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View Full Version : I just don't seem to fit in... [Alignments][PEACH]



Shadow_Elf
2008-12-17, 10:10 PM
Okay, so I was going over Alignments with a friend of mine. He had some crazy Feylock with evil tendencies but who occaisionally does good acts, but mostly in a self-serving way. He also had absolutely self-serving mass chaotic behaviours. He asked me what Alignment he fit into (attempting to convince me that Alignment system was too restrictive).
I immediately said Chaotic Neutral.
But what about the Evil tendencies?
Chaotic Evil, then.
But then he's not much of a PC, and he's not that Evil.
In my frustration, I developed this:

Each character's Alignment is represented by two numbers. This represents an ordered pair that belongs on a grid. The Alignment Grid now literally becomes a grid. It's X or Law-Chaos Axis goes from -10 (embodiment of Anarchy) to +10 (being of pure Law). It's Y or Good-Evil Axis goes from -10 (a being of irredeemably purest evil) to +10 (pure Good) as well.

For example, the above character's Alignment may become -5/-1, to represent that s/he is very Chaotic, and only slightly evil.
I don't play 3.5e, but this might call for some changes in a few mechanics there. For example, maybe Smite Evil does damage based on how evil they are. Smite will do more damage to a -10 than to a -1, for example.

Thoughts?

Daracaex
2008-12-17, 10:40 PM
This exact thing has been done before. It seems to be a decent and relatively simple "fix" for alignment. Of course, I and many others I know still think the best fix for alignment is to get rid of it and adjust the rest of the game to fit as needed.

Samurai Jill
2008-12-17, 10:43 PM
Thoughts?
Here (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=95858).

Shadow_Elf
2008-12-17, 10:53 PM
Here (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=95858).

I considered but forgot to add before PEACH "I'm sure this has been done before but..."
I'm not 100% sure I understood that system though. Your alignment changes based on how you act? It sounds rather complicated.

afroakuma
2008-12-17, 10:55 PM
The character's flat chaotic neutral.

He'll have to try harder to break the alignment system. It's not half as restrictive as people think.

Samurai Jill
2008-12-17, 11:02 PM
I considered but forgot to add before PEACH "I'm sure this has been done before but..."
I'm not 100% sure I understood that system though. Your alignment changes based on how you act? It sounds rather complicated.
On what other basis did you think alignments changed? ...Wishful thinking?

The system isn't any more or less complex than what you yourself are (probably) using, it just formalises it consistently.

The character's flat chaotic neutral.

He'll have to try harder to break the alignment system. It's not half as restrictive as people think.
It's not 'restrictive' at all, because it's hopelessly underdefined.

Lord_Asmodeus
2008-12-17, 11:04 PM
The character's flat chaotic neutral.

He'll have to try harder to break the alignment system. It's not half as restrictive as people think.

This. He fits the bill for CN pretty solidly.




It's not 'restrictive' at all, because it's hopelessly underdefined.

I'm sure you mean "Open Ended" by this.

Shadow_Elf
2008-12-17, 11:05 PM
On what other basis did you think alignments changed? ...Wishful thinking?

For the most part, my character's Alignment doesn't move whatsoever... I tend to roleplay them as they are from the start. If one of my characters were to commit a heinous crime and go on a murderous rampage, I'd change his alignment. But I don't think I'm going to shift it back and forth every time he goes to town or kills Kobolds in a dungeon. Its a lot of book keeping, even if it takes place at the end of the session.
My quick-fix is just meant to pin point the alignment better, not allow for subtle shifts in alignment.

Samurai Jill
2008-12-17, 11:05 PM
How do you know? He performs no acts of altruism involving personal sacrifice, and some acts of evil. The only question is whether he's committed enough Evil acts to qualify as CE, and that's a completely ambiguous threshold.

cnsvnc
2008-12-17, 11:07 PM
I immediately said Chaotic Neutral.
But what about the Evil tendencies?


You were right, that's CN. Tendencies mean nothing, for alignment is about consistent actions/intentions. Alignments don't change without prolonged actions AND intentions to the contrary. At least imo.

Alignment system is tougher than that to break and less restrictive than most realize.
...
Ninjad very much. And there are no impenetrable walls between alignments. A CG and CE might be acting and thinking very much alike 90% of the time, while both not being CN.

Samurai Jill
2008-12-17, 11:08 PM
For the most part, my character's Alignment doesn't move whatsoever... I tend to roleplay them as they are from the start...
My quick-fix is just meant to pin point the alignment better, not allow for subtle shifts in alignment.
Then why are you bothering with it?

