Why are we still using Alignment?


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

I realize this is probably going to be a sensitive issue and plenty of people who are emotionally invested in the alignment system aren't going to like it... but here we go.

Ahem. We should drop the alignment system entirely from Pathfinder 2E.

Alignment serves no mechanical purpose

Alignment is the game's primary system for us to have a lens by which we can have weapons, spells, defenses, etc, for defining the classic tropes of "holy" vs "unholy". In a mechanical sense, it gives creatures weaknesses, resistances, or immunities to certain damage types and effects.

However, all of these things can exist in an alignment vacuum. Damage types and spell effects aplenty exist in Pathfinder already, as well as weaknesses to those effects. Fire damage does not depend on alignment and frankly, neither does "good" damage. One can be a Lawful Good paladin, bastion of all that is holy, and still have a weakness to "good" damage. Pathfinder adventure paths were full of assorted demons, devils, and other "evil" creatures who have turned to the side of good, yet are still weak to Holy weaponry. Similarly, it is relatively easy to conceptualize a fallen Angel, tainted and evil, who is weak to unholy arms. Alignment-type effects must therefore not be dependent on alignment specifically, but rather on something else (physiology, for example, like how zombies are weak to slashing).

You can still have good or "holy", evil or "unholy" damage without having alignment factored into it. Similar for chaos or "anarchic" damage and law and "axiomatic" damage.

Spells that affect only certain alignments can be modified or simply dropped. Protection for example, provides a +1 conditional bonus to AC and saves, which is upped to +3 against direct control type abilities and summoned creatures. It's a level 1 spell, and it's uncommon. To me, it doesn't even seem that much more powerful if it affects ALL alignments.

Alignment hinders storytelling and pigeonholes characters

Alignment serves as the root of countless arguments of "your character wouldn't do that", and "is my character dictated by my alignment or is my alignment dictated by my character?", and even "if I do one evil thing in a moment of passion, in a life of service and altruism, am I evil or good?"

It all boils down to this: alignment only hinders storytelling without doing much to redeem itself. There's an argument to be made that it helps newbies understand who their character is and what they might do. I have taught many newbies in my time as a GM, and in most cases alignment only dumbs down or straight-jackets a character. You are telling newbies "Look at this funny chart of superheroes. Pick a superhero who is now your character's personality." Alignment only serves to limit roleplaying and remove nuance. Characters can be goody-two-shoes without an LG slapped next to their name, but characters can also believe in the law, in helping people, in the greater good, while still having a ruthless streak that would put them on the Evil side of the fence in traditional alignment structures. Meanwhile, even an orc who loves wanton destruction and killing and believes in strength over all can have friends he trusts and loves so much that he would die for them.

Restrictions on Alignment destroy nuance

To provide a concrete example of what I'm talking about, I'm going to reference a paizo published Adventure Path.

In the Shattered Star Volume 4, there is a Cleric of Zon-Kuthon by the name of Gein Kafog. He is a Lawful Neutral Cleric of a Chaotic Evil god. This is because Gein had a non-traditional view of Zon-Kuthon, and I quote: "Zon-Kuthon’s manifestation as the lord of darkness, envy, loss, and pain is not representative of his desires but of his condition. Gein sees Zon-Kuthon as the ultimate martyr, and that he took upon himself his dreadful transformation from the god he was before as a way to protect his sister Shelyn from a great and unknown peril."

That is fantastic! A follower of a dark god, but not because he believes in pain, envy or loss, but that the god has taken those unto himself. Under the current alignment system in PF2E, this super interesting character would not be permitted. We would lose this bit of nuance, this alternate view of an otherwise wholly evil god.

But Paladins!

Paladins have a code of conduct already that isn't dependent on alignment (beyond some mentions of evil, which the GM has to adjudicate anyway). NEXT!

Alignment leads to some weird stuff

Divine Wrath is a 4th-level spell which deals damage based on alignment. It also contains this line: "You can’t cast this spell if [...] your deity is true neutral." This means that Pharasma, Gozreh, and Nethys have no palpable wrath. You're a cleric of Pharasma and you're calling on your Goddesses' hatred and loathing of all that is undead, and you summon her wrath down upon these abominations... and all Phasrasma can conjure for you is a wet fart noise at best. Sorry, she's just not very wrathful cause true neutral deities are just so chill amirite?

Divine Wrath deals much less damage than it's contemporaries (Fireball and Lightning Bolt, both a spell level lower, deal considerably more damage), simply because it allows you to potentially exclude people who are on "your side"... you know that Rovagug, he's always worried about his fellow evil folk. His Wrath only goes so far.

Conclusion
I could probably write a fair deal more and provide more examples, but I anyone who's reading this liekly had their mind made up either way, and I'm sleepy now.


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Because enough people like it to keep it around.


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We should drop Classes, R̶a̶c̶e̶s̶ Ancestries, the six attribute system, a fantasy setting, and the D20 as the primary resolution mechanism while we're at it. None of these things are any more essential than alignment.


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Vidmaster7 wrote:
Because enough people like it to keep it around.

I think it's more accurate to say the designers liked it enough to keep it around.


I agree with some of this, as I've never really liked alignment as more than a quick and cheap two word synopsis of the character's morality to give people new to roleplaying a good place to fall back on when pressed, but I don't know that I would do away with it entirely. Barring a few errors in the post (Zon Kuthon is LE, and thus LN clerics are allowed for him), I think that alignment without mechanical impact doesn't really take away anything from the game, because to seasoned players, alignment is just one factor, if it even is a factor and not just a label, for the character's ethics and morals, and for new players, it can be a useful place to fall back on if you're unsure for the character's decision in a situation. Now, I do prefer systems which provide more nuance, which if we keep to the realm of pathfinder, Unchained Loyalties system is a decent example of, but I think this might be a bit more personal preference, and so long as mechanics are wholly removed from alignment, I don't see why alignment can't exist, and other systems can be used in its place by people who prefer those system


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber

While wall of text suggests accuracy of content, that isn't a given.

"Alignment hinders storytelling and pigeonholes characters"

Corollary: alignment informs storytelling and aids character development.

