Why do we have Alignment?


Pathfinder Second Edition General Discussion

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I've seen a lot of people dissing alignment of late, so I thought I might lay out the case for why we have alignment, and why it is likely to stay.

Everyone agrees the alignment system is not a realistic description of morality. So do I, it is far too simple. It is just a quick heuristic that we can hang mechanics on.

Regardless, the alignment system persists why? Possibly tradition. But I think it is more likely that most people understand the 9 alignments - it has even seeped into the non gaming community. Ultimately heuristics survive because they are useful.

Pathfinder defines alignments very simply. D&D has similar but different definitions. I’m going to provide my own definitions that cover much the same space.

Good means that you are willing to help people outside your immediate community at significant cost to yourself.
Evil means that you are happy to harm people, even those of your community, especially if there is some gain in it for you.
Lawful means that you value structure and order, and are comfortable in large societies with strong rules.
Chaotic means that you value personal freedom and individuality and aren’t comfortable or strongly connected to any group larger than an extended family or tribe.
Neutral is what lies between. Most people are neutral

It provides a framework on which to hang the struggles of society. Good versus Evil. Civilisation versus the Wilderness. It is a useful axis to tell a story.

It is not complex or deep but then again most people don’t want it to be. Most people don’t really think a lot in terms of Good and Evil. It is more us and them. My group versus the other group. If it comes to mind it would be merely that my side is right.

The game needs to appeal to teenagers, the well educated, and those whose life has been tough and long. So it can’t be too deep at its base. That depth has to come from the participants and the story itself as it evolves.

Good and Evil are not well defined. Deliberately so. We would never agree if we tried to do so. Good and Evil are determined by your personal ethos, philosophy, religion, culture and history. What we think of as right is not the same as what was thought 100 years ago. We also don’t want the same thing. Some people like to roleplay within the ethics of another culture, another time, or a strange religion. Some people prefer to game with more mainstream modern ethics, while others find that anachronistic and aim at something they see as historical. We just want to tell different stories.

Some people argue that Good and Evil don’t really exist, it is all relative. Others see it as a hard truth and how they live their life day to day.

In this game we have actual deities as well. Polytheism is standard simply because it gives us more variety. Having overarching threads of Good and Evil gives us ways to group these deities together and share mechanics. Good and Evil are cosmic forces much the same as gravity is. The mechanics we get out of alignment are unique. Alignment damage that only affects one side is cool and cinematic. A protective barrier against Evil is a classic of many stories. But how far we go into these mechanics is up to us.

Alignment is a step in characterisation. It is not the best tool for this but it is very pragmatic. The GM needs to know how to motivate the party. Is it good deeds, or is it a reward? Are the PCs likely to fight to the bitter end, or will they cut and run? If you define at least your alignment the GM is going to know where to start. So in a sense it is the most minimal step of characterisation.

Where alignment goes off track is when people use it to define their characters, or justify their actions by it. Don’t do it. There is not enough depth to it. Most people won’t find it a good excuse to commit party suicide by being stupidly brave, or betraying them just because you were secretly evil. That is a poor game experience. People are more complex. Chaotic people don’t have to have low self discipline, Evil people can still be cooperative and have long term goals, Lawful people might still choose to subvert laws they are opposed to, and Good people can have other priorities and choose not to help. People also don’t always 100% fit inside an alignment box. Sometimes different parts of their personality will conflict.

Instead describe your character and play it how you want. Your alignment should somewhat fit your description. To help you get started you are far better off thinking about
* your background. Where have you come from and what was it like? PF2 does really well with a lot of backgrounds.
* any personality quirks and traits - and how you got them. D&D5 did better here with their Ideals and Bonds. Try this random generator until you feel inspired.
* your anathema. If you took one of the options that gives you one
* your religion. If it is important to your character.
* or you could start with a person, fictional or real, you are trying to emulate or parody. My current party has the Witcher, Buffy, a former Prime Minister, and more besides…

Develop and define your character as the game progresses. It is much better to do than to merely say.

If you go for a religion then PF2 has a brief description of each deity so you know what you are in for. The details are very open for you and the GM to get into if you want. Keep it light or fully engage, it is up to you and your group.

