Alignment Restrictions in 3rd Party Products: Why, why not, and would it affect you buying it?


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Paizo Employee Organized Play Developer

So lets say that I'm a writer working on introducing a new product to Pathfinder that has some ties to old material that had alignment restrictions built into it.
I've chosen to include a class that contains alignment restrictions based on the build you choose for this class that are tied in to thematic elements. What does this do to your interest in the product? Is this a deal-maker or deal-breaker to you? Why?

Shadow Lodge

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Doesn't affect my opinion. If I like it but don't care for the flavor/restriction, I'll houserule it out. If I like the flavor, I'll keep it.


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It would definitely negatively impact my interest in the product, and could potentially be a deal-breaker. If the alignment restrictions can be easily ignored (see: Barbarian), then it wouldn't be a deal-breaker. If they can't be (see: Paladin), then it would be.

(This assumes that class is the primary thing in the book, of course. If there were three other things in there I did like, I could just ignore this one.)

Why?
1. I think alignment is a terrible idea in general.
2. I prefer mechanics and roleplaying to be separate.
3. Good mechanics are objective and unambiguous; alignment is anything but.

Shadow Lodge

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I found my mirror universe duplicate person!

Paizo Employee Organized Play Developer

Zhayne wrote:

It would definitely negatively impact my interest in the product, and could potentially be a deal-breaker. If the alignment restrictions can be easily ignored (see: Barbarian), then it wouldn't be a deal-breaker. If they can't be (see: Paladin), then it would be.

(This assumes that class is the primary thing in the book, of course. If there were three other things in there I did like, I could just ignore this one.)

Why?
1. I think alignment is a terrible idea in general.
2. I prefer mechanics and roleplaying to be separate.
3. Good mechanics are objective and unambiguous; alignment is anything but.

What would you say is the biggest difference between Paladin and Barbarian alignment restrictions? Isn't the real issue there not the alignment restrictions but more the overly strict readings of the Paladin's Code? If Paladins had the Lawful Good requirement but the Code said "should not lie" as opposed to "loses all powers if he tells a lie" would it be a big deal?

I think alignment is inextricably bound to the Pathfinder system at this point; there are class features and abilities that affect you differently based on alignment, things you can/can't do etc.

I feel like whether you like it or not, it is a part of the system and has a place in it; my biggest concern is that a great product could get swamped in a discussion about how the world you envision doesn't match the author's interpretation of how a thing should interact. I kind of feel like 3rd party products are a silly place to have that discussion since you can houserule alignment restrictions to match what you think is appropriate to your world; it's not like you're going to take this to PFS. But some people do feel very strongly about it so I just want to have a better idea of what the impact such a thing could have would be.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Ssalarn wrote:

So lets say that I'm a writer working on introducing a new product to Pathfinder that has some ties to old material that had alignment restrictions built into it.

I've chosen to include a class that contains alignment restrictions based on the build you choose for this class that are tied in to thematic elements. What does this do to your interest in the product? Is this a deal-maker or deal-breaker to you? Why?

By itself, the question is totally irrelevant to me. The class is either interesting as a package, or it fails as a package.


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If the Alignment restriction help support the flavor of the class, I'm all for it. I prefer LG Paladins and such - alignment restrictions are a great way to enhance the feel and flavor of a class.


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Ssalarn wrote:

What would you say is the biggest difference between Paladin and Barbarian alignment restrictions? Isn't the real issue there not the alignment restrictions but more the overly strict readings of the Paladin's Code?

There's also the Paladin's spell list, half his class features, etc etc. It's too intertwined with alignment, something I despise and do not use. Therefore, I simply ban the class.

If this class was similarly muddled (and it sounds like it would be), then I would not allow it. If it was the only thing in the book, I wouldn't buy the book, because it would be useless to me.

It may be bound, but not inextricably, because I've removed it, so, yeah, pretty extricable.


Ssalarn wrote:

So lets say that I'm a writer working on introducing a new product to Pathfinder that has some ties to old material that had alignment restrictions built into it.

I've chosen to include a class that contains alignment restrictions based on the build you choose for this class that are tied in to thematic elements. What does this do to your interest in the product? Is this a deal-maker or deal-breaker to you? Why?

It's not a dealbreaker, but honestly, if I only like some of the thematics, and some of the mechanics, the number of actual choices left I like might be between zero and two. So, effectively very little choice. That would have to be on heck of a class writeup to hold my interest.


