Why do we have Alignment?


Pathfinder Second Edition General Discussion

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Sibelius Eos Owm wrote:
Freehold DM wrote:
I maintain that alignment doesn't need to be dropped completely- but it is in dire need of a face-lift due to modern sensibilities and to distance it from memes and gygax both.

An alignment overhaul strikes me as attractive, but perhaps a bit impractical. Unless we were to revamp the system from the ground up with new names and associations completely, I fear it is unlikely we would do more than join the chorus of interpretations that already exist. At best I feel, like we could see ourselves added as a footnote to the pop culture understanding of alignment that explains how we differ from the norm.

On the other hand, it could just be possible if we definitively came down on one side or the other of whether alignment is an impersonal cosmic force and XYZ action sways one toward one pole or another, or it is a loose system if tracking general tendencies if creature behaviour... But then the lore has been quite explicit about it being both of those things and the reason why it exists in the setting, so I don't expect that is the right answer for the Lost Okens setting.

I've been working on that for a little while now but I stopped because of life. I'm going to start again probably because of this thread. Which is fascinating as I am a die hard 3.x/PF1e edition warrior.


Sibelius Eos Owm wrote:
FormerFiend wrote:

I'll say that my own view on the lawful alignment has more to do with a value on structure in one's personal life than an automatic value towards social structure & conventions. I think of lawful characters as the ones who make schedules, put effort into sticking to them, and get actively perturbed when their schedule is interrupted, who keep their personal spaces organized, who plan rather than improvise, & who take the time to organize a relatively concrete list of values, even if only internally in their head, rather than going off of vibes or gut feelings.

Are they perhaps more inclined to feel favorably about laws, traditions, and structures than non-lawful people? Sure. But they can be dismissive or resentful to any of those things as well while still maintaining a personal order within the space they can exert some control over.

An excellent example of a perfectly valid interpretation of Law which nevertheless would be at least an awkward fit, if not actually at odds with the way I tend to understand the orderly alignments. For example, to me it would seem strange to divorce Law and Chaos from one's relationships with other people and focus purely on the personal sphere, much like how Good and Evil tend to be defined at least in large part by interactions with others.

At the same time, while I would expect Lawful ideals to lead to Lawful behaviours, I tend to de-emphasize personality traits as alignment factors. Most such descriptions are usually harmless, but when I see descriptions of Lawful characters being inherently organised by nature, it makes me wonder if this system would shoehorn a person with ADHD into Chaos if they cannot maintain a sufficient standard of organization, regardless what their personal beliefs may be. Likewise, when I see mention that those who would dislike their schedule being disrupted tend to be Lawful, I wonder the same for autistic folk who display that trait.

Of course, I doubt any of that was your intention; I'm not trying to...

I think you are over thinking it.

A lawful character being more organized does not mean that a chaotic character cannot be organized in their own way. A chaotic character being spontaneous does not mean a lawful character cannot do spontaneous stuff. The important thing is that alignment is a generalized description of the entire character, so what matters is how the character acts overall not just in a specific circumstance (baring certain exceptions).

Not to mention the fact that ADHD and Autism are way to incredibly complex and varied for the whole thing to be tagged with an alignment. Maybe a specific expression of those conditions, but not the entire condition. For example, a person with ADHD might be incredibly obsessed with organizing something, but could otherwise be completely chaotic about how they live. Or an autistic person could be very chaotic about certain things, but act entirely lawful at all other times.

In short alignment is the average, then apply any exceptions (Ex: Reading from the book of the dammed).


Sibelius Eos Owm wrote:

There is a fascinating lore question in there that I don't know we will ever get a clean-cut answer on, which is fundamental to the existence of undead in the setting. If there is a way to create an ethically sourced facsimile soul out of positive energy in order to power a golem without resorting to elemental slavery, there must be something which prevents doing the same for a corpse.

A corpse is rather famously designed for the purpose of bearing a soul fuelled by positive energy, one would think the easiest way to get one moving again would be to fill it with more of the same energy it used to have in life. As necromancers no doubt discovered long ago, however, this clearly doesn't work that way. It is somehow easier to use the exact opposite kind of energy and twist it against its nature in order to cause a body to move.

Mind you, I'm not saying that this makes no sense and there is no reason--there's clearly supposed to be some reason we simply don't know yet, and which it's possible the setting's lore writers don't have nailed down yet. Even so, it is funny and interesting that you can sew a bunch of corpses together and turn them into a object that is animated by lightning and piloted by a pseudo-soul when you can't put that same pseudo-soul into a regular corpse.

Umm, just cast animate objects on the corpse.

Y'know what, this bugs me enough that I'm going to start my own thread.


Freehold DM wrote:
I'm going to start again probably because of this thread. Which is fascinating as I am a die hard 3.x/PF1e edition warrior.

... The NPC class?

(I kid - may you have the temerity and perseverance you need to complete your quest!)


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Sibelius Eos Owm wrote:
FormerFiend wrote:

I'll say that my own view on the lawful alignment has more to do with a value on structure in one's personal life than an automatic value towards social structure & conventions. I think of lawful characters as the ones who make schedules, put effort into sticking to them, and get actively perturbed when their schedule is interrupted, who keep their personal spaces organized, who plan rather than improvise, & who take the time to organize a relatively concrete list of values, even if only internally in their head, rather than going off of vibes or gut feelings.

Are they perhaps more inclined to feel favorably about laws, traditions, and structures than non-lawful people? Sure. But they can be dismissive or resentful to any of those things as well while still maintaining a personal order within the space they can exert some control over.

An excellent example of a perfectly valid interpretation of Law which nevertheless would be at least an awkward fit, if not actually at odds with the way I tend to understand the orderly alignments. For example, to me it would seem strange to divorce Law and Chaos from one's relationships with other people and focus purely on the personal sphere, much like how Good and Evil tend to be defined at least in large part by interactions with others.

At the same time, while I would expect Lawful ideals to lead to Lawful behaviours, I tend to de-emphasize personality traits as alignment factors. Most such descriptions are usually harmless, but when I see descriptions of Lawful characters being inherently organised by nature, it makes me wonder if this system would shoehorn a person with ADHD into Chaos if they cannot maintain a sufficient standard of organization, regardless what their personal beliefs may be. Likewise, when I see mention that those who would dislike their schedule being disrupted tend to be Lawful, I wonder the same for autistic folk who display that trait.

Of course, I doubt any of that was your intention; I'm not trying to...

Those are absolutely valid concerns, though I'd argue that there's a bit of a semantic dispute over whether how someone feels about a vague concept is any less a personality trait than how they behave.

I'm reminded of a, I'm gonna say tumblr post Ive seen going around of a person lamenting the following:

1. That they know they personally function best when under a rigid structure & constraints.
2. That they're personally entirely incapable of setting that structure themselves.
3. That they're resentful when other people impose the structure on them.

Is that person lawful because they think a structured system is the best and acknowledge that they'd theive under it? Or are they chaotic because they fundamentally can't behave in a structed way on their own & resent people forcing it? I have no idea, you can go either way.

That being said, I'm inclined to go towards personality traits as a baseline for alignment because if we work under the framework of, alignment is a fundamental aspect of the universe, then it follows to me that a person's alignment should be reflective of the most fundamental parts of themselves.

And I don't like thinking about in societal terms because that tends to have its own problematic elements along the lines of, "this society visually looks like my preconceived notion of what an orderly, structured society looks like, so it's lawful." Without taking the time to examine the social structures in place or ask why one form of social structure is lawful & one isn't. Why is an established system of social advancement based on killing linnorns more chaotic than the random genetic chance of inherited monarchy?

I actually feel significantly more comfortable making value judgments on societies and cultures on the good/evil axis than on the law/chaos one because the latter veers into very uncomfortable territory where as the former can boil down to me asserting that yes, institutionalized oppression and harm is bad, actually.

It also involves a lot of, taking institutions at face value that they actually are orderly & structured things that promote social stability without examing that claim.

And assuming stability is the metric, is it internal stability that's important? Is a nation that is internally stable & ordered & structured, but works to destabilize its neighbors still lawful even though it's intentionally spreading chaos outside its borders?

Structured societies also tend to be built on in groups & out groups. Is the only way someone born to a marginalized group in an oppressive lawful society to remain lawful to accept their oppression? Does rebellion against the state make you chaotic regardless of how orderly of a person you are? Do we let one's alignment be decided by the definitions set down by the oppressors?

A lot of years ago I got into an argument with a group of RA Salvatore fans who insisted that Artemis Entreri, who's canon LE, had to be chaotic because in one scene he was disrespectful towards & threatened to kill a paladin king. The deepest their thoughts on the subject went were, kings= lawful, paladins = lawful, therefore, opposition to paladin king= chaotic.

I am glad we can have a more nuanced talk on the subject now.


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It's a shame I saw this 15 minutes before I due for work! Excellent talking points which I can do nothing to engage with at the moment.

