Musings on Alignment (And how a lot of people get it wrong)


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Scarab Sages

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Okay, so, first off, the alignment system isn't perfect. No 'system' is ever going to be perfect in matching a person's beliefs, character motivations, and "raison d'être." And no system is going to be able to get all that and then make it into something that can apply to everyone.

This doesn't meant that everyone has to be cookie-cutter, though. Too many times we see "Lawful good" and immediately think "Stupid Paladin who will kill his own party if they act dishonorably." This isn't what that is, and I'd like to take a moment to show you my thoughts on the subject. Take it or leave it, discuss if you wish, just please be civil.

Lawful:
What does Lawful mean? Well, yes, it CAN mean obeying the law, and upholding the ideals of the law, but it can also be just a very ordered person. Someone who has a set of guidelines, probably prioritized, that they adhere to completely. So, the big blue boyscout Superman is Lawful good because he tries to work within the law and always tries to save the day and acts like a paladin. Do you know who else is Lawful Good (IMHO?) Batman. No, he's not the boyscout that Superman is, but he has a VERY ordered brain, planning for contingencies and working things out logically. And he's still good. No, he's not a paladin, but yes, he's Lawful. He leads a very ordered lifestyle.

Here are two lawful neutral character's I've played before. One was a Gnomish Oracle of Irori. He was obsessed with lore, and all he wanted to do all day was sit and study. He had a very analytically mind, and basically sat on his rump all day doing arcane research. He was lawful because he had a very ordered mind, and was neutral because he didn't care about all that good and evil stuff.

The other was a Drunken Master who worshiped Besmara. Why was he lawful? Because he followed her tenants to the letter, and took them to their logical extension. He had a set of rules that he ABSOLUTELY LIVED BY, such as 'no man should be given more power than another by birthright' and 'treat your crew as family.' But he still led a very ordered life (at least, he stuck to his prioritized guidelines), and he was neutral because it was family and freedom above all else (good and evil aside.)

Chaotic, by the same token, doesn't mean pants-on-head crazy. Sure, it CAN mean that, but what it really means is that your character is flexible, adaptable. You don't live your life by lists or priorities, or plans. This gives you greater latitude to do the stuff you want, (because you probably haven't prioritized your 'things that matter to you.) but at the same time, you're more likely to get stumped when presented with something that genuinely messes with your likes and dislikes. In other words: you don't make plans, which leaves you flexible and impulsive, but also capricious and often disorganized.

I played a Chaotic Neutral Cleric of Desna once. Was she crazypants? No, she just liked the ideas of freedom and did whatever she could to make sure people had the freedoms they desired. She was very disorganized, and sometimes she'd go partying, sometimes she'd stay home and pray. Whatever she felt like. She was chaotic because she was capricious, and she was neutral because she only cared about freedom (she hated jails just as much as slavery.)

Good and Evil seem less divisive among the players here, but there is a bit of a misconception about where the line is between neutral and evil. Everyone seems to be clear that selflessness, saving people, helping out civilians and not dabbling in clearly evil arts is good. But is being selfish evil, or just neutral? Is Ebeneezer Scrooge evil because all he cares about are profits, or is he just a LN jerk with a low charisma score and Skill Focus: Profession (businessman). Well the line seems pretty thin. Refusing to give away all your money to charity isn't Evil, per se, so we can't say that selflessness is ALWAYS evil. On the other hand, must you be a serial-killing homicidal maniac with designs to take over the world to be evil? What about a Cavilier who works as a mercenary, casually cutting though swaths of infantryman just to earn a paycheck? What if he enjoys it.

The one thing I'm certain of is that evil is NOT restrained to simply those that want to murder for fun and take over the world. Mean, nasty men who abuse their employees to make themselves more money could be evil, as would be a mafia lawyer who uses every legal loophole to get people out of crimes that they should pay for. Beyond that, it's a bit of a distinction. Point being, you can play Lawful, Chaotic, Good, and Evil different ways. Just because a Paladin is honorable doesn't mean that all lawful people are honorable.

Just some thoughts to keep in mind.


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This will end well.

I maintain that since no objective alignment system works for everybody, the logical conclusion is to simply do away with the concept. Alignment as objective morality is not only unnecessary, it is impossible, and even were it possible it adds nothing good to the game while adding a lot of bad.

By the way, citing Batman as LG? Really?. ; )


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blahpers wrote:
This will end well.

Well it cna't end poroly! That's fro sure!


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blahpers wrote:
This will end well.

I'm sure we can all have a reasoned, sensible, and above all civil and lacking-references-to-Hitler discussion on alignment and fantasy morality in order to come to a consensus that all can abide by.

Point 1: Torturing and mutilating goblins is an intrinsically good act because goblins are born irredeemably evil.