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I hate alignment restrictions. Either they're the core of a class (which often makes them uninteresting to me, like a Paladin, since it shapes their character unnecessarily) or they're pointless (like with a Barbarian or Monk, and therefore...why go through the trouble of adding them in the first place?).

I see no point in using them thematically, and find using them to balance a class mechanically the hallmark of a bad class design.

It would definitely influence my decision to buy or use something.


There's a decent chance I'd house-rule part or all of it.

In that case, anything I discard I would treat the same way as any other rule I don't use: white space. If the rest of the product is good enough by itself to be worth the cost, then I might still get it. However, beware that anything in a product I don't use makes it a tougher sell to me--buying the whole product would require paying full cost for only part of the book/pdf. If it's just one thing that I'm throwing out, that may not be an issue, but if it is a majority of the book (I'm looking at you, Bestiary 2), then the parts that I do want better be really, really awesome.


As someone who uses 3PP, I'm already into changing, reskinning and deleting content in my games. As LazarX said above - it either rises or falls as a whole package.

And: Alignment is stupid. I don't bother with being too hard with it. It's more like a guideline in my games, and all the spells and effects associated with it kinda dead in the water...


I'm... not always the biggest fan of alignment restrictions - there are very few things that can't have their morality skewed by the way they're used. Quite a few schools of thought agree that how something is used tends to be more important than what it is...

Of course, most problems of this nature can be solved by the use of one added word: Write it as "Usually whatever alignment", and if necessary, explain why this is the case and add a small sample of times when it might not be. This provides a good, solid direction for most ideas, but does leave it open for others if they can find a way to make it work.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

I already ignore alignment restrictions, so no effect on me.


I think they're pointless. If a 3PP uses them, it usually scares me away.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

To the OP: It depends on the story. Unlike the majority of the posters on this thread so far, I fully embrace the alignment system and have no problem with game design that attempts to balance mechanics with RP or alignment restrictions.

The paladin as written is probably my favorite class in the game, both as a player and a GM.

In my own games, I usually have a "no evil characters" clause in my players guide... Although I can usually be talked into allowing a lawful evil PC, depending on the story and the rest of the party composition.

Shadow Lodge

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Haladir wrote:
To the OP: It depends on the story. Unlike the majority of the posters on this thread so far, I fully embrace the alignment system and have no problem with game design that attempts to balance mechanics with RP or alignment restrictions.

What this guy said.


Ssalarn wrote:

So lets say that I'm a writer working on introducing a new product to Pathfinder that has some ties to old material that had alignment restrictions built into it.

I've chosen to include a class that contains alignment restrictions based on the build you choose for this class that are tied in to thematic elements. What does this do to your interest in the product? Is this a deal-maker or deal-breaker to you? Why?

Depends on what you do with it. I think this could be done in an interesting and intelligent way, and I say that as someone who usually ignores alignment. When I get offended is when the content is loaded down with bone-headed fluff that clearly nobody actually bothered to think through all the way, and when this fluff is rendered as an immutable expectation of how the content is to be used in your games. Bonus points if this fluff gives mechanical baggage to encourage you to "roleplay properly."

Bottom line: I'm turned off from buying/using a product if it feels like, for it to fit my games and be a positive contribution, I'm going to have to put more work into it than the original writer did. That's just depressing.


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As long as your alignment restriction makes sense in-game, I don't mind. While in my home-game, I tend to see alignments more like a guideline, I usually won't bash anything for an alignment restriction unless it makes no sense - lawful-demon-worshippers-level of discrepancies.

Anyone can simply ignore alignment restrictions if they wish to. Just be careful that strict adherence to an alignment isn't the only balancing factor - one issue paladins get so much flag is that there's no codified take on the strictness of what is LG; Our own moralities usually are more complex than black and white.

Just my 2 cents.


Call me old school, but I like alignment restrictions on some classes. Barbarians should not be lawful nor rangers. Druids should be generally neutral, but could be NE or NG. At least for my game they make sense. I tend to run the NG to LG parameter myself which I guess colors my opinions.

Shadow Lodge

When did Rangers ever have alignment restrictions out of curiosity? I know Bard had them in 3E (must be Non-Lawful, like Barbarians), but never recall seeing them on Rangers.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Way back when, you had to be good-aligned. Then you could be any alignment, but to take your own race as a favored enemy you had to be evil. Now there are no restrictions. As it should be.


Rangers used to have to be a Good alignment in AD&D; a sidebar in one of the AD&D products indicated that if they were NG, a ranger or druid (who was required to be Neutral) should be permitted to dual-class into the other, as a ranger was so committed to nature.

