Natural and supernatural component in the alignment


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I was thinking about the alignment in Pathfinder, and I figured out it may be useful to think of it as having to components: one dependent on person's deeds, and the other based on various supernatural effects, like spells, rituals etc.

The first one can be called 'natural alignment', changing slowly and accruing through the whole life. It changes bit a bit with every aligned deed. As I understand, changing one's philosophy is not enough to immediately change the alignment, but it's a good start as it will make the person act differently. Still, it make take a long time to compensate a lifetime or sin. The atonement spell is the only way to quickly change this part of alignment.

The other part of alignment is supernatural, and depends on various magical conditions affecting the character. For example, while paladins and clerics need specific natural alignment to be able to get their class abilities, the also get supernatural alignment from the divine connections that boosts their aura. The pacts with demons or devils and other effect that change how a character is seen by detect spells would also influence only the supernatural alignment. This alignment may change fast, as magical effects come and go.

Neither part directly affects the character's behavior (although some spells that affect the alignment may do so as a second effect). In other words, alignment is descriptive, not prescriptive.

For the purposes of spells and effects, the supernatural alignment would be more important; for example if someone was a good person through mosst of the life, but then got corrupted and became a cleric of evil god, he'd have an evil aura and the previous good deeds don't mater. The natural alignment only matters if there's no supernatural component.

For mortal justice the natural alignment would be more important, as it is understood that there are many ways to temporarily change their alignment magically, but that doesn't absolve anyone of guilt or make them guilty. That's why detecting alignment with spells cannot be used as a prrof in mortal court.

But for the soul's afterlife both components matter, and if they don't match that's what Pharasma's Court is for, to determine where the soul belongs. Note however that Pharasma doesn't really care about justice, just about the stability of the cosmos, and her courts send souls wherever they fit best, not where they deserve to go.

Any thoughts?


Just that Pharasma is a jerk, as always. Not a bad bit of moral mnemonics.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

A side note: what a creature is currently thinking can affect the Detect (alignment) spells.

There is some specific comment about that at p. 154 of Ultimate intrigue, but I recall reading that well before that book was published.

"Where a soul fit best" and "where a soul deserves to go". For the traditionalist Catholics, a single moment of repentance at the end of the life will count more than a life of murder and a single grave sin not followed by repentance before the end of the life is enough to condemn you, even if you were the best person in the universe.
If we use that, the murder and rapist soul "deserve" to go to Purgatory and then Paradise if he repented, while the otherwise good farmer that killed him because he raped and killed his daughter and never repented "deserve" to go to Hell.
I prefer a system where a soul is sent where it fits best. A single, momentary, "I repent" isn't enough, repentance requires trying to compensate for your wrong acts.

BTW: in Pathfinder being sent to Hell isn't necessarily bad. If you were really bad you can get a position there. ;-)

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I generally agree with Adjoint post, but I feel that it is really difficult to impose an aligned template to an unwilling creature if it doesn't match the creature alignment.

Undead templates are an exception, but, at that point, generally, the soul has already gone to Pharasma.


I like this, it is close to how I play using upper and lower cases to determine things : Alignment = game world rules/magical "frequency" detection or "tagging"; alignment = mortal morality; etc.

Simplified thoughts:
Both Celestials and Fiends can be made out of Souls that started out the same way (Positive Energy Plane ~> new Soul), so I treat their bodies/energies as simply "tagged" as Evil/Good/etc., so that they ping on whatever radar. Then they pick up a resonating frequency from Alignment concepts that in turn influence them, rather than giving concepts substance in of themselves. So more Evil now "owns" these Devil atoms rather than those atoms being made of Evil.

I guess the real question from your post is whether Pharasma cares about "mortal morality", (I am not so sure), or if she simply follows the game world rules. My game has Alignment partially imposed/influenced by Deities, (esp. since it keeps their portfolios consistent and prevents fluctuations allowing crossover with Enemy Deities that might try to steal aspects ...). This explains the rigidity of it and why Deities can appear to run on a different form of morality, usually hand-waived as "seeing a bigger picture" or being "objective".


Diego Rossi wrote:
There is some specific comment about that at p. 154 of Ultimate intrigue, but I recall reading that well before that book was published.