See... I can just say a thing and pretend it's true too. To provide a concrete example, at the table alignment can be a great tool to help a player constrain "what would PCname do?" There are a billion possible roleplay inputs to that question, but breaking it down to a foundation based on good/evil law/chaos produces a manageable initial base. It's not an end-all, be-all, but it's a great place to start, a lot of the time.

"Restrictions on Alignment destroy nuance"

Corollary: restrictions on alignment prevents vagueness.

While there are shades of grey and degrees of evil/good etc, that rules exist do not prevent players and GMs who want subtlety from including it. If players and GMs can handle unstructured play, creating and adopting codes of conduct on the fly, they can certainly handle adapting well-developed lore rules into house guidelines.

Long story short is... you don't like the alignment rules. Other people do. Your reasons for not liking those rules aren't universal, and your statement of "X causes Y" aren't inherently true. They're opinion. So. Your opinion isn't discounted... it's valued, but it's just one. Statistically countered by mine. So you and I need not vote.


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I like alignments.

Please keep it in the game.

Zon-kuthon is LE btw, not CE.


Scythia wrote:
Vidmaster7 wrote:
Because enough people like it to keep it around.
I think it's more accurate to say the designers liked it enough to keep it around.

I'd have to see your research on that one to say one way or the other. Paizo boards are not an accurate summation of the over all pathfinder players.


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Ral' Yareth wrote:

I like alignments.

Please keep it in the game.

Zon-kuthon is LE btw, not CE.

I also really like the alignment system and have used it in many games not to demand my players act a certain way, but to provide a way of thinking about how characters might think. I'm not strict with alignments and allow them to change should characters find an alignment not to their liking.

I'm presently playing a martial artist monk in PF 1.0 right now and part of that character thrives on the idea that monks are lawful while she is one of the more chaotic characters I've ever played. Does it do anything for her mechanically? No. It's just a fun part of the story.

I would like it if they kept it around, but added something like "unaligned" for creatures that run almost purely on instinct, such as animals and more bestial monsters.


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OP, as you're seeing from this discussion, the actual reason we're still using alignment is that it's a sacred cow. It's tradition, and no tabletop RPG is steeped in so much tradition as D&D. For the same reason, you won't see Vancian magic or the six ability scores disappear, even if developers thought they could replace them with something better. When you play D&D, you either deal with it as it is or you house rule it. Expecting official changes to the sacred cows will result in disappointment.

Personally, I'd guess that if alignment hadn't existed previously and was introduced in PF2, there would so much salt and screaming that it would be legendary. I think it's an acquired taste that many can't imagine not having now. And that's the problem with tradition: the longer it's been around, the more acquired tastes there are and the less likely change is.


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Alignment has a lot to do with the Planes and deities. The Abyss is Chaos and Evil given form, for example. I think at the very least that Outsiders, Clerics, and any other character who uses Divine magic should retain alignment, like a Cleric of Lamashtu always registering as infused with Chaos and Evil for anyone and anything able to detect those kinds of energies. Anyone else could be considered unaligned (which should be separate from True Neutral) unless they had specifically dedicated themselves to a set of cosmic ideals. Then you could have alignment for those who want it and use it as the tool it was intended to be, and anyone who doesn't want an alignment could simply play an unaligned character free of any perceived restriction on their agency as a player.


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FireclawDrake wrote:
I realize this is probably going to be a sensitive issue and plenty of people who are emotionally invested in the alignment system aren't going to like it... but here we go.

I feel obligated to respond to this well written essay with a counter-essay.

A lack of Alignment makes the world more bland.

When we look at fantasy we have many examples of valiant Knights who are pure of heart, noble heroes who cannot be corrupted, evil villains who seek to rule by force, and all of the classic archetypes in between. These archetypes can only truly exist in a world with a much more black and white morality. Alignment helps to create that black and white morality.

Some would argue that we can still have "Holy" and "Unholy" damage and such without alignment, but... Can we really? If you remove the moral ties to those things then they are just meaningless descriptors. Those descriptors exist but they are no different than anything else. You might as well rename Holy to Tangerine and Unholy to Grape at that point for all of the actual gravitas they would have.

Contrary to claims Pathfinder is not full of evil beings like demons and devils that have turned to the side of good and kept their weaknesses to holy and good energies. In fact this is a very rare event that most people conflate into it being much more common than it is. Meaning that this has only happened a few times, and in fact the main time this happened it required straight divine intervention and the being became an angel afterward.

Yes, it is possible to drop alignment from spells like Protection from Good and leave them as just general Protection, but what purpose does that do? It turns things into nothing but gray. There is nothing there, no substance, no nothing. It is like a rice cake at that point.

Disregarding alignment makes everything the same.

I have run games for the last thirty years, since I took up the mantle of Dungeon Master at the age of eight. I have never once had any storytelling opportunities taken away from me by alignment. What I instead have seen, is the other side, because I have played for (and professionally worked on) games that didn't have alignment.

For all of the arguments that arise around "Your character wouldn't do that" (I have never actually said this, nor heard it actually said) I have seen many "heroes" that I couldn't tell from "villains" in games without alignment. I have seen superheroes who use torture to extract confessions, I have seen knights that pillage just as quickly as raiders, and I have seen caring and compassionate senators order the deaths of their own people to win a war. Every single time I rolled my eyes.

Why? Because that is reality. I don't play a fantasy game with magic and wizards and dragons to play reality. Maybe it is because I am older and I have seen a lot of things, but I don't need grimdark themes in my games. There is enough grimdark in the real world.

Alignments serve to create stark contrasts in the game world when you subvert expectations. That isn't possible in an alignmentless setting. I will tell you why.

We are humans, and as humans we form biases from what we "know" if we "know" in Pathfinder that Drow are all evil (yes I know in Pathfinder they aren't, it is an example, just go with it) then the world feels right when we meet an evil Drow. It feels comfortable, that sense of rewarded anticipation. When we meet a good drow, we react in a more realistic manner to how our characters actually would, we respond with suspicion and distrust. Why? Because we "know" much the same way people with biases in the real world "know" that Drow aren't good.