Alignment is sitting there if we want to use it. But we don’t even have to. Healing is no longer just the domain of the divine. If you leave out Clerics and Champions from the center of your stories then alignment doesn’t have to come up at all. There are optional rules to not use alignment at all, or to only use it for extreme cases.

If your world is really just shades of gray, then perhaps alignment is not right for you. But not everyone wants to play in that world.


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Gortle wrote:
Good and Evil are not well defined. Deliberately so. We would never agree if we tried to do so. Good and Evil are determined by your personal ethos, philosophy, religion, culture and history. What we think of as right is not the same as what was thought 100 years ago. We also don’t want the same thing. Some people like to roleplay within the ethics of another culture, another time, or a strange religion. Some people prefer to game with more mainstream modern ethics, while others find that anachronistic and aim at something they see as historical. We just want to tell different stories.

I don't know that I agree with this. In my experience reading how the writers and creators of the game talk about it, Good and Evil are pretty well-defined in Pathfinder and aren't subject to change depending on cultural values or historical period. For better or worse (I lean towards better), they seem to largely be reflective of modern progressive ethics. There's still some room for variation, of course, but it's usually differences in approach that are kind of orthogonal to what Good means.


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We have Alignment because of 50 years of inertia in the d20 fantasy gaming space after it was lifted from Moorcock by Gygax and hammered into shape by his evangelical ideals. Any other explanation is set dressing for that.

It'll continue to be a pair of lead shoes on this hobby until it finally stops being used for mortal beings, IMO. Keep it the domain of weird cosmic beings, creatures who embody fundamental concepts and alien ideologies, but being able to say "that human is Good, that human is Evil" will literally always cause hiccups.


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keftiu wrote:
It'll continue to be a pair of lead shoes on this hobby

How is it a pair of lead shoes? It is a system you can use if you want. You can buy into it as much as you want. It is a label and a convenient coat hanger for some mechanics.

keftiu wrote:
being able to say "that human is Good, that human is Evil" will literally always cause hiccups.

Perhaps. But this is what people have done for all of time. My team is good, your team is bad. You see it in the school playground, you see it in international relations, it is in modern politics. Yes most people who think about it know it is always more nuanced than that. The majority don't dwell on that often.

Regardless to weigh a proper response to your question would require me to drop into biology, religious thought and philosophy. We would never get agreement on your assertion.

Good and Evil being as much as anything a religious concept, and this game has gods. To take them out you also may want to take out the gods - which is OK as a campaign premise and I'm sure that many people use.

Anyway the point of the article is to say that the best way to do alignments varies, and is up to you. Don't over do it.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I like alignment for some rather personal reasons but I understand peoples issues with it. I also tend to have a more nuanced idea of it, but I don't want to get into that. I both get the appeal and understand the negative aspects of it.


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Alignment is not an issue unless someone makes it an issue.

It's an easy to use mechanic for energy types and damage with some loose basis to behavior. I see where Gary's influence were which are a combination of general ideas of good and evil throughout most societies as well as Moorcock and other fantasy novels. Not sure where the attacks on Gygax and old men are coming from, but it's pure bunk.

Since I was there when the game came out and the subsequent materials, it pretty much came down to Gary wanting to add the fantasy ideas of good versus evil and chaos versus law and the like to the game. He had no hard ideas about things and wasn't trying to sell any personal viewpoint. He was creating a game to have fun. That was his main goal.

It was originally designed as a tabletop war game. Then it apparently it would be remade into a RPG game requiring nothing but the imagination and designed for a younger audience. I picked my first red box set at around 8 years old for Christmas. My dad picked it up for me as a Christmas Present. He thought it looked cool in the store.

Then over time it advanced and grew becoming more complex as the base audience aged.

I think it kept alignment to stand out from the pack. Most games way back when that us tired, sad Old Fogey's played when we were young didn't have alignment. Imagine that, even 40 plus years ago RPG game makers were making games with no alignments and lots of grey ideas of morality. And us Old Fogeys enjoyed playing those games as well. GURPS, Car Wars, Traveler, and tons of other games that came out at the time as so many gamers wanted to start their own cool little game company and sell their world.

There was plenty of gray morality and no alignment. None of us Old Foegy's stuck in nostalgia had a problem with it. We in fact enjoyed the idea of no alignment in other games.