If one of my characters were to commit a heinous crime and go on a murderous rampage, I'd change his alignment. But I don't think I'm going to shift it back and forth every time he goes to town or kills Kobolds in a dungeon. Its a lot of book keeping, even if it takes place at the end of the session.
The primary system suggested only requires you to keep track of the single most extreme acts within a given session. That's not a lot of bookkeeping. And I'm sorry, you're automatically assuming that kobold deaths are intrinsically less important that whatever a 'murderous rampage' is otherwise supposed to mean, which comes off a mildly racist attitude.

afroakuma
2008-12-17, 11:09 PM
Intention is a big part of it.

Shadow_Elf
2008-12-17, 11:09 PM
By "evil tendencies" he meant a joy for torturing defeated enemies and using teleportation and mind-affect powers to drive enemies totally insane before finally killing them. Though I don't think he'd go so far as to burn down an orphanage, its still pretty sadistic.

Lord_Asmodeus
2008-12-17, 11:10 PM
By "evil tendencies" he meant a joy for torturing defeated enemies and using teleportation and mind-affect powers to drive enemies totally insane before finally killing them. Though I don't think he'd go so far as to burn down an orphanage, its still pretty sadistic.

That would put him squarely toward, if not far into, the "Evil" territory. Like, demons might show up and give him tips evil. What are the "Good" tendencies?

Samurai Jill
2008-12-17, 11:11 PM
I'm sure you mean "Open Ended" by this.
No, I mean this:
The problem with alignments isn't that they don't mean anything so much as that they mean several mutally exclusive things.

To quote from the Tome of Fiends (http://tgdmb.com/viewtopic.php?t=28828&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0&sid=dd5679bcf89301d61aa23d0c3c4749a2):
Every action has motivations, expectable results, and actual results. In addition, every action can be described with a verb. In the history of moral theory (a history substantively longer than human history) it has at times been contested by otherwise bright individuals that any of those (singly or collectively) could be used as a rubric to determine the rightness of an action. D&D authors agreed. With all of those extremely incompatible ideas. And the result has been an unmitigated catastrophe. Noone knows what makes an action Good in D&D, so your group is ultimately going to have to decide for yourselves. Is your action Good because your intentions are Good? Is your action Good because the most likely result of your action is Good? Is your action Good because the actual end result of that action is Good? Is your action Good because the verb that bests describes your action is in general Good? There are actually some very good arguments for all of these written by people like Jeremy Bentham, Immanuel Kant, and David Wasserman but there are many other essays that are so astoundingly contradictory and ill-reasoned that they are of less help than reading nothing. Unfortunately for the hobby, some of the essays of the second type were written by Gary Gygax.

This is not an easy question to answer. The rulebooks, for example, are no help at all. D&D at its heart is about breaking into other peoples' homes, stabbing them in the face, and taking all their money. That's very hard to rationalize as a Good thing to do, and the authors of D&D have historically not tried terribly hard.
A course of action may fit the descriptions of several alignments at once. You can run into a village of goblins that's been raiding your human village and starting killin' goblins. You're killing, you're risking your own safety to protect others, and you're supporting one side of a conflict based on personal commitments to others. So is that Evil, Good, Neutral, all of the above, none of the above, or other? The core rules do not explain how to sort this out at all. The supplemental rules that are supposed to clarify this are so dumb that they actually make the situation worse. (Using poison and disease against your enemies is Evil! Here are some special poisons and diseases for Good characters to use against Evil creatures!)

"Good", "Evil", "Law", and "Chaos" are just not each consistently used to mean exactly one thing. There are all sorts of particulars that the actual designers of the game themselves clearly didn't form any consensus on. Then there's the inherently stupid stuff, like how the Law/Chaos axis as written only even makes sense under the ridiculous assumption that everyone's level of honesty is directly proportional to his respect for authority.

Alignment is so poorly designed, described, implemented, and understood that it really is easier to remove it entirely than it is to fix it. It only actually works with clarifying house rules. I don't mean that it doesn't work well without house rules, I mean that it doesn't function at all until you decide how to actually implement it, because the PHB itself does not provide a means of implementation. It's possible for some groups to form a consensus on alignment so naturally that they don't even realize that they're using a bunch of implicit house rules that are absolutely necessary to even use alignment at all. That's fine if you can swing it, but in other groups things can wind up working -- or rather, not working -- in pretty much exactly the opposite way.

