upon alignment. (Robin Hood, after all, would be perfectly fine cooperating with other thieves. And he probably wouldn't get along well with Sir Lancelot.)

You seem convinced that the standard alignment system must restrict choices, such as who someone chooses to work with. All I spoke of was likelihood.
I am convinced that if the official descriptions says that alignment indicates a likelihood, people will treat it like a restriction. :smallyuk:

Could you explain this? :smallconfused: Especially because later on you say that "[t]he point of the Evil alignment is to be 'Evil so vile that it is instantly recognizeable [sic], such that none can deny it'". Wouldn't mass murder be more recognizable?
I could give you a theological thesis on the subject, but for now suffice it to say that such Evil is serious business, and not to be taken lightly. FAR too serious to talk about here. (We'd have to move this discussion to a board dedicated to such weighty issues.)

It seems like you're shifting away from the earlier claim that it would dilute the terms "good" and "evil" and therefore the system by including any mortals under those categories.
Yes, I am. Your arguements have persuaded me that my first idea wasn't as good as I thought it was.

No Gandhi as good: he made a young girl sleep naked next to him; no Martin Luther King, Jr.: he was a plagiarizer and a womanizer.
Actually, that's the reason why this system wouldn't work for Real Life: everyone has skeletons in their closet there.

This is not so for Fantasy, which makes this system possible. Here, you can make a character with absolutely no black marks on his record. It would take some skilled writing to make such a character convincing, but it can be done.

No, that's the point of what you want the evil alignment to be. It was originally a spectrum, with anything on the evil end being called "evil" and anything on the good end "good." Anything in the middle is "neutral." You are changing the definitions to fit your conceptions, and then changing the system to fit those, not changing the system to fit the original definitions.
That's right. That is exactly what I'm doing.

Also, I think it's pretty much impossible to find a point where nobody could come up with ways that an entity is virtuous.

Example:
-Person 1: "That psychopathic tyrant hates puppies, and they are cute and cuddly! He must be pure evil, rather than just mostly evil!"
-Person 2:"No, puppies end up teething and biting people, and destroying couches, they're terrible!"

If that tyrant can't both hate and love puppies at the same time, he doesn't fit your definition of evil. The same concept applies to pure good.
That's a ridiculous strawman. How about you try something more serious, and tell me how Xykon is Good?

Also, I agree with what other people have said about your alignment system having no descriptive power, and thus losing all practical application.
This system operates on the principle that the purpose of alignment is not to describe characters, but to make the task of determining whom a paladin can Smite easier. (As well as other such things, like spell effects and positive/negative energy channeling.)

Geordnet
2013-02-27, 09:51 PM
You didn't do that.
I shall correct that then.

And no matter what you say, according to the rules as they exist in my head Batman is clearly Chaotic. If he appears not to be so by my definition, then the problem is one of communication and my explanation of the criteria involved.

On the same coin though, you will find very few people who will agree that a law-chaos spectrum is needed in a vacuum. What good is there in knowing robin hood and an orc are the same alignment?
The good is in knowing that a Lawful character would be able to use any Law-aligned abilities on both of them.

And if that isn't enough for you, use a different system.

JCarter426
2013-02-27, 11:15 PM
In your system, any being that possesses extreme tendencies along one axis is automatically neutral in respect to the other axis. If I interpret your intentions correctly, this is because a pure being follows their alignment to the fullest in any situation; a being of pure Law will execute someone if the law compels them, while a being of pure Good will break the same law to save that person's life, and of course a being of pure Evil will always commit evil acts regardless of anything else.

The issue here is purity; you have contracted one axis but not the other. You say that you want to maintain the purity of Good and Evil; you ask how many mortals are truly Good or Evil. Well, how many mortals follow every law and never lie? If you were to treat Law and Chaos just as strictly, characters like Batman and Robin Hood would be Neutral. And there really wouldn't be much point to the alignment system if almost everybody in the world were of the same alignment. And that, I believe, is the source of certain individuals' objections; you've made almost everybody in the world neutral with respect to one axis - Good and Evil, the big one. Law and Chaos are now the primary axis, even though there is another axis that has harsher membership prerequisites. This is not necessarily a problem, but it leads to a few peculiarities that aren't present in the original system, which others have already demonstrated.

Geordnet
2013-02-27, 11:29 PM
In your system, any being that possesses extreme tendencies along one axis is automatically neutral in respect to the other axis. If I interpret your intentions correctly, this is because a pure being follows their alignment to the fullest in any situation; a being of pure Law will execute someone if the law compels them, while a being of pure Good will break the same law to save that person's life, and of course a being of pure Evil will always commit evil acts regardless of anything else.

The issue here is purity; you have contracted one axis but not the other. You say that you want to maintain the purity of Good and Evil; you ask how many mortals are truly Good or Evil. Well, how many mortals follow every law and never lie? If you were to treat Law and Chaos just as strictly, characters like Batman and Robin Hood would be Neutral. And there really wouldn't be much point to the alignment system if almost everybody in the world were of the same alignment. And that, I believe, is the source of certain individuals' objections; you've made almost everybody in the world neutral with respect to one axis - Good and Evil, the big one. Law and Chaos are now the primary axis, even though there is another axis that has harsher membership prerequisites. This is not necessarily a problem, but it leads to a few peculiarities that aren't present in the original system, which others have already demonstrated.
That's absolutely right. I feel like you fully understand the heart of this system.

JCarter426
2013-02-27, 11:35 PM
Well, if one is fine with Law/Chaos being the primary axis, then it's not a problem. It's just a bit of work fitting Good and Evil in there, but it's an interesting premise. Even if Good and Evil are the big ones, they aren't necessarily the best ways to judge a character's actions, because most people aren't making that sort of choice on a regular basis.

Tovec
2013-02-27, 11:36 PM
In your system, any being that possesses extreme tendencies along one axis is automatically neutral in respect to the other axis. If I interpret your intentions correctly, this is because a pure being follows their alignment to the fullest in any situation; a being of pure Law will execute someone if the law compels them, while a being of pure Good will break the same law to save that person's life, and of course a being of pure Evil will always commit evil acts regardless of anything else.
Actually the part I find funniest is that given his recent incarnations of alignments, the Good guy in this example is neutral, or more likely Chaotic. The Evil guy is probably still evil though.

In this system:
LG, LN, LE = Lawful (sort of)
CG, CN, CE = Chaotic (maybe)
N, NG, NE (others too) = Neutral
Angels = Good
Devils = Evil

The issue here is purity; you have contracted one axis but not the other. You say that you want to maintain the purity of Good and Evil; you ask how many mortals are truly Good or Evil. Well, how many mortals follow every law and never lie? If you were to treat Law and Chaos just as strictly, characters like Batman and Robin Hood would be Neutral. And there really wouldn't be much point to the alignment system if almost everybody in the world were of the same alignment. And that, I believe, is the source of certain individuals' objections; you've made almost everybody in the world neutral with respect to one axis - Good and Evil, the big one. Law and Chaos are now the primary axis, even though there is another axis that has harsher membership prerequisites. This is not necessarily a problem, but it leads to a few peculiarities that aren't present in the original system, which others have already demonstrated.

I agree that is a problem. Though, he seems to make this intentional. I thought his original goal was to stop alignment conflicts by reducing the system to 5. Now it seems like he is more interested in having a system that has 3, and that is unusable to anyone wanting a G/E axis. That is fine, but it isn't a system that is going to be widely adopted.

Oh, and RE: Batman: I could see an argument for Neutral in this system (or any alignment in other systems) but given the outline he has set up Batman seems fairly strongly Lawful. Strongly enough Lawful (where not lawful enough becomes neutral or when not lawful enough is sprinkled with other alignments making him neutral) is up for debate. And apparently the OP wants to use a completely different version as to make Batman Chaotic instead, which baffles me but I have no information to go on for that.

Geordnet
2013-02-27, 11:58 PM
I thought his original goal was to stop alignment conflicts by reducing the system to 5. Now it seems like he is more interested in having a system that has 3, and that is unusable to anyone wanting a G/E axis.
Actually, I started with NetHack's Lawful/Neutral/Chaotic system and added the ability to additionally define characters by Good or Evil, instead of cutting stuff out of the usual D&D system.

And looking back, I'm not quite certain exactly what I intended to accomplish at first. Currently, I'm trying to write a system that could be fun to mess around with in a game.

That is fine, but it isn't a system that is going to be widely adopted.
I never expected everyone to be all "OMG this fixes EVERYTHING", anyways. :smalltongue:

Oh, and RE: Batman: I could see an argument for Neutral in this system (or any alignment in other systems) but given the outline he has set up Batman seems fairly strongly Lawful.
I'm going with Law = "following the letter of the law, irregardless of its virtue". By that logic, a "broken" system is still completely Lawful, and pure Law would follow it. Every time Batman beats someone up, he's breaking the letter of the Law by committing assault and battery.

Of course, if you want to use this system in a game, you can tweak the definitions as much as you want. I'd encourage it, even; it's best to have a system you're comfortable with. You could slacken the requirements for Good and Evil while you're at it, too.

Frathe
2013-02-28, 12:22 AM
Oops, I missed it. :smallfrown:

There are two major differences between drawing lines between good and evil and drawing lines between red and green:
[LIST=1]
Unlike the difference between good and evil, the difference between red and green is quantifiable. This means that once you draw a line, there is no doubt concerning on which side of it any given color will be.
Really? For all that the colors are well-defined in people's minds, you'd be surprised how many times I've heard people disagree if a given object is, for example, blue or purple. You could draw an arbitrary line separating the two, but no matter where you placed it, it would dissatisfy some people. This isn't just a random point I'm making. It's exactly the same issue as dividing up the spectrum of alignment.