We all know alignment isn't accurate or real to humanity or living, sentient things. But sometimes you want to play a game with some traditional idea of good and evil. Alignment made D&D and PF unique amongst the many games out there. It's literally to my knowledge the only game that uses alignment or focuses much on ideas of good and evil and chaos and law damage.

I see D&D and PF likely keeping alignment because as much as some seem to hate it, it makes D&D and PF stand out as a different game. D&D and PF will always want to stand out from the pack. If D&D and PF players wanted a game with no alignment, they can easily find a ton of them out there.

There all far more realistic than D&D or PF. GURPs has a way more realistic and lethal combat system. I've played other games with far more realistic martial arts or vehicle systems.

But D&D/PF are there to capture a certain idea of heroic fantasy using a simple, easy to use system with some customization and very loose verisimilitude fantasy gamers can play with their friends easily.

Everyone understands very simple concepts of good and evil cross culturally. Chaos and law not as much as those were drawn more from Moorcock, but most can explain those to some degree as well.

Alignment isn't the ball and chain some paint it as. It's not there just because Old Men want it to be. Most of Old Men have played a ton of game systems using all types of rules, terms, and the like. None of this particularly offends us other than a handful of overly vocal critics who want to engage in political discussion.

Me? I don't care. If someday it changes, I'll roll with it. If they keep it, I'll roll with it. I've played a ton of game systems over forty years of gaming with no alignment. If the game is fun, I play it. If it isn't, I don't.

I still remember games like Ninjas and Superspies, Deadwood, Shadowrun, Cyberpunk, Top Secret, and too many games made over the years my buddies and I gave a try. No alignment. Different rules and terms. Just creative types trying to capture some movie or book in a game you can play with your buddies.

That's what playing RPGs is all about. The terminology is secondary to, "Can I play this game with friends and have fun?"

I can do that with alignment. I like the mechanics built around alignment. As far as I play it a lot of the time the evil guy sees the good guy as "evil" just as much as the other way around. Alignment doesn't really need to be that constricting in the game world. It's a bunch of general concepts in a game rule book to apply as you see fit.


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I'll admit I think it should go. I've barely had issues with it, but it's never been actually useful to me either.

The space for alignment traits in stat blocks as a GM would be better served with a few personality traits for NPCs for example. Gods should have traits they care about or dislike (I.e a priest of gorum should have trouble with the Merciful trait.)


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Gortle wrote:
keftiu wrote:
It'll continue to be a pair of lead shoes on this hobby
How is it a pair of lead shoes? It is a system you can use if you want. You can buy into it as much as you want. It is a label and a convenient coat hanger for some mechanics.

Except that its not. It is baked into the system at a fundamental level. There are damage types associated with them. There are spells that reference the target's alignment - or the caster's alignment. Some items use alignment.

The deities and alignment both are not removable without some rather drastic changes to the core rules.


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keftiu wrote:

We have Alignment because of 50 years of inertia in the d20 fantasy gaming space after it was lifted from Moorcock by Gygax and hammered into shape by his evangelical ideals. Any other explanation is set dressing for that.

It'll continue to be a pair of lead shoes on this hobby until it finally stops being used for mortal beings, IMO. Keep it the domain of weird cosmic beings, creatures who embody fundamental concepts and alien ideologies, but being able to say "that human is Good, that human is Evil" will literally always cause hiccups.

This one is really funny. The Evangelicals hated D&D when it came out. My buddy had to hide his D&D game materials at his friends house because his Christian mother wanted him to throw all his books out because of the demonic imagery on the cover of the books.

There were churches back then with religious leaders speaking about the "evils" of D&D.

Then of course the Tom Hanks staring movie Mazes and Monsters which sold RPG gaming as causing psychotic breaks leading to suicidal and violent behavior if you let your kids play tabletop RPG games.

To this day my mother asks me if I think the game causes people to go violently crazy. Haha.

I guess Gary must have been a demon worshipper or something. That's what the religious folk of the time thought of his game. Deities and Demigods, that was real well received. It was teaching paganism I guess.

Mainstream never quite understood the fun of playing a fantasy hero in your imagination. D&D is way more mainstream and accepted nowadays. Must be nice for the younger generation.

D&D was the devil when I was young or just for weird, nerdy antisocial types.