The same is true of the other side. When we meet an Angelic entity, in an alignment system, we know it is good. We are going to trust it, because it is good. It isn't lying to us... Save for when the rare case it is... Because again, we "know" it is good and like it or not that translates into our characters. So when the thing we "know" is good betrays us, then we actually feel a sense of betrayal, and a sense of wrongness about the situation. That enhances roleplaying, it doesn't diminish it.

You can't actually have that in a morally ambiguous setting. It simply is not possible, even if you believe that you have. It isn't how our brains function.

Restrictions only exist for players. The GM can do whatever he wants.

A wise villain once said, "When everyone is super then nobody will be." And, I can attest, this is true.

That character you remember that was so unique? Yeah, he doesn't seem so unique when half the party are Chaotic Good Goblins who serve the Goddess Lamashtu because of her love for family and they preach that her love of her children must make her good. Even if that isn't really how she works at all.

You can't have unique NPCs when everyone else breaks the mold. It doesn't work and we have plenty of historical precedent to support that hypothesis. In the World of Darkness it was often joked, that even though the book said that Brujah were bikers and anarchists, almost no player characters conformed to that.

This became a running joke throughout the Camarilla (White Wolf's LARP Organized play group) that the rarest thing anyone had ever seen was a character that played to the stereotype. It becomes a literal contest between players as to who can come up with the most bizarre and out there character concept.

Even under the current rules the GM can have the character that you claim. In fact, the example you cited proves it, why? A player character couldn't pull the same thing that Cleric could. He wasn't within one step of his God. He's an NPC, and NPCs don't have to follow the rules and in fact never did.

Let us keep our restrictions, because it then makes the special characters actually special when we run into them. Even in Pathfinder I have seen this. The sheer number of home games on Roll20 I have been on where players admitted things like, "Well I don't play any of the standard races, they are so boring."

I went through dozens of games with Aasimar, Tieflings, Ogres, Sylphs, and everything in between. The rarest thing I saw was a basic Elf, Dwarf, or Halfling... Humans, well... Humans are always around... Good job on that though Paizo, they are the most populous race in the setting after all and that IS represented in the characters players make.

But Paladins!

A Paladin who isn't good isn't a Paladin. Sure they have a code of conduct but a Paladin is supposed to be more than that. They aren't just a Knight. They aren't just a Holy Warrior. Paladins are Paladins.

Lack of Alignment Leads to some really weird stuff.

I am a Cleric of a God that believes that suffering and pain are the truth behind the tapestry of existence! ... Here let me just cast cure light wounds here and fix that broken arm for you...

I am a Servant of the most Holy and Benevolent... Oh no someone has managed to force that Angel to attack us... POWERS OF EVIL PROTECT ME! CLOAK ME IN YOUR DARKNESS!

Just because a specific spell is named wrath doesn't mean that Gods don't have wrath. They just don't express their wrath in that way. We know that Pharasma has servants that she dispatches to vent justice. Just read planar adventures it explains one such situation for that.

Even stranger things happen once alignment is taken away.

Alignment is the glue that binds the setting together. Without it, it is no longer D&D, or Pathfinder, it becomes Game of Thrones. If you want Game of Thrones, then please, by all means, play Game of Thrones. Houserule it. Do what you want to it. Don't try to change pathfinder though just because you want more moral ambiguity. There are tons of morally ambiguous game settings out there.


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Alignment doesn't restrict roleplay. It doesn't dictate what your character wouldn't do, only what they are unlikely to do. If the character acts outside their alignment too often, their alignment changes. For some classes (e.g. Paladin or cleric) this may have consequences, but for others it is about the growth of the character.


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Vidmaster7 wrote:
Scythia wrote:
Vidmaster7 wrote:
Because enough people like it to keep it around.
I think it's more accurate to say the designers liked it enough to keep it around.
I'd have to see your research on that one to say one way or the other. Paizo boards are not an accurate summation of the over all pathfinder players.

I say that crediting the designers is more accurate not because of any board chatter, but because the designers made all of the decisions of what to keep and what to cut. Also, they made the choice to keep the Paladin as alignment bound, now the only class that is such.


Oh snap I have to go look now I didn't even check druid doesn't have to be something neutral anymore? I know cleric does still have to be somewhat close to their deities.

But no I feel like a lot of their choices are also revolved around fan feed back too. I doubt their like hmm lets keep alignment and Dang the fans. I imagine their is probably a significant amount of people that's like NO WE NEED THIS TO STAY IN.


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HWalsh wrote:

Alignments serve to create stark contrasts in the game world when you subvert expectations. That isn't possible in an alignmentless setting. I will tell you why.

We are humans, and as humans we form biases from what we "know" if we "know" in Pathfinder that Drow are all evil (yes I know in Pathfinder they aren't, it is an example, just go with it) then the world feels right when we meet an evil Drow. It feels comfortable, that sense of rewarded anticipation. When we meet a good drow, we react in a more realistic manner to how our characters actually would, we respond with suspicion and distrust. Why? Because we "know" much the same way people with biases in the real world "know" that Drow aren't good.

The same is true of the other side. When we meet an Angelic entity, in an alignment system, we know it is good. We are going to trust it, because it is good. It isn't lying to us... Save for when the rare case it is... Because again, we "know" it is good and like it or not that translates into our characters. So when the thing we "know" is good betrays us, then we actually feel a sense of betrayal, and a sense of wrongness about the situation. That enhances roleplaying, it doesn't diminish it.

You can't actually have that in a morally ambiguous setting. It simply is not possible, even if you believe that you have. It isn't how our brains function.

Not quite. In a setting without the facile descriptor of Alignment, one must judge based upon interactions and observed actions. In a morally ambiguous setting one subverts expectations by actually building a character with story established personality rather than pithy two word morality. If characters in a shades of grey setting know that a particular being is a merciless anti-heroic assassin (the kill one to save many type), renowned for brutally completing any contract they accept no matter how petty the criminal, the team can still be shocked to see the assassin show true kindness to child.

Maybe that's not how your brain functions. Don't assume the same is true for anyone else.


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Vidmaster7 wrote:

Oh snap I have to go look now I didn't even check druid doesn't have to be something neutral anymore? I know cleric does still have to be somewhat close to their deities.