Geordnet
2013-02-28, 12:46 AM
Really? For all that the colors are well-defined in people's minds, you'd be surprised how many times I've heard people disagree if a given object is, for example, blue or purple. You could draw an arbitrary line separating the two, but no matter where you placed it, it would dissatisfy some people. This isn't just a random point I'm making. It's exactly the same issue as dividing up the spectrum of alignment.
But you can't even draw a line between good and evil without people disagreeing on the definition of the line, let alone where it's placed at.

With color, you have wavelengths and RGB values that are universal: nobody can argue that 540nm isn't a shorter wavelength than 600nm. But Nale being more or less evil than Tarquin, for instance, is entirely debatable. When everyone can agree on exactly who is more evil than whom, then and only then is it a valid metaphor.

JCarter426
2013-02-28, 12:48 AM
A thought experiment:

{table]||
Pure Good||

|
Lawful Good|
Neutral Good|
Chaotic Good|

Pure Lawful|
Lawful Neutral|
True Neutral|
Chaotic Neutral|
Pure Chaotic

|
Lawful Evil|
Neutral Evil|
Chaotic Evil|
||
Pure Evil||[/table]

Of course, one could rename any or all of those to one's liking - for example, leaving only the extremes as Good, Evil, Lawful, and Chaotic.

Geordnet
2013-02-28, 12:56 AM
A thought experiment:

{table]||
Pure Good||

|
Lawful Good|
Neutral Good|
Chaotic Good|

Pure Lawful|
Lawful Neutral|
True Neutral|
Chaotic Neutral|
Pure Chaotic

|
Lawful Evil|
Neutral Evil|
Chaotic Evil|
||
Pure Evil||[/table]

Of course, one could rename any or all of those to one's liking - for example, leaving only the extremes as Good, Evil, Lawful, and Chaotic.
Hm... Interesting concept. Certainly, it has the same general shape I was imagining for the overall spectrum (that is to say, a diamond).

Perhaps we could rotate the cells 45 degrees, maybe? Then you'd end up with something like this:

{table]Good|Chaotic Good|Chaotic
Lawful Good|Neutral|Chaotic Evil
Lawful|Lawful Evil|Evil[/table]

(Just imagine that rotated 45 degrees clockwise.)

It's just a thought, though. I'm thinking that your idea might be better overall, really; if only because more people would understand and accept it.

EDIT:
Here's a better view.
{table]||PG||
|LG||CG|
LN||TN||CN
|LE||CE|
||PE||[/table]

Effectively, you've now got a system with a 5-step gradient on the Good-Evil axis, but where the gradient on the Law-Chaos axis varies.

So, those whom are neither good nor bad are sorted into three groups based on Law/Chaos, while those whom are more good or evil than average (but neither the most good nor the most evil) are only sorted into two.

JCarter426
2013-02-28, 01:14 AM
A nine-part diamond has a certain elegance to it, but I don't think it precisely distinguishes between people who are sort of evil and Evil evil. A mercenary who honors contracts but feels no loyalty to the client, willing to accept a better offer from the client's opponent, is pretty straightforward Neutral of some kind, and likely Neutral Evil if willing to kill or do other bad things. Such a mercenary is certainly not a being of pure Evil, however. The same could be applied to any of the other extremes, I think.

Geordnet
2013-02-28, 01:19 AM
A nine-part diamond has a certain elegance to it, but I don't think it precisely distinguishes between people who are sort of evil and Evil evil. A mercenary who honors contracts but feels no loyalty to the client, willing to accept a better offer from the client's opponent, is pretty straightforward Neutral of some kind, and likely Neutral Evil if willing to kill or do other bad things. Such a mercenary is certainly not a being of pure Evil, however. The same could be applied to any of the other extremes, I think.
I would say that if he's evil, he's still somewhat more Lawful than Chaotic, and would thus fall into the Lawful Evil category.

He wouldn't be nearly as Evil as Pure Evil, though.

JCarter426
2013-02-28, 01:20 AM
I could see that. True Neutral could be treated as Absolute Pure Neutrality. In that case, almost everyone is Lawful Good, Lawful Evil, Chaotic Good, or Chaotic Evil (or whatever they are called), with a scattering of beings of one of the five extreme alignments - perhaps more along the horizontal axis, if that is your preference.

Geordnet
2013-02-28, 01:23 AM
Hm, that's not quite what I was thinking of. It's certainly an interesting concept, but the lack of a middle ground feels wrong.

I was still thinking along the lines of unequal axis: the Good-Evil axis would in this case dominate, with Law-Chaos being only a subdivision.

JCarter426
2013-02-28, 01:27 AM
I'm not sure I follow. Would someone have to become either Lawful Good or Chaotic Good before reaching pure goodness? That doesn't make much sense to me.

Geordnet
2013-02-28, 01:33 AM
I'm not sure I follow. Would someone have to become either Lawful Good or Chaotic Good before reaching pure goodness? That doesn't make much sense to me.
Basically, think of it as starting with a single 5-step spectrum:

Pure Good - Good - Neutral - Evil - Pure Evil

Now, subdivide Good into a Lawful half and a Chaotic Half; do the same with Evil. Neutral gets subdivided into three parts.

So, now you have a system that better represents the decreasing variability of Law-Chaos as one approaches the Good-Evil extremes, while also allowing those two extremes to be expressed.

JCarter426
2013-02-28, 01:41 AM
Oh, I see; I had thought about that, but I still feel like it's missing Neutral Good and Neutral Evil.

Geordnet
2013-02-28, 01:49 AM
Well, the alignment is still there, just split up and merged into LG and CG.

I don't think it's that much of a loss, really.

Frathe
2013-02-28, 04:05 AM
But you can't even draw a line between good and evil without people disagreeing on the definition of the line, let alone where it's placed at.

With color, you have wavelengths and RGB values that are universal: nobody can argue that 540nm isn't a shorter wavelength than 600nm. But Nale being more or less evil than Tarquin, for instance, is entirely debatable. When everyone can agree on exactly who is more evil than whom, then and only then is it a valid metaphors.I think you think colors are more objective than they are. Sure, you can point to wavelengths; but when it comes to naming colors, which is the relevant thing (giving wavelengths is more like giving a cosmic tally of good/evil acts someone has committed), many cultures, for example, don't recognize the difference between green and blue. They consider the sky and grass to be different shades of the same color. That's very different from how we view colors. Qualitive descriptions of both morality and colors are objective and vary by culture, although quantitive numbers may be objective.

Well, the alignment is still there, just split up and merged into LG and CG.

I don't think it's that much of a loss, really.If you split it up into Chaotic and Lawful, I really don't think you can say that Neutral is there at all. You can't give the two extremes and claim that that includes the middle.

Geordnet
2013-02-28, 10:04 AM
I think you think colors are more objective than they are. Sure, you can point to wavelengths; but when it comes to naming colors, which is the relevant thing (giving wavelengths is more like giving a cosmic tally of good/evil acts someone has committed), many cultures, for example, don't recognize the difference between green and blue.
But you can say "[495–570] nm light is green, [450–495) nm is blue", and no one will be able to argue that by this definition 475 nm light is blue. You can not write any definition for sorting good and evil, and not still have people arguing over into which category a character falls by that definition.

If you split it up into Chaotic and Lawful, I really don't think you can say that Neutral is there at all. You can't give the two extremes and claim that that includes the middle.
Sure I can. If I say "Good that is more Lawful than Chaotic is Lawful Good", does that not include people whom are only a little bit more Lawful than Chaotic?

In fact, I would go so far as to say that sorting into two categories is even easier than sorting into three, because "Lawful enough" is harder to define than "more Lawful than Chaotic".

Geordnet
2013-02-28, 01:31 PM
So, I have a new idea: (not about alignments!)

What if I were to convert this thread into a compilation of multiple systems based on similar premises? (Namely, that Law="Following the letter of the law", that the extremes should be in the Pure Good/Evil/Law/Chaos directions instead of the combination (LG/CG/LE/CE) alignments, and the purpose of alignment is not a guide or even suggestion for roleplay, but merely a game mechanic.)

Grindle
2013-02-28, 02:11 PM
Sure I can. If I say "Good that is more Lawful than Chaotic is Lawful Good", does that not include people whom are only a little bit more Lawful than Chaotic?

In fact, I would go so far as to say that sorting into two categories is even easier than sorting into three, because "Lawful enough" is harder to define than "more Lawful than Chaotic".

I think that the problem with this is that the names "Lawful" and "Chaotic" do not sound like they describe people who are barely lawful or barely chaotic, as they do in your system. Instead, they sound more like "Good" or "Evil", i.e. referring to someone who is notable for the attribute.

Geordnet
2013-02-28, 03:36 PM
I think that the problem with this is that the names "Lawful" and "Chaotic" do not sound like they describe people who are barely lawful or barely chaotic, as they do in your system. Instead, they sound more like "Good" or "Evil", i.e. referring to someone who is notable for the attribute.
Hm... Perhaps then it is not the system that is the cause of problems. Perhaps any system would work as fine as any other, if only players treated it right.

Perhaps this is something we can fix?

I'm wondering, how many alignment troubles would simply disappear if everyone agreed to and adhered to the following:

Alignment has no place in roleplay. AT ALL. You should know what your character thinks, you should know what he finds morally repugnant, you should know what he respects. If you can't figure out what your character will do in a situation without even thinking about Alignment, then you need to develop a better understanding of your character. Until then, you still shouldn't think about Alignment; just do what you would do in the situation.

The purpose of Alignment is not to describe a character. In fact, it would be more accurate to say that the purpose of describing a character is to determine its Alignment. Alignment's sole purpose is as a game mechanic: just imagine if every time someone cast Protection from Evil, the GM had to stop and think about who would or would not count as Evil for the purposes of the spell.

That should solve all concerns of Alignment being a "straightjacket", or encouraging shallower characters. (If it's actually followed, at least...) To limit arguments over who falls into what alignment during play, one may wish to add some more:

There is a significant amount of overlap in Alignment categories. For instance, a certain character could be classified as LG, but could just as validly be considered NG, LN, or even TN. He could be in any of those categories and not be out of place, but his Alignment should be left where it is until there is a significant reason why should change.