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blahpers wrote:

This will end well.

I maintain that since no objective alignment system works for everybody, the logical conclusion is to simply do away with the concept. Alignment as objective morality is not only unnecessary, it is impossible, and even were it possible it adds nothing good to the game while adding a lot of bad.

You beat me to it. What am I supposed to say now? Something silly and ridiculous to entertain people after I state I agree with you? *flips table*


As far as my games are concerned, my general stance on Alignment matches this.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

Alignment thread?

Bets on how many posts before it gets locked?


MrSin wrote:
blahpers wrote:

This will end well.

I maintain that since no objective alignment system works for everybody, the logical conclusion is to simply do away with the concept. Alignment as objective morality is not only unnecessary, it is impossible, and even were it possible it adds nothing good to the game while adding a lot of bad.

You beat me to it. What am I supposed to say now? Something silly and ridiculous to entertain people after I state I agree with you? *flips table*

Please sir, we are having a serious discussion.


9-point alignment was a bad idea when it was introduced in... the 80'ies, with AD&D, IIRC. Law vs. Chaos came from Moorcock, didn't make a whole lot of sense then, and was never intended to be combined with a good/evil axis.


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chaoseffect wrote:
MrSin wrote:
blahpers wrote:

This will end well.

I maintain that since no objective alignment system works for everybody, the logical conclusion is to simply do away with the concept. Alignment as objective morality is not only unnecessary, it is impossible, and even were it possible it adds nothing good to the game while adding a lot of bad.

You beat me to it. What am I supposed to say now? Something silly and ridiculous to entertain people after I state I agree with you? *flips table*
Please sir, we are having a serious discussion.

Your a serious discussion!

Also your table is lopsided!

Also... uhh... usually there's more chat about alignment and how someone is doing it right or how they do it by now.


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If you were a Paladin I'd have made you fall for flipping my table.


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chaoseffect wrote:
If you were a Paladin I'd have made you fall for flipping my table.

I would've fallen alright...

My mini was on there!


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A couple of thoughts. First, Lawful in the alignment sense doesn't necessarily imply disciplined, sensible, or neat, EVEN THOUGH those are features of the Outer Planes associated with Law. Similarly, a Chaotic person is not necessarily whimsical or unbalanced or a seeker of immediate gratification, even though those things are associated with the planes of Chaos. Those things are personality traits, that are perhaps more common in people of certain alignments, but are not exclusive to them.

A Lawful alignment denotes a willingness, even an eagerness, to accept obligations and an expectation that others should do likewise. Also, they have an underlying belief that there is or should be a structure to society into which people should fit themselves for the good (small 'g') of all, including themselves. Despite this, a Lawful person could still be a scatterbrained, fun-loving person with a whimsical sense of humor (traits usually thought of as Chaotic).

A Chaotic person could be patient, methodical, and self-disciplined in her daily life (all commonly associated with Law) but her alignment would be reflected in her belief or attitude that many rules simply don't or shouldn't apply to her, either because she thinks she knows better than her society how she personally should act (conceivably true in some instances) or because she believes that society simply has too many rules, laws, and regulations for everybody.

Likewise, Good people are not always pleasant and polite and Evil people the reverse. As C.S. Lewis put it,

Quote:
"The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid "dens of crime" that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices."

On an aside, Ebenezer Scrooge was certainly not a fiend in human form, but if he was not evil he at the least had very strong tendencies that way, for he cared nothing for anyone outside himself. Before his nightly visitation, he was indifferent to bad fortune that might come to others, even others in his immediate orbit. Indeed, he was perfectly willing to exploit others for his own gain, despite the fact that he had no real need to do so to live a comfortable life. He also had what I would consider a fairly high Charisma score, measured in force of personality. Charismatic people aren't always likeable--they just are people who very often are able to get their way, by persuasion of one sort or another.

Sovereign Court

I've been thinking about using the Honor codes from Ultimate Campaign instead of alignment. Anyone else tried that?


Ascalaphus wrote:
I've been thinking about using the Honor codes from Ultimate Campaign instead of alignment. Anyone else tried that?

It actually seems interesting; I like how it gives a tangible benefit for using it but can be entirely opted out of by a PC.

Scarab Sages

Scavion wrote:
As far as my games are concerned, my general stance on Alignment matches this.

For the most part, I agree with that, except for the part about being honorable as being Lawful. To me, honorable is GOOD. A person who bends and manipulates the law, and uses loopholes to weasel his way out of doing stuff can be LAWFUL and not HONORABLE.

Slimebag Steve, the King's adviser can be Lawful Evil and completely dishonorable. He can abuse loopholes, use trivialities in the law to get what he needs, and technically be beholden to the king and do all of his duties while still being completely disloyal and dishonorable about it.