Shadow Lodge

Ah, that explains it. I didn't get into the game until 3.0 so I missed some of the earlier context.

Paizo Employee Organized Play Developer

Thanks for all of the input everyone. I know this can be a contentious subject, so I really appreciate the thought and explanation put into your responses.


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People who are going to ignore it are going to ignore it. Don't worry about them.

The alignment restrictions are there to help convey the flavor. Some people might not like the flavor, just like how some weirdos don't like cilantro. This ain't PFS, so if they don't like it, they can ignore it :)


It depends on how much alignment affects the mechanics. Since it's third party I'd ignore it if I want to, but if it's mechanics are tied too much to the alignment I may not buy the thing unless the class concept itself requires a certain alignment. (a Satan-wizard would need some kind of evil requirement. )


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I have no issues with Alignment restrictions.


I like paladins, because they have a lot of flavor. I dislike the alignment restriction on monks, because I don't see what it adds, and it does get in the way of certain character concepts.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Specifically, the monk alignment restriction prevents using ki, since the Martial Artist archetype is not required to be lawful. But if that is the reason for the restriction, why are ninjas (who also use ki) not required to be lawful?


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Because Ninja and Monks have developed different methods of tapping into their Ki, I'd imagine. If we're going with a stereotypical kung fu monk, the idea is that the character's training was rigorous, disciplined, and ascetic - by depriving oneself of worldly pleasures and distractions, one channels the inner self into power. This takes a dedicated and axiomatic mindset - someone undisciplined or resistant to authority would quit - hence, a lawful alignment. Monks gain significant power through mastering their ki, both actively and passively.

Ninja, on the other hand, have to be much more morally and spiritually flexible, and while they train to tap into their ki, their abilities are far more specific than a monk's, result in various tricks of using their ki. Ninja thus could be considered to know how to use ki in bursts, while monks have it flowing through them at all times (ie some of their more esoteric abilities).

Back to the original question: Alignment restrictions make perfect sense to me. Druids being neutral - because nature itself is neither wholly good nor wholly evil, and is both orderly and chaotic at once; while a particular druid may lean in one direction or another, their very power comes from being balanced between the extremes. Paladins being lawful good - because they are champions of order, justice, and goodness. Good over lawful, when it comes down to it - at least in the best cases - but honorable, fair, just, and diligent. Too many people play Paladins as Lawful Stupid - ie "you committed a misdemeanor, DIE SCUM!" - but that's not the fault of the class.

I've written a few classes that had alignment restrictions, because they were important to the flavor of the class. For example, the Samurai class was originally written that they must be lawful in alignment, because one of the defining things about (folklore) samurai was their honor and loyalty, even to death. Ronin, masterless samurai, could be of any alignment, but they are often considered outlaws, mercenaries, or criminals (negatives to reaction rolls, etc). The Sheriff class, as the enforcer of law and order in their jurisdiction, must be lawful - serving and administering law is their job.

So if an alignment restriction is important to your concept, by all means, go with it.

Silver Crusade

It depends. Really comes down to a case-by-case basis and how well those alignment restrictions line up with the customer's expectations.

I know I was pretty irritated when I bought a product about non-core races and how they fit into each class only to have "drow can never be paladins lol" turn up, for example, which seemed at odds with a product that was supposed to be setting neutral and actually be helpful for players of those races.


I'd say drow being evil is fairly setting neutral. It can be slotted into just about any setting, as drow, if they exist, are evil in just about any setting.

It's not trope neutral, I'll give you that :p


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Lyingbastard wrote:

Because Ninja and Monks have developed different methods of tapping into their Ki, I'd imagine. If we're going with a stereotypical kung fu monk, the idea is that the character's training was rigorous, disciplined, and ascetic - by depriving oneself of worldly pleasures and distractions, one channels the inner self into power. This takes a dedicated and axiomatic mindset - someone undisciplined or resistant to authority would quit - hence, a lawful alignment. Monks gain significant power through mastering their ki, both actively and passively.

Ninja, on the other hand, have to be much more morally and spiritually flexible, and while they train to tap into their ki, their abilities are far more specific than a monk's, result in various tricks of using their ki. Ninja thus could be considered to know how to use ki in bursts, while monks have it flowing through them at all times (ie some of their more esoteric abilities).

This is all flavor text and may not be appropriate to any given character regardless of which class they are. Remember, class is not concept, concept is not class.