I do have time to say I agree, too much focus on societal definitions would be a challenging definition for Law/Chaos. I tend to think more in one's relationship to society as a whole, ie is one more focused on the wants/needs of a group or of oneself? That can't be the end of it, of course, since that is also part of how Good/Evil works, but again I don't have the time to be clearer.


Lets see if I can steal a minute to cherry pick a response or two...

Quote:
That being said, I'm inclined to go towards personality traits as a baseline for alignment because if we work under the framework of, alignment is a fundamental aspect of the universe, then it follows to me that a person's alignment should be reflective of the most fundamental parts of themselves.

This follows logically; my only objection is mostly a perspective issue--the types of things that come to mind when thinking of personality traits have been comparatively superficial. certainly it stands to reason that ones alignment is reflected in their values and personality, though for me, the larger aspect of alignment is about how one interacts with others...


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As mentioned earlier, I can't speak too much to the headache that is trying to assigned objective alignments to things as large and complex as settlements much less entire societies because I agree, the attempt is a fast way to betray one's biases while getting nowhere, only to further muddle the question of what alignment is actually supposed to mean.

I don't mean to get too off topic (unless we ultimately decide that this I'd the time and place to compare and contrast personal takes) but if I were to revise my original statement slightly, it would be to emphasize personality traits such as "values group harmony and cohesion" and "tends to do as expected of them" rather than things which to me feel less relevant to the interpersonal sphere such as "likes organisation", though I wouldn't necessarily object that Lawful people are more likely than not to fall into that category.

I shouldn't pretend that I have a fully reasoned out definition of Law vs Chaos that had been rigorously tested in all circumstances, but at the most basic I see it as something of a Self vs Other and Self vs Society balance. Someone who tends to prioritize their own freedom to do as they want strays Chaotic, while those who prioritize doing as their society (for many various definitions of Society, down to and including family) expects of them stray Lawful. Good and Evil works on a similar but contextually shifted scale. Of course you've already mentioned a case where this definition doesn't gave am immediate answer--what happens when a lawful individual can't or doesn't want to conform? These are of course tendencies, not hard rules though.

My time us again up, but I feel as if I have said most if what I'd meant to, if perhaps in less a measured manner than hoped.


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Sibelius Eos Owm wrote:

As mentioned earlier, I can't speak too much to the headache that is trying to assigned objective alignments to things as large and complex as settlements much less entire societies because I agree, the attempt is a fast way to betray one's biases while getting nowhere, only to further muddle the question of what alignment is actually supposed to mean.

I don't mean to get too off topic (unless we ultimately decide that this I'd the time and place to compare and contrast personal takes) but if I were to revise my original statement slightly, it would be to emphasize personality traits such as "values group harmony and cohesion" and "tends to do as expected of them" rather than things which to me feel less relevant to the interpersonal sphere such as "likes organisation", though I wouldn't necessarily object that Lawful people are more likely than not to fall into that category.

I shouldn't pretend that I have a fully reasoned out definition of Law vs Chaos that had been rigorously tested in all circumstances, but at the most basic I see it as something of a Self vs Other and Self vs Society balance. Someone who tends to prioritize their own freedom to do as they want strays Chaotic, while those who prioritize doing as their society (for many various definitions of Society, down to and including family) expects of them stray Lawful. Good and Evil works on a similar but contextually shifted scale. Of course you've already mentioned a case where this definition doesn't gave am immediate answer--what happens when a lawful individual can't or doesn't want to conform? These are of course tendencies, not hard rules though.

My time us again up, but I feel as if I have said most if what I'd meant to, if perhaps in less a measured manner than hoped.

I like that idea of valuing group cohesion and going along with group expectation as lawful, and it's certainly a take that if someone were to explain to me why their character was lawful when I didn't interpret them as such based on their behavior, and they went with that, I'd accept as valid.

I'm certainly open to the idea that each alignment spot can contain a variety of characters. Even without sliding up & down on the good/evil axis, not every lawful character needs to be the same or be considered lawful for the same reason.

Though having said that, it is notable that when we do zoom out and look at things on the societal level as presented by the game, historically, it does raise & highlight issues; classically, an orc who's a brutal, violent raider is certainly conforming to the standards and expectations of their society, for example. But we call that society chaotic, and the orcs in it chaotic as a result, because it involves violent disruption of societies around it?

Except, again, classically, hobgoblin society does that same thing - violent disruption of their neighbors. But we call them lawful because the way they do it aesthetically resembles what we think of as a professional military with tight formations, where as the way the orcs do it aesthetically resembles the pop culture image of the wild barbarian hordes just charges wildly.

I suppose you can make an argument on the group cohesion side of that in that while both may have people conforming to their societal expectations, group cohesion in the classic orcish tradition has to be imposed by violence to get the other orcs to listen to you where as in the goblin tradition they're more likely to fall in line and follow barked orders & naturally defer to recognized authority... of course going further down that path opens all the cans of worms as to why racial alignment was always a bad idea, and I don't want to have to litigate that whole argument here.

To be clear, Sibelius, I'm not calling you out for your revised & admittedly incomplete definitions. Like I said, I like them. I'm just musing on how shallow so much of the alignment system is, historically speaking.

The more I talk about this the more I find that I'm talking myself out of the alignment system almost all together. I certainly find myself agreeing with your earlier response to Freehold DM that while an overhaul of the system would be a good idea, in practice it wouldn't amount to much.


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FormerFiend wrote:

Though having said that, it is notable that when we do zoom out and look at things on the societal level as presented by the game, historically, it does raise & highlight issues; classically, an orc who's a brutal, violent raider is certainly conforming to the standards and expectations of their society, for example. But we call that society chaotic, and the orcs in it chaotic as a result, because it involves violent disruption of societies around it?

Except, again, classically, hobgoblin society does that same thing - violent disruption of their neighbors. But we call them lawful because the way they do it aesthetically resembles what we think of as a professional military with tight formations, where as the way the orcs do it aesthetically resembles the pop culture image of the wild barbarian hordes just charges wildly.

I suppose you can make an argument on the group cohesion side of that in that while both may have people conforming to their societal expectations, group cohesion in the classic orcish tradition has to be imposed by violence to get the other orcs to listen to you where as in the goblin tradition they're more likely to fall in line and follow barked orders & naturally defer to recognized authority... of course going further down that path opens all the cans of worms as to why racial alignment was always a bad idea, and I don't want to have to litigate that whole argument here.

Ah, I knew I would miss something small but important!

To preface, this does get a little close to dipping its toes in ascribing alignment values to societies (in the civilization sense, not the social club sense obviously), which you already know I'm rather skeptical about, but I think not so far that it stops making sense and keeps the focus on alignment as a personal quality.

First of all, I think your post absolutely nails a weak spot in the guidelines as I've presented them so far, and touches on a significant distinction in the characterisation between hobgoblins and orcs in general (or hobgoblins and bugbears, but though both be goblinoids the latter is considerably less iconic in their depiction). Also, you're definitely right, trailing down this road too far can quickly get into some crappy territory wrt fantasy racism and stereotypes. To that end, we'll be clear that we are describing a stereotypical Belkzen orc (CE) and perhaps a stereotypical Oprak hobgoblin (LE - I don't actually know anywhere else hobgoblins live).

A distinct but closely related aspect of how I think of Law and Chaos is that a Lawful creature, from their preference for placing the group's cohesion above the wants of the individual, also values having formalized and impersonal systems to mediate within the group (where the 'Law' comes in, but this is not necessarily specific to the laws of a society). While I would suggest that few people truly enjoy being told what to do, I imagine that Lawful creatures are more likely to tolerate formal hierarchies, seeing the value in respecting the authority of those higher in statue by virtue of their position more than out of personal respect.

It's easy to see this at work at the structure of a large settlement--indeed it would be difficult for such things to exist without some degree of system managing the interactions of individuals on a far larger scale than any of their social circles could allow--but it can arise in any level of social unit. For example, Romans saw the ideal family structure as a microcosm of their society's structure, with the head of the family as if the ruler of their (really, his, but that's another matter) homestead, with status descending from eldest to the youngest both in authority and responsibility.

Conversely, while Chaos prizes individual freedom, the benchmarks are naturally based on a human standard, and humans are social creatures. Any Chaotic creature of sufficient capability may well set out from their society to be alone and thus find the ultimate freedom from the wants and expectations of others, but for most the appeal of a social group still outweighs the cost to their freedom (if indeed they had the option in the first place). However, following from their preference to place their own freedom over the demands of the group, they are more likely to value an informal system that allows for personal respect and influence to hold sway.

Of course, I would suggest that both LG and CG each value harmony and freedom--but inevitably these ideals come into conflict on some level, so on which side the preference falls. More freedom to act as one pleases, at the risk of upsetting one another or hurting feelings, or better harmony among the group, but at the cost of swallowing one's pride now and then.