Similarly, Barbarian Ben can be Chaotic Good, but still completely loyal to his clan. Heck, the Iconic Barbarian is from a clan of pretty much Chaotic Neutral Barbarians, but they still have a kin-loyalty thing that they all treat as sacrosanct. It's just that they are kinda disorganized and down plan or make lists or anything.

Quote:
I maintain that since no objective alignment system works for everybody, the logical conclusion is to simply do away with the concept. Alignment as objective morality is not only unnecessary, it is impossible, and even were it possible it adds nothing good to the game while adding a lot of bad.

I agree with this mostly, but I view it like this: In this cosmos, the outer plains are set up in a certain way. They can be lawful, chaotic, good, evil, in between, whatever. However, when they melt together, you get a bunch of interesting combinations. The trick is not MAKING A CHARACTER AN ALIGNMENT, but instead, figuring out which alignment works best to fit a character. In other words, there are all these people out there with these bits of character . . . how do they get sorted into the afterlife? Person A leads a structured and ordered life, so the forces of law will have a tougher time hurting him, because he happens to fall into their belief system. Person B is a wild and carefree kinda guy, which happens to fall against those cosmic forces that favor law.

Quote:

A couple of thoughts. First, Lawful in the alignment sense doesn't necessarily imply disciplined, sensible, or neat, EVEN THOUGH those are features of the Outer Planes associated with Law. Similarly, a Chaotic person is not necessarily whimsical or unbalanced or a seeker of immediate gratification, even though those things are associated with the planes of Chaos. Those things are personality traits, that are perhaps more common in people of certain alignments, but are not exclusive to them.

A Lawful alignment denotes a willingness, even an eagerness, to accept obligations and an expectation that others should do likewise. Also, they have an underlying belief that there is or should be a structure to society into which people should fit themselves for the good (small 'g') of all, including themselves. Despite this, a Lawful person could still be a scatterbrained, fun-loving person with a whimsical sense of humor (traits usually thought of as Chaotic).

A Chaotic person could be patient, methodical, and self-disciplined in her daily life (all commonly associated with Law) but her alignment would be reflected in her belief or attitude that many rules simply don't or shouldn't apply to her, either because she thinks she knows better than her society how she personally should act (conceivably true in some instances) or because she believes that society simply has too many rules, laws, and regulations for everybody.

Likewise, Good people are not always pleasant and polite and Evil people the reverse. As C.S. Lewis put it,

Quote:
"The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid "dens of crime" that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices."
On an aside, Ebenezer Scrooge was certainly not a fiend in human form, but if he was not evil he at the least had very strong tendencies that way, for he cared nothing for anyone outside himself. Before his nightly visitation, he was indifferent to bad fortune that might come to others, even others in his immediate orbit. Indeed, he was perfectly willing to exploit others for his own gain, despite the fact that he had no real need to do so to live a comfortable life. He also had what I would consider a fairly high Charisma score, measured in force of personality. Charismatic people aren't always likeable--they just are people who very often are able to get their way, by persuasion of one sort or another.

YES! THIS! This is what I was trying to get at. You have put it quite elegantly, and I agree wholeheartedly. Too many people seem to see an alignment as a definition, not a descriptor.

Quote:
I've been thinking about using the Honor codes from Ultimate Campaign instead of alignment. Anyone else tried that?

I haven't, but I have used the old d20 Modern allegiance system. The system was a bit different, you chose three allegiances, in descending order, to which you adhere to. They can be anything, the concept of law, the concept of freedom, a country, a company, your family, anything. It didn't really give you any bonuses (though there were some things that worked off of it). It was a nice way to do things, I thought.

Sovereign Court

chaoseffect wrote:
Ascalaphus wrote:
I've been thinking about using the Honor codes from Ultimate Campaign instead of alignment. Anyone else tried that?
It actually seems interesting; I like how it gives a tangible benefit for using it but can be entirely opted out of by a PC.

What I like about it is that while an individual code is cohesive, they didn't try to shoehorn all the codes into a complete system.

And it allows for some ambiguity; someone on another honor system may be quite "honorable" in his own way, while doing stuff you don't approve of. And yet he's a cut above the common thief because at least he has principles.


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Whenever this one guy in my group complains about alignment and why something evil isn't evil if it doesn't directly cause physical harm to someone, I open the ultimate campaign book to alignment and tell him to read it. If he doesn't like it, tough. We are playing in a world where alignment is a tangible thing as dictated by the gods and beings that are the actual manifestations of said alignments like devils, demons, celestials, etc...

Yes there is flex room in the alignments, you still need to loosely follow them or you aren't that alignment. Every villain interprets what they do as one of the good alignments unless they are insane, but that doesn't mean it is good.