When a character is created, the creator assigns it an intended Alignment- arbitrarily, if need be. If you're having a hard time deciding, just go with whatever is closest to Neutral. After creation, if the controlling player thinks the character's alignment should be different, then with the GM's approval it can change. (Exactly when the change comes into effect is up to the GM, but it is recommended that this happens during "down time" between adventures.) If the GM feels if the character has consistently acted outside of its Alignment, he may change it at any time.

There we go. This won't solve all alignment troubles, by any means, but hopefully it'll reduce them to the point where they don't have many more problems than any other aspect of the rules.

...So then, do you think that this might be something that could see more widespread use?

Plato Play-Doh
2013-02-28, 03:47 PM
That's a ridiculous strawman. How about you try something more serious, and tell me how Xykon is Good?

Well, he doesn't act stuck up and self-righteous like, say, Miko, so that's something. Also, he isn't racist against Goblins, which makes him (in that way, at least) a better person than most adventurers.

Hm... Perhaps then it is not the system that is the cause of problems. Perhaps any system would work as fine as any other, if only players treated it right.

Perhaps this is something we can fix?

I'm wondering, how many alignment troubles would simply disappear if everyone agreed to and adhered to the following:

Alignment has no place in roleplay. AT ALL. You should know what your character thinks, you should know what he finds morally repugnant, you should know what he respects. If you can't figure out what your character will do in a situation without even thinking about Alignment, then you need to develop a better understanding of your character. Until then, you still shouldn't think about Alignment; just do what you would do in the situation.

The purpose of Alignment is not to describe a character. In fact, it would be more accurate to say that the purpose of describing a character is to determine its Alignment. Alignment's sole purpose is as a game mechanic: just imagine if every time someone cast Protection from Evil, the GM had to stop and think about who would or would not count as Evil for the purposes of the spell.

That should solve all concerns of Alignment being a "straightjacket", or encouraging shallower characters. (If it's actually followed, at least...) To limit arguments over who falls into what alignment during play, one may wish to add some more:

There is a significant amount of overlap in Alignment categories. For instance, a certain character could be classified as LG, but could just as validly be considered NG, LN, or even TN. He could be in any of those categories and not be out of place, but his Alignment should be left where it is until there is a significant reason why should change.

When a character is created, the creator assigns it an intended Alignment- arbitrarily, if need be. If you're having a hard time deciding, just go with whatever is closest to Neutral. After creation, if the controlling player thinks the character's alignment should be different, then with the GM's approval it can change. (Exactly when the change comes into effect is up to the GM, but it is recommended that this happens during "down time" between adventures.) If the GM feels if the character has consistently acted outside of its Alignment, he may change it at any time.

There we go. This won't solve all alignment troubles, by any means, but hopefully it'll reduce them to the point where they don't have many more problems than any other aspect of the rules.

Well, if you're going to take it out of RP, then why not take it out of the mechanics altogether. Detect Evil becomes "detect those who are opposed to the deity you worship, or to your own values," Magic Circle Against (alignment) becomes Magic Circle Against (creature type). Etc. The alignment system exists to give an idea of how a character (regardless of whether they're PCs or NPCs) acts. It's an aid to RP, and the only time it's mechanically applicable is in a world of black-and-white absolutes.

Frathe
2013-02-28, 03:52 PM
Geordnet: I agree with most of what you've said above. It's definitely better for people to actually decide on characters and characterizations, and then pick an appropriate alignment because you need one to play the game, than for people to use alignment as a crutch and not actually develop a character or personality. That said, I do think that alignment can be a useful tool for helping people who aren't perfect at characterization try to remain consistent in their actions throughout a game. I don't think the D&D alignment system is perfect for this purpose, but I think the ideal alignment system would be: it would help and perhaps reward people for playing their characters in a plausibly consistently characterized way. One system that doesn't have an "alignment system" exactly, but does have a system for this purpose, is FATE, which has aspects. These are traits of a character--anything from a quirk of personality to part of an origin story--and when a player has their character act in line with an aspect (as determined by the GM), they receive a fate point. If they want to act out of line, they have to spend a fate point. It's not an alignment system, and it certainly doesn't restrict people in terms of good/evil/lawful/chaotic, but it does reward [role]playing a consistent character.

Geordnet
2013-02-28, 03:58 PM
Well, he doesn't act stuck up and self-righteous like, say, Miko, so that's something. Also, he isn't racist against Goblins, which makes him (in that way, at least) a better person than most adventurers.
Okay then, who here is willing to second his argument? Anyone else honestly believe that Xykon is Good for these reasons?

Well, if you're going to take it out of RP, then why not take it out of the mechanics altogether.
Because unlike in RP, it is supposed to be there.

Detect Evil becomes "detect those who are opposed to the deity you worship, or to your own values," Magic Circle Against (alignment) becomes Magic Circle Against (creature type). Etc.
Honestly now, were they ever really anything different? :smallconfused:

The alignment system exists to give an idea of how a character (regardless of whether they're PCs or NPCs) acts.
Then if so, you are right and it should be removed entirely. It has proven to be far more harmful to RP than helpful.

Unless you're afraid that without it, players will have to *gasp* think about their actions? :smallyuk:

It's an aid to RP, and the only time it's mechanically applicable is in a world of black-and-white absolutes.
Which the world of a game like D&D, driven by numbers, defined by absolute rules, certainly is. :smalltongue:

Frathe
2013-02-28, 04:06 PM
Okay then, who here is willing to second his argument? Anyone else honestly believe that Xykon is Good for these reasons?Unless I misremember, him helping the goblins does seem like a genuinely good act. Goblinoids experience serious racism and persecution from supposedly good beings, because they're designated as a standard evil race.

Just want to check that you didn't miss my post again. :smalltongue:

Geordnet
2013-02-28, 04:08 PM
That said, I do think that alignment can be a useful tool for helping people who aren't perfect at characterization try to remain consistent in their actions throughout a game.
I wouldn't know about that; if I had someone who wasn't a good roleplayer, I'd assign them Neutral and tell them "don't sweat it, just act natural".

Besides, rewarding consistency (while not inherently a bad thing) has the side-effects of discouraging character growth, and encouraging shallow characters again (since people who want the rewards will let their alignment influence their actions).

I would prefer to just give out RP Exp for deep characters.

Geordnet
2013-02-28, 04:11 PM
Unless I misremember, him helping the goblins does seem like a genuinely good act. Goblinoids experience serious racism and persecution from supposedly good beings, because they're designated as a standard evil race.
But is the mere lack of evil in one or two categories enough to make Xykon Good, or even Neutral, especially given that he even admits- nay, boasts that he is Evil?

Plato Play-Doh
2013-02-28, 04:14 PM
Okay then, who here is willing to second his argument? Anyone else honestly believe that Xykon is Good for these reasons?

Probably not, but he certainly wouldn't fit your extremely strict definition of Evil.

Honestly now, were they ever really anything different? :smallconfused:

Well then, why not make them work that way mechanically. Detect Evil could translate to (essentially) being able to tell by facial recognition those who your deity has put on the naughty list. Get rid of alignment in these sorts of situations, and they wouldn't be any different, according to you. The fluff would just be more true to their actual use.

Which the world of a game like D&D, driven by numbers, defined by absolute rules, certainly is. :smalltongue:

While true in regards to the system itself, I was talking more along the lines of setting rather than system. And really, the purpose of the system is to represent settings and characters, not the other way around.

Frathe
2013-02-28, 04:52 PM
I wouldn't know about that; if I had someone who wasn't a good roleplayer, I'd assign them Neutral and tell them "don't sweat it, just act natural".

Besides, rewarding consistency (while not inherently a bad thing) has the side-effects of discouraging character growth, and encouraging shallow characters again (since people who want the rewards will let their alignment influence their actions).

I would prefer to just give out RP Exp for deep characters.So you want anyone who doesn't start out good at roleplaying (by your standards) to not even try, to just play a character identical to themselves :smallconfused:? Wow. Also, I'm pretty sure you're misunderstanding the point of rewarding consistency. Do you want someone who has designated their character as a pacifist to be able to go around murdering people with no consequence or penalty? Do you want a Lawful Good-equivalent character who the player has explicitly described to be very honest and who considers that honesty very important to have no discouragement from lying to an NPC about something important because it's convenient at the time? I'm not saying you should never be able to change these aspects or whatever's equivalent in your system; in fact, in the FATE system, players are free to swap out one aspect for another at the end of every play session. It's explicitly described to "represent a kind of character development and growth". You can reward consistency without preventing growth.

But is the mere lack of evil in one or two categories enough to make Xykon Good, or even Neutral, especially given that he even admits- nay, boasts that he is Evil?People often boast about being things that they are not--that doesn't prove anything. And helping a downtrodden group that is usually discriminated against is not somehow Neutral--that's outright good.

Yitzi
2013-02-28, 05:24 PM
Well, he doesn't act stuck up and self-righteous like, say, Miko, so that's something.

Being stuck-up and self-righteous is a Lawful trait, not an Evil one.

Also, he isn't racist against Goblins, which makes him (in that way, at least) a better person than most adventurers.

Not really; he still kills goblins for amusement, which is arguably worse than racism.

Plato Play-Doh
2013-02-28, 05:42 PM
Being stuck-up and self-righteous is a Lawful trait, not an Evil one.

Well, you don't have to be lawful to be self-righteous, and you don't have to be self-righteous to be lawful. Personally, I consider not being stuck-up to be a redeeming quality, and his definition of evil is "no redeeming qualities whatsoever," so that's what was meant there.

Not really; he still kills goblins for amusement, which is arguably worse than racism.