But no I feel like a lot of their choices are also revolved around fan feed back too. I doubt their like hmm lets keep alignment and Dang the fans. I imagine their is probably a significant amount of people that's like NO WE NEED THIS TO STAY IN.

No neutral Druid, no non-Lawful Barbarian, no Lawful Monk. Yeah Cleric has to be near their deity, but there are choices across the entire spectrum, so I didn't count it.

Mini rant

Spoiler:
Alignment has been probably the biggest sticking point of Pathfinder discussions that I've seen. Think about how a stealth policy to auto-lock any thread about goblin babies had to be implemented. Think about how there's practically a cottage industry designing catch-22 Paladin fall traps. Think about how even still people can't seem to agree if alignment is prescriptive or descriptive. Think of how the attempt to link Alignment with a specific number of castings of aligned magic came off, with discussions of villains casting a few spells to switch alignment and stymie the party's ability to use alignment based attacks. Think of how some people insist on Alignment balance while others claim a slippery slope approach (that would inevitably leave entire worlds populated almost entirely by Neutral and Evil beings).

The only other issue I've seen arouse almost as much discussion (argument mostly) is the Caster/Martial issue.


See I have read those threads and horror story's but in practice it is never the case for me. I've never had a group break down over any alignment arguments. Its one of those things that I think is a forum and select group issue like arguing about C/MD for that matter too. So I guess it would have to be a numbers thing. I would have to see how many people like it one way or the other because you can't truly make everyone happy and from a business standpoint go with majority.


If you wield it properly, I have had great results, Cosmic forces of Law, Chaos, Evil, Good, and Neutrality (Planescape is a campaign setting to embrace Alignment, other campaign settings I run, not so much), otherwise it's lip-service.


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Scythia wrote:

Not quite. In a setting without the facile descriptor of Alignment, one must judge based upon interactions and observed actions. In a morally ambiguous setting one subverts expectations by actually building a character with story established personality rather than pithy two word morality. If characters in a shades of grey setting know that a particular being is a merciless anti-heroic assassin (the kill one to save many type), renowned for brutally completing any contract they accept no matter how petty the criminal, the team can still be shocked to see the assassin show true kindness to child.

Maybe that's not how your brain functions. Don't assume the same is true for anyone else.

Go argue with Psychology, not with me.

Here is the thing - We are humans, we are not actually capable of "ignoring" knowledge that we possess.

We *literally* can't.

If you know something, then knowing it influences you. Now you can act *against* this knowledge, but you can't "unlearn" it.

So... If you know, for example, that a certain creature's stat block says that they are Neutral Evil then that knowledge is there. You know it. If you didn't know it, that would be different, but if you do, then you do.

So, when you encounter this creature, and you (in character) can't find any fault in its logic, you'll go along with it. You might even begin to question if the GM did flip the script on it, and if the creature really isn't Neutral Evil. However when it betrays you, there will be a part of you that, because you knew the entire time it was evil, won't actually be that surprised.

It is like going into a movie and hearing someone say, "Can you believe that person A betrayed person B?"

Well then, when you see the movie, you already know that person A betrays person B. You can't really ignore that knowledge, you can get caught up, you can push it aside, but because of how our brains function on some level you knew the betrayal was coming.

That is what alignment does.

See, and this is important - Your character in a game world has preconceived notions. If they don't, well... That is almost impossible (and completely unrealistic)... Because your character existed long before you created them and your character was brought up in a different society than you or I was. They lived a life that you or I didn't, and we don't step into the character until they have long existed and formed their own opinions about the world.

So... For example...

Gwyn of Nybor - My Paladin - He knows that Demons (capital D) are Chaotic Evil. He was raised in the Church of Iomedae. He knows they can't be trusted. This is reinforced by the fact that *I* know they can't be trusted.

If Gwyn of Nybor comes across a demon he *is not* going to give them the benefit of the doubt without some really compelling evidence. Even when SHOWN evidence he is going to be suspicious and if he gets betrayed by said demon then he is legitimately *not* going to be surprised. He's waiting for it. Even if everything seems on the up and up he's waiting for it even if I, the player, find the character really amusing and snicker when he says and does things.

Well... Once he actually DID meet a demon who *was* on the up and up. Said demon sacrificed himself to save the group.

For Gwyn of Nybor that was a powerful moment.

Why? Because Gwyn was created from the in universe knowledge that he would have from a lifetime of living in the church. This was tempered and reinforced by the fact that I *the player* knows that demons are Chaotic Evil.

-----

Now... Let us assume that the only change is the rule on alignment is gone.

So Gwyn is raised in the church of Iomedae and he knows that demons aren't to be trusted. I, on the other hand, am well aware that demons can be just as trustworthy as anyone else. So there is compelling evidence shown to me that the demon is on the up and up. He travels with us *for weeks* and Gwyn isn't anywhere near as suspicious because *I* know better than Gwyn does. Because I know, for a fact, that there is no actual alignment in the system, and heck I like the NPC. No matter how I try to trick myself into believing otherwise I *know* it isn't true. I can *roleplay* Gwyn being angry, paranoid, and disliking the demon, but I also know (because I can't not know) that Gwyn is being paranoid.

Again, no matter what I try to do, I know that demons are not actually evil by default by the rules of the game. Short of driving a spike into my own brain and damaging it enough that I forget that fact (which would probably have much more unfortunate side effects) there is no way I can not know that.

So when Drelach (that was his name) sacrifices himself for the party I the player am not really that surprised. I knew it was possible for the word go and I knew Gwyn's belief that all demons were inherently evil wasn't correct to begin with. Gwyn might be surprised, and I can play Gwyn as being surprised, but I knew that Gwyn was wrong the entire time.

-----

That is the difference between knowing and not knowing.

Our brains don't let us block off information under any normal circumstances. We can suppress information, yes, but the information is there. We can act against it, but we know it is there.

So alignment is a tool, a very useful psychological tool, to illicit genuine reactions of shock, surprise, betrayal, and the like.


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HWalsh wrote:
Scythia wrote:

Not quite. In a setting without the facile descriptor of Alignment, one must judge based upon interactions and observed actions. In a morally ambiguous setting one subverts expectations by actually building a character with story established personality rather than pithy two word morality. If characters in a shades of grey setting know that a particular being is a merciless anti-heroic assassin (the kill one to save many type), renowned for brutally completing any contract they accept no matter how petty the criminal, the team can still be shocked to see the assassin show true kindness to child.