Gotta say, I am sick of the guy that picks chaotic neutral without reading it, then acts totally random and burns down a house cause he felt like it and says "What? I'm Chaotic Neutral." Yeah no.

Alignment's not hard to deal with. Just look at how you are playing your character and see what alignment you fall under. Don't try to justify, just think of how your character acts, how they think, and how their actions have affected people.

Remember, your actions dictate your alignment, not the other way around. It's not a straightjacket.

...I missed the point of this thread and rambled on, didn't I?

Dark Archive

Scavion wrote:
As far as my games are concerned, my general stance on Alignment matches this.

Oooh. I see you are schooled in esoteric lore. Me likey :D

I often consider that website when having discussions on alignment and when teaching new players about the alignment system.


Scavion wrote:
As far as my games are concerned, my general stance on Alignment matches this.

Yeeep. Same. I don't find it that complicated, but I do like good vs. neutral or misled good fighting paladins.


VampByDay wrote:
Scavion wrote:
As far as my games are concerned, my general stance on Alignment matches this.

For the most part, I agree with that, except for the part about being honorable as being Lawful. To me, honorable is GOOD. A person who bends and manipulates the law, and uses loopholes to weasel his way out of doing stuff can be LAWFUL and not HONORABLE.

Slimebag Steve, the King's adviser can be Lawful Evil and completely dishonorable. He can abuse loopholes, use trivialities in the law to get what he needs, and technically be beholden to the king and do all of his duties while still being completely disloyal and dishonorable about it.

Similarly, Barbarian Ben can be Chaotic Good, but still completely loyal to his clan. Heck, the Iconic Barbarian is from a clan of pretty much Chaotic Neutral Barbarians, but they still have a kin-loyalty thing that they all treat as sacrosanct. It's just that they are kinda disorganized and down plan or make lists or anything.

Quote:
I maintain that since no objective alignment system works for everybody, the logical conclusion is to simply do away with the concept. Alignment as objective morality is not only unnecessary, it is impossible, and even were it possible it adds nothing good to the game while adding a lot of bad.
I agree with this mostly, but I view it like this: In this cosmos, the outer plains are set up in a certain way. They can be lawful, chaotic, good, evil, in between, whatever. However, when they melt together, you get a bunch of interesting combinations. The trick is not MAKING A CHARACTER AN ALIGNMENT, but instead, figuring out which alignment works best to fit a character. In other words, there are all these people out there with these bits of character . . . how do they get sorted into the afterlife? Person A leads a structured and ordered life, so the forces of law will have a tougher time hurting him, because he happens to fall into their belief system. Person B is a...

But Slimebag Steve may be good for the country, being a man that will do whatever it takes to win. The king may keep such a person around precisely because Slimebag Steve is good at winning at any cost with any means, for the good of the realm. Then Steve is serving the realm and the side of order.


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Chalk me up as an advocate of the standard alignment system. In 30+ years of playing D&D and its descendants, I can count on one hand the number of times alignment had caused an issue in-game.

I do think it's important at the start of a campaign for the GM to brief the players on his or her attitude/outlook on alignment. That way, everyone in the group has the same set of expectations.


Maybe it's because I was introduced to the alignment system and tabletop gaming via Pathfinder but I've never had a problem with the alignment system. I know in the old days changing alignments in game cost you a negative level which was much harder to get rid of. I think that's where a lot of hate for the alignment system comes from.

Even as a moral relativist who doesn't believe in objective good and evil, I can really see the benefit to the system. Sure it doesn't totally grasp the complexities of real-world morality but nothing ever has. It's the reason philosophers and religions exist. If we can't make a system of morality that perfectly works for everyone IRL then we expect one from a gaming company.

So why do we have it? It's a tool for character creation. It helps me structure my characters thoughts and feelings on certain matters so I can develop more complete personalities. I am naturally neutral to LAW vs. Chaos in the sense of I follow the law when I think it's right but am willing to protest and subvert what I feel are unjust laws. My characters don't all necessarily feel the same way. I wouldn't have even thought of the Law/Chaos axis on my own. While I find the most interesting characters tend to be neutral somewhere, I can totally play extreme characters and the alignment system helps me define them better.

I only wish they're could be more on the philosophies of each alignment and how they interact in the official books. Thanks to the internet, I've seen quite a bit and that's all helped as well. I could never have played my NE assassin without it.

I understand there are idiots on both sides of the GM screen who don't understand how to use the system well. That is also a reason, I think, for why many don't like the system. But that doesn't mean the system is necessarily wrong, just that people are sometimes dumb. A lawful person committing one chaotic act doesn't mean they instantly go to neutral. One act changing an alignment has to be so big that there'd be no argument like a paladin slaughtering an orphanage full of sick babies for reason.

Really the correct way to play an alignment is to make a character and see which one fits the character best. If you want to do a character arc of someone changing alignments then speak with your GM. It is both their responsibilities to work together to achieve the best story.