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breithauptclan wrote:
Gortle wrote:
keftiu wrote:
It'll continue to be a pair of lead shoes on this hobby
How is it a pair of lead shoes? It is a system you can use if you want. You can buy into it as much as you want. It is a label and a convenient coat hanger for some mechanics.

Except that its not. It is baked into the system at a fundamental level. There are damage types associated with them. There are spells that reference the target's alignment - or the caster's alignment. Some items use alignment.

The deities and alignment both are not removable without some rather drastic changes to the core rules.

You are totally overselling it.

Deities are a significant part of the game. Cutting out Divine magic would be major.

Alignment is not. There are what something like a dozen spells maybe that reference it all up. That is like the ONE percent of all spells level. It is useful at a very simple level to help with fairly weak rails on PC behaviour. It is a simple description. You could take it out. Many do. I have certainly played with out it. There are optional rules that do this that I referenced above.

Yes it is useful. Alignment serves a purpose. Yes you could replace it with a more detailed system. But that system would be more complex. Anathema is a start. When I go to the effort of creating detailed gods, I customise Good and Evil on a per religion basis.

Vancian magic doesn't really serve a purpose but PF2 has kept that. That is 90% tradition. There are simply enough players that want it.


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The entire Champion class?


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The only high damage cantrip on the Divine spell list?

(unless in a campaign with high amounts of undead enemies)


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keftiu wrote:
The entire Champion class?

They have very specific things in their causes and tenets. You could remove all the alignment restrictions and replace the words evil and good with A and B, or just remove them, and it would be work OK. Maybe some tweaks to their anathema.

There are 6 spells with the evil trait. Out of like 1200.

There are people asking to play non LG Paladins on a regular basis.

That Paladins are LG is part of the story. You could replace LG with some modest update to their code of conduct and it would feel the same. If you wanted a different group of Paladins you could have a different code.


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I really like the outsider alignment thing, as someone who was totally in love with Planescape on its day. But there are things on divine classes that I really dislike, specially the "blue team versus red team" part of alignment. Blue (good) is great damaging red (evil) and viceversa, but blue is quite bad damaging other blue. Take any abyss lord that hates other abyss guts, which means all of them. The clerics of those entities are not that good attacking the equivalent people of the other abyss lord. Because they are both on "blue" team. You can say those are very few spells, but some are among the most important ones on divine list, like Divine Lance. That makes no sense to me.
Also, evil religious bodyguards? only "good people" have right to that.
Outside divine spell list and champion? I really like alignment.


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It's mostly tradition, but it's still helpful to be able to frame something like "Blood Lords is more of a Lawful AP than an Evil AP, despite Geb being a LE nation."


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keftiu wrote:
Keep it the domain of weird cosmic beings, creatures who embody fundamental concepts and alien ideologies, but being able to say "that human is Good, that human is Evil" will literally always cause hiccups.

Hard, hard agree. I've been running a campaign with a homebrew alignement rule that more or less does this, and it's been great. Only creatures native to the alignement planes have actual alignements, and alignement damage hurts anyone but the creatures aligned to that sort of damage (i.e Angels are still immune to Good damage, as typical). A human Cleric of Iomedae can absolutely be hurt by the good or lawful damage of an Archon or an Angel, for example.

It's not only been a smooth experience mechanically wise (Never seen a Cleric using Divine Lance so often!), but it has really grounded the characters in an odd and interesting way. This same set of players tended to really tie their characters into their alignement — and that's fine, they've always came out spectacular! But they're so interestingly nuanced, right now, it's been great!

Ultimately, I do feel like the cosmic scale that the setting has is helped by the existance of an alignement system, but I don't think it needs to limit certain aspects of the game in the way it does currently. Imo, making alignement a force mostly alien to PCs is the way to go.

Dark Archive

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Honetly the more time goes by the more I feel allighment overall causes more problems than solves (I mean literally almost every big problem recently Ive seen people have with the game is somehow tied to the allighment system)


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber
Quote:

It'll continue to be a pair of lead shoes on this hobby until it finally stops being used for mortal beings, IMO. Keep it the domain of weird cosmic beings, creatures who embody fundamental concepts and alien ideologies, but being able to say "that human is Good, that human is Evil" will literally always cause hiccups.

I don't recall appointing you to speak for me or my game. Regardless, it doesn't "cause hiccups" in mine.