Maybe that's not how your brain functions. Don't assume the same is true for anyone else.

Go argue with Psychology, not with me.

Here is the thing - We are humans, we are not actually capable of "ignoring" knowledge that we possess.

We *literally* can't.

Are you seriously suggesting that willful ignorance doesn't exist? If so, I don't think there's much more that can be said.

Liberty's Edge

Willful ignorance is not ignoring what you know, it's actively avoiding the learning.


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Scythia wrote:
HWalsh wrote:
Scythia wrote:

Not quite. In a setting without the facile descriptor of Alignment, one must judge based upon interactions and observed actions. In a morally ambiguous setting one subverts expectations by actually building a character with story established personality rather than pithy two word morality. If characters in a shades of grey setting know that a particular being is a merciless anti-heroic assassin (the kill one to save many type), renowned for brutally completing any contract they accept no matter how petty the criminal, the team can still be shocked to see the assassin show true kindness to child.

Maybe that's not how your brain functions. Don't assume the same is true for anyone else.

Go argue with Psychology, not with me.

Here is the thing - We are humans, we are not actually capable of "ignoring" knowledge that we possess.

We *literally* can't.

Are you seriously suggesting that willful ignorance doesn't exist? If so, I don't think there's much more that can be said.

Willful Ignorance is a legal term.

Willful Ignorance, or Willful Blindness, is a term used in law to describe a situation in which a person seeks to avoid civil or criminal liability for a wrongful act by intentionally keeping himself or herself unaware of facts that would render him or her liable.

Or in this case what it is, is when a person intentionally avoids having information so that they cannot be held liable for it.

It is not "ignoring information you know" it is "intentionally making certain not to know in the first place."

Once you *know* something, you can no longer be considered as having willful ignorance.

-----

Example:

Person A tries to sell you a brand new, shiny expensive Ioun Stone... for 50 GP... You have enough knowledge to know that the Ioun Stone is real. You don't know where Person A got it, but you want it. So you pay the 50 GP, and you say, outright, "I don't want to know how you got it, I'll take it."

That is Willful Ignorance. You intentionally kept yourself ignorant of the circumstances of Person A getting ahold of that magical rock. How did they get it? Probably stole it. You don't know that though.

If Person A, then hands over the Ioun Stone and says, "Yeah well, I just broke into Lord Maklar's manor and swiped it."

Well you're no longer Willfully Ignorant legally. Which is all that matters, because Willful Ignorance is a legal term.

Once you know something, you can no longer be Willfully Ignorant.


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Drakhan Valane wrote:
Willful ignorance is not ignoring what you know, it's actively avoiding the learning.

I can provide examples to counteract that claim, but to do so will risk offending some religious individuals, so I'll just say that I disagree with your assessment.

Liberty's Edge

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Ignorance, per definition, is not knowing. It is not ignoring what you know, it is not knowing it in the first place.


Scythia wrote:
Drakhan Valane wrote:
Willful ignorance is not ignoring what you know, it's actively avoiding the learning.
I can provide examples to counteract that claim, but to do so will risk offending some religious individuals, so I'll just say that I disagree with your assessment.

I think what you are referring to is a different thing.

You're referring to disagreeing with a statement that something is (or is not) true. That is different from not knowing.

So... It is like...

So, say you see a magician on a stage and they do a trick where they levitate. You believe that the person did magic. Someone else tells you that, no, it is a lift underneath the table that is lifting them up and the illusion is created by the careful movement of the ring used to prove that he was levitating.

The person can show you videos of other magicians doing the same trick. They can't show the magician you saw doing the trick that way though.

So the person has strong evidence that other magicians do the trick with a lift, but they can't actually prove that the magician you saw did it with a lift. You don't believe that the evidence proves that your magician did it with a lift because you believe it was magic and nobody else can actually prove it otherwise.

That is disbelieving evidence, not being willfully ignorant.

Edit to add:

In the above case about a magician, the Magician themselves could tell you that they did it with a lift, but that doesn't prove they didn't use magic. They could be lying.

The magician could show you a video from behind the scenes of him having a lift on stage... But the show as 2 months ago and the video could be photoshopped, the Magician is lying because they don't want people to think they has real magic, because the government would be after them if they found out.

Disbelief isn't the same thing as being ignorant.

In the case of a fictional game where we have literal mechanics... The Mechanics are definitive. It is hard to disbelieve the stat block. It is impossible to be ignorant about rules and stats that you know.

Again, that is impossible for a human to do biologically.


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HWalsh wrote:
Scythia wrote:
HWalsh wrote:
Scythia wrote:

Not quite. In a setting without the facile descriptor of Alignment, one must judge based upon interactions and observed actions. In a morally ambiguous setting one subverts expectations by actually building a character with story established personality rather than pithy two word morality. If characters in a shades of grey setting know that a particular being is a merciless anti-heroic assassin (the kill one to save many type), renowned for brutally completing any contract they accept no matter how petty the criminal, the team can still be shocked to see the assassin show true kindness to child.

Maybe that's not how your brain functions. Don't assume the same is true for anyone else.

Go argue with Psychology, not with me.

Here is the thing - We are humans, we are not actually capable of "ignoring" knowledge that we possess.

We *literally* can't.

Are you seriously suggesting that willful ignorance doesn't exist? If so, I don't think there's much more that can be said.

Willful Ignorance is a legal term.

Willful Ignorance, or Willful Blindness, is a term used in law to describe a situation in which a person seeks to avoid civil or criminal liability for a wrongful act by intentionally keeping himself or herself unaware of facts that would render him or her liable.

Or in this case what it is, is when a person intentionally avoids having information so that they cannot be held liable for it.

It is not "ignoring information you know" it is "intentionally making certain not to know in the first place."

Once you *know* something, you can no longer be considered as having willful ignorance.