VampByDay wrote:
I agree with this mostly, but I view it like this: In this cosmos, the outer plains are set up in a certain way. They can be lawful, chaotic, good, evil, in between, whatever. However, when they melt together, you get a bunch of interesting combinations. The trick is not MAKING A CHARACTER AN ALIGNMENT, but instead, figuring out which alignment works best to fit a character. In other words, there are all these people out there with these bits of character . . . how do they get sorted into the afterlife? Person A leads a structured and ordered life, so the forces of law will have a tougher time hurting him, because he happens to fall into their belief system. Person B is a wild and carefree kinda guy, which happens to fall against those cosmic forces that favor law.

You know I see the 'cosmos is objective' idealism and I understand it, but then I always get a different idea of what the cosmos thinks alignment is when it hits the table.

You also run into awkwardness with some restrictions, like monk or barbarian, where apparently the cosmos takes away your ability to get angry(Unless your a Viking) and you forget how to be disciplined if you think too chaotically(unless your a martial artist or aasimar who reached enlightenment).

Haladir wrote:

Chalk me up as an advocate of the standard alignment system. In 30+ years of playing D&D and its descendants, I can count on one hand the number of times alignment had caused an issue in-game.

I do think it's important at the start of a campaign for the GM to brief the players on his or her attitude/outlook on alignment. That way, everyone in the group has the same set of expectations.

One could argue you already compromised things from the moment you created the expectations, blahblahblah ghostintheshell.

I can count it and go past my toes, but what is an ingame issue might be subjective.


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UGH


Scavion wrote:
As far as my games are concerned, my general stance on Alignment matches this.

I've seen similar to it, but it's a pretty good write-up. It does what I want alignment descriptions to do: allow and encourage variety within a single alignment.


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Ah, alignments.

Is alignment prescriptive or descriptive?

The answer is ... yes.

That is, it is both. Or to use an analogy:
Luke Skywalker: You mean it controls your actions?
Kenobi: Partially, but it also obeys your commands.

The alignment of the character indicates its natural tendencies. This is especially relevant for classes with alignment restrictions. In order to maintain a consistent mindset, the player should continuously remind themselves about these tendencies.

On the other hand, the actual decisions and actions the character makes feeds back into their alignment. Too far and too often acting in a way contrary to their alignment causes their alignment to shift more in line with their actual performance.

Ideally, players would either intentionally have their character begin acting in a new way (perhaps due to a dramatic or traumatic event) or players would spent time prior to character creation and come up with a good idea of a characters tendencies and accurately chose an alignment that is inline with them.

Is alignment subjective or objective?

Again, yes, it is both. It is subjectively defined by a group (usually mainly by the GM) and objectively employed.


pres man wrote:

Ah, alignments.

Is alignment prescriptive or descriptive?

The answer is ... yes.

That is, it is both. Or to use an analogy:
Luke Skywalker: You mean it controls your actions?
Kenobi: Partially, but it also obeys your commands.

The alignment of the character indicates its natural tendencies. This is especially relevant for classes with alignment restrictions. In order to maintain a consistent mindset, the player should continuously remind themselves about these tendencies.

On the other hand, the actual decisions and actions the character makes feeds back into their alignment. Too far and too often acting in a way contrary to their alignment causes their alignment to shift more in line with their actual performance.

Ideally, players would either intentionally have their character begin acting in a new way (perhaps due to a dramatic or traumatic event) or players would spent time prior to character creation and come up with a good idea of a characters tendencies and accurately chose an alignment that is inline with them.

Is alignment subjective or objective?

Again, yes, it is both. It is subjectively defined by a group (usually mainly by the GM) and objectively employed.

Alignment is never prescriptive. That would imply that the GM can somehow say "you can't do that, it's against your alignment". Barring mind-affecting effects, no GM should ever do that. There are consequences for acting outside of the GM's perception of alignment, but nothing prevents such actions.


I am talking about from the player's decision making perspective. The player should be saying to themselves, "I shouldn't have the character do that, it is against the character's mindset." Unless of course, as I said, the player was intentionally attempting to shift the alignment of the character for some reason. That is what I meant by prescriptive, not about the GM interceding on PC decisions. Obviously that is bad form, except in extremely rare situations (domination, etc).


pres man wrote:
I am talking about from the player's decision making perspective. The player should be saying to themselves, "I shouldn't have the character do that, it is against the character's mindset."

Unless the alignment system makes them think "I shouldn't have the character do that, it is against the character's alignment."


MrSin wrote:
pres man wrote:
I am talking about from the player's decision making perspective. The player should be saying to themselves, "I shouldn't have the character do that, it is against the character's mindset."
Unless the alignment system makes them think "I shouldn't have the character do that, it is against the character's alignment."