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We have alignment because looking at crooked paintings and pictures on my walls gets really, really aggravating at times.


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I remove alignment as much as possible from my game, the same as I do basically any setting/morality that was influenced by gygax. The man was a self admitted eugenics advocate (he used the term "bio-essentialist" to define himself, and that is a specific for of eugenics thinking), not to mention the fact that he cited the genocide of the native americans as an example of Lawful Good when asked a question about whether its okay for a paladin to go ham on goblins. While it's probably possible to divorce alignment from the conservative evangelical ideals it draws from in gygax's work, I dont even know if that's peticularly helpful.

In my games, I expand the idea of edicts and anathema to everyone; all characters have values they embody, and all characters have values that stand at odds with them. Divinely powered characters that deal alignment damage instead of harming the opposite alignment harm creatures that embody or routinely perform anathema to their diety; other alignment based abilities work similarly, where things that help an alignment help those who embody your diety's edicts, those that ward off alignments ward against those who embody their diety's anathema, etc.

This format might require some more adjudication on the DMs behalf, but peeling away alignment has a lot of benefits from my experience; there's less of a focus on making broad, sweeping value jusldgements and assumptions about a character based on which of the 9 boxes they checked, there's no confusion or arguments when the player's ideas of good and evil disagree with the DM, it forces players to think about specific things that are morally important to their characters, rather than just a very vague and broad thing like Lawful Good. I haven't really played in a game where I've felt alignment actually added anything to the quality of the game, but there's been many, many times where I've felt it's negative influences harming it


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Gortle wrote:

There are 6 spells with the evil trait. Out of like 1200.

There are people asking to play non LG Paladins on a regular basis.

That isn't the point that I am trying to make.

The problem that I am getting at is that I can't decide to just leave the box empty on my character sheet. I am required to pick an alignment for my characters. There may only be a few things that interact with it, but it is too many to be simply ignored.

Because otherwise the AP authors or the GM might use an Apotropaic Fulu and ask what my character's alignment is when they walk through the doorway.

Removing alignment requires agreement from everyone in the game. And it requires either avoiding or houseruling quite a few things. Making Divine Lance do some other type of damage, avoid using or replace the effects of Circle of Protection, change the trigger for the enfeebled condition of the Holy Avenger...

And it seems like every time we turn around we find something else that requires the character to have an alignment.


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Gortle wrote:
keftiu wrote:
The entire Champion class?

They have very specific things in their causes and tenets. You could remove all the alignment restrictions and replace the words evil and good with A and B, or just remove them, and it would be work OK. Maybe some tweaks to their anathema.

There are 6 spells with the evil trait. Out of like 1200.

There are people asking to play non LG Paladins on a regular basis.

That Paladins are LG is part of the story. You could replace LG with some modest update to their code of conduct and it would feel the same. If you wanted a different group of Paladins you could have a different code.

I've found removing the tenets of good and evil, and revising the causes actually lets champions actually champion their dieties better, and more or less get RPed like martially focused clerics instead of having people focus super hard on the generic parts of their code and force said code on others.

With this houserule, touch of corruption/lay on hands is treated the same as divine font; if the diety grants heal, you get lay in hands, if they grant harm, you get touch of corruption, if they grant both, you choose which one you get at level 1. I revise the causes so that they only add edicts, and that a god can have a champion of any cause, so long as the edicts of the cause do not interfere with/contradict the anathema of the diety


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breithauptclan wrote:
Gortle wrote:

There are 6 spells with the evil trait. Out of like 1200.

There are people asking to play non LG Paladins on a regular basis.

That isn't the point that I am trying to make.

The problem that I am getting at is that I can't decide to just leave the box empty on my character sheet. I am required to pick an alignment for my characters. There may only be a few things that interact with it, but it is too many to be simply ignored.

Because otherwise the AP authors or the GM might use an Apotropaic Fulu and ask what my character's alignment is when they walk through the doorway.

Removing alignment requires agreement from everyone in the game. And it requires either avoiding or houseruling quite a few things. Making Divine Lance do some other type of damage, avoid using or replace the effects of Circle of Protection, change the trigger for the enfeebled condition of the Holy Avenger...

And it seems like every time we turn around we find something else that requires the character to have an alignment.

Of course changing the game is a change.

Of course actual abilities hang on alignment.