That has nothing to do with the fact that they're goblins. In this case, his evil quality is that he kills things, and his good quality is that he isn't racist. The bad, in my book, outweighs the good, but the fact that he has a good quality means that he doesn't fit the OP's definition of evil.

Yitzi
2013-02-28, 05:49 PM
Well, you don't have to be lawful to be self-righteous

Actually, I think you'll be hard pressed to find someone who's self-righteous and does not have significant Lawful tendencies. (They might still be non-Lawful aligned if they have enough other Chaotic tendencies.)

and you don't have to be self-righteous to be lawful.

Definitely; each alignment contains a HUGE number of different approaches.

Personally, I consider not being stuck-up to be a redeeming quality, and his definition of evil is "no redeeming qualities whatsoever," so that's what was meant there.

I don't think he meant "redeeming quality" so broadly as to include what he isn't; otherwise you can have at most one possible evil person (as if there were two, at least one would have the redeeming quality of not being as bad as a combination of the worst of both.)

Geordnet
2013-02-28, 05:54 PM
Well then, why not make them work that way mechanically. Detect Evil could translate to (essentially) being able to tell by facial recognition those who your deity has put on the naughty list. Get rid of alignment in these sorts of situations, and they wouldn't be any different, according to you. The fluff would just be more true to their actual use.
That system could work. The only thing is that without alignment, the GM would have to independently consider every individual, since he can't just look at a character sheet. And later, the player may cry foul if he thinks that NPC should have tripped his 'evildar', but the GM didn't.

But with enough effort, that system would work.

While true in regards to the system itself, I was talking more along the lines of setting rather than system. And really, the purpose of the system is to represent settings and characters, not the other way around.
Well, if everyone understands that the Alignment system (like any other system) will never 100% (or even 90%) accurately represent the setting, that it's a necessary abstraction for the game to work, then it should be fine.

If not, you're probably better off doing what you said: going without an alignment system at all.

zlefin
2013-02-28, 05:55 PM
the best way to avoid disputes about alignment is to remove it. Holy/unholy/anarchic/axiomatic only apply to aligned outsiders; and represent forces that are anathema to each other, much like you sometimes have air/earth and fire/water opposed.

Geordnet
2013-02-28, 06:09 PM
So you want anyone who doesn't start out good at roleplaying (by your standards) to not even try, to just play a character identical to themselves :smallconfused:?
No, I'd tell them not to try too hard. And I see absolutely nothing wrong with self-insertion. (To the contrary, I'd imagine that's one of the reasons that RPGs are fun.)

Also, I'm pretty sure you're misunderstanding the point of rewarding consistency.
No, I understand the logic behind it. But I also understand psychology.

Give a monkey a banana every time he says "Ook", and soon enough he won't ever say anything but "Ook".

Do you want someone who has designated their character as a pacifist to be able to go around murdering people with no consequence or penalty?
Yes. I'd change his alignment pretty quick if I was GMing that game, though.

You can reward consistency without preventing growth.
I'm not saying you can't, but I'm not sure it'd really be worth the effort to work with a complex system like you described.

People often boast about being things that they are not--that doesn't prove anything. And helping a downtrodden group that is usually discriminated against is not somehow Neutral--that's outright good.
Call me naive, but I'm finding it increasingly difficult to believe you're being sincere here... :smallconfused:

Frathe
2013-02-28, 06:11 PM
Well, if everyone understands that the Alignment system (like any other system) will never 100% (or even 90%) accurately represent the setting, that it's a necessary abstraction for the game to work, then it should be fine.

If not, you're probably better off doing what you said: going without an alignment system at all.Or you could do what I said above (which no one has responded to) and have a system that, while not an alignment system, rewards consistency, yet allows a large degree of character change and growth, just not all at once. Of course, this doesn't seem to be the kind of thing you want; you seem to care primarily about the alignment system for the purposes of things like detect evil. :smallconfused: Or at least you've said things to that purpose.

Geordnet
2013-02-28, 06:14 PM
Actually, I think you'll be hard pressed to find someone who's self-righteous and does not have significant Lawful tendencies. (They might still be non-Lawful aligned if they have enough other Chaotic tendencies.)
I find the idea of a self-righteous Robin Hood very easy to believe.

I don't think he meant "redeeming quality" so broadly as to include what he isn't;
I didn't. Any "redeeming quality" that starts with the word "not" almost always isn't one at all. (I'd say always, but I'm sure someone will find an exception.)

EDIT:
This discussion on Xycon's alignment is getting out of hand. It's not really relevant to the topic, either.

Geordnet
2013-02-28, 06:18 PM
Or you could do what I said above (which no one has responded to) and have a system that, while not an alignment system, rewards consistency, yet allows a large degree of character change and growth, just not all at once. Of course, this doesn't seem to be the kind of thing you want; you seem to care primarily about the alignment system for the purposes of things like detect evil. :smallconfused: Or at least you've said things to that purpose.
Right. When I speak of an "Alignment System", I'm talking about a way to sort out characters into groups for ease of reference. What you're talking about with FATE is something else, not sure what to call it; but it's independent of the existence or non-existence of an alignment system for the purposes of mechanics.

Yitzi
2013-02-28, 06:22 PM
I find the idea of a self-righteous Robin Hood very easy to believe.

Depends on the characterization; those with that property will tend to think that it's wrong to have such an inequality of wealth...and that sort of thinking is Lawful. The individual's methods may make him Chaotic when all is said and done, but the self-righteousness will be linked to his Lawful aspects. (Remember, people are complicated, so even Chaotic people will have some Lawful aspects, and similarly for the other way around and the other axis.)

Frathe
2013-02-28, 06:24 PM
No, I'd tell them not to try too hard. And I see absolutely nothing wrong with self-insertion. (To the contrary, I'd imagine that's one of the reasons that RPGs are fun.)Then you have a very different view from me. A lot of the point, I thought, is getting to play a character who isn't exactly the same as yourself, only with magic/pointy ears/a different gender. If you're going to be lazy and not have a real characterization (besides your default "self"), you can do that, but at least for me, that's certainly not the point or the fun.

No, I understand the logic behind it. But I also understand psychology.

Give a monkey a banana every time he says "Ook", and soon enough he won't ever say anything but "Ook".This metaphor sure doesn't insult players' intelligence. Rewarding people for something isn't the same as forcing them to do it. Don't claim "woooo, Psychology".

Yes. I'd change his alignment pretty quick if I was GMing that game, though.Here we differ also. You seem to believe that the character's professed in-universe beliefs mean nothing whatsoever, and that they should never affect the player's actions; only that alignment should change after they've gone and done whatever the heck they want to anyway, rendering the whole system useless as anything but a "karma tracker", which isn't what I thought the point was.

I'm not saying you can't, but I'm not sure it'd really be worth the effort to work with a complex system like you described.Maybe you're misunderstanding what I said. It's a very simple system. Comparable to maybe action points. Just because it's different doesn't make it complex. I'd say it's actually a lot simpler than the D&D system: it's completely intuitive, players can invent their own aspects, and there are no predefined "alignments" to explain.

Call me naive, but I'm finding it increasingly difficult to believe you're being sincere here... :smallconfused:I honestly have no idea what you're referring too. You have me somewhat concerned. Do you believe I'm not legitimately engaged in this discussion? I find that deeply insulting. Maybe my views differ from your own, but that's not a reason to accuse me of insincerity.

Geordnet
2013-02-28, 06:25 PM
Depends on the characterization; those with that property will tend to think that it's wrong to have such an inequality of wealth...and that sort of thinking is Lawful.
Wait, what? :smallconfused:

Geordnet
2013-02-28, 06:49 PM
Then you have a very different view from me. A lot of the point, I thought, is getting to play a character who isn't exactly the same as yourself, only with magic/pointy ears/a different gender.
Right, and that's what's fun for you. But for someone who isn't skilled at it, it probably won't be. (And even if it is, trying too hard isn't the way to go.)

Besides, "being natural" doesn't mean being identical to yourself.

(That's "being tautological". :smallbiggrin:)

This metaphor sure doesn't insult players' intelligence.
Tell that to Dr. Pavlov. :smalltongue:

You seem to believe that the character's professed in-universe beliefs mean nothing whatsoever, and that they should never affect the player's actions;
Oh, you mean a professed in-universe alignment? Then I'd shift them towards chaotic while I was at it.

And yes, I firmly believe that the player should have full control to make the character what he wants it to be. It doesn't mean that he should suddenly and radically alter his outlook, though.

If I were GMing a game where a player seriously wanted to do that, and they weren't joking, I'd let them... But then rule that they're literally losing control of themselves, and ergo the player is losing control of his PC. :smallwink:

(Probably wouldn't want to play with him again, either.)

rendering the whole system useless as anything but a "karma tracker", which isn't what I thought the point was.
Yep, that is the point of it.

It's keeping track of how likely you're going to be smited. :smallamused:

I honestly have no idea what you're referring too. You have me somewhat concerned. Do you believe I'm not legitimately engaged in this discussion? I find that deeply insulting.
I'm skeptical that it isn't clear to you that Xykon is Evil, and you aren't just "playing devil's advocate". :\

Yitzi
2013-02-28, 06:55 PM
THere we differ also. You seem to believe that the character's professed in-universe beliefs mean nothing whatsoever, and that they should never affect the player's actions

I'd agree with him; if they conflict, then that means his professed beliefs weren't sincere, not that he didn't act in the way he just acted.

rendering the whole system useless as anything but a "karma tracker", which isn't what I thought the point was.

Of course it's a mainly descriptive system; that's why it's in chapter 6 of the PHB.

Wait, what? :smallconfused:

The statement "X is wrong" is a fundamentally Lawful one, regardless of what X is.

Geordnet
2013-02-28, 07:34 PM
The statement "X is wrong" is a fundamentally Lawful one, regardless of what X is.
Hm... I don't know how you got that.

Pure Chaos would say "stability is wrong", after all.

