Random Encounters: A Standard Alignment Wank for D&D Whatever Edition

Alignment; a standardized system to quantify an abstract concept such as good and evil, ethics and morality and all points in-between.

And that can be a real pain in the ass.

Sounds like a game you would want to play doesn’t it?

cones-of-dunshire
“The Cones of Dunshire,” Parks & Recreation,  Air Date: 11.21.2013

Originally Gary Gygax cribbed the ideas of alignments from Michael Moorcock; Lawful meaning an honorable person and a respected member of society, Chaotic being a person who had a rebellious streak yet lived by their own code of conduct, and Neutral which was someone who sought balance possibly through meetings with like minded people at 4:20 every day.

Later “good” and “evil” were added to the mix and there our troubles began.

You could get penalties for acting out of your alignment but not rewards. Really? That’s like working a crappy job with a crappy boss, quick to jump on you for your mistakes but not as much as an “atta boy” for a going the extra mile.

Alignment is what it is, it was meant to encourage role play of your character. Like an acting class a player should look at the alignment and be introspective about it.

“What is my motivation?”

“Would my character do this?”

“Who writes this stuff?”

The smarter players would try and “game” their alignment to justify what they want to do as they are going do what they want to do anyway.

That’s called “Chaotic Neutral.”

So what’s the point? Besides certain Dungeons & Dragons spells such as “Protection From Evil” and “Detect Evil,” which also have opposite castings, it often serves no game mechanical point other than to beat the players over the head with violations of their own supposed moral code. That might be an oversimplification of the concept but not by much.

The idea that a Paladin isn’t Lawful Goodie Two Shoe enough or has done a one too many un-Paladin-y kind of thing is up to interpretation.  Paladins should, according to the Original idea that they are always Lawful Good, uphold the law of the land which is always good right?

What if the law of the land is wrong?

The injustices that lead to the American Civil Rights Movement? The American Indian Removal Act of 1830 that lead to the Trail of Tears? The forced internment of Japanese descended Americans during World War II?

I’m pointing the finger at the U.S. first, I do like to think that we Americans eventually figure it out… mostly.

Digressing… most of the time alignment “violations” don’t have repercussions, it did in early editions but mostly having to do with class restrictions for players wanting to play Paladins, Monks, Druids, Rogues, etc. Meaning that you couldn’t be a Druid if you were anything but True Neutral which is best described as Chaotic Ambivalent.

And while I’m on about Druids, just because your character is all Nature Boy doesn’t mean that you can’t be indoors it just means you like being outside more. If Tarzan can live in a tree house you can sleep in the Goddamn Inn.

190065_215791638547703_1133226753_n
“She doesn’t look Druish.”

An “evil” character might occasionally perform some act of kindness for their own reasons. These reasons could be a strict code of honor, a debt that needs repaying, or maybe an ulterior motive that feeds into their nefarious plan. A “good” character might act badly for the same reasons.

Role playing games aren’t like classic Nintendo side-scrolling video games where your character walks through & attacks everything because you are the Good Guy & they are the Bad Guys.

gfs_46888_2_17
Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest. I think.

Doing things out of character can be in character… for the right reasons.

Some examples of this:

Magneto, there’s a bad man doing bad things but kind of for a good reason. I get it, if you were a holocaust survivor and you were staring down the barrel of a second attempted genocide, you would be pissed too.

Obi-Wan Kenobi wasn’t above obfuscating the truth to Luke when he asked about how his father died.

Miranda rights be damned, Batman in The Dark Knight Returns was going to save that kid.

dkr-social
The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller (Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley)

And don’t get me started on James Bond.

What they should do, in the modern RPG sense is offer insight into the idea that the player has come up with for the character. They are guidelines & should be treated as such.

I am an Old School Dungeons and Dragons grognard, I do play modern D&D and Pathfinder but I try it with a classic twist.

The one thing I don’t care for much anymore is alignment. I barely want to bother with it in D&D games anymore. I think we can all agree it doesn’t matter what you say you are but what you do.

Nobody likes a hypocrite, not even a min/maxed Gnome/Thief/Mage/Assassin.

Alignment shouldn’t be so much a rule as a guideline.

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