(As for CE and LE... I am hesitant to make any bold, "it is this way because of that," authorial statements which may fall apart rather quickly if taken too seriously as a finished statement, but if I were to hold myself to it, I might say that while our orc is behaving in accordance with their society's standards as a bloodthirsty raider, their Chaotic alignment suggests that their behaviour follows what they personally want (to kill foes and win personal glory) more than because it is expected of them, or else because they have been convinced to do so out of respect for (or fear of) their leader. The hobgoblin meanwhile may be in the raiding business because it's what they want to do, but they're there because their society values strength through arms and demands service, the reward for which might also be glory and increased status.

I guess one way which the difference might be explained--the orc structure is Chaotic because without the individual respect of their group, an orc leader has nothing, but if a hobgoblin leader doesn't have the respect of their inferiors, they at least still have the respect they hold for the legitimacy of the system (at least up to the top of the system... leaders have to change by some mechanism, so when you have no superiors you will need another means of legitimacy within the system--divine right of kings, popular vote, or otherwise.

---

I find myself falling into the opposite trap of beginning to ramble because I have many trains of thought and few signals when to stop. I think I'll leave it here for now. Either way, it has been a pleasure discussing these ideas with such a cogent and discerning correspondent.


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So I was writing a post in another thread about the orc pantheon & while I was doing so I decided to double check my sources & opened up my copy of Belkzen, Hold of the Orc Hordes, where I read this incredible sentence;

'Yet despite their lack of general "civilization," orcs nevertheless have complex social structures, including their religions[sic] organizations.'*

So at this point, words have lost all meaning in the discussion on alignment.

*Page 27, first paragraph under the "Orc Gods" subheading.

Scarab Sages

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Catching up on this thread has been wild. I think the discourse on Paladins and Lawful Good makes a strong case for why alignment doesn't work. Whose definition of 'Law'? Whose definition of 'Good'? Are those different than the definitions of 'law' or 'good'? Whose definition of Lawful Good? That's not even getting in setting where different Lawful Good gods have different takes on what those are.

For example, Erastil and Ragathiel probably have different takes on what that entails. A god of community is less likely to see every criminal as a place to sheathe your sword in the same way the god of killing evil beings is. A Paladin of Abadar (LN) is going to have a different take on the above conflict than a Paladin of Sheyln (NG). So if I'm a GM using this world, whose version of Lawful, Good, and/or Lawful Good am I supposed to use to mediate the game? It becomes easiest to ignore it, stick to cause and tenants, and get on with life.


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zeonsghost wrote:

Catching up on this thread has been wild. I think the discourse on Paladins and Lawful Good makes a strong case for why alignment doesn't work. Whose definition of 'Law'? Whose definition of 'Good'? Are those different than the definitions of 'law' or 'good'? Whose definition of Lawful Good? That's not even getting in setting where different Lawful Good gods have different takes on what those are.

For example, Erastil and Ragathiel probably have different takes on what that entails. A god of community is less likely to see every criminal as a place to sheathe your sword in the same way the god of killing evil beings is. A Paladin of Abadar (LN) is going to have a different take on the above conflict than a Paladin of Sheyln (NG). So if I'm a GM using this world, whose version of Lawful, Good, and/or Lawful Good am I supposed to use to mediate the game? It becomes easiest to ignore it, stick to cause and tenants, and get on with life.

The fact that the nine-point Alignment system encompasses many different individual sets of values is... kind of the point, though.

It's not supposed to be a shorthand for your character's beliefs and personality. There are billions of possibilities for that, not nine. Alignment represents your ALIGNMENT with the planar axes representing fundamental forces. It's not that hard to see that a character who is marked Neutral or Evil is tending oddly toward being giving and benevolent, and tell the player to correct their sheet. It's not hard to observe that a character who is allegedly Lawful is playing fast and loose with the rules of organizations they're not even opposing, and tell the player to correct their sheet.

The point is that those pairs of letters on your sheet represent ACTUAL SUPERNATURAL FORCES in the setting. You can have real problems with the philosophy of, say, Ragathiel, and still be Lawful Good, and various spells, weapons, and entities will all recognize you as such.

Scarab Sages

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Kaspyr2077 wrote:


The fact that the nine-point Alignment system encompasses many different individual sets of values is... kind of the point, though.

It's not supposed to be a shorthand for your character's beliefs and personality. There are billions of possibilities for that, not nine. Alignment represents your ALIGNMENT with the planar axes representing fundamental forces. It's not that hard to see that a character who is marked Neutral or Evil is tending oddly toward being giving and benevolent, and tell the player to correct their sheet. It's not hard to observe that a character who is allegedly Lawful is playing fast and loose with the rules of organizations they're not even opposing, and tell the player to correct their sheet.

The point is that those pairs of letters on your sheet represent ACTUAL SUPERNATURAL FORCES in the setting. You can have real problems with the philosophy of, say, Ragathiel, and still be Lawful Good, and various spells, weapons, and entities will all recognize you as such.

I don't see how it can this immutable, unchanging, cosmic rule when the highest embodiments of it can have incompatible frameworks within the same 'side' of the chart. You can be Lawful Good and follow the Laws of Mortality, be damned to fade out because you're not the 'right' Lawful Good to get sorted at the boneyard. In that regard, deity matters cosmically as much if not more than alignment in your cosmic role. Without a deity, regardless of alignment the same thing happens.

That's all top of a Paladin pile-up of effectively incompatible nominally Lawful Good ideologies from either LG or LG-adjacent gods. All of that is without getting into the other alignment/deity mismatch conflicts. It just makes the whole thing messy, up to varying interpretation, and tied to player power.

As a GM, I've gotten more play out of telling players of characters with required deities to call their own balls and strikes. It puts playing their character back in their hands instead of leaving it up to our different interpretations of what those two words mean. They're more likely to do something that requires breaking it and dealing with the clean-up if we discuss than its used as a red card.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I think you're trying too hard to categorize things under strict definitions that... isn't really necessary or correct.

That these are broad concepts that reference general trends rather than specific rules is a feature, not a problem. There's no incompatibility or mismatch, there's just broad definitions that can fit a lot of different ideas. That's not a bad thing.

Scarab Sages

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Squiggit wrote:

I think you're trying too hard to categorize things under strict definitions that... isn't really necessary or correct.

That these are broad concepts that reference general trends rather than specific rules is a feature, not a problem. There's no incompatibility or mismatch, there's just broad definitions that can fit a lot of different ideas. That's not a bad thing.

This is why I don't like alignment. We've got some folks like you saying its broad and lacks strict definitions. Then there's others saying its something akin to a cosmic constant. With 2E, the rules have a strong alternative framework with the classes tied closest to it that it can be removed. Why not just...remove it? Clerics have their god's edicts. Champions have that plus cause.

Better than reading 'demon-blooded sorcs should be evil b/c evil blood'.


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zeonsghost wrote:

I don't see how it can this immutable, unchanging, cosmic rule when the highest embodiments of it can have incompatible frameworks within the same 'side' of the chart. You can be Lawful Good and follow the Laws of Mortality, be damned to fade out because you're not the 'right' Lawful Good to get sorted at the boneyard. In that regard, deity matters cosmically as much if not more than alignment in your cosmic role. Without a deity, regardless of alignment the same thing happens.

That's all top of a Paladin pile-up of effectively incompatible nominally Lawful Good ideologies from either LG or LG-adjacent gods. All of that is without getting into the other alignment/deity mismatch conflicts. It just makes the whole thing messy, up to varying interpretation, and tied to player power.

As a GM, I've gotten more play out of telling players of characters with required deities to call their own balls and strikes. It puts playing their character back in their hands instead of leaving it...

... It's not focused on your character or their deity. You're focused on alignment as some kind of stand-in for religious doctrine, and it's not intended to be that at all. The idea of the fundamental, axiomatic forces of Good, Evil, Law, and Chaos in the setting takes place above and beyond your character, their god, or their afterlife. We're talking about grander scale concepts in the setting that make the entire cosmology and its history work the way they do, and that's why it's not a trivial thing to just toss them out - the setting wouldn't survive as-is.

zeonsghost wrote:

This is why I don't like alignment. We've got some folks like you saying its broad and lacks strict definitions. Then there's others saying its something akin to a cosmic constant. With 2E, the rules have a strong alternative framework with the classes tied closest to it that it can be removed. Why not just...remove it? Clerics have their god's edicts. Champions have that plus cause.

Better than reading 'demon-blooded sorcs should be evil b/c evil blood'.

You don't like alignment because some say it is a thing, and others describe that thing in a way that... supports that definition? Each alignment is a cosmic constant with a broad enough definition that there are many different ways to approach it. My post - the one you're referring to with the "cosmic constant" descriptor - says as much on its own.

You could indeed remove alignment, but doing so would uproot the premise behind several important setting elements, in Golarion or in any official D&D setting. If you play a homebrew without those, or you never engage with them, feel free to ignore them at your table. But this is why alignment isn't going away.