Edit: As an example of the sort of thing I'm talking about? You've pretty clearly decided that Good and Evil are a matter of motivation. The alignment section of the rules, on the other hand, tells us that "Some evil creatures simply have no compassion for others and kill without qualms if doing so is convenient." So according to that, you don't have to do Evil deeds for the sake of hurting others to be Evil-aligned.

... and then the Monster Manual routinely tells you how each of its Evil creatures is downright mean, and includes supposedly Neutral things like wyverns and blue slaadi that will casually slaughter the hell out of you and are pretty clearly more Evil than a typical assassin is expected to be.

There's just no consistency.

Shadow_Elf
2008-12-17, 11:16 PM
The primary system suggested only requires you to keep track of the single most extreme acts within a given session. That's not a lot of bookkeeping. And I'm sorry, you're automatically assuming that kobold deaths are intrinsically less important that whatever a 'murderous rampage' is otherwise supposed to mean, which comes off a mildly racist attitude.

Usually one is sent to slay Kobolds because they are raiding caravans and killing farmers etc. Not because they have scales and you don't (http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0013.html).

Samurai Jill
2008-12-17, 11:19 PM
Usually one is sent to slay Kobolds because they are raiding caravans and killing farmers etc. Not because they have scales and you don't (http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0013.html).
That's fine. Then you can use Means to the End to justify killing them. (Of course, if you could persuade them to stop peacefully, that would be less Chaotic and more Graced.)

Lord_Asmodeus
2008-12-17, 11:23 PM
Generally, the problem with "Evil" monsters is that they're labeled evil because they have a marked disinterest to things such as "waiting for your diplomacy check before trying to kill you". Now there are exceptions, and you can trade, haggle, bargain, and diplomiscize your way out of situations with evil creatures now and again, but one of the main things that makes an evil race or group different from a neutral or good one is that, good will usually, and neutral will often listen to your reasoning if they're of the "sentient" type of neutral (otherwise it's pure instinct) and they aren't on a specific mission to kill you. Evil creatures, however, generally want to "Kill You" and are not at all concerned with "Being Friends"

Samurai Jill
2008-12-17, 11:34 PM
I don't disagree on any point, but nonetheless, those are your options. You can take the borderline-Good and essentially chaotic option of slash-first-and-ask-questions-later, or the definitely-altruist and riskier option of attempting peaceful negotiation.

Tequila Sunrise
2008-12-18, 12:07 AM
Okay, so I was going over Alignments with a friend of mine. He had some crazy Feylock with evil tendencies but who occaisionally does good acts, but mostly in a self-serving way. He also had absolutely self-serving mass chaotic behaviours. He asked me what Alignment he fit into (attempting to convince me that Alignment system was too restrictive).
Tell your friend to stop thinking of alignments as nine neat little boxes that any given character has to fit into. Alignment is a wide spectrum, and not even characters like Mother Teresa and Hitler are pure white or pure black. Alignment is not restrictive in the least because your actions and intentions define your alignment, not vice versa.

If it helps, you can use a chart and a few mechanics to define and assign alignments but it's not necessary. I myself simply clarify alignments in a practical and concise fashion, so I can make judgment calls whenever alignment issues come up during a game.

As to the warlock's alignment, I'd have to hear more specifics to make a real judgment. But characters who do both good and evil deeds are usually evil in the end. (It's not like a scale where one balances out the other.) Also, self-serving "good" acts are rarely good acts.

TS

Alteran
2008-12-18, 12:31 AM
I'm the person with the warlock character mentioned, and I'd like to clarify a few things. First of all, while I believe that almost any character can fit into an alignment, I believe that alignment can't necessarily fit into that character. The problem in such a situation is that alignment isn't very useful if you're just finding the best option. Especially if someone wants to know what your character is like, and asks for the alignment. What do you say? Not the alignment, since "Chaotic Evil" or "Chaotic Neutral", while correct to a degree, don't really describe it accurately. In this case, alignment is not actually wrong, just not useful either.

To clarify what the actual character is like, he isn't quite as sadistic as he seems to be painted here. He does enjoy confusing his enemies and messing with their minds (hence, feylock), but he doesn't like physical torture. He takes a rather apathetic attitude towards what happens to his enemies in the end, and he is certainly not going to hesitate from hurting them when he feels it's necessary, but he's not the type who'll leave someone alive just so he can kill them more slowly later on. He is quite selfish. He doesn't care about wealth, but does care for the power it can bring him. He shows few good tendencies, but he is much more willing to give to people who have proven themselves trustworthy. He doesn't care much about a stranger stuck in a ditch, but if someone who has proven to him that they deserve his friendship, he'll go far to help them in return, perhaps more than they had helped him in the first place. This may not be entirely relevant, but a few people had asked for details.