I'm not exactly sure what you are saying here. Alignment describes a character's moral and ethical mindset. That is what I was talking about. From that understanding, our statements are identical.


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Within Pathfinder, alignment is a tangible thing, therefore, alignment MUST be prescriptive to a certain extent.

I would say in real-life alignment would be derived from one's actions, it would not drive them, but we are talking about playing an RPG. Players are taking actions and making choices for a Player Character, so the character's alignment must be a guide to what that character would do in that situation.

In real-life, we all make decisions based upon our internal 'moral compass' if you like. In the game, we do not have that luxury, so the alignment table helps guide us as to what actions and decisions are made by our characters.

So it is not for the GM to say that you cannot do that, it is for the player to say that their character of this alignment wouldn't do that.


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gkhager wrote:
In the game, we do not have that luxury, so the alignment table helps guide us as to what actions and decisions are made by our characters.

What if I don't need an alignment system to tell me how my character would ask? What if I had... Characterization!

Or better yet, I had a character with conflict. He didn't fit into the alignment system. He had ideas all over the place, varying with circumstance. A character that didn't just fit into a single box. He wouldn't be guided at all.

Or what if I knew people who never created characters like this, because they were instead asking "What would my alignment do". So alignment wasn't guiding them so much as restraining them.


pres man wrote:
I'm not exactly sure what you are saying here. Alignment describes a character's moral and ethical mindset. That is what I was talking about. From that understanding, our statements are identical.

If alignment merely describes a character's mindset then it should rather not be necessary for a player to think about alignment when deciding on an action for the character.

Of course alignment is not merely a description of the character's mind. It has in setting mechanical repercussions and that means it is a thing a character could take into consideration. However the player should not then care about alignment when deciding on the character's actions unless the character is written to care about alignment in setting.


MrSin wrote:
gkhager wrote:
In the game, we do not have that luxury, so the alignment table helps guide us as to what actions and decisions are made by our characters.

What if I don't need an alignment system to tell me how my character would ask? What if I had... Characterization!

Or better yet, I had a character with conflict. He didn't fit into the alignment system. He had ideas all over the place, varying with circumstance. A character that didn't just fit into a single box. He wouldn't be guided at all.

Or what if I knew people who never created characters like this, because they were instead asking "What would my alignment do". So alignment wasn't guiding them so much as restraining them.

Then you do as you please, have your character act as they will and at some point your GM may ask if you really think your character is the alignment that's written on the sheet.

Which might result in you modifying the character's behavior or changing the written alignment, but probably won't have any other real effect, unless you're playing a class with alignment restrictions.

Liberty's Edge

dotting


WWWW wrote:
pres man wrote:
I'm not exactly sure what you are saying here. Alignment describes a character's moral and ethical mindset. That is what I was talking about. From that understanding, our statements are identical.

If alignment merely describes a character's mindset then it should rather not be necessary for a player to think about alignment when deciding on an action for the character.

Of course alignment is not merely a description of the character's mind. It has in setting mechanical repercussions and that means it is a thing a character could take into consideration. However the player should not then care about alignment when deciding on the character's actions unless the character is written to care about alignment in setting.

Why not? It's a bit of information about the character's mind set. Since I'm not the character, I have to think about what the character is like in order to know what he'll do. Alignment is one piece of information that helps with that. A fairly crude and high level one, certainly, but it's still data.

The character doesn't think "I'm good, therefore I should try to help save the town." The character just volunteers to help save the town because he's a good person. The character doesn't think "I like puppies so I should pet this one", the character just goes "Oooh puppy!"
I have to think about whether the character likes puppies or not to know how he'll react. He just reacts.


I don't believe that I said 'mandates' how our character is played, but 'guides' how our character is played, a subtle but not unimportant difference.

There are out-of-alignment choices made by everyone everyday, but overall, a stranger would be able to categorize most of us based on our predominant views. Meaning that, if you see how a person reacts to a series of choices, you would have a good understanding of their overall position on the alignment chart. There obviously is no alignment chart bestowing gifts and removing options in real life, but in Pathfinder (not real-life!) there are definite pros and cons to certain alignments.

If you have no need of the alignment system, then just make all of your characters true Neutral and play them however you like.

Some people enjoy asking the question of themselves as to how a certain alignment would react to a given situation.


thejeff wrote:

Why not? It's a bit of information about the character's mind set. Since I'm not the character, I have to think about what the character is like in order to know what he'll do. Alignment is one piece of information that helps with that. A fairly crude and high level one, certainly, but it's still data.

The character doesn't think "I'm good, therefore I should try to help save the town." The character just volunteers to help save the town because he's a good person. The character doesn't think "I like puppies so I should pet this one", the character just goes "Oooh puppy!"
I have to think about whether the character likes puppies or not to know how he'll react. He just reacts.