On a better note, I agree with you on the idea that it's not great to force characters to be Evil based on their blood, even should they draw power from it, and I think most other posters disliked it as well.

Silver Crusade

zeonsghost wrote:
Why not just...remove it?

Because it's an iconic part of the game, nothing more, nothing less.

The 9 Grid system is a alignment system. It's not THE alignment system, it's not the best alignment system, it's a alignment system that is iconic to Pathfinder.

You can remove just like you can remove classes and levels, but the more you overhaul/take away the less the game is Pathfinder. You're not playing "wrong" if you're having fun, and you're still playing a game, but are you still playing Pathfinder at that point is the question if you keep removing iconic things.

Errenor wrote:
But Chilling Darkness is 'evil'. Just because it does additional damage to celestials.
Chilling Darkness wrote:
You shoot an utterly cold ray of darkness tinged with unholy energy.

"This spell is powered by evil and so it has the Evil tag" is... a pretty good justification for it being Evil.

The issue is Shadow Sorcerer's being stuck with it, not the spell itself.

Hillary Moon Murphy wrote:
But that's a fallacy. No one is neutral about everything.

Precisely, it's always seemed kinda ridiculous to me that they've claimed we can't do this/have to do this cause the -N alignments/creatures/gods are all about balance when... absolutely none of them are about Balance more or less.

Proteans aren't about balance.
Valkyrie aren't about balance.
Psychopomps aren't about balance.
Axiomites aren't about balance.
Inevitables aren't about balance.

Until Aeons were introduced "balance" was just an outlook certain PCs took when they wrote TN on their sheet.

Each of those Outsiders/Immortals and their higher ups can have Champions because they have Causes they strive for.


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FormerFiend wrote:

So I was writing a post in another thread about the orc pantheon & while I was doing so I decided to double check my sources & opened up my copy of Belkzen, Hold of the Orc Hordes, where I read this incredible sentence;

'Yet despite their lack of general "civilization," orcs nevertheless have complex social structures, including their religions[sic] organizations.'*

So at this point, words have lost all meaning in the discussion on alignment.

*Page 27, first paragraph under the "Orc Gods" subheading.

Hah, it would certainly seem so! On the one hand, I don't mind chalking up that line to what I'd said in my last post about larger societies inherently needing some kind of social structures to mediate interactions between people on a far larger scale than can be handled by personal social circles. On the other, it definitely adds exciting new challenges for the vision of alignment I've presented so far!

I had already been thinking yesterday about the problem of larger-scale societies formed of typically chaotic individuals--namely given that I'd somewhat tacitly implied that lawful groups are more likely to form larger settlements. The elves and drow first came to mind, covering both ends of the Chaos spectrum and with large and presumably complex societies, but the orcs also more than qualify--being as their capital city is actually one of the single most populous settlements in northwest Avistan, surpassed only by the massive port city Kalsgard in that region.

I think it would be logical to conclude that Chaos is not in itself anathematic to large societies, but as you point out it still does raise the question of how chaotic alignments are defined.

If I were to continue hammering this square peg into the round hole (and I will because it's been entertaining to puzzle over), I would move that the complexity of a society are a function of its size, not the alignment preferences of its people. While I allowed the implication to stand that, because Lawful creatures prize group cohesion over personal freedom, they form larger settlements, I should amend my focus to the likelihood that they would thrive in the structures that are required for any large society to exist.

With this view in mind, I think my suggestion that chaotic creatures would still form societies stands, though if they had the option they would prefer social structures which make few demands on their freedom, or at least failing that, few that force them to bow in respect to authority without establishing some reason (personal power or charisma, for example) that they have earned it. If they don't have the option, they may just chafe in a system that demands compliance and possibly rebel where they can or find places where they can let out the tension.

I concede this doesn't very well help with how blurry the lines keep getting. I am tempted to draw inspiration from the social structures of pirate crews, with their rather egalitarian democracies and common motivation, but one might just as well point to their contracts as lawfulness in minutia.

Naturally, alignment can only describe net tendencies, but with goalposts that move as quickly as these, I couldn't blame anyone for getting fed up with alignment and throwing their hands in the air. I have myself more than once. The tension between Society/Other vs. Self remains my best rationalization of Law and Chaos, but I would wager that very few social creatures ever choose entirely to adhere to expectations or reject the demands of the social contract.

(After all, there's still the question/problem of what happens when a lawful character can't or doesn't want to follow an unjust or unfair law. I'm inclined to believe that even a hypothetical Lawful Champion acknowledges that mortal laws are imperfect expressions of order and may need to be changed or even in rare circumstances broken, but that doesn't really answer for an extremely ambiguous situation)

---

Unrelated:

zeonsghost wrote:
You can be Lawful Good and follow the Laws of Mortality, be damned to fade out because you're not the 'right' Lawful Good to get sorted at the boneyard.

I don't think this is accurate, if I have parsed your meaning correctly. If you are Lawful Good and have led a relatively uncomplicated life, you will simply go to Heaven. Vanishingly few creatures are ever 'damned to fade out' in the Boneyard (unless we mean go to Abaddon). Those who do not have a patron deity simply go to the plane that most closely matches their alignment ideals. What little we know of the Laws of Mortality does not suggest that its adherents become dissident souls.


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My issue with the BHotOH line is very specifically that the word "civilization" is clearly being used in a coded - not one with intentional malice behind it, but in a way that's nevertheless making specific value judgments one what a society needs to look like to count as a civilization.

Because by the face value definition of it, having 'complex social structures & religious organizations' qualifies.

I'm not opposed to the idea that some societies can be classified as lawful or chaotic in and of itself, but there really needs to be some kind of set criteria for what metric it is. Because otherwise, statements get made that simply make no sense at best.

Like the line of, saying a group has a society but not a civilization, that's something you have to be really careful about because there's a lot of loaded value judgments in there.


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I had been wondering whether those air quotes were from the text. I see your objection much more clearly now and agree, that wording rather misses the mark. It certainly is a bold move describing a nation that has one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements on Avistan as lacking in civilization--at least in such a superficial sense.

Well, no matter, my misunderstanding gave me the excuse I needed to start digging into the question of the more urbanized chaotic societies and correct a previous error by omission. Win-win.

Scarab Sages

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Rysky wrote:
zeonsghost wrote:
Why not just...remove it?

Because it's an iconic part of the game, nothing more, nothing less.

The 9 Grid system is a alignment system. It's not THE alignment system, it's not the best alignment system, it's a alignment system that is iconic to Pathfinder.

You can remove just like you can remove classes and levels, but the more you overhaul/take away the less the game is Pathfinder. You're not playing "wrong" if you're having fun, and you're still playing a game, but are you still playing Pathfinder at that point is the question if you keep removing iconic things.

If I remove class from Pathfinder, the game doesn't run. It's the main tool players use to interface with the game.

If I remove alignment from Pathfinder it runs at 98% (with a couple of spells and specific features needing some wiggling). That's less rules modification than PFS.

Kaspyr2077 wrote:


You don't like alignment because some say it is a thing, and others describe that thing in a way that... supports that definition? Each alignment is a cosmic constant with a broad enough definition that there are many different ways to approach it. My post - the one you're referring to with the "cosmic constant" descriptor - says as much on its own.

You could indeed remove alignment, but doing so would uproot the premise behind several important setting elements, in Golarion or in any official D&D setting. If you play a homebrew without those, or you never engage with them, feel free to ignore them at your table. But this is why alignment isn't going away.

Nobody disagrees that "fighters get expert martial weapon prof at first level". There's no single piece of the game that has so many incompatible takes as to why it should be a permanent, unchanging feature of two different games for decades than alignment. It is less sensible than saying 'PF2E should have AC go the other way b/c that's how D&D was decades", because that's at least a mechanic that does things rather than some inconsistent narrative device that just starts fights.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
zeonsghost wrote:
Why not just...remove it?

I mean, you can if you want, but that won't stop people from having sometimes odd opinions about how flavor and mechanics and setting material should interact.

As I've said before, I'm a little ambivalent on alignment and prefer the way 5e does it and don't see it as a big loss if it's removed, I just think your criticisms are misplaced here.


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zeonsghost wrote:
There's no single piece of the game that has so many incompatible takes as to why it should be a permanent, unchanging feature of two different games for decades than alignment.

Vancian magic says hi.


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Maybe it's just because I don't play a lot of casters, but I have never seen a discussion on vancian magic get anywhere near as heated as a debate on alignment.

People can be for it or against it, but it's a matter of preference, not ethical, moral, & philosophical debate.


Pathfinder LO Special Edition, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, PF Special Edition Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

My other favorite RPG, Harnmaster, doesn't use alignment. Instead it has two somewhat related attributes: morality and piety.

Morality: Numerical attribute. Ethical integrity, generally a measure of a character’s selflessness. In general, characters select, rather than randomly generate Morality. The GM adjusts the attribute according to character actions. The scale runs from 3 or less (Diabolical) to 17+ (Exemplary).