Frathe
2013-02-28, 08:26 PM
I'm skeptical that it isn't clear to you that Xykon is Evil, and you aren't just "playing devil's advocate". :\Oh, that's you meant. No, of course I think Xykon is evil. I mean that particular action is good. Doesn't make him good. I just meant the action.

Geordnet
2013-02-28, 08:36 PM
Oh, that's you meant. No, of course I think Xykon is evil. I mean that particular action is good. Doesn't make him good. I just meant the action.
Oh. Well in that case, I don't think Xykon has actually helped the goblin race directly in any way. Actions he took solely for his own benefit may have had the side effect of helping them, but I don't think that qualifies as "Good".

Especially since the same actions directly hurt others, including innocents.

Frathe
2013-02-28, 08:38 PM
I'd agree with him; if they conflict, then that means his professed beliefs weren't sincere, not that he didn't act in the way he just acted.I suppose, although I think it's generally hard for people to go against the way they were raised (which is really the kind of "professed beliefs" I meant). I'm certainly not saying people can never change, just that they have a significant impetus not to.

Of course it's a mainly descriptive system; that's why it's in chapter 6 of the PHB.I... don't know what Ch. 6 of the PHB is. What, you think I have the chapter numbers memorized? I'm going to assume that's devoted to character descriptions. I'm aware that you're allowed to change your alignment and that the GM can reassign alignment based on your actions. But it bothers me if someone saves orphans from a fire on Tuesday and then murders all of them on Wednesday. I think some consistency is a good thing here. Besides, a single evil act is not enough to make a good person evil, and vice versa, so clearly it's something that's modified only by a significant number of actions. My point is that a good character can get away with interspersing evil actions into their deeds, and remain counted as "good", and to me it's seemed that the initial alignment a player chooses (not that the DM chooses as a description) usually matters more than anything else, because it tends to remain the status quo. They have to do something really good or really terrible to change their stated alignment. It seems to me more like a required price to change an attribute than a real "description", especially considering how much evil (murdering, stealing) supposedly good PCs get away with.

Edit:
Oh. Well in that case, I don't think Xykon has actually helped the goblin race directly in any way. Actions he took solely for his own benefit may have had the side effect of helping them, but I don't think that qualifies as "Good".

Especially since the same actions directly hurt others, including innocents.Reasonable. That's either then Evil or Neutral (depending on how you classify self-serving actions).

Geordnet
2013-02-28, 09:07 PM
But it bothers me if someone saves orphans from a fire on Tuesday and then murders all of them on Wednesday. I think some consistency is a good thing here.
Ah, I would classify that as "Pure Chaos", under JCarter426's "traditional + 4 extremes" model.

And yeah, someone could- but he'll probably be booted from the group before he gets to do something else the third day. :smallwink:

Besides, a single evil act is not enough to make a good person evil, and vice versa, so clearly it's something that's modified only by a significant number of actions. My point is that a good character can get away with interspersing evil actions into their deeds, and remain counted as "good", and to me it's seemed that the initial alignment a player chooses (not that the DM chooses as a description) usually matters more than anything else, because it tends to remain the status quo. They have to do something really good or really terrible to change their stated alignment.
It's entirely up to the GM how much or how little they will tolerate before changing a PC's alignment. In fact, one could imagine a campaign where alignments are continually in flux, being reevaluated every sitting, where recent actions are most important.

And remember, it's the GM's say that really matters. The player's opinion doesn't count for determining whom gets smitten. :smallamused:

considering how much evil (murdering, stealing) supposedly good PCs get away with.
That's why my original suggestion on this thread automatically excluded PCs from the Good alignment. :smalltongue:

Yitzi
2013-02-28, 11:36 PM
Hm... I don't know how you got that.

Pure Chaos would say "stability is wrong", after all.

I don't think so; "wrong" implies judgement, and judgement is intrinsically lawful. Pure Chaos would work to undermine stability, but not out of any judgement; that's simply its nature.

I suppose, although I think it's generally hard for people to go against the way they were raised (which is really the kind of "professed beliefs" I meant). I'm certainly not saying people can never change, just that they have a significant impetus not to.

True. But that impetus isn't as strong as the evidence of a player saying "my character does X".

I... don't know what Ch. 6 of the PHB is. What, you think I have the chapter numbers memorized? I'm going to assume that's devoted to character descriptions.

I'm aware that you're allowed to change your alignment and that the GM can reassign alignment based on your actions. But it bothers me if someone saves orphans from a fire on Tuesday and then murders all of them on Wednesday.

Such a character either underwent a huge change overnight, or is clinically insane, so it should bother you. But that doesn't mean the DM should say "you can't do that", it means that the player is (intentionally or not) roleplaying someone who either underwent a huge change overnight, or is clinically insane.

I think some consistency is a good thing here. Besides, a single evil act is not enough to make a good person evil, and vice versa, so clearly it's something that's modified only by a significant number of actions. My point is that a good character can get away with interspersing evil actions into their deeds, and remain counted as "good"

If they're minor enough (i.e. not in the case killing a bunch of orphans) and don't form a general pattern, then yes.

and to me it's seemed that the initial alignment a player chooses (not that the DM chooses as a description) usually matters more than anything else, because it tends to remain the status quo. They have to do something really good or really terrible to change their stated alignment.

Or (assuming a good DM) a noticeable pattern over time.

especially considering how much evil (murdering, stealing) supposedly good PCs get away with.

Not really; usually the creatures they're killing and taking stuff from did something to deserve it. Or that's how it's supposed to work, anyway.

Frozen_Feet
2013-03-01, 09:46 AM
While the original alignment simply existed to divide creatures into different sides, it quickly developed into a tool of punishing inconsistency. That's why, in 1st Ed, the GM is told to carefully track alignment and inflict negative levels on those who fail to follow their chosen alignment. That's why, under the rules, a character might die if they flip-flopped enough in regards to alignment.

This was to make players think of their character's actions, and preclude them from always doing what was most convenient for the game. Any statement about how alignment should "not factor into roleplaying" is hilariously ass-backwards, because the spirit of alignment was "think of what would be consistent for your character's professed philosophy, not what gives you the most bonuses!"

Frathe
2013-03-01, 01:30 PM
While the original alignment simply existed to divide creatures into different sides, it quickly developed into a tool of punishing inconsistency. That's why, in 1st Ed, the GM is told to carefully track alignment and inflict negative levels on those who fail to follow their chosen alignment. That's why, under the rules, a character might die if they flip-flopped enough in regards to alignment.

This was to make players think of their character's actions, and preclude them from always doing what was most convenient for the game. Any statement about how alignment should "not factor into roleplaying" is hilariously ass-backwards, because the spirit of alignment was "think of what would be consistent for your character's professed philosophy, not what gives you the most bonuses!"Thank you. This is exactly what I've been trying to say (but you put it more clearly).

Yitzi
2013-03-01, 02:04 PM
While the original alignment simply existed to divide creatures into different sides, it quickly developed into a tool of punishing inconsistency. That's why, in 1st Ed, the GM is told to carefully track alignment and inflict negative levels on those who fail to follow their chosen alignment. That's why, under the rules, a character might die if they flip-flopped enough in regards to alignment.

This was to make players think of their character's actions, and preclude them from always doing what was most convenient for the game. Any statement about how alignment should "not factor into roleplaying" is hilariously ass-backwards, because the spirit of alignment was "think of what would be consistent for your character's professed philosophy, not what gives you the most bonuses!"

Of course, on the flip side, the GM has to be aware that there's more than one way to play a given alignment, and people are more complex than a simple splitting into 9 categories can represent. Also, some amount of inconsistency is proper role-playing, because that's how people act.

Frathe
2013-03-01, 02:28 PM
Of course, on the flip side, the GM has to be aware that there's more than one way to play a given alignment, and people are more complex than a simple splitting into 9 categories can represent. Also, some amount of inconsistency is proper role-playing, because that's how people act.The D&D alignment system isn't completely realistic (and it categorizes extremes of behavior that wouldn't be realistic for humans). If you're going to use the system, you should use the system's rules, and the system says that a character who acts notably inconsistently (a little is fine, as long as they mostly behave in one given way) is a defined alignment--Chaotic Neutral (probably, if their inconsistency is defining). Sure, it's not realistic to split people into [only] nine groups like that, but you could at least acknowledge the point that the system does try to discourage too much inconsistency, as in Frozen Feet's example.

Yitzi
2013-03-01, 03:56 PM
The D&D alignment system isn't completely realistic (and it categorizes extremes of behavior that wouldn't be realistic for humans).

But it also should handle types of behavior that are realistic.

If you're going to use the system, you should use the system's rules, and the system says that a character who acts notably inconsistently (a little is fine, as long as they mostly behave in one given way) is a defined alignment--Chaotic Neutral (probably, if their inconsistency is defining).

That's ok; my problem is with the DMs that would say "you can't act that way" no matter what your alignment is. Every method of acting should fall into some alignment, and if you made a mistake in your initial declaration you should be able to have it fixed rather than being forced to play other than how you intended.

Sure, it's not realistic to split people into [only] nine groups like that

Actually, that's not particularly unrealistic, simply because you can divide people however you want. It's only unrealistic when those nine groups do not, between them, cover every pattern of behavior that someone might follow.

Frathe
2013-03-01, 05:11 PM
That's ok; my problem is with the DMs that would say "you can't act that way" no matter what your alignment is. Every method of acting should fall into some alignment, and if you made a mistake in your initial declaration you should be able to have it fixed rather than being forced to play other than how you intended.Maybe early on you should be allowed to change if you realize you erred, but you don't seem to understand the concern Frozen Feet brought: people unrealistically and irritatingly changing effective alignment whenever it mechanically benefits them to do so. Do you have anything to address that, if you don't want to reward consistency or punish inconsistency?