Quote:

Back to the original question: Alignment restrictions make perfect sense to me. Druids being neutral - because nature itself is neither wholly good nor wholly evil, and is both orderly and chaotic at once; while a particular druid may lean in one direction or another, their very power comes from being balanced between the extremes. Paladins being lawful good - because they are champions of order, justice, and goodness. Good over lawful, when it comes down to it - at least in the best cases - but honorable, fair, just, and diligent. Too many people play Paladins as Lawful Stupid - ie "you committed a misdemeanor, DIE SCUM!" - but that's not the fault of the class.

I've written a few classes that had alignment restrictions, because they were important to the flavor of the class. For example, the Samurai class was originally written that they must be lawful in alignment, because one of the defining things about (folklore) samurai was their honor and loyalty, even to death. Ronin, masterless samurai, could be of any alignment, but they are often considered outlaws, mercenaries, or...

This should be a player choice. If Player A can't imagine a non-neutral druid, he doesn't have to play one. If Player B can, then he should be allowed to.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber
Orthos wrote:
When did Rangers ever have alignment restrictions out of curiosity? I know Bard had them in 3E (must be Non-Lawful, like Barbarians), but never recall seeing them on Rangers.

Rangers had to be good in AD&D 1st and 2nd editions. The 1st Ed version of the Ranger was very closely modeled after Aragorn's Rangers of the North from the Lord of the Rings novels.

I remember the old Dragon magazine publishing an evil ranger-like NPC class called the "Huntsman" at some point in the mid-1980s that mirrored pretty much all of the ranger abilities, but with an evil spin. (e.g. they liked to hunt for sport, and otherwise learned the forest in order to master and subdue it.) I really liked the class, and used a high-level huntsman as a BBEG in a campaign I ran in college.

When 3.0 came out, I mostly liked the re-imagining of the ranger class that removed its alignment restrictions, but the whole "two-weapon fighting" thing kind of threw me. Not being a fan of Forgotten Realms [we referred to it as "The Forgettable Realms"], I was not familiar with the Drizzt novels, and didn't get the connection until it was explained to me...

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

I find that I can accept alignment restrictions if the item in question involves the actual power of said alignment.

If barbarian rage was actually powered by elemental Chaos, I could accept the non-Lawful restriction. Same for the monk, if ki tapped the power of Law I would be fine with non-Lawful characters being impure enough to be unable to use it.

Part of what gets me about the paladin is how very little of Law is actually in the class. It's overwhelmingly Good aligned, but I see little reason to prevent Chaotic paladins other than 'the code says no'.

I have no problem with unholy swords inflicting negative levels on Good characters. It's obviously infused with Evil, in the 'actual measureable force' that people like to bring up. But I find that most classes and spells are NOT described that way.


Another thing to consider is you can't please everyone. You might be able to design a new class where the alignment really pushes the flavor, so you'll want to keep that restriction. Also, though, you have to expect some people not to like it - but that's OK. My goals in any of my designs are to please some segment of the gaming population with mechanics and flavor to urge those fans to buy into your concepts. As long as you please some segment, then you are doing a good job. Not even Paizo pleases everyone with their designs. A good chunk of fans dislike the gunslinger and summoner, for example. As someone above said, the paladin's alignment restrictions force him to ban the class. Well you have to know that a good segment of the community love paladins, while others hate them.

So do your best design possible and if alignment restriction is an important flavor element use it. If it's good design people will want it, and at the same time some people won't. Just accept that and move forward.


Ssalarn wrote:

So lets say that I'm a writer working on introducing a new product to Pathfinder that has some ties to old material that had alignment restrictions built into it.

I've chosen to include a class that contains alignment restrictions based on the build you choose for this class that are tied in to thematic elements. What does this do to your interest in the product? Is this a deal-maker or deal-breaker to you? Why?

If I have this right, you've got something particularly innovative coming up here. We've seen classes that swap from positive to negative energy if you flip good and evil, but I can't recall anything that does so on the lawful/chaotic axis. If you're saying you have a class that has "soft" alignment restrictions, that is, the class can be of any alignment, but grants different abilities based on alignment in both axes, then I'm particularly interested in your design because it's doing something old in a rather new way.


I'm fine with alignment rules if they make sense. The Super Genius Guide to Chaos Magic, for example, mixes alignment and solid rules with interesting options, and is one of my favorite spells books.


gamer-printer wrote:

Another thing to consider is you can't please everyone. You might be able to design a new class where the alignment really pushes the flavor, so you'll want to keep that restriction. Also, though, you have to expect some people not to like it - but that's OK. My goals in any of my designs are to please some segment of the gaming population with mechanics and flavor to urge those fans to buy into your concepts. As long as you please some segment, then you are doing a good job. Not even Paizo pleases everyone with their designs. A good chunk of fans dislike the gunslinger and summoner, for example. As someone above said, the paladin's alignment restrictions force him to ban the class. Well you have to know that a good segment of the community love paladins, while others hate them.