Piety: Numerical attribute. A measure of a character’s standing (favour or karm a) with her/his chosen DEITY. Piety is measured in Piety Points which are accumulated by doing service for the god/temple, and expended by calling for divine intervention. A running total of PPs must, therefore, be kept for each character. Piety is generated for new characters by rolling 5d6. For information on the accrual and expenditure of piety see Religion article Piety Table: Religion 6.

I wonder if N. Robin Crossby (author of Harnmaster) ever read Rand's "The Virtue of Selfishness". :-)


zeonsghost wrote:


Nobody disagrees that "fighters get expert martial weapon prof at first level". There's no single piece of the game that has so many incompatible takes as to why it should be a permanent, unchanging feature of two different games for decades than alignment. It is less sensible than saying 'PF2E should have AC go the other way b/c that's how D&D was decades", because that's at least a mechanic that does things rather...

The specifics of how the math of AC work aren't reflected in the game setting. 3.0 removed THAC0 and created a much simpler, more intuitive way of resolving the math of combat, and there was no need to justify that specific thing in-character, should you port your AD&D2 campaign over. The Forgotten Realms underwent another world-shaking event to change it to reflect the new rules content, but none of that really addressed the way swords and armor intersected.

Alignment isn't really a mechanic in the same way. It's a setting element upon which some rules hang. All official settings have been created with Alignment in mind, and it's baked into the setting at a fundamental level. The cosmology as established requires Alignment to function as they are.

Removing Alignment involves destroying the cosmology of any official setting. You could scratch out that part of your character sheet and not do that, I suppose, but that's not removing Alignment. That's papering it over.


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I feel like that's a circular argument; we need the alignment system because the cosmology depends on it, but it assumes every cosmology is or has to be built on the foundation of the alignment chart.

Now, the fact that assumption isn't true aside, it is true that Golarion's cosmology is built on it & its a little late to wholesale pull it out.

But you could probably work towards a functional version of "alignment as a fundamental force exists in the outer sphere of planes but is too muddled in the prime material to have a real effect."


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I'm sorry for the late reply. I've been sick with COVID since my last posts here. Here's hoping that my feeling better enough to sit at my PC is a sign of my being on the mend.

-----

Also, as a preface to my reply below, let it be known that I'm a combat as warfare and simulationist type or a rules-light and nearly enough 100% freeform gamer these days. I don't tend to have a lot of use for things that fall in the middle, even if I do have a nostalgic soft spot for D&D 3.x and Pathfinder 1.

Kaspyr2077 wrote:
There is a concept known as "verisimilitude." It's the quality of a work of fiction where it might operate under very, very different rules from our own world, but it's internally consistent enough to allow for suspension of disbelief and immersion.

I understand verisimilitude and I would argue that alignment, as written in Pathfinder, lacks it. Alignment cannot be a vague and unknowable thing in a universe where Good/Evil and Law/Chaos exist on opposing axis. Yet Pathfinder treats it as both a fundamental force capable of forming planes of existence and defining one's relationship with their diety while also treating it as something that's entirely vague and left up to interpretation.

1. In Golarion, Good, Evil, Law, and Chaos are real, fundamental forces. They're SUPER simple. Good = general benevolence, willing to expend time, effort, or other resources to benefit others more than the self. Evil = general selfishness, willing (possibly even happy) to hurt others to benefit the self. Law = a tendency to value traditions, routines, and other social norms and expectations. Chaos = valuing freedom and fluidity over structures. Neutrality is a point between either pair where you couldn't be said to be decidedly one or the other. That's it.

How good is saving a person from a situation that presents a moderate risk to your well-being? How evil is walking past a beggar on the street when you've more than enough coin that sparing some wouldn't harm your finances? Does saving a dozen puppies equal saving a single human?

These are questions that the system cannot even start to answer because the writers haven't taken a stand on what each axis of alignment stands for beyond a paltry 250 words.

Quote:
2. There are hundreds of gods with their own values that exist within the nine-point grid the above system creates. You could choose to follow any one of these dozens of belief sets, or you could choose to follow some other set of values, and that's an entirely valid way to live your life.

That doesn't change how alignment should work in a logical universe. There should be a hard and fast quanta of alignment that, much like spooky action at a distance, seem to act instantly and impact the souls of all beings in the universe. Even if it can't be measured precisely by the people of the universe, or even by the gods, it feels like we as outsides to all of it should probably have the information to make sure alignment works correctly at all tables.

Quote:
<snip 3 & 4>

That doesn't help anything. Just saying that alignment is fuzzy and no two people will agree on it is why I think the 3x3 alignment grid is terribly flawed.

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In short, on the ground level, it's not too dissimilar to our world in many ways. If you can't suspend your disbelief this far, what are you looking for in a fantasy TTRPG?

Fantasy can have rules for underlying systems that our world lacks. Ars Magica comes to mind for this as do other systems that use skill tests for various kinds of magical affinity. If you can boil down something as wide-ranging as magic into a logical system I don't see why you can't do the same with alignment, except that the writers know that doing so would step on too many toes.


For those who may not be aware, the most significant element of the Lost Omens lore in which alignment plays a major role is in the purpose and function of the afterlife. The multiverse depends upon packets of quintessence and positive energy (called 'souls' in the vernacular) to be distributed across the planes, and it was decided long ago to let the energy itself decide which plane it got sent to. Alignment isn't the sole factor in this, but it is one of the larger. Pharasma and her Court are the final arbiters on disputed soul claims when a soul's history makes its destination ambiguous.

Of course, another is just the central defining aspect of various families of outer planar beings - devils are in part defined by their LE-ness, distinct from demons and their CE-ness. This part would be not too much more difficult to ignore aside from the fact celestials and fiends very often have weakness and bonus damage based on their alignments.

Not to say alignment never causes problems in the lore, either. May be personal but I find there's a sort of weirdness reading about the manasaputras living in the Positive Energy Plane and then realising that these beings who have attained enlightenment through lifetimes of reincarnation are basically just another type of LG celestial who happen not to be located at the mountain. It's a little like discovering a pokemon based on a cool and unique aquatic organism and then realising that it's fundamentally got the same typing as every other Water pokemon out there.


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Sibelius Eos Owm wrote:
Of course, another is just the central defining aspect of various families of outer planar beings - devils are in part defined by their LE-ness, distinct from demons and their CE-ness. This part would be not too much more difficult to ignore aside from the fact celestials and fiends very often have weakness and bonus damage based on their alignments.

Make it so that the damage isn't based on alignment but by a magical pact signed eons ago that makes what is currently alignment damage work the way we're used to. It's simple, works mechanically, and lacks many of the flaws that alignment does while also giving strong fluff to tie the mechanic too.


FormerFiend wrote:

I feel like that's a circular argument; we need the alignment system because the cosmology depends on it, but it assumes every cosmology is or has to be built on the foundation of the alignment chart.

Now, the fact that assumption isn't true aside, it is true that Golarion's cosmology is built on it & its a little late to wholesale pull it out.

But you could probably work towards a functional version of "alignment as a fundamental force exists in the outer sphere of planes but is too muddled in the prime material to have a real effect."

If the game were designed today, it probably wouldn't be so Eternal Champions influenced, and the system and any settings designed for play using that system probably wouldn't have Alignment as a feature. However, at this point, there are several decades of existing tradition. It's self-perpetuating. A D&D or spin-off system is going to have Alignment, because the existing settings require it. A new official setting will probably have Alignment, to honor that tradition and take advantage of all the stuff written for it.

Nothing prevents a new setting from taking a different direction entirely. For a homebrew, feel free. A new official setting... probably won't, but easily could. There's just too much weight of tradition, at this point.


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Is that really true, though? Forgotten Realms' cosmology is based on that setting's pantheon with each of the major gods having their own plane that lesser gods aligned with or subservient to them also occupy, without actual Alignment having anything to do with it.

While it wasn't met with universal acclaim, 4e's world axis cosmology was also largely divorced from the Alignment system. Had a bit of "astral sea is law, elemental chaos is...chaos" to it but but it wasn't a clean divide & was more bast on the theogeny of that edition than alignment.

So it *can* be done, even ignoring how many preexisting settings got ogl books during the 3.5 years & threw it out all together.


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S.L.Acker wrote:
Sibelius Eos Owm wrote:
Of course, another is just the central defining aspect of various families of outer planar beings - devils are in part defined by their LE-ness, distinct from demons and their CE-ness. This part would be not too much more difficult to ignore aside from the fact celestials and fiends very often have weakness and bonus damage based on their alignments.
Make it so that the damage isn't based on alignment but by a magical pact signed eons ago that makes what is currently alignment damage work the way we're used to. It's simple, works mechanically, and lacks many of the flaws that alignment does while also giving strong fluff to tie the mechanic too.

I don't think it's simple, works mechanically, and doesn't lack many of the flaws that alignment does. In fact, I think it makes things pointlessly complicated, doesn't work out mechanically, and introduces new flaws that otherwise weren't present before that doesn't match up to what the current fluff is.