Actually, that's not particularly unrealistic, simply because you can divide people however you want. It's only unrealistic when those nine groups do not, between them, cover every pattern of behavior that someone might follow.I'm of the opinion and the impression that D&D-style alignment groups are like marking points on a line, and I mean that there are an infinite number of points on any line that you could potentially mark (e.g., irrational numbers on the number line). No matter how many times you divide up that line, someone is going to fall approximately equally between two points, giving them an unclear alignment, so any arbitrary "finite number" alignment system is going to be imprecise (although obviously after a certain point things will be so close, like points on a line in real space, that they'll be effectively indistinguishable, so you don't want to take this argument too far). My point is that, doing things D&D style is to mark the ends of the line, or spectrum, and the middle, and that doesn't clearly include people in between those--you essentially have to "round" those to the nearest point. It doesn't seem realistic to me to give some specific limited number of people, in this sense (points on a spectrum, not stretches of a spectrum, because that's not generally how people speak of things--they say someone is good or bad or evil, not something synonymous to "better than X" or "morally between X and Y"). So I don't think the nine groups that D&D gives are very realistic.

Geordnet
2013-03-01, 06:55 PM
While the original alignment simply existed to divide creatures into different sides, it quickly developed into a tool of punishing inconsistency. That's why, in 1st Ed, the GM is told to carefully track alignment and inflict negative levels on those who fail to follow their chosen alignment. That's why, under the rules, a character might die if they flip-flopped enough in regards to alignment.

This was to make players think of their character's actions, and preclude them from always doing what was most convenient for the game. Any statement about how alignment should "not factor into roleplaying" is hilariously ass-backwards, because the spirit of alignment was "think of what would be consistent for your character's professed philosophy, not what gives you the most bonuses!"
I understand that. But I do not agree with it.

That sort of thinking created the alignment problem, it isn't going to fix it.

Geordnet
2013-03-01, 07:13 PM
I understand that. But I do not agree with it.

That sort of thinking created the alignment problem, it isn't going to fix it.
I should specify:

The alignment system has proven good at punishing inconsistency. In fact, it was too good. It was so effective that there is now a problem of characters being too shallow, at least to some people.

But when one should "think of what would be consistent for your character's professed philosophy", that doesn't have to involve alignment. If one understands one's character, as one should, then one should be able to figure out what is consistent with the character's professed philosophy based upon that understanding alone, without referencing some external categorization.

If you want to reward consistency and punish inconsistency, there are much better ways to do it. What Frathe was talking about, for instance.

I'm only concerned about recovering the original purpose of the alignment system here. You can reward or punish all you like, it doesn't matter to me.

Frozen_Feet
2013-03-01, 11:59 PM
I understand that. But I do not agree with it.

That sort of thinking created the alignment problem, it isn't going to fix it.

Does not remove the delicious irony of a tool meant to enforce roleplaying turning into something that is seen as a hindrance for it. :smalltongue:

Geordnet
2013-03-02, 01:13 AM
Does not remove the delicious irony of a tool meant to enforce roleplaying turning into something that is seen as a hindrance for it. :smalltongue:
True.

It's a tragic thing, that I think is rooted in simple human nature. There will always have people who are lazy and need to be reigned in by the GM if they are to play a believable character, but by the same token there will always be people whom are sincere and honest about their roleplay.

It is a sad fact that any universal rules set to control the former group will also limit the freedom of the latter. The same restrictions against improper actions will invariably restrict some proper ones as well.

Honestly, I don't think any rule or system will ever fix this. It's "endemic to the human condition". Finding a good group and especially a good GM is all one can really do.

Anyways, alignment is caught up in all of this mess. That's why I think it is paramount to detach it from roleplay altogether. It started as a game mechanic, let it become so once again- and no more.

I think maybe the best bet would be to edit that "contract" I wrote up earlier:
Alignment has no place in roleplay. AT ALL. You should know what your character thinks, you should know what he finds morally repugnant, you should know what he respects. If you can't figure out what your character will do in a situation without even thinking about Alignment, then you need to develop a better understanding of your character. Until then, you still shouldn't think about Alignment; just do what you would do in the situation.

The purpose of Alignment is not to describe a character. In fact, it would be more accurate to say that the purpose of describing a character is to determine its Alignment. Alignment's sole purpose is as a game mechanic: just imagine if every time someone cast Protection from Evil, the GM had to stop and think about who would or would not count as Evil for the purposes of the spell.

There is a significant amount of overlap in Alignment categories. For instance, a certain character could be classified as LG, but could just as validly be considered NG, LN, or even TN. He could be in any of those categories and not be out of place, but his Alignment should be left where it is until there is a significant reason why should change.

When a character is created, the creator assigns it an intended Alignment- arbitrarily, if need be. If you're having a hard time deciding, just go with whatever is closest to Neutral. After creation, if the controlling player thinks the character's alignment should be different, then with the GM's approval it can change. (Exactly when the change comes into effect is up to the GM, but it is recommended that this happens during "down time" between adventures.) If the GM feels if the character has consistently acted outside of its Alignment, he may change it at any time.
Formalize this, work out any problems with it, get it into a form of an agreement on both the players' and GM's parts, and maybe it'd be something worth sharing. I don't know if it would work, honestly; the kind of people who'd want it are the kind who probably don't need it...

Yitzi
2013-03-02, 07:25 PM
Maybe early on you should be allowed to change if you realize you erred, but you don't seem to understand the concern Frozen Feet brought: people unrealistically and irritatingly changing effective alignment whenever it mechanically benefits them to do so. Do you have anything to address that, if you don't want to reward consistency or punish inconsistency?

Someone who does whatever benefits them the most without concern for morality or ethics sounds to me like Chaotic Evil, so mark their alignment as such and then just have the world respond naturally to their actions.

I'm of the opinion and the impression that D&D-style alignment groups are like marking points on a line, and I mean that there are an infinite number of points on any line that you could potentially mark (e.g., irrational numbers on the number line).

Bad analogy, because people don't fall on a neat line; instead you have an n-dimensional space for some very high n, and then you can divide it into nine sections (presumably contiguous, and forming a rough 3X3 pattern). And yes, some people will fall close enough to the border that it's difficult to determine what side they're on, but that's a problem no matter what.

Frathe
2013-03-02, 07:37 PM
Someone who does whatever benefits them the most without concern for morality or ethics sounds to me like Chaotic Evil, so mark their alignment as such and then just have the world respond naturally to their actions.You're talking about a character that does whatever benefits themselves (which is arguably Chaotic Neutral if they don't go out of their way to hurt others). We're talking about a player who games the system, sometimes claiming to be of a Good alignment and and behaving as such and probably receiving the benefits of such, because it benefits them mechanically to do so, but who would be willing to abandon that in an instant if it would pay off big enough (for example, not if they were playing a paladin, unless they had plans for going into an evil-paladin prestige class).

Bad analogy, because people don't fall on a neat line; instead you have an n-dimensional space for some very high n, and then you can divide it into nine sections (presumably contiguous, and forming a rough 3X3 pattern). It's not a bad analogy, any more than a weight distorting a two-dimensional rubber sheet is a bad analogy for spacetime. :smallconfused: Good analogies are made by their understandability, not by exact dimensional equivalence. Just extend my analogy to n-dimensions and it continues to work.

And yes, some people will fall close enough to the border that it's difficult to determine what side they're on, but that's a problem no matter what.Yes, that was exactly my point: the fact that, if you divide it up this way (into a finite number of alignments, and bringing dimensions up isn't relevant), problematic borders are created. That was exactly my point. I'm saying that's why a finite-number alignment system is ultimately an unrealistic representation of a spectrum (or multiple dimensions of spectrums, if you can't handle imprecise metaphors).

Yitzi
2013-03-02, 07:55 PM
You're talking about a character that does whatever benefits themselves (which is arguably Chaotic Neutral if they don't go out of their way to hurt others). We're talking about a player who games the system, sometimes claiming to be of a Good alignment and and behaving as such and probably receiving the benefits of such, because it benefits them mechanically to do so, but who would be willing to abandon that in an instant if it would pay off big enough (for example, not if they were playing a paladin, unless they had plans for going into an evil-paladin prestige class).

Well, then just judge the character by how they act, and remember that turning evil has consequences.

Good analogies are made by their understandability, not by exact dimensional equivalence. Just extend my analogy to n-dimensions and it continues to work.

There's still the important point that it's by regions rather than specific points, emphasizing the fact that any ambiguity in where they fall is due to ambiguity in exactly where they are in the full non-categorized space, which is quite realistic.

Yes, that was exactly my point: the fact that, if you divide it up this way (into a finite number of alignments, and bringing dimensions up isn't relevant), problematic borders are created. That was exactly my point. I'm saying that's why a finite-number alignment system is ultimately an unrealistic representation of a spectrum (or multiple dimensions of spectrums, if you can't handle imprecise metaphors).

I'd disagree, as those borders are problematic only due to uncertainty of where exactly someone lies, which isn't unrealistic at all. You do lose continuity (i.e. a small uncertainty can, in rare cases, result in ambiguity between discrete separate categories), but that's not a problem of realism.

Frathe
2013-03-02, 08:02 PM
I'd disagree, as those borders are problematic only due to uncertainty of where exactly someone lies, which isn't unrealistic at all. You do lose continuity (i.e. a small uncertainty can, in rare cases, result in ambiguity between discrete separate categories), but that's not a problem of realism.You must be viewing things differently than I am. I see "Good" and "Evil" as points far away from each other on a line, and "Neutral" as a midpoint point between them. For me there are no "regions". Everyone's alignment is a guess, a simplified approximation based on a more complex reality. "Chaotic" and "Orderly" are points near (maybe at) the ends of another axis perpendicular to the first, that brings this whole scheme up to two dimensions. How I see it there still aren't any regions. I don't see the alignments as defined by inequalities (Good >= x, x >= Neutral >= -x, -x >= Evil).