So yes, using the grid, I would probably say -5, -1. With his few friends he would be -4, +4.

Athaniar
2008-12-18, 06:02 AM
Intereting take on it, of course, but the only thing that satisfies me is the total and utter abolishment of the alignment system.

Project Icarus
2008-12-19, 02:16 AM
Alignment is pretty simply a way of working out how abilities and items work with different characters, i.e. the difference between trying to holy smite a good character and an evil one.
If you're looking for alignment to perfectly fit your character description, you're just being too picky. Just decide what you think works for your character - it doesn't even need to fit perfectly. Just roleplay your character how you think they are - don't try to describe them with alignments because, once again, it's just a system.
Admittedly, there are certain situations where the alignment system wouldn't quite fit in, but these incidents are few and far apart - and not worthy of reworking the system.

LurkerInPlayground
2008-12-19, 09:20 AM
That's fine. Then you can use Means to the End to justify killing them. (Of course, if you could persuade them to stop peacefully, that would be less Chaotic and more Graced.)
I don't honestly see the problem. Alignment is a pretty small part of the game that only a few spells and abilities really hinge upon it. Killing said kobolds could be justified if said kobolds were actually being violent and you couldn't convince them stop.

However, if your hypothetical character really enjoys murdering them for its own sake, and probably would have killed them regardless of what the kobolds were doing, then I'd simply slap an "evil" label on the character and be done with it.

I don't see as how it's anything to mull over so much. Alignment is so easy to houserule out in the first place because it's not all the significant mechanically.

P.S.
It should be noted that Mother Teresa probably had an undeserved reputation for being saintly, when there's a lot of criticism floating about that she was a cause of a lot of harm in the name of good intentions.

Devils_Advocate
2008-12-21, 12:46 AM
So, the complaint is that simply stating a character's alignment may give an inaccurate impression of him? An inaccurate impression of his alignment tendencies, even?

A lot of labels work like that. Labels for genres, styles, political affiliations, sexual preferences, religious beliefs, personality traits. Alignment is just that sort of categorization, where it's inevitable that people form preconceptions around the categories, even that they'll come to expect associations clearly not necessitated by the categories' defining traits. Correcting common preconceptions by giving a bunch of qualifiers that ideally should be unnecessary is just what you wind up having to do to clearly communicate what you want to.

The real problems with alignment aren't don't involve it being fuzzy so much as that it's not always clear what direction the fuzziness is even supposed to be oriented in. It's most helpful to simply clarify on what basis things would theoretically be quantified. Once you've got that down, you can probably skip the actual quantification in a lot of cases.


On what other basis did you think alignments changed?
It's more about what you're likely to do in the future than what you've done in the past. At least, that's the only context in which the atonement spell, helms of alternate alignment, and just an immediate switch due to a sudden, drastic change of heart make any sense. (And I'm pretty sure that the DMG says that that last possibility is viable, just very rare.) Instantaneous alignment change is outright incompatible with Alignment As Karma, where your alignment is the sum total of what you've done so far.


Evil creatures, however, generally want to "Kill You" and are not at all concerned with "Being Friends"
An assassin, on the other hand, probably will not kill you just because you're there.

Now, if you and the assassin are both part of a society based around an informal alliance of related races -- demihumans, in a normal campaign -- that's like goblins not just killing each other for kicks, which they presumably don't.

But I thought that that sort of racism was supposed to be Lawful Evil. Why would CE monsters like gnolls and orcs be hostile to other races specifically as a matter of course, instead of evaluating people on an individual basis? Eh, I guess it could be a LE trait common even amongst CE races.

(If you want a more morally realistic campaign, the obvious change to make is to have all the scary ugly monsters only roughly as Evil, on the whole, as the friendly human-like peoples. They may kill demihumans on sight, but if so, that's mutual.)

Decahedral Tofu
2008-12-22, 07:24 AM
Another easy fix is to just note maliciousness, greed, lust, gluttony, and other popular "evil" traits in the character notes and just forget about good/evil. Trying to have a label and keep it consistent is a waste of time. Chaotic/Lawful is easier to turn into numbers, but if everyone agreed on what was good and what was evil, would abortion, homosexual marriage rights, and gun control laws be major political issues?