First off, it's already pretty simple as to how it works, why change what isn't broken? Nobody is saying the Alignment system is perfect, but it's certainly not the beaten, battered, unuseful system that everyone makes it out to be, and one of the biggest reasons why it hasn't been redone is both in parts of Tradition (but really, tradition isn't good when it ceases to be a useful function), but also because it simply hasn't been improved upon (at least on the alignment side of things) this whole time. Nobody has come up with a satisfying way to compromise these things, and even Paizo has done this before with PF1 alignment system suggestions being on a scale of 1 to 10.

Second off, I don't find that it works mechanically since this leaves a lot of gray area for non-planar beings whom have a "pre-destined" set of behaviors or tendencies, and are essentially bound by the powers that be. How do you determine if a character takes Good or Evil damage? Does a GM just decide it happens, and the PC has to just suffer the consequences? Sounds like bad GMing to me. What about non-planar NPCs? Sure, it makes more sense for the GM to decide this here, but none of them "signed a magical pact," so using that as justification for Joe the Fence to take Good damage seems absurd if he's never dealt with such stuff to begin with as a character. Now, if Joe the Fence is actually a Devil in Disguise, then sure! But again, odds are, Joe the Fence isn't a Devil in Disguise, so this feels like strawman material.

Third off, these entities aren't written in-lore to take alignment damage because they "signed a magical pact." That would work for maybe Asmodeus and his Devils, but that's it. Anyone else? Nope. They don't particularly operate under magical pacts, nor has it ever been the standard for anyone outside of Asmodeus, whom is a literal God of Contracts, of which a pact is a form of. Even despite that, they take that type of damage because they are essentially planar beings with an energy type they are comprised of (which is alignment based) that is antithetical to an opposing type of energy (which is again, also alignment based), which makes far more sense than "Alex the Angel of Nirvana signed a magical pact to gain his Good powers and take Evil damage as part of the agreement, with an opt-out Fallen Angel clause to inverse these benefits and drawbacks at any time."


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Darksol the Painbringer wrote:
introduces new flaws that otherwise weren't present before that doesn't match up to what the current fluff is.

Any attempt to remove alignment will have to result in a change to existing fluff. I just hope that Paizo actually bothers to write said fluff this time instead of just making retcons and expecting us to roll with it.

Quote:
First off, it's already pretty simple as to how it works, why change what isn't broken?

Alignment is broken though. It's a massive grey area that always needs to be hammered out before a new player joins a group. There isn't a RAW way to interpret something that should be as regular and predictable as gravity to people of that universe. I see that as reason enough to either make it a major mechanical part of the setting with proper rules or ditch it entirely.

Quote:
Second off, I don't find that it works mechanically since this leaves a lot of gray area for non-planar beings whom have a "pre-destined" set of behaviors or tendencies, and are essentially bound by the powers that be. How do you determine if a character takes Good or Evil damage? Does a GM just decide it happens, and the PC has to just suffer the consequences? Sounds like bad GMing to me. What about non-planar NPCs? Sure, it makes more sense for the GM to decide this here, but none of them "signed a magical pact," so using that as justification for Joe the Fence to take Good damage seems absurd if he's never dealt with such stuff to begin with as a character. Now, if Joe the Fence is actually a Devil in Disguise, then sure! But again, odds are, Joe the Fence isn't a Devil in Disguise, so this feels like strawman material.

They take neutral damage or they take no damage, I'd lean towards them taking neutral damage.

Quote:
Third off, these entities aren't written in-lore to take alignment damage because they "signed a magical pact." That would work for maybe Asmodeus and his Devils, but that's it. Anyone else? Nope. They don't particularly operate under magical pacts, nor has it ever been the standard for anyone outside of Asmodeus, whom is a literal God of Contracts, of which a pact is a form of. Even despite that, they take that type of damage because they are essentially planar beings with an energy type they are comprised of (which is alignment based) that is antithetical to an opposing type of energy (which is again, also alignment based), which makes far more sense than "Alex the Angel of Nirvana signed a magical pact to gain his Good powers and take Evil damage as part of the agreement, with an opt-out Fallen Angel clause to inverse these benefits and drawbacks at any time."

Given that you already have to make major lore changes to remove alignment, include these details into that retcon. Heck, why can't it already be penned into the Contract of Creation that Asmodeus is already credited with? That thing has to be so convoluted and difficult to parse that it contains all sorts of clauses and contingencies just waiting to be triggered that have never been presented in lore to this point.


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FormerFiend wrote:

Is that really true, though? Forgotten Realms' cosmology is based on that setting's pantheon with each of the major gods having their own plane that lesser gods aligned with or subservient to them also occupy, without actual Alignment having anything to do with it.

While it wasn't met with universal acclaim, 4e's world axis cosmology was also largely divorced from the Alignment system. Had a bit of "astral sea is law, elemental chaos is...chaos" to it but but it wasn't a clean divide & was more bast on the theogeny of that edition than alignment.

So it *can* be done, even ignoring how many preexisting settings got ogl books during the 3.5 years & threw it out all together.

I would like to say that in spite of the point I'm making here, in general I don't think that we *need* to rely on precedent to justify change, and I don't find arguments of "we have it because we've always had it", "it's that way because it's always been that way", or "it's self perpetuating" to be compelling or valid.

If I were to go out & publish a new setting tomorrow using a ruleset of the d20 lineage, I'm under no obligation to incorporate a cosmology based or reliant on the alignment chart, even if no one had ever done it before. Might take some minor to moderate modification to the rules, but it's achieable, viable, & valid.

Now it's trickier when talking in terms of pf2e specifically because the system is wholly invested in the Lost Omens setting which did base its cosmology on that model & we may never escape the long term ramifications of paizo initially selling itself as the safe place security blanket doubling down on the familiar for everyone who was afraid of all the change WotC where forcing on them with 4e.

But that doesn't mean we can't or shouldn't reexamine all the sacred cows every few years.


FormerFiend wrote:

Is that really true, though? Forgotten Realms' cosmology is based on that setting's pantheon with each of the major gods having their own plane that lesser gods aligned with or subservient to them also occupy, without actual Alignment having anything to do with it.

While it wasn't met with universal acclaim, 4e's world axis cosmology was also largely divorced from the Alignment system. Had a bit of "astral sea is law, elemental chaos is...chaos" to it but but it wasn't a clean divide & was more bast on the theogeny of that edition than alignment.

So it *can* be done, even ignoring how many preexisting settings got ogl books during the 3.5 years & threw it out all together.

I would like to say that in spite of the point I'm making here, in general I don't think that we *need* to rely on precedent to justify change, and I don't find arguments of "we have it because we've always had it", "it's that way because it's always been that way", or "it's self perpetuating" to be compelling or valid.

If I were to go out & publish a new setting tomorrow using a ruleset of the d20 lineage, I'm under no obligation to incorporate a cosmology based or reliant on the alignment chart, even if no one had ever done it before. Might take some minor to moderate modification to the rules, but it's achieable, viable, & valid.

Now it's trickier when talking in terms of pf2e specifically because the system is wholly invested in the Lost Omens setting which did base its cosmology on that model & we may never escape the long term ramifications of paizo initially selling itself as the safe place security blanket doubling down on the familiar for everyone who was afraid of all the change WotC where forcing on them with 4e.

But that doesn't mean we can't or shouldn't reexamine all the sacred cows every few years.


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Alignment being a gray area that you have to talk about with your players is the entire point. One of the biggest issues with the various attempts to "fix" alignment is that their attempt almost always is trying to remove it with a more complicated system, all for the sake of not having to deal with talking with other players.

Take the whole moral and piety thing, that version is trying to put hard mechanical connection to what alignment is but its doing it in an even more abstract way than what Paizo uses. A person what is selfish and has high piety to Abadar would have the exact same stat line to someone who is selfish and has high piety to Gorum, but the gods couldn't be farther from each other. Are people really going to tell me that mess of vagueness and extra math because "alignment is too gray" is better than a 2 letter code that perfectly tells you what type of things a character is likely to do without knowing anything else about the character or the setting?

Same issue happens with the whole "just retcon it to be a contract that they took". Alignment is simple, "You behave in X way and so you are X alignment and go to X afterlife". No need for trying to come up with justifications, no need to try figuring out conditions, no need to bend over backwards trying to explain how some random create is X alignment and not another. Meanwhile, just in this thread the people supporting that are trying to explain "how it works if you just add X, Y, and Z then also do a backflip and dance the macarena backwards" (I know I am being a bit facetious with the exaggeration).

The point is that alignment is a simple mechanic that does not hurt the game and makes it extremely easy to communicate regardless of how much of the lore you know. Every single attempt of creating a "gotcha alignment is bad" is done by literally moving the goalpost when the person fails to get the answer they want (as seen with the attempt done vs me).