Yitzi
2013-03-03, 12:12 AM
You must be viewing things differently than I am. I see "Good" and "Evil" as points far away from each other on a line, and "Neutral" as a midpoint point between them. For me there are no "regions". Everyone's alignment is a guess, a simplified approximation based on a more complex reality. "Chaotic" and "Orderly" are points near (maybe at) the ends of another axis perpendicular to the first, that brings this whole scheme up to two dimensions. How I see it there still aren't any regions. I don't see the alignments as defined by inequalities (Good >= x, x >= Neutral >= -x, -x >= Evil).

Whereas I see them not as specific points to be approximated, but as general regions in which to divide all creatures capable of moral and ethical decision.

One interesting consequence of my approach is that two characters can both be exemplars of a given alignment despite being very different from one another.

Geordnet
2013-03-03, 12:54 AM
You're talking about a character that does whatever benefits themselves (which is arguably Chaotic Neutral if they don't go out of their way to hurt others). We're talking about a player who games the system, sometimes claiming to be of a Good alignment and and behaving as such and probably receiving the benefits of such, because it benefits them mechanically to do so, but who would be willing to abandon that in an instant if it would pay off big enough (for example, not if they were playing a paladin, unless they had plans for going into an evil-paladin prestige class).
If you have a problem with this, then just don't play with the guy.

He'd be gaming the system no matter what that system was. No need to let such munchkins ruin the game for those who aren't munchkins by trying to make alignment munchkin-proof. (Or getting rid of it entirely.)

Frathe
2013-03-03, 12:57 AM
If you have a problem with this, then just don't play with the guy.

He'd be gaming the system no matter what that system was. No need to let such munchkins ruin the game for those who aren't munchkins by trying to make alignment munchkin-proof. (Or getting rid of it entirely.)The problem is, it's not only munchkins. Plenty of players who just don't think much about alignment just always make the easiest decision, even if it's inappropriate for their chosen alignment.

Frathe
2013-03-03, 02:31 AM
Whereas I see them not as specific points to be approximated, but as general regions in which to divide all creatures capable of moral and ethical decision.

One interesting consequence of my approach is that two characters can both be exemplars of a given alignment despite being very different from one another.Mine, see, doesn't have the concept of exemplars. It's based on overarching concepts, not pieced together from examples. No mortal being, for example, can in a specific sense embody the concept of "good". The closest any being could come might be, I suppose, some sort of omnibenevolent deity. There are no exemplars, though, because for real people there's always, at least theoretically, someone better or worse (or more Chaotic or Lawful).

Yitzi
2013-03-03, 11:52 AM
The problem is, it's not only munchkins. Plenty of players who just don't think much about alignment just always make the easiest decision, even if it's inappropriate for their chosen alignment.

Taking the easy way regardless of alignment considerations sounds like a clear case of CE to me.

Remember, not every CE character is actively malevolent. Some just don't care who they have to hurt or what they have to do to get what they want.

Geordnet
2013-03-03, 01:16 PM
The problem is, it's not only munchkins. Plenty of players who just don't think much about alignment just always make the easiest decision, even if it's inappropriate for their chosen alignment.
Well, that kind of person will always have a shallow character. Restricting them to an alignment will just make them follow the stereotype.

But the point remains the same: if this kind of thing bugs you, the best solution is finding someone else to play with. No amount of effort on your part will get them to do something they don't want to.

And alignment still isn't a problem here, if we forget about using it as a guide. The player you described would see his character's alignment changed to CN in short order, if the GM was a good one.

Remember, the GM has final say on all alignments. If I were the GM for such a player, I'd refuse to approve a non-chaotic alignment for him until he could prove he's willing to spend the effort.

Taking the easy way regardless of alignment considerations sounds like a clear case of CE to me.

Remember, not every CE character is actively malevolent. Some just don't care who they have to hurt or what they have to do to get what they want.
Now, I'd disagree with this on some counts; but the GM would have the absolute final word. Of course, a good GM will try to work it out with his players if possible.

Frozen_Feet
2013-03-04, 12:05 PM
Whereas I see them not as specific points to be approximated, but as general regions in which to divide all creatures capable of moral and ethical decision.

Welcome to 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons!

Seriously, there's a handy graph for categorizing characters at end of the PHB. Just sayin'.

Amechra
2013-03-04, 12:16 PM
Welcome to 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons!

Seriously, there's a handy graph for categorizing characters at end of the PHB. Just sayin'.

Those were the days... back before me and my friends learned about all this alignment debate garbage. Those were happier, simpler times (this was 3 years ago. Yes, we started with 1e.)

Yitzi
2013-03-04, 01:15 PM
Welcome to 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons!

Seriously, there's a handy graph for categorizing characters at end of the PHB. Just sayin'.

On the other hand, 1st edition, as far as I can tell from what I've read, saw alignments more as "teams" than ways of describing individuals, which is NOT what later versions have (and I think that change is for the better).

Although, I'm wondering what that graph looks like (if it's not a copyright issue.)

Frozen_Feet
2013-03-04, 09:08 PM
Here you go. (https://www.wizards.com/dnd/images/ll_20110614_1.jpg)

Regarding 1st Ed's conception of alignment... you're maybe half right. By time of 1st Ed AD&D, alignment had already developed significantly from its roots. It's main purpose was tracking consistency of character actions - essentially, monitoring character development. This was because several classes had to follow a very narrow path or lose their "unique snowflake" privileges.

The original idea may have been to divide characters into "teams", but alignments are also defined pretty clearly in terms of what kind of life philosophy they represent.

Yitzi
2013-03-04, 10:13 PM
Here you go. (https://www.wizards.com/dnd/images/ll_20110614_1.jpg)

That's not exactly a very handy graph, though it does give some sense of what's going on. (In particular, I find it interesting that Neutral is not adjacent to the corner alignments.)

Yitzi
2013-03-05, 07:48 PM
I've thought over the OP some more, and while I disagree with much of it, I think the idea of having "good" and "evil" alignments be fairly rare* may be a good one, if other alignments (e.g. selfish/altruistic) are added to take up the slack in descriptive power and it's recognized that someone can still be considered good/evil without a good/evil alignment. That way, you still have moral extremes for when players want to know that someone needs killing and to use paladin powers on, but it's rare enough that it doesn't hit the cases which are controversial whether they're really evil even in the non-alignment sense.

*Say, Redcloak and Tsukiko wouldn't have an evil alignment, but Xykon would. Tarquin is questionable, depending on whether he actually believed the justification he told Elan.

Geordnet
2013-03-06, 11:48 PM
I've thought over the OP some more, and while I disagree with much of it, I think the idea of having "good" and "evil" alignments be fairly rare* may be a good one, if other alignments (e.g. selfish/altruistic) are added to take up the slack in descriptive power and it's recognized that someone can still be considered good/evil without a good/evil alignment.
Then you may be interested in this other idea I had:

Perhaps we could rotate the cells 45 degrees, maybe? Then you'd end up with something like this:

{table]Good|Chaotic Good|Chaotic
Lawful Good|Neutral|Chaotic Evil
Lawful|Lawful Evil|Evil[/table]

(Just imagine that rotated 45 degrees clockwise.)

It's just a thought, though. I'm thinking that your idea might be better overall, really; if only because more people would understand and accept it.

EDIT:
Here's a better view.
{table]||PG||
|LG||CG|
LN||TN||CN
|LE||CE|
||PE||[/table]

Effectively, you've now got a system with a 5-step gradient on the Good-Evil axis, but where the gradient on the Law-Chaos axis varies.

So, those whom are neither good nor bad are sorted into three groups based on Law/Chaos, while those whom are more good or evil than average (but neither the most good nor the most evil) are only sorted into two.

But I think you're missing the point of this system: "selfish" and "altruistic" are both things that everyone is from time to time. Using them as names of alignments is just asking for more arguments. Better just to make it understood that there are both selfish and altruistic people in each of the three primary (Law-Chaos) alignments.

*Say, Redcloak and Tsukiko wouldn't have an evil alignment, but Xykon would. Tarquin is questionable, depending on whether he actually believed the justification he told Elan.
Yeah, you got it.

Yitzi
2013-03-06, 11:59 PM
Then you may be interested in this other idea I had

Not really. I like the idea of having it as a "square"; I just feel that "good" and "evil" are strong enough to have a special status in being rare.

But I think you're missing the point of this system

Not really; it's more that I'm taking your idea and using it for my own point.

"selfish" and "altruistic" are both things that everyone is from time to time.

True, but some are motivated primarily by one, and some primarily by the other.

In fact, I was thinking of having five "normal" axes, plus good/evil:

-Altrustic/Selfish. This is whether they're motivated mainly to benefit themselves or to benefit others. (Neutrality would be an even mix, or if they care about family/friends but not about others.)
-Benevolent/Baneful. A benevolent character primarily seeks to achieve their goal by helping others, a baneful character primarily seeks to achieve their goal by harming others. (Neutrality would be an even mix, or someone who ignores others entirely.) Adventurers are nearly always baneful. (And the exceptions are pretty much always found in support roles.)
-Lawful/Uninhibited. This is whether they think of things in terms of right and wrong/acceptable or not/permissible or not (lawful), have no lines they are unwilling to cross to achieve their goal (uninhibited), or have lines they will not cross but don't see it as a question of right and wrong (neutral).
-Orderly/Chaotic. This is whether they prefer order or chaos (neutrality would be an even mix.)
-Thoughtful/Spontaneous. Just what it sounds like.

Geordnet
2013-03-07, 08:30 AM
Not really; it's more that I'm taking your idea and using it for my own point.
Fair enough, I suppose.

Still, it's far easier to argue if a certain action is selfish/altruistic than if it is good/evil...

hamishspence
2013-03-07, 09:19 AM
Not that easy. Practically any action, up to and including "dying to save others" can be rationalized as selfish. Especially in a world with an afterlife, like D&D.

Yitzi
2013-03-07, 09:56 AM
Fair enough, I suppose.

