Lately I’ve been making some classes and I can’t avoid thinking that alignment is not only limiting, but actually…

Lately I’ve been making some classes and I can’t avoid thinking that alignment is not only limiting, but actually…

Lately I’ve been making some classes and I can’t avoid thinking that alignment is not only limiting, but actually maiming in terms of character creation. Isn’t it better to choose a general direction, or drive, a character would like itself envision completing rather than a “I’m good, I protect weak people” (Fighter)? Using that example, someone might be good but not care at all for weak people because that person’s culture is based around the survival of the fittest, and some people just HAVE to not make the cut.

Anyway; I’d like to hear some arguments.

15 thoughts on “Lately I’ve been making some classes and I can’t avoid thinking that alignment is not only limiting, but actually…”

  1. Well (and I don’t have the book in front of me) I’m pretty sure that whenever you don’t fulfill your alignment in a session, you can change it. So maybe the Fighter thinks they’re all about protecting people, but in the first session they’re more about the law of the wild, so they change to Neutral or Evil: make sure only the strong survive.

  2. I think that goals could be a good addition. A GM could tell players to make a goal, and give them ex for accomplishing that. Good, Evil and neutral are necessary for balance and aid in rping but the alignment also confines players.   

  3.  I think, as a general outline, alignments are fine. For example, I played a Lawful Evil Monk in a running game where the other characters were neutral/ good. Now, when with the group, I never did anything under handed/ to harm the party (as my character felt he “needed them”). Away from the party, well…I had plans. 

      My GM had no issues with that. In “real life” bad people aren’t “bad” all the time nor are good people “good” all the time. It’s a general outlook. 

  4. Alignments as written suppose a pretty precise definition of what being Good means (it’s putting others before yourself, so in your example, the PC may think well of himself, but he is not Good). If you prefer a more murky definition (or a game where what motivates characters is not related to putting yourself before vs after others or to freedom vs order), you could change it to something else like drive or goals. Most Neutral alignment is something like that, actually (e.g. : solving mysteries for the Wizard.)

    But even with alignment as is, it’s not that black and white. A Good person’s ideal is to put others before themselves, and they may succeed in doing so sometimes or most of the times, but not always. A PC gets XP if they acted on their alignment at least once during the session; going against it does necessarily have consequences (other than what fiction demands). Alignment is an horizon to which one aim, not a straitjacket. Here’s the definition from the book :

    « 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. […]

    Lawful creatures aspire to impose order on the world, either for their own benefit or for that of others. Chaotic creatures embrace change and idealize the messy reality of the world, prizing freedom above all else. Good creatures seek to put others before themselves. Evil creatures put themselves first at the expense of others.

    A Neutral creature looks out for itself so long as that doesn’t jeopardize someone else’s well-being. Neutral characters are content to live their lives and pursue their own goals and let others do the same. »

  5. Jordan Raymond I get what you mean, it’s a slightly different point of view of what I wanted to say. It’s not necesarrily the alignment itself that’s restrictive, it’s the objective, or requirement to get the alignment XP that is. For example, destroying a city of warmongering, bloodthirsty demons wouldn’t give you XP for alignment.

    Even when things like that and bonds can be houseruled, I think that whenever creating something new in a narrative system, it shouldn’t be such a narrow interpretation of good, but a more encompassing one, even if it may be heavily tied to another culture.

  6. I think alignment moves are deliberately restrictive. They tell the player exactly what to do to earn xp, and tell the gm what kinds of situations the player wants to be exposed to. They are unambiguous adventure drivers and hooks. You have a neutral fighter? Give her a worthy foe to defeat in single combat. I’d think carefully about the triggers that make the moves actionable before making them broader. I know how to go in search of magical mysteries. .. I don’t necessarily know how to trigger ‘be good’.

  7. Well good is not about just protecting the weak. That’s what I’m saying. I am not offering a solution, I’m just trying to point it out and see if we can work something out together.

    Following the example of a fighter, someone can kill many defenseless people, let’s say bound wizards, to protect the weak from a town which was going to be bombarded with fireballs by them. That would make both Evil and Good alignments fulfill, and would count ‘*as points‘*towards both alignments.

    DW offers a terribly polarized definition of alignments in a game that wasn’t made like so.

  8. I’m all about options.

    I’d stress that just like names and looks, alignments on the sheet are just suggestions if you can’t or don’t feel like making your own.

  9. First, if you don’t fulfill your alignment goal in a session, all that happens is you don’t get one XP. So that’s not a huge restriction. I’ve had plenty of cases where someone didn’t manage to achieve that, but it doesn’t yield a lot of angst. 

    But for me, having those specific things really was freeing. To be an “evil” character doesn’t have to mean that I torture puppies; it can just mean my Wizard considers causing fear to be a useful option worth using sometimes, so I can play more as an anti-hero. 

  10. You could use broader alignment definitions, maybe even making them non-class-specific (Good is X, whatever the class.) You could change the end of session move (Did you do something against your alignment? If no, get XP.) You could replace them with specific drives or goals (I want to prove my mettle in battle; I want to discover new magical powers; I want to gain recognition as a hero in the City; etc.) They are all good ways to fix the problem you see. They will all make the game play slightly differently.

    But as Michael Atlin said, the class alignment options are specific way to be of a specific alignment, not the only way to be it; they are “unambiguous adventure drivers and hooks” in a way that a broader (but more exact) alignment definition is not.

  11. In Fourth World, my Earthdawn/DW hack, I replace alignment as Earthdawn does, with following the “Passions”, anthropomorphized collections of concepts (freedom, energy, motion, jealousy, etc.). 

  12. Alignment is supposed to be non-cultural. We wouldn’t say that someone who allowed the weak to die was “good”, even if he thought that was “right”.

    But, I take your point. Removing my or your judgement and possible disagreements, we can simply say that each alignment statement is an stricture that brings an XP reward. Where these strictures have been given a label (good, evil, etc) by the authors of the book.

    We can thus invent new labels and (sets of) strictures, and use them in the same way as existing alignments.

    We might have Aztec:

    Capture an uninjured opponent for sacrifice

    or “Humility” (not recommended for Adventurers)

    Submit to legitimate authority

    Give honour to a superior

    Refuse to seek that beyond your grasp

    or “Machismo”:

    Defend the well-being of a loved one or community

    Refuse to back down whatever the cost

    Demonstrate your superior masculinity

    or “Urwald the All-Father” (some God in your setting)

    Bring succour to a child

    Rejoin a sundered relationship

    Gain a victory over the Shadow-Folk.

    (Some of these look somewhat like the Clerics petitions).

    It might hard to make them balanced. It’s certainly hard to come up with lots of alternatives for each (perhaps I’m being too specific), and I haven’t even attempted to come up with class-specific ones.

  13. Alignment is just one possible way, one that I find hugely usefull, to define character. That said, some of my playbooks don’t have alignment. The Pitfighter cannot choose alignment but persona. He can be face or heel, and can change any time he levels up. The sea dog has drive in addition to alignment. For drive he can choose adventure, fame or fortune. For alignment he can choose lawfull (in the navy), good (merchant or rebel), neutral (privateer) or evil (buccaneer/pirate).

    So it really depends on the class and what you want to do with it fictionally.

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