It being subjective to what the table means? Literally every single rule in the game is subjective to what the table wants to run.
It being overly simplistic? Yeah, its a game not a book on psychology and theology it doesn't have to be hyper precise.
It ignores some stuff that you find important to personality? Alignment is a tool that does one thing very well, stop trying to make it do things it wasn't meant to do; If you need something else just do it instead of trying to jury rig it into alignment.
It doesn't fit your idea of how the game should be? This game was not made for just you, so why should the game devs cater to your tastes while ignoring everyone else? Why would the game devs have to change 10+ years of work just because you dislike how they wrote it?

*******************

The last bit got a bit heated since I also took some frustration out for all the "I don't like X being part of the lore it should be changed" that frequently shows up along side this type of debates.


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It would be entirely consistent with the Pathfinder metaphysics to say that alignment, in the sense of "planar energy aligned with one of the nine outer planes" does not exist in concentrated form in living creatures not native to those planes. In fact, the very point of "life" in the Pathfinder cosmology is to sort the energy that pours out of the Positive Energy Plane into the kinds of energy that can be used to reinforce the outer planes to bolster them against the corrosive influence of the Malestrom.

So you could just say "people don't have alignment" and keep the rest of it, the only real change you'd need to make would be to have Pharasma's judgement involve separating the aligned components of your soul to the appropriate planes with the continuity of "your soul" being tied to whichever kind of energy dominates. So part of your judgement is that she cuts off the impurities (and sends those bits off to the relevant planes.)


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PossibleCabbage wrote:

It would be entirely consistent with the Pathfinder metaphysics to say that alignment, in the sense of "planar energy aligned with one of the nine outer planes" does not exist in concentrated form in living creatures not native to those planes. In fact, the very point of "life" in the Pathfinder cosmology is to sort the energy that pours out of the Positive Energy Plane into the kinds of energy that can be used to reinforce the outer planes to bolster them against the corrosive influence of the Malestrom.

So you could just say "people don't have alignment" and keep the rest of it, the only real change you'd need to make would be to have Pharasma's judgement involve separating the aligned components of your soul to the appropriate planes with the continuity of "your soul" being tied to whichever kind of energy dominates. So part of your judgement is that she cuts off the impurities (and sends those bits off to the relevant planes.)

That's not my ideal solution but I'd 100% take it over what we've currently got.


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S.L.Acker wrote:
Sibelius Eos Owm wrote:
Of course, another is just the central defining aspect of various families of outer planar beings - devils are in part defined by their LE-ness, distinct from demons and their CE-ness. This part would be not too much more difficult to ignore aside from the fact celestials and fiends very often have weakness and bonus damage based on their alignments.
Make it so that the damage isn't based on alignment but by a magical pact signed eons ago that makes what is currently alignment damage work the way we're used to.

Oh, ancient metaphysical pacts among the earliest supernatural denizens of a fledgling universe... that's a pretty compelling idea for an "Extreme Alignment" variation where only outer planar being have strict alignments. Besides which it reminds me of a random fic I scribbled years ago now that I think of it.


PossibleCabbage wrote:

It would be entirely consistent with the Pathfinder metaphysics to say that alignment, in the sense of "planar energy aligned with one of the nine outer planes" does not exist in concentrated form in living creatures not native to those planes. In fact, the very point of "life" in the Pathfinder cosmology is to sort the energy that pours out of the Positive Energy Plane into the kinds of energy that can be used to reinforce the outer planes to bolster them against the corrosive influence of the Malestrom.

So you could just say "people don't have alignment" and keep the rest of it, the only real change you'd need to make would be to have Pharasma's judgement involve separating the aligned components of your soul to the appropriate planes with the continuity of "your soul" being tied to whichever kind of energy dominates. So part of your judgement is that she cuts off the impurities (and sends those bits off to the relevant planes.)

Well there we go. Thank you for articulating that out.


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S.L.Acker wrote:
Darksol the Painbringer wrote:
introduces new flaws that otherwise weren't present before that doesn't match up to what the current fluff is.

Any attempt to remove alignment will have to result in a change to existing fluff. I just hope that Paizo actually bothers to write said fluff this time instead of just making retcons and expecting us to roll with it.

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First off, it's already pretty simple as to how it works, why change what isn't broken?

Alignment is broken though. It's a massive grey area that always needs to be hammered out before a new player joins a group. There isn't a RAW way to interpret something that should be as regular and predictable as gravity to people of that universe. I see that as reason enough to either make it a major mechanical part of the setting with proper rules or ditch it entirely.

Quote:
Second off, I don't find that it works mechanically since this leaves a lot of gray area for non-planar beings whom have a "pre-destined" set of behaviors or tendencies, and are essentially bound by the powers that be. How do you determine if a character takes Good or Evil damage? Does a GM just decide it happens, and the PC has to just suffer the consequences? Sounds like bad GMing to me. What about non-planar NPCs? Sure, it makes more sense for the GM to decide this here, but none of them "signed a magical pact," so using that as justification for Joe the Fence to take Good damage seems absurd if he's never dealt with such stuff to begin with as a character. Now, if Joe the Fence is actually a Devil in Disguise, then sure! But again, odds are, Joe the Fence isn't a Devil in Disguise, so this feels like strawman material.

They take neutral damage or they take no damage, I'd lean towards them taking neutral damage.

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Third off, these entities aren't written in-lore to take alignment damage because they "signed a magical pact." That would work for maybe Asmodeus and his Devils, but that's it. Anyone else? Nope. They don't
...

Paizo doesn't usually retcon their stuff, and if they do, it's solely to avoid copyright laws from other publishers (such as Wizards of the Coast). Otherwise, the setting has remained mostly consistent. There are some lore changes due to results of previous adventure paths reaching their canonical end panning out in the lore, but that's about all the changes there are. Just as well, if there was an opportunity to change or remove Alignment, this was it, so suggesting they need to retcon the Alignment system seems like a flimsy argument when they could have already done so and just...didn't. And I don't think they couldn't have done it, given they already implemented the Causes and Tenets for followers of Deities and Champions, which is quite well done IMO.

Is it really? The book tells you examples of common behaviors with certain alignment types. Odds are, the behaviors done that aren't spelled out in those alignment types can be associated with the most similar alignment. Asking for common sense (yes, I'm aware it's an oxymoron) from player actions isn't the same as having to hammer it out for new players, it's a sanity check for your fellow group. If they can't grasp "Killing an entire village of people just to do so is Evil," you have far bigger issues at the table than "This person doesn't understand how alignment works," and hiding behind that as a reason for "Alignment is Broken" isn't really a sensible argument to be had.

Not only does Neutral Damage sound silly and is even more ambiguous than alignment-based damage, the idea that mortals are considered Neutral until they die and become one with the planes isn't one that makes sense within the current narrative of the setting, which is that the planar energies themselves are charged and are affected by their antithetical effects, not the PCs being equally affected by both types transforming into "neutrality" when coming into contact with them. The aligned energy isn't written to work that way. Just as well, it's established in the setting that characters of certain upbringings and power emanate an aura of a given alignment that they represent, so the idea that mortals are considered Neutral until dead is also debunked if they can emanate alignment-based energies.

Because it's quite clear from the setting that Asmodeus, while he's the God of Contracts, also isn't the God of Everything by being the God of Contracts, and the writers didn't write the setting that way for obvious reasons (one being that this is extremely boring monotheism for a fantasy setting). In short, if you decide to retcon things like that into something you're suggesting, the setting loses a lot, and I mean a lot of the robustness of the lore, to the point that it's a completely different universe with a completely different outlook and expectation. Who needs the other Gods in the picture when Asmodeus does everything through a piece of paper that's infinity pages long, and defying it means you are met with His wrath, which is even longer than his Contract? How can we allow spontaneity and chaos to exist when we have The Contract in place, which prevents this from coming to pass? Things become so boring and predictable that it might as well play out like a scripted movie instead of something that is actually changed based on the decisions I make as a player/character.

Don't get me wrong, I imagine this is some Devil-worshipping Lawyer's twisted form of Heaven, but it's also clearly not what this universe was meant to represent based on the factor that Asmodeus, while he is important, also isn't the Center of the Universe, and suggesting that it should be that way shows how little creativity and entertainment such a game would possess.


FormerFiend wrote:
Is that really true, though? Forgotten Realms' cosmology is based on that setting's pantheon with each of the major gods having their own plane that lesser gods aligned with or subservient to them also occupy, without actual Alignment having anything to do with it.

Uhhh... false. Search "forgotten realm wiki planes" and the first thing you'll see is a chart showing the planes as a Great Wheel, with the topmost level of organization being direction indicating Alignment. Good at the top, Chaos to the right, Evil at the bottom, Law to the left. So...

FormerFiend wrote:
While it wasn't met with universal acclaim, 4e's world axis cosmology was also largely divorced from the Alignment system. Had a bit of "astral sea is law, elemental chaos is...chaos" to it but but it wasn't a clean divide & was more bast on the theogeny of that edition than alignment.