I found this clause (it's actualy on p. 155). I wasn't aware of that, I never thought that an aligned action can for that moment change how one is detected. I guess thta can be interpreted as the action creating an 'ethical signature' that can overshadow normal alignment, in a way, what is detected is the alignment of the deed not of the person themselves.

Diego Rossi wrote:

"Where a soul fit best" and "where a soul deserves to go". For the traditionalist Catholics, a single moment of repentance at the end of the life will count more than a life of murder and a single grave sin not followed by repentance before the end of the life is enough to condemn you, even if you were the best person in the universe.

If we use that, the murder and rapist soul "deserve" to go to Purgatory and then Paradise if he repented, while the otherwise good farmer that killed him because he raped and killed his daughter and never repented "deserve" to go to Hell.
I prefer a system where a soul is sent where it fits best. A single, momentary, "I repent" isn't enough, repentance requires trying to compensate for your wrong acts.

I don't want to bring IRL religions into this; I'd like to focus on what we know about how Pharasma operates.


Diego Rossi wrote:

I generally agree with Adjoint post, but I feel that it is really difficult to impose an aligned template to an unwilling creature if it doesn't match the creature alignment.

Undead templates are an exception, but, at that point, generally, the soul has already gone to Pharasma.

Spell infernal healing expressly changes how one is detected temporarily, and it doesn't require a willing target. I'd say that spells like angelic aspect or holy/unholy aura would also change how one is detected. Permanent effects, like succubus's gift indeed usually need a willing target, but they can stick around even after the character changes the mind about the whole dealing with demons thing. Some curses that affect how one is detected may also exist.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Adjoint wrote:
Diego Rossi wrote:

I generally agree with Adjoint post, but I feel that it is really difficult to impose an aligned template to an unwilling creature if it doesn't match the creature alignment.

Undead templates are an exception, but, at that point, generally, the soul has already gone to Pharasma.

Spell infernal healing expressly changes how one is detected temporarily, and it doesn't require a willing target. I'd say that spells like angelic aspect or holy/unholy aura would also change how one is detected. Permanent effects, like succubus's gift indeed usually need a willing target, but they can stick around even after the character changes the mind about the whole dealing with demons thing. Some curses that affect how one is detected may also exist.

I am sorry if I wasn't clear. Yes, temporary effects that change your "perceptible" alignment exist. Even simply casting a spell with an evil denominator will change it for some time (no official rules that I know on that, but, at my table, I would rule that using Monster summoning 2 to call a Lemure will have you get an evil aura for the duration of the spell). And curses can change your apparent allignment.

In my previous post, I was speaking of gaining templates like [iurl=https://aonprd.com/MonsterTemplates.aspx?ItemName=Devilbound]Devilbound[/url]. Changing someone natural alignment by force should be extrmly difficult.


Diego Rossi wrote:

In my previous post, I was speaking of gaining templates like [iurl=https://aonprd.com/MonsterTemplates.aspx?ItemName=Devilbound]Devilbound[/url]. Changing someone natural alignment by force should be extrmly difficult.

I agree; as far as I am concerned, the alignment is only descriptive, so to actualy change a character's natural alignment one would need to perform some mind-affecting and change the character's beliefs and worldview. The atonement spell is unique in that it requires a willing target that really wishes to atone, and the spell is a way for such soul to be cleansed of former trnagsgressions.

Still, there are some ways to affect someone's alignment, and it doesn't seem like they are meant to just change the detectable aura, but athey actually affect the behavior. There's a 12-th level alchemist discovery Change Alignment, though it's temporary (and it's basically mind control). Greater Change Alignment is permanent, but it is only available at 20th level. Some cursed magic items may change the user's alignment for as long as they are carried. There are also some artifacts, like Book of the Damned and Deck of Many Things that can do that to someone attempting to use them.

But I agree with you, such effects should be used rarely and only to make a better story. Especially when used against the PCs, as they can ruin someone's character.


I only use alignment in the 'supernatural' sense ... creature subtypes and spell descriptors. An ordinary person doesn't have one in the terms of a 'behavioral alignment'. For rules purposes, they're treat as neutral to alignment-based effects; the most sadistic mass murderer on the planet won't ping to Detect Evil because he doesn't have an alignment subtype.

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder First Edition / General Discussion / Natural and supernatural component in the alignment All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.