Don't argue with me, argue with psychology: Psychological discussion of willful ignorance (including purposefully not acknowledging known information)


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Scythia wrote:
HWalsh wrote:
Scythia wrote:
HWalsh wrote:
Scythia wrote:

Not quite. In a setting without the facile descriptor of Alignment, one must judge based upon interactions and observed actions. In a morally ambiguous setting one subverts expectations by actually building a character with story established personality rather than pithy two word morality. If characters in a shades of grey setting know that a particular being is a merciless anti-heroic assassin (the kill one to save many type), renowned for brutally completing any contract they accept no matter how petty the criminal, the team can still be shocked to see the assassin show true kindness to child.

Maybe that's not how your brain functions. Don't assume the same is true for anyone else.

Go argue with Psychology, not with me.

Here is the thing - We are humans, we are not actually capable of "ignoring" knowledge that we possess.

We *literally* can't.

Are you seriously suggesting that willful ignorance doesn't exist? If so, I don't think there's much more that can be said.

Willful Ignorance is a legal term.

Willful Ignorance, or Willful Blindness, is a term used in law to describe a situation in which a person seeks to avoid civil or criminal liability for a wrongful act by intentionally keeping himself or herself unaware of facts that would render him or her liable.

Or in this case what it is, is when a person intentionally avoids having information so that they cannot be held liable for it.

It is not "ignoring information you know" it is "intentionally making certain not to know in the first place."

Once you *know* something, you can no longer be considered as having willful ignorance.

Don't argue with me, argue with psychology: Psychological discussion of willful ignorance (including purposefully not acknowledging known information)

Read the article. That is why they talk about self-deception which is something different from being willfully ignorant.

Also note:
That person is wrong. Simply put. Mark Alicke is using the term "willful ignorance" to refer to self-deception (which he does, to be fair, bring up in his own title) which is technically incorrect because, again, Willful Ignorance is a legal, not a psychological, term.

I am not disagreeing with Psychology as there is no psychological definition of the term Willfully Ignorant in the DSM.

(I'm actually pretty well versed in the DSM... So...)

To add:
See, I was a game designer for a little over a decade. You'd be amazed at how much actually studying psychology can help you with that. There are tons of tricks that we used, every single day, on more than one game that I worked on to manipulate players and induce certain desired behaviors. We had an actual team of shrinks on one project specifically helping us.

That is why in game design we have a term called "the illusion of choice" namely put. In most games (and even in well run tabletop rpgs) you don't actually have any choices. You believe you do, but most of the time you don't. The trick is, if it is done right, we never let you get the knowledge of that. So as long as you think your choices have an impact then you feel that you had agency and you don't know.

If we botch it though, then you know, and it breaks the immersion, and lowers your enjoyment of the situation.


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I have not used alignments in any D&D variant for 25 years, other systems mange just fine without them, and while purely anecdotal IMO, so does PF. I also enjoy how I don't have to hear or endure what someone else should be doing because they are "X" alignment.
More importantly for me, as people making subjective judgements about an ostensibly objective topic we will usually essentially disagree on some point. Now granted, disagreements happen in many contexts in TTRPs but I don't see a reason, and have yet to see one (even here), that has convinced me alignments are worth it.

While I will use them for the sake of the playtest, once the full version of the game hits they will once again be expunged. In my setting that I have run for 15+ years they just don't fit, Paladins are just holy warriors and have a code based on their god's tenets (frankly, I can't wait to see the anathema my group and I will work out for some of the not so good two shoes deities). Dragons and so many other creatures cannot be assumed to be 'evil' based on their color or appearance, my setting has benevolent Red dragons, despotic gold dragons, and I prefer the nuance of a game where characters must stop to think that there might be somethings more to a band of Goblins robbing supply caravans and only taking food, rather than just declaring, "Well they are goblins so they are evil, let's just kill em all!" This is not to say they can't still make such assumptions, but even afterI had warned my players one session years ago where they assumed a silver dragon was good only to discover the depths of her malevolence was some of the most fun we have had in ages.

Therefore, I support any move to expunge alignments, I know many will disagree and it will likely not go anywhere, but as a player and GM of well over 5 dozen RPG systems since 1977 across many genres, most of which don't have alignments, I think that the time of trying to define moralistic issues with a structured (and oft debated) system is past. Let people just play their characters and let the consequences of their moralistic actions come from RP not systems. Having a code, like a cleric paldain is different because the PC chose to follow that code (or at least the player did in the case of PCs raised in a faith not fully knowing their were other options). To those that love them but the second the playtest ends they will vanish, once again, from my game.


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Why are we still using aligment ?

Because it's a really useful tool for character & NPC building, a very intuitive & elegant 1st approximation/ rule of thumb for quickly fleshing out a character's motivation.

Just asking a player why they chose their alignment for their character often results in lots of great info.

I really think the anti-alignment sentiment some people have is just an inability to deal with ambiguity.
They can't stand that there are several different ways to be Lawful Neutral, or that a particular character might fall almost exactly between Chaotic Good & Neutral Good.
It's like they can't take the system for the flexible, approximate tool it is. If it isn't capable of unambiguously catagorising every character in existance then it has to be killed with fire.
I don't agree.

And I would defend Alignment as mechanics as well, as long as it doesn't become too overbearing. It's good to have limits sometimes. It helps to give classes & creatures an identity instead of just a bland anything can be anything mush.

Anyway, that was my 'in defence of alignment'


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graeme mcdougall wrote:

Why are we still using aligment ?

Because it's a really useful tool for character & NPC building, a very intuitive & elegant 1st approximation/ rule of thumb for quickly fleshing out a character's motivation.

Just asking a player why they chose their alignment for their character often results in lots of great info.

I really think the anti-alignment sentiment some people have is just an inability to deal with ambiguity.
They can't stand that there are several different ways to be Lawful Neutral, or that a particular character might fall almost exactly between Chaotic Good & Neutral Good.
It's like they can't take the system for the flexible, approximate tool it is. If it isn't capable of unambiguously catagorising every character in existance then it has to be killed with fire.
I don't agree.

And I would defend Alignment as mechanics as well, as long as it doesn't become too overbearing. It's good to have limits sometimes. It helps to give classes & creatures an identity instead of just a bland anything can be anything mush.