Hmm, well you're right, there is a situation where that could come up. If you did not make the character and so do not know how the character is supposed to think then having an additional piece of information could perhaps be better then less information. Of course information can be misleading without the whole picture so this could just as easily backfire and result in playing the character worse then one would without knowing the alignment.


gkhager wrote:
If you have no need of the alignment system, then just make all of your characters true Neutral and play them however you like.

That doesn't actually work because arbitrary alignment restrictions and possibly party expectations.

Its not just a guideline, its something to tell you that you can't play a lawful barbarian because angry people can't rage. Unless they're Vikings.


WWWW wrote:
thejeff wrote:

Why not? It's a bit of information about the character's mind set. Since I'm not the character, I have to think about what the character is like in order to know what he'll do. Alignment is one piece of information that helps with that. A fairly crude and high level one, certainly, but it's still data.

The character doesn't think "I'm good, therefore I should try to help save the town." The character just volunteers to help save the town because he's a good person. The character doesn't think "I like puppies so I should pet this one", the character just goes "Oooh puppy!"
I have to think about whether the character likes puppies or not to know how he'll react. He just reacts.

Hmm, well you're right, there is a situation where that could come up. If you did not make the character and so do not know how the character is supposed to think then having an additional piece of information could perhaps be better then less information. Of course information can be misleading without the whole picture so this could just as easily backfire and result in playing the character worse then one would without knowing the alignment.

No. It's a piece of information I decided when I made the character. Much like I decided whether or not the character likes puppies.

Again, it's a high level shorthand summary kind of thing, but it's still occasionally useful.


VampByDay wrote:
Scavion wrote:
As far as my games are concerned, my general stance on Alignment matches this.

For the most part, I agree with that, except for the part about being honorable as being Lawful. To me, honorable is GOOD. A person who bends and manipulates the law, and uses loopholes to weasel his way out of doing stuff can be LAWFUL and not HONORABLE.

Slimebag Steve, the King's adviser can be Lawful Evil and completely dishonorable. He can abuse loopholes, use trivialities in the law to get what he needs, and technically be beholden to the king and do all of his duties while still being completely disloyal and dishonorable about it.

Similarly, Barbarian Ben can be Chaotic Good, but still completely loyal to his clan. Heck, the Iconic Barbarian is from a clan of pretty much Chaotic Neutral Barbarians, but they still have a kin-loyalty thing that they all treat as sacrosanct. It's just that they are kinda disorganized and down plan or make lists or anything.

I counter with...

I think there's a difference between subverting the law and wielding the law. Using loopholes to me would be a chaotic action as you are clearly attempting to subvert or pervert it's intention. You aren't being lawful per say, you're trying to get around it.

A Lawful Evil Adviser to me would attempt to sway the actual making of those laws through blackmail, murder,and subterfuge. Slimebag Steve would bribe for votes and have a law made that allows unlimited taxation of the common folk, he may blackmail foreign dignitaries or slander the opposition in an election. Overall however, he wants to maintain power and his kingdom.

As for the Barbarian comparison, Evil characters can still have friends and loved ones they treat amicably. Small character quirks don't overpower the overarching personality of the character. A brutal murderer might take care of his mother lovingly. It doesn't change the fact that he's a murderer who takes delight in snuffing out the lives of others.

An example of Lawful Evil would be the Dark Knight pledged to an Evil God. When facing a worthy foe in combat, he fights fair and allows his foe to surrender. He believes that the only way to show that his Evil God is the one true path is to best his foes personally and show them how much weaker their God is than his. He sees battle as a test to see whether his God's strength and his faith in that strength is greater than that of his opponent's.


thejeff wrote:

No. It's a piece of information I decided when I made the character. Much like I decided whether or not the character likes puppies.

Again, it's a high level shorthand summary kind of thing, but it's still occasionally useful.

Ah, I see what you mean. When you say alignment you merely mean a shorthand for the accumulated thoughts that you personally associate with a particular name. I suppose it is as useful as any personal shorthand reference system, but it is the same as if one assigned those traits to the character without referencing alignment in any way or called that particular group of traits some other name.


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WWWW wrote:
thejeff wrote:

No. It's a piece of information I decided when I made the character. Much like I decided whether or not the character likes puppies.

Again, it's a high level shorthand summary kind of thing, but it's still occasionally useful.

Ah, I see what you mean. When you say alignment you merely mean a shorthand for the accumulated thoughts that you personally associate with a particular name. I suppose it is as useful as any personal shorthand reference system, but it is the same as if one assigned those traits to the character without referencing alignment in any way or called that particular group of traits some other name.

Except that we can now talk about it with other people because those names are generally shared. And we can also make use of all the alignment related powers and spells and things in the game.