So do your best design possible and if alignment restriction is an important flavor element use it. If it's good design people will want it, and at the same time some people won't. Just accept that and move forward.

The problem here is that there's really no conceivable scenario where not having alignment restrictions will affect your design one way or another, barring an EXTREMELY rigid restriction like the Paladin Code.

And while there are people who don't mind alignment restrictions, there aren't really people clamoring for them.

So it really is kinda a win-win scenario to not make a class with restrictions. It doesn't change your design, the people that don't like them are happy, and the people who are fine with them don't particularly care.


Rynjin wrote:

The problem here is that there's really no conceivable scenario where not having alignment restrictions will affect your design one way or another, barring an EXTREMELY rigid restriction like the Paladin Code.

And while there are people who don't mind alignment restrictions, there aren't really people clamoring for them.

So it really is kinda a win-win scenario to not make a class with restrictions. It doesn't change your design, the people that don't like them are happy, and the people who are fine with them don't particularly care.

That's just it, the OP has yet to post their would-be class design, so every post made (by us) since is just a guess at what could possibly be the issue as it regards to alignment. It may very well be that the design is extremely rigid like a paladin (or it might not). Without seeing the class, I can't guess that it's not rigid like a paladin. So I'm just trying to keep an open mind.

I think the OP is best off posting what the class design looks like as is, and we could judge and/or improve the design. Sitting here talking about a class in a general way without even knowing what is specifically questionable regarding alignment is kind of a waste of time. Post it so we can see...


gamer-printer wrote:
Another thing to consider is you can't please everyone.

In this case, though, you can. Print the class without alignment restrictions, with a suggestion that they are 'usually' whatever alignment. People who don't like alignment restrictions are clear, and those who do like them can go along with the suggestion.

Everybody wins.

Layout and Design, Frog God Games

I mostly ignore alignment and would love to see the Paladin re-tooled without it into some sort of "Champion" class as Monte Cook did with his OGL setting.

About the only place I really have a use for alignments are when they are so tied to a particular being that it's one of their subtypes. For instance, in my games Detect Evil will detect a demon, but not a loophole-seeking greedy merchant who may have the alignment of LE in other games.


Chuck Wright wrote:

I mostly ignore alignment and would love to see the Paladin re-tooled without it into some sort of "Champion" class as Monte Cook did with his OGL setting.

About the only place I really have a use for alignments are when they are so tied to a particular being that it's one of their subtypes. For instance, in my games Detect Evil will detect a demon, but not a loophole-seeking greedy merchant who may have the alignment of LE in other games.

While I'm no big fan of alignment, unless your merchant is pretty high level (5th is a bit high for a guy who just sells stuff) he won't ping as the spell is written anyway.

Layout and Design, Frog God Games

Rynjin wrote:
Chuck Wright wrote:

I mostly ignore alignment and would love to see the Paladin re-tooled without it into some sort of "Champion" class as Monte Cook did with his OGL setting.

About the only place I really have a use for alignments are when they are so tied to a particular being that it's one of their subtypes. For instance, in my games Detect Evil will detect a demon, but not a loophole-seeking greedy merchant who may have the alignment of LE in other games.

While I'm no big fan of alignment, unless your merchant is pretty high level (5th is a bit high for a guy who just sells stuff) he won't ping as the spell is written anyway.

Yeah, but random example is random example. <smile>

Layout and Design, Frog God Games

Also, as an aside, I've always liked the idea that about half of all merchants are former adventurers. Keeps players on their toes.


Better than half of all town guardsmen being former adventurers, that's for sure.

I don't wanna hear about your injuries man!

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Chuck Wright wrote:

I mostly ignore alignment and would love to see the Paladin re-tooled without it into some sort of "Champion" class as Monte Cook did with his OGL setting.

That's not "retooling", that's scrapping the building and working from the foundation up.

The Paladin should remain as it is, as it's part of the flavor of D+D most pathfinder players what to keep.

There are alternatives such as lots of 3rd party divine chamption types and the new warpriests for the kind of alternatives you want.


LazarX wrote:


The Paladin should remain as it is, as it's part of the flavor of D+D most pathfinder players what to keep.

You've taken a poll, have you?

Shadow Lodge

The paladin 'should' not do anything. We all simply have different preferences for what it 'should' be.

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