4E's "Points of Light" isn't a setting, so much as a prompt in homebrewing one. It is an example of D&D tossing aside tradition and the quality material provided by the past, yes, but they replaced it with... not much of anything.

FormerFiend wrote:
So it *can* be done, even ignoring how many preexisting settings got ogl books during the 3.5 years & threw it out all together.

... You are presenting this as an argument, even though you're agreeing with me.

FormerFiend wrote:

I would like to say that in spite of the point I'm making here, in general I don't think that we *need* to rely on precedent to justify change, and I don't find arguments of "we have it because we've always had it", "it's that way because it's always been that way", or "it's self perpetuating" to be compelling or valid.

If I were to go out & publish a new setting tomorrow using a ruleset of the d20 lineage, I'm under no obligation to incorporate a cosmology based or reliant on the alignment chart, even if no one had ever done it before. Might take some minor to moderate modification to the rules, but it's achieable, viable, & valid.

Now it's trickier when talking in terms of pf2e specifically because the system is wholly invested in the Lost Omens setting which did base its cosmology on that model & we may never escape the long term ramifications of paizo initially selling itself as the safe place security blanket doubling down on the familiar for everyone who was afraid of all the change WotC where forcing on them with 4e.

But that doesn't mean we can't or shouldn't reexamine all the sacred cows every few years.

Sounds quite like any of several homebrew settings I've run, actually, but once again, those aren't official products. You seem to be laboring under the assumption that I'm pro-Alignment, and arguing that it's mandatory for using the system. I'm not. It's essential for running existing official settings, and while D&D and Pathfinder rely on those settings to sell materials, they'll be entirely supported by the mechanics. I have nothing at all against running different settings that don't operate the same way, and prefer to do so at my table. Don't think I've ever personally done anything with the interplanar wars and such.

What bothers me is the kludges people are trying to use to extract Alignment from established settings without understanding the role of Alignment to begin with. You're all welcome to use them at home, obviously, but they probably won't be used to change anything officially, because they're obviously clunky hacks, and I thought we were resenting clumsy retcons here.

"we may never escape the long term ramifications of paizo initially selling itself as the safe place security blanket doubling down on the familiar for everyone who was afraid of all the change WotC where forcing on them with 4e." Wow, are you okay? You seem to be taking this awful personally. I don't know how to tell you this, but Paizo, as a company, liked D&D and helped shape a lot of it, with the magazines. They weren't forced into a lack of creativity by a need to grab market share - Paizo, as a company, loved D&D and were unceremoniously booted out of the creative process, like a parent who lost custody. I don't know of any indication that they yearned to be free of the yoke of Alignment.

Silver Crusade

zeonsghost wrote:

If I remove class from Pathfinder, the game doesn't run. It's the main tool players use to interface with the game.

If I remove alignment from Pathfinder it runs at 98% (with a couple of spells and specific features needing some wiggling). That's less rules modification than PFS.

It absolutely runs, it just takes more work.

"Oh this takes a lot of work to remove/overhaul" was not the question being asked.


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Quote:
Uhhh... false. Search "forgotten realm wiki planes" and the first thing you'll see is a chart showing the planes as a Great Wheel, with the topmost level of organization being direction indicating Alignment. Good at the top, Chaos to the right, Evil at the bottom, Law to the left. So...

Alternatively, you can google "forgotten realms cosmology" which will bring you to the following wiki page;

https://forgottenrealms.fandom.com/wiki/Cosmology

Which includes the following section;

Quote:

There have been numerous theories on the structure of the multiverse over the ages. The three major ones are as follows:

World Axis cosmology: The post-Spellplague model.

World Tree cosmology: The most commonly accepted pre-Spellplague Multiversal structure.

Great Wheel cosmology: A popular alternative to the World Tree theory.

These models are simply that—models. They were theoretical ideas to make sense of the strange reality of the multiverse by mortal sages.

Emphasis mine, on that. Now, it is true that Forgotten Realms has, at times, used the Great Wheel, alignment based cosmology, but the one it came with was the unaligned, deity focused, World Tree cosmology. Further reading: https://forgottenrealms.fandom.com/wiki/World_Tree_cosmology

If anything, FR is a good example about how you can justify shaking up the cosmology whenever you want because it's all multidimensional outer plane stuff & the actual geography and geometry of it is just allegorical ways of thinking about it & conceptualizing of it by mortals in universe, not an actual, literal, physical map.

Quote:
4E's "Points of Light" isn't a setting, so much as a prompt in homebrewing one. It is an example of D&D tossing aside tradition and the quality material provided by the past, yes, but they replaced it with... not much of anything.

4e D&D made a lot of mistakes, first and foremost of which would be poor communication in it's intention of a setting light world for dm's to fill in the blanks for.

Having said that, the developers not fully thinking out the implications of the light world building they were doing does not make the World Axis cosmology a bad cosmological model from a world building perspective. The lack of meat on the bone for the prime material world the players were going to be spending most of their time in in 4e doesn't make the designs of the planes & their being divorced from the alignment system bad, inferior, or less capable of telling excellent stories in.

Quote:
"we may never escape the long term ramifications of paizo initially selling itself as the safe place security blanket doubling down on the familiar for everyone who was afraid of all the change WotC where forcing on them with 4e." Wow, are you okay? You seem to be taking this awful personally. I don't know how to tell you this, but Paizo, as a company, liked D&D and helped shape a lot of it, with the magazines. They weren't forced into a lack of creativity by a need to grab market share - Paizo, as a company, loved D&D and were unceremoniously booted out of the creative process, like a parent who lost custody. I don't know of any indication that they yearned to be free of the yoke of Alignment.

Okay so I'm going to answer this one because it ties into my answer for what your other, longer above section would be.

The circumstances for how Paizo parted ways from their working relationship with Wizards of the Coast are irrelevant to my point that, once they did that, and established themselves as their own company and an alternative to D&D 4th edition, they did, in fact, have to stake out their own market share. If they didn't, they would have gone out of business and we wouldn't be having this conversation right now.

The method they chose to do so, and this is clear to see, was to double down on tradition. Not only were they preserving and continuing the tradition of the 3.5 system, but the but paladins were still lawful good, orcs and drow and all the other "always chaotic evil" races were still even and doubly so. D&D 4e was setting light, Pathfinder was setting heavy and that setting had everything including the kitchen sink and it was dark and edgy and gritty in every way that 4e seemed to be smoothing itself out & trying to go more mainstream.

And I'm sure a lot of that was based on genuine love for the product and nostalgia for tradition. But also that doesn't make me think better of them.

But we all grow, hopefully. We change, we evolve as creatives. We take some self reflection and evaluation. And by twelve years later, they realized, "You know what, maybe that wasn't all a good idea."

But no, I don't take it personally. I simply acknowledge the fact that the ideal time to make the right world building decisions would have been 14 years ago. If they had laid a better foundation, then the transition period we're currently in & have been in for the last couple years, would not have been nearly so awkward or clunky.

And to be fair, it's entirely likely that if they had made the right decisions back then, there wouldn't have been a market for it, and they'd either be a lot smaller or out of business.

And I've also been very impressed with their willingness to shift course and correct past mistakes in terms of worldbuilding & move away from outdated, bad ideas.

And I would like to encourage them to continue to do that.


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Meh, I think the alignment system is working just fine as a quick reference of general behavior on a statblock. Outside of champion causes being locked from certain gods, I have no issues with it.


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Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
S.L.Acker wrote:
Alignment is broken though. It's a massive grey area that always needs to be hammered out before a new player joins a group.

Is it? And does it? The entirety of the alignment discussion I had with my players when we started our current campaign was "No evil characters." End of conversation on that topic. In fact, it wasn't even a conversation, it was that single line of text in the document I provided to them before they made characters. We've played just fine without any further discussion about alignment.


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Fumarole wrote:
S.L.Acker wrote:
Alignment is broken though. It's a massive grey area that always needs to be hammered out before a new player joins a group.
Is it? And does it? The entirety of the alignment discussion I had with my players when we started our current campaign was "No evil characters." End of conversation on that topic. In fact, it wasn't even a conversation, it was that single line of text in the document I provided to them before they made characters. We've played just fine without any further discussion about alignment.

Speaking of this type of simple "no playing X alignment", you can use it to deal with problem players that act evil but write anything else just for the sake of getting the ability.

"Oh you say you are chaotic neutra? But your character has been only doing evil things so it is soon likely to become evil and thus break the no evil character rule".

Sure its heavy handed, but you need to be heavy handed with problem players.


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WWHsmackdown wrote:
Meh, I think the alignment system is working just fine as a quick reference of general behavior on a statblock. Outside of champion causes being locked from certain gods, I have no issues with it.

Why do I need that, though?

If I'm not taking any more time too look at a stat block to judge its behavior than to look at the two letters, then why not just have it behave however I need it to for the encounter? And if I'm doing a more indepth look, then it's intended behavior can be elaborated on.

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