Still, it's far easier to argue if a certain action is selfish/altruistic than if it is good/evil...

It's easier to argue about an action, but harder to argue about a character, and most of the argument is on the character level.

Synovia
2013-03-07, 02:30 PM
In fact, if you define Law/Chaos as one's willingness to obey rules and expectations set down by others, then decision becomes even less one of personal opinion.

I think I should explicitly define Law as this, here. Merely keeping one's own standards isn't Lawful, it's Good (relatively speaking).

Then a heavily regimented serial killer is Good. He keeps to his own standards.

Synovia
2013-03-07, 02:47 PM
But I think you're missing the point of this system: "selfish" and "altruistic" are both things that everyone is from time to time.

Everyone is also "Good" and "Evil" at times. Everyone is "Lawful" and "Chaotic" at times. People aren't generally consistent in every action they take, especially if you don't weight for circumstance.

So trying to evaluate to that level is just silly.

Frathe
2013-03-07, 03:11 PM
In fact, I was thinking of having five "normal" axes, plus good/evil:

-Altrustic/Selfish. This is whether they're motivated mainly to benefit themselves or to benefit others. (Neutrality would be an even mix, or if they care about family/friends but not about others.)
-Benevolent/Baneful. A benevolent character primarily seeks to achieve their goal by helping others, a baneful character primarily seeks to achieve their goal by harming others. (Neutrality would be an even mix, or someone who ignores others entirely.) Adventurers are nearly always baneful. (And the exceptions are pretty much always found in support roles.)
-Lawful/Uninhibited. This is whether they think of things in terms of right and wrong/acceptable or not/permissible or not (lawful), have no lines they are unwilling to cross to achieve their goal (uninhibited), or have lines they will not cross but don't see it as a question of right and wrong (neutral).
-Orderly/Chaotic. This is whether they prefer order or chaos (neutrality would be an even mix.)
-Thoughtful/Spontaneous. Just what it sounds like.I understand the axes and the desire to have them, but some of them seem nearly overlapping (e.g., Lawful/Uninhibited and Thoughtful/Spontaneous, or Lawful/Uninhibited and Orderly/Chaotic). I can see differences, but to me some traits are unclear and would affect both of two axes simultaneously--for example, if someone acts in an uninhibited manner, it doesn't make a big difference to an outside observer if they thought first but are "Uninhibited" or if they have standards but didn't think (are "Spontaneous"). I can see the difference, but it could be hard to judge from looking objectively at just behavior.

Five axes seems like an awful lot, especially to explain to new players, and at this point it's more of a personality evaluation than an alignment system. While that could work, I'm afraid it's trying to define too much.

Geordnet
2013-03-07, 05:10 PM
Not that easy. Practically any action, up to and including "dying to save others" can be rationalized as selfish. Especially in a world with an afterlife, like D&D.
By "easier to argue", I meant "easier for two people to come up with contrary opinions". (As you have just demonstrated.)

Then a heavily regimented serial killer is Good. He keeps to his own standards.
*facepalm*

In the proper context for that quote, I was arguing that Batman's self-enforced moral code was a Good trait, not a Lawful trait. (And no, I don't want to go back to that topic.)

Everyone is also "Good" and "Evil" at times. Everyone is "Lawful" and "Chaotic" at times. People aren't generally consistent in every action they take, especially if you don't weight for circumstance.

So trying to evaluate to that level is just silly.
Which is why I am not trying to.

I'm just applying a (mostly) arbitrary categorization so we don't have to sit down an have a lengthy philosophical debate every time a paladin uses Smite Evil. (See the "Alignment Contract" I drafted:)

It's a tragic thing, that I think is rooted in simple human nature. There will always have people who are lazy and need to be reigned in by the GM if they are to play a believable character, but by the same token there will always be people whom are sincere and honest about their roleplay.

It is a sad fact that any universal rules set to control the former group will also limit the freedom of the latter. The same restrictions against improper actions will invariably restrict some proper ones as well.

Honestly, I don't think any rule or system will ever fix this. It's "endemic to the human condition". Finding a good group and especially a good GM is all one can really do.

Anyways, alignment is caught up in all of this mess. That's why I think it is paramount to detach it from roleplay altogether. It started as a game mechanic, let it become so once again- and no more.

I think maybe the best bet would be to edit that "contract" I wrote up earlier:
Alignment has no place in roleplay. AT ALL. You should know what your character thinks, you should know what he finds morally repugnant, you should know what he respects. If you can't figure out what your character will do in a situation without even thinking about Alignment, then you need to develop a better understanding of your character. Until then, you still shouldn't think about Alignment; just do what you would do in the situation.

The purpose of Alignment is not to describe a character. In fact, it would be more accurate to say that the purpose of describing a character is to determine its Alignment. Alignment's sole purpose is as a game mechanic: just imagine if every time someone cast Protection from Evil, the GM had to stop and think about who would or would not count as Evil for the purposes of the spell.

There is a significant amount of overlap in Alignment categories. For instance, a certain character could be classified as LG, but could just as validly be considered NG, LN, or even TN. He could be in any of those categories and not be out of place, but his Alignment should be left where it is until there is a significant reason why should change.

When a character is created, the creator assigns it an intended Alignment- arbitrarily, if need be. If you're having a hard time deciding, just go with whatever is closest to Neutral. After creation, if the controlling player thinks the character's alignment should be different, then with the GM's approval it can change. (Exactly when the change comes into effect is up to the GM, but it is recommended that this happens during "down time" between adventures.) If the GM feels if the character has consistently acted outside of its Alignment, he may change it at any time.
Formalize this, work out any problems with it, get it into a form of an agreement on both the players' and GM's parts, and maybe it'd be something worth sharing. I don't know if it would work, honestly; the kind of people who'd want it are the kind who probably don't need it...

EDIT:
I'll try to stay clear of this whole mess, though, and mainly just answer questions about the titular system.

hamishspence
2013-03-07, 05:16 PM
By "easier to argue", I meant "easier for two people to come up with contrary opinions". (As you have just demonstrated.)

Ah.

I thought you meant it was easier to decide on a satisfactory answer as to whether an action was altruistic or selfish.

With Good and Evil being much more a case of personal belief- hence harder to decide on.

Yitzi
2013-03-07, 05:24 PM
I understand the axes and the desire to have them, but some of them seem nearly overlapping (e.g., Lawful/Uninhibited and Thoughtful/Spontaneous, or Lawful/Uninhibited and Orderly/Chaotic).

Not quite; they're related, but not identical, and I'd estimate that at least 90% of alignment arguments regarding the Law/Chaos axis are due to the fact that they're not identical, so you can have someone who pushes along one of them toward Law and the other toward Chaos.

I can see differences, but to me some traits are unclear and would affect both of two axes simultaneously--for example, if someone acts in an uninhibited manner, it doesn't make a big difference to an outside observer if they thought first but are "Uninhibited" or if they have standards but didn't think (are "Spontaneous").

It can sometimes be difficult to tell which from a single action, but from a larger pattern it should be clear, as there are many cases where only one works. (Being spontaneous will never lead to premeditated murder, whereas being uninhibited is often required for it. Being uninhibited will never lead to counterproductive actions, but being spontaneous often will.)

For a good example, consider someone who's altruistic, orderly, and baneful. If hes lawful and spontaneous, you get a hot-headed zealot, whereas if he's uninhibited and methodical you get a utilitarian whose favored method is removing obstacles toward the proper functioning of systems. Quite a difference there, isn't it? (Not coincidentally, both are highly unclear where they fall on the Law/Chaos axis.)

Five axes seems like an awful lot, especially to explain to new players, and at this point it's more of a personality evaluation than an alignment system.

It is essentially meant as a personality description, as that seems to me to be the most important usage of alignment. As for being a lot...I figure that if someone isn't clearly one or the other, they can just leave it out (i.e. neutral), and then if it becomes clear it can be added.

While that could work, I'm afraid it's trying to define too much.

You could always use a smaller subset of the five and it'll work too (but with less descriptive power); the main goal is not to combine several into a single axis.

Geordnet
2013-03-07, 10:01 PM
It is essentially meant as a personality description, as that seems to me to be the most important usage of alignment.
And here is the one key thing that is incompatible with my system.

My system is not designed to describe personality. In fact, it is designed specifically to say as little about personality as possible.

If you're looking for a system to describe personality, go elsewhere. (I suggest giving the whole thing up; I'm convinced it's a futile effort.)

Frathe
2013-03-07, 10:16 PM
If you're looking for a system to describe personality, go elsewhere. (I suggest giving the whole thing up; I'm convinced it's a futile effort.)How encouraging.

You know, if you really do just want alignment for spell effects (detect X, smite X, etc.), it would pretty much work to just assign it arbitrarily. "There are two kinds of people, those who X and those who Y.", and you can only smite "those who X". Extend to "X, Y, and Z" or even further if you want a system with a greater number of alignments.

My point is that if you detach alignment from personality, and really just want it for spell effects, you could just assign it based on somewhat arbitrary standards (moral or otherwise). Example: someone who has killed another person is Evil, everyone else is neutral except for people who have saved a life (who are good). If you've both killed and saved lives, you're back to Neutral.

Geordnet
2013-03-07, 11:08 PM
How encouraging.
Why do you think I've given up on it? :smalltongue:

And yes, you can use pretty much any arbitrary distinction you want.
(Not that I would recommend going that far from convention...)

Frathe
2013-03-07, 11:17 PM
Why do you think I've given up on it? :smalltongue:I meant your tone.

Yitzi
2013-03-07, 11:52 PM
And here is the one key thing that is incompatible with my system.

My system is not designed to describe personality. In fact, it is designed specifically to say as little about personality as possible.

Even so, one aspect of it is useful for my purpose, which does largely involve describing personality. As I said, it's not really compatible with your system, but does take a bit of inspiration.

Geordnet
2013-03-07, 11:59 PM