Anyway, that was my 'in defence of alignment'

I'd love for alignment to be a flexible, approximate tool. Where two players could both, honestly and in good faith, categorize the same character (based on witnessing the same behaviors and actions) differently. Where one player thinks a character should definitely qualify as "lawful" and another thinks that same character might be on the lawful side of neutral but doesn't qualify as actually lawful.

***And this is the important part.***

And where neither player gets hosed for disagreeing with the other. Where the game doesn't require one player to be right and so the other player must be wrong. But you can't play Schroedinger's Paladin who has simultaneously fallen and not yet fallen. Who can still use his righteous ally and is prevented from using his righteous ally.

So, by its very nature, alignment can't be that flexible tool. If it's used at all, then it's overbearing and oppressive.


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If you want to use Alignment, use a system like Palladium Games uses, where each of the alignments has a list of what they can and can't do. If you play the same paladin in 2 games, he might fall in one because he did an evil act(killed an orc baby), while in another game he is still a LG Paladin(killed an orc baby)!


Tectorman wrote:
graeme mcdougall wrote:

Why are we still using aligment ?

Because it's a really useful tool for character & NPC building, a very intuitive & elegant 1st approximation/ rule of thumb for quickly fleshing out a character's motivation.

Just asking a player why they chose their alignment for their character often results in lots of great info.

I really think the anti-alignment sentiment some people have is just an inability to deal with ambiguity.
They can't stand that there are several different ways to be Lawful Neutral, or that a particular character might fall almost exactly between Chaotic Good & Neutral Good.
It's like they can't take the system for the flexible, approximate tool it is. If it isn't capable of unambiguously catagorising every character in existance then it has to be killed with fire.
I don't agree.

And I would defend Alignment as mechanics as well, as long as it doesn't become too overbearing. It's good to have limits sometimes. It helps to give classes & creatures an identity instead of just a bland anything can be anything mush.

Anyway, that was my 'in defence of alignment'

I'd love for alignment to be a flexible, approximate tool. Where two players could both, honestly and in good faith, categorize the same character (based on witnessing the same behaviors and actions) differently. Where one player thinks a character should definitely qualify as "lawful" and another thinks that same character might be on the lawful side of neutral but doesn't qualify as actually lawful.

***And this is the important part.***

And where neither player gets hosed for disagreeing with the other. Where the game doesn't require one player to be right and so the other player must be wrong. But you can't play Schroedinger's Paladin who has simultaneously fallen and not yet fallen. Who can still use his righteous ally and is prevented from using his righteous ally.

So, by its very nature, alignment can't be that flexible tool. If it's used at all, then it's overbearing...

You're using a bad example with the Paladin - Because you *shouldn't* be able to play Shroedinger's Paldain. That is the point of the Paladin.

I hate to say it but, if someone is wrong then they are sometimes going to be wrong. You can't always be right. That seems to be the issue here.

Anti-alignment people want to simply "do what they want."

And things just don't work that way.


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HWalsh wrote:
Anti-alignment people want to simply "do what they want."

That's condescending. What anti-alignment people want is to roleplay their characters without other players feeling entitled to playing roleplay police. If I want to make an idealistic character that lives by a code, I'm perfectly capable of playing that character faithfully to that code to the extent that I mean to. If another player thinks something doesn't add up, they're welcome to respectfully tell me their perspective, but if I don't agree, I'm ultimately free to play my character the way I believe is proper. Alignment makes some GMs, mostly but not exclusively bad ones, feel entitled to screw with your with how you roleplay your character and impose their own personal morality on you. Some of us decide that that bickering is far from worth it, and find that without alignment players are pushed to more nuanced ideologies and personalities for their characters.

HWalsh wrote:
And things just don't work that way.

It absolutely can work that way. Everything stopping it is purely arbitrary and easily removed.


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I love alignment, and I hope that they keep it. Pathfinder is not our world. they have dieties and evil creatures. I love that vampires are inherently evil. Souls exists in pathfinder, and creatures with souls having alignment makes perfect sense to me. And lastly quite frankly there are tons of other non alignment games, out there, I would dare say they are the majority now, so there a ton of games, including many fantasy games that let you roleplay without alignment, there is no need for pathfinder to join them.


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Pandora's wrote:
OP, as you're seeing from this discussion, the actual reason we're still using alignment is that it's a sacred cow. It's tradition, and no tabletop RPG is steeped in so much tradition as D&D. For the same reason, you won't see Vancian magic or the six ability scores disappear, even if developers thought they could replace them with something better. When you play D&D, you either deal with it as it is or you house rule it. Expecting official changes to the sacred cows will result in disappointment.

That's a good point, but it only applies to RPGs called "D&D". This is Pathfinder. PF1E had to maintain compatibility with D&D 3.x, so it wasn't going to get rid of any sacred cows, but PF2E has no such restriction. So I'd hope that the designers would be willing to rethink any and all aspects of the game.


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People still make 3x3 alignment chart memes of g%~+!~n everything. People have always liked the alignment chart and people always will.

Also I remember everyone hated the five point alignment axis from 4e, including myself.


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I'd be more than happy to take old yeller alignment out back behind the woodshed...

From my perspective, it caused far more problems compared to the time it might have helped.


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I've read enough "let's get rid of alignment threads" to come to the conclusion that the reason people want to get rid of alignment boils down to:
"I don't understand this thing. The thing causes problems in my games because I don't understand it. Getting rid of the thing for everyone would be easier than me learning and understanding the thing. Get rid of the thing."


the word alignment is an offensive term..... they prefer Morally Additive...

hahahahahahaha sorry... I could not resist.... I know I should have... but I couldn't

anyway.
I think ALignment instead of making a Character LG, NG, LE , etc... make the TAble aligned certain alignments.....

SO if your table is Good aligned
you can play
Good aligned table only good characters including Paladins
Mostly good aligned table : characters that are mostly good, some neutral, and paladins.

Lawful tables: lawful characters only, may or may not including paladin

you get the point

or you could just have alignments dealt away and try to implement a Morality system that shows their personal outlook...aka Light side, Darkside, grey side


CriticalQuit wrote:
Also I remember everyone hated the five point alignment axis from 4e, including myself.

I kind of liked it in that "Good", "Extra Good", "DGAF", "Principled Neutrality", "Evil", "Extra Evil" was pretty easy to understand and apply.