MrSin wrote:
VampByDay wrote:
I agree with this mostly, but I view it like this: In this cosmos, the outer plains are set up in a certain way. They can be lawful, chaotic, good, evil, in between, whatever. However, when they melt together, you get a bunch of interesting combinations. The trick is not MAKING A CHARACTER AN ALIGNMENT, but instead, figuring out which alignment works best to fit a character. In other words, there are all these people out there with these bits of character . . . how do they get sorted into the afterlife? Person A leads a structured and ordered life, so the forces of law will have a tougher time hurting him, because he happens to fall into their belief system. Person B is a wild and carefree kinda guy, which happens to fall against those cosmic forces that favor law.

You know I see the 'cosmos is objective' idealism and I understand it, but then I always get a different idea of what the cosmos thinks alignment is when it hits the table.

You also run into awkwardness with some restrictions, like monk or barbarian, where apparently the cosmos takes away your ability to get angry(Unless your a Viking) and you forget how to be disciplined if you think too chaotically(unless your a martial artist or aasimar who reached enlightenment).

Haladir wrote:

Chalk me up as an advocate of the standard alignment system. In 30+ years of playing D&D and its descendants, I can count on one hand the number of times alignment had caused an issue in-game.

I do think it's important at the start of a campaign for the GM to brief the players on his or her attitude/outlook on alignment. That way, everyone in the group has the same set of expectations.

One could argue you already compromised things from the moment you created the expectations, blahblahblah ghostintheshell.

I can count it and go past my toes, but what is an ingame issue might be subjective.

Lawful doesn't mean you can't get angry, barbarians don't have to be vikings and a monk going chaotic doesn't mean you forget how to be disciplined. Check the class, you can leave the lawful alignment right behind, you just can't then advance as a monk but you retain all of your abilities.


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DM Under The Bridge wrote:
Lawful doesn't mean you can't get angry, barbarians don't have to be vikings and a monk going chaotic doesn't mean you forget how to be disciplined. Check the class, you can leave the lawful alignment right behind, you just can't then advance as a monk but you retain all of your abilities.

Viking is an archetype for fighters that gets rage. It was a jab at the fact the barbarian is the only class with rage that has that clause. Monks do somehow retain all their powers but are unable to progress. Either way, you can't just put whatever you want, because alignment does have mechanical repercussions and restrictions.


thejeff wrote:
Except that we can now talk about it with other people because those names are generally shared. And we can also make use of all the alignment related powers and spells and things in the game.

What does that have to do with playing a character. I guess if you were taking turns playing one character and everyone in the rotation had the exact same definition of alignment it could matter, but that seems a bit too obscure for me to really think that is what you mean.

Hmm, I did already talk about the fact that alignment has in setting mechanical repercussions in the post to which you originally replied, but then again, perhaps you are talking about the metagaming aspect. That is, you, the player, want to use some alignment restricted thing and so will take actions not based on what would otherwise be the character's personality but on what you think the DM's personal interpretation of alignment is so as to keep the abilities. I suppose I can't fault that. Metagaming has its uses and making a compromise to work around certain restrictions so as to, say, make a character concept work that would not otherwise could reasonably be one of them.


blahpers wrote:

This will end well.

I maintain that since no objective alignment system works for everybody, the logical conclusion is to simply do away with the concept. Alignment as objective morality is not only unnecessary, it is impossible, and even were it possible it adds nothing good to the game while adding a lot of bad.

By the way, citing Batman as LG? Really?. ; )

I maintain that there is no such thing as an objective alignment system. The book (and certain posters) can claim it is so, but there is no evidence to support that claim.


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Zhayne wrote:
blahpers wrote:

This will end well.

I maintain that since no objective alignment system works for everybody, the logical conclusion is to simply do away with the concept. Alignment as objective morality is not only unnecessary, it is impossible, and even were it possible it adds nothing good to the game while adding a lot of bad.

By the way, citing Batman as LG? Really?. ; )

I maintain that there is no such thing as an objective alignment system. The book (and certain posters) can claim it is so, but there is no evidence to support that claim.

It's subjective in implementation but objective once implemented.


Scavion wrote:
Zhayne wrote:
blahpers wrote:

This will end well.

I maintain that since no objective alignment system works for everybody, the logical conclusion is to simply do away with the concept. Alignment as objective morality is not only unnecessary, it is impossible, and even were it possible it adds nothing good to the game while adding a lot of bad.

By the way, citing Batman as LG? Really?. ; )

I maintain that there is no such thing as an objective alignment system. The book (and certain posters) can claim it is so, but there is no evidence to support that claim.
It's subjective in implementation but objective once implemented.

but isn't it still subjective then? Especially since you can't make a hard and fast rule for every situation.

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