Alignment. I’m going to be frank, I wasn’t brought up around Dungeons and Dragons so I don’t really get it.

Alignment. I’m going to be frank, I wasn’t brought up around Dungeons and Dragons so I don’t really get it.

Alignment. I’m going to be frank, I wasn’t brought up around Dungeons and Dragons so I don’t really get it.

I’ve made up some new alignments, no better than the originals, but different and easier understood by me. The experience option for characters would use the originals and ignore the true alignment, or new options could be made as needed.

My question is, what are your views on alignment and their place in Dungeon World?

18 thoughts on “Alignment. I’m going to be frank, I wasn’t brought up around Dungeons and Dragons so I don’t really get it.”

  1. I think Alignment on a Character Sheet is an easy way for a player to get an idea of what an X alignment character might be motivated by or to do. How important is alignment? That all depends on the Player and/or GM and how important they make it in their game.

    I have a player who uses Alignment as their guiding light. It is why they quest, it guides their choices and actions, and it is at the center of their PC’s being. I’ve had players who completely ignore it, either because they don’t think about it or they dislike the confines of classifying who they are ethically/morally.

    I don’t think DW focuses on Alignment the way D&D does. If you don’t like it you could literally write it out of the game by changing the End Of Session question relating to it. Then change Alignment to Drive or Goals, replacing it with something actionable that all of you can sink your teeth into.

  2. Moral alignment makes more sense to me. “Evil” is much more evocative than “Devotion”

    If a character is designated as evil you have a much better idea (in one word) of how that character will act as when he is designated as “devoted” All persons are devoted to something (those who say they are devoted to nothing are probably devoted to self 😉 ) but not all are evil, or good, or chaotic, or lawful.

    What makes the D&D system work is that it portrays opposites on a matrix. “power” and “freedom” for instance are not opposites, since to be free you must have power. The question here is, power and freedom to whom?

    That said, a lot of the custom playbooks don’t use alignment but other stuff equally interesting. So your system is totally valid and should work!

  3. Remember, alignment isn’t just moral or ethical motivation. From “Playing the Game”

    Alignment is your character’s way of thinking and moral compass. For the character, this can be an ethical ideal, religious strictures, or maybe just a gut instinct. It reflects the things your character might aspire to be and can guide you when you’re not sure what to do next. Some characters might proudly proclaim their alignment while others might hide it away. A character might not say, “I’m an evil person,” but may instead say, “I put myself first.” That’s all well and good for a character, but the world knows otherwise. Buried deep down inside is the ideal self a person wants to become—it is this mystic core that certain spells and abilities tap into when detecting someone’s alignment. Every sentient creature in Dungeon World bears an alignment, be they an elf, a human, or some other, stranger thing.

  4. I quite like that a devoted or power-hungry person can be good or evil. I think it will let a player start with a solid foundation and still be within their alignment when they summon the elder-beast or save the kittens. A descent or ascent will be all the greater when they have no real way to judge what they are.

    A Power aligned fellow is not truly free, she’ll have to keep up appearances and dish out orders– With freedom I was thinking Han Solo really, you, a few pals and your bucket of junk.

    Yeah, I looked it over before I started Adam, and I certainly wouldn’t change all of Dungeon World for my idea, I know it works as is… But what about a campaign where someone thinks a guy is evil, and someone else thinks he’s swell?

    I mean I guess with gods and angels knocking about, they might know for a fact if someone is evil, but they’re not often around to say.

  5. Lots of people think Evil folks are pretty swell. There’s historical precedent. grin 

    That said, Alignment is just a system. The stuff that’s important to remember isn’t the setting elements, it’s the mechanisms – Alignment does two things;

    1) Powers an aspect of the pacing of levelling. Rewarding 1 XP / session for Alignment paces out the characters.

    2) Rewards character behaviour that fits the “D&D” mold. We built alignment to incentivize players to act like D&D characters.

    Keep in mind that removing or changing alignment will affect those things. Otherwise, go to town!

  6. I’d like to see these Drives, do you know where I can get them Anthony? Or are they just a little phrase for a character to live by?

    Also, no one wanted to be lawful. Give back treasure? Retroactive monster killing payment!

  7. Adam Koebel 

    1) is perfectly preserved by drives.

    2) is also something drives accomplish, depending on the drive. 

    Drives are basically the same mechanic, just renamed and less restrictive on the players. (I also think more realistic) The big impact is it removes stuff like detect Evil type stuff. (Purely a good thing in my eyes)

    Tony Ferron 

    Basically some classes just replaced the alignment section with drives. See my Bloode Mage here:

  8. Honestly, the two things I dislike about Dungeon World are alignment and XP. They’re part of the flavor of old D&D, so I understand why they are part of the system. But they aren’t all that relevant to how I run my games anymore. So for the most part, I handwave alignment and focus much more on Bonds, and we level up when it’s a good time to level up in the fiction. Adopting drives is a good way to do that alignment handwaving, too– and if your drive is something that would fit into an alignment definition and you like that, all the better.

  9. I think a handwave is where I’ll be headed eventually. I’ll leave alignment as is for now and see what the gang wants when they retire/have their heads chopped off this time through.

  10. Placed within a context of rpgs at large, I can Alignment as social cues for the setting. DnD’s use of the original Alignments created a certain type of world that evoked fantasy motifs. If something like Alignment is used in a game, I believe the players should change them to fit the desired setting. 

  11. I see Jack. Thats why I went for power, glory, freedom, curiosity and devotion now that I look at it– Those are social cues that make sense for my horrible lot. Those are reasons they’re out there fighting monsters and delving deep. Lawfully, neutrally or even evilly raiding a basilisk’s nest just seems odd in comparison.

    However, I now see that if the characters are expected to be good and true folk, my alignments wouldn’t fit that world… but then nor does evil and neutral alongside good. Hmm!

  12. I like the high-level categories you’ve got (Power, Glory, Freedom, etc.) but a few of the specific criteria would be hard to hit in play. 

    Compare a Neutral Fighter’s “defeat a worthy opponent” to Glory’s “become known across the land.”  One of those is going to net you a lot more XP and be a much more immediate drive to a player at the table.

    A lot of them are a great. Like “inspire others to seek glory” or “shame those who cheat at life?”  Brilliant.  But I think you need to look at each one and ask “could a player realistically hit this in most sessions, through his or her own initiative?”  If the answer is “no,” then that choice is a bit of a trap for an unwary player.

  13. I think whatever “alignment” system you use should (1) fit the trope you are trying to portray. My first playbook, the pit fighter, is based on WWF wrestling. So he does not have alignment but “attitude”: Face or Heel. And one of the starting moves is “Turn: Whenever you level up you may become a heel if you are a face or a face if you are a heel.” Of course you have to play your new attitude to get XP. 

    (2) It should be evocative. Anybody should know immediately what to expect from the character when he reads the alignment or drive or whatever you call it. Remember DW is not about multilayered characters (it could be, but then it would probably be called “Fiasco”) it is about fantasy archetypes and tropes. And kicking in doors, killing monsters and taking their stuff.

  14. Ah, yeah, good call Jeremy. I’ve just now changed that Glory goal to “Gain something using your reputation”. Its useful, more likely to happen and links into the fame thing better.

    Also I’ve just put a “lead others into” move on each alignment, which could be interesting as players now have an XP related want to take charge, both of other characters and the story. 

    Curious types can lead others into the unknown, the glorious and powerful lead others into battle, the free lead others when escaping and the devoted lead others in defence. 

  15. Our last game we replaced Alignment with Drives, Obligations, and Values. These seemed to capture the “feel” we were going for in the campaign. 

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