Like a whole lot of alignment problems hinge on how the law/chaos axis is incredibly muddy, whereas "good folks fight evil folks" is a big part of the aesthetic appeal of this family of games, as opposed to other games with much more ambiguous morality for which *that* is a big part of the aesthetic appeal.


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Well, in my experience as a player and GM, Alignments help a lot.

When making a new PC, one of the things i ask is which one each party member has so i can get a general idea if i could make a good PC or an evil one if the GM didnt set anything. It is pretty much as relevant as which role they intend to fill and so on.

Heh honestly, i think in terms of Alignment when making PCs in pretty much any system i play, even when there is none. It helps a lot keeping my PCs in line and following a logical thread, instead of being "good one session and evil the next" cause a lot of time passed.

As a GM it gives me a general idea of how each PC will act before the first session even starts and allows me to easilly ban general ideas from the table. For example, "no evil PCs" pass an idea to the players with ease.

I suppose to each their own. My experience of alignment is quite positive thus im greatly in favor of it.


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TheFlyingPhoton wrote:

I've read enough "let's get rid of alignment threads" to come to the conclusion that the reason people want to get rid of alignment boils down to:

"I don't understand this thing. The thing causes problems in my games because I don't understand it. Getting rid of the thing for everyone would be easier than me learning and understanding the thing. Get rid of the thing."

This is correct in one way: no two people will 100% agree on alignments in the game. Some people are close, but come up with enough game situations and you'll eventually disagree.

It boils down to people being FAR too complex to be boxed into a simple 3x3 alignment square. So I think people understand alignment no problem, it's just that it's too imprecise to be expect agreement.


You know, what would be cool would be three base alignments + alignment archetypes or themes. So, Good, Neutral, Evil + your trope or archetype. This could open up that second Ancestry/Background/etc. ish feat option that people have talked about wanting.

Options are (generally) good.


I mean, one of the major hangups I have with "drop alignment" is that I feel like you'd need to replace it with something just as robust in terms of informing character motivation and getting characters to think about what they are doing and why. Like 13A pretty much accomplishes this with the Icon system, but "replace alignment with nothing" wouldn't gain anything.


PossibleCabbage wrote:
I mean, one of the major hangups I have with "drop alignment" is that I feel like you'd need to replace it with something just as robust in terms of informing character motivation

Why? What stops a DM/PC from using what the character does to inform motivation instead of arbitrary initials? The alignment system is a simple paragraph or two on motivation: most players should be able to do that much and it would be a much closer fit than 1 of 9 standard/generic picks.

I just find it odd that there are ONLY 9 kinds of motivation in the world ever: and if there aren't then they MUST come from something other than alignment. ;)

PossibleCabbage wrote:
getting characters to think about what they are doing and why.

Why wouldn't a robust background do the same and more? I'm not sure what an ingame system brings to table.


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graystone wrote:
This is correct in one way: no two people will 100% agree on alignments in the game.

I disagree. My group has been gaming together for around 5 years now. I also run PFS. I also run 2 additional online "home groups" I have never had an issue with alignments. Everyone seems to easily understand and grasp what the alignments are.


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Yeah alignment has really only been a problem in my games with people who were problems for other reasons already.

I suspect it holds true on the boards too.


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HWalsh wrote:

Anti-alignment people want to simply "do what they want."

And things just don't work that way.

In the real world, I can't simply do what I want. There are a lot of tolerable constraints that keep me from doing many things I want. Most of the week, I am content with this. For the few hours I play an RPG, I can do what I want. The restrictions in place are restrictions I can impose voluntarily as opposed to the ones I am subjected to. That is a liberating experience for me.

Alignment as a description doesn't stop me from doing this. An alignment to describe my character does little to impair the game, no more than any other descriptor. Alignment as a restriction does. It takes away a bit of the freedom to choose personal restrictions. I enjoy playing characters with flaws and restrictions, but I usually enjoy them more if I get to customize them entirely. I do not care for having them imposed upon me in my fantasy games, because I get enough restrictions imposed upon me in my real life.


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HWalsh wrote:
We are humans, and as humans we form biases from what we "know" if we "know" in Pathfinder that Drow are all evil (yes I know in Pathfinder they aren't, it is an example, just go with it) then the world feels right when we meet an evil Drow. It feels comfortable, that sense of rewarded anticipation. When we meet a good drow, we react in a more realistic manner to how our characters actually would, we respond with suspicion and distrust. Why? Because we "know" much the same way people with biases in the real world "know" that Drow aren't good.

I'm confused, don't we also "know" that in Pathfinder and DnD, NPCs don't have to follow the rules PCs do? We "know" the GM is allowed to change what they like for the sake of the narrative. We may have to ignore this knowledge for how our characters react to something atypical, but no matter how hard we try to ignore this, we will always "know" in the back of our minds that this was a possibility from the minute we started the game. Am I missing something?

HWalsh wrote:
I am a Cleric of a God that believes that suffering and pain are the truth behind the tapestry of existence! ... Here let me just cast cure light wounds here and fix that broken arm for you..
This also confuses me, because I'm not sure how alignment solves the problem unless Cure Light Wounds is a good-aligned spell. This was possible in PF1 because the God that believes that suffering and pain are the truth behind the tapestry of existence granted clerics cure light wounds, and PF1 definitely had alignment, yet didn't interfere with this. How does alignment in Pathfinder prevent this issue? I can understand how anathema might prevent this, have cure light wounds be anathema. But anathema is not alignment. I can understand alignment preventing this in a game where cure light wounds or heal are good aligned, but that game is not pathfinder. Am I missing something?
HWalsh wrote:
I am a Servant of the most Holy and Benevolent... Oh no someone has managed to force that Angel to attack us... POWERS OF EVIL PROTECT ME! CLOAK ME IN YOUR DARKNESS!

Again, I find myself confused. Are powers of evil present in games that have no alignment? I understood Evil, and its powers, to be a feature of the alignment system, and that if a game lacks alignment then it lacks powers of evil that could cloak someone in darkness. Am I missing something?

If anyone could elaborate on these or point out what I am missing, I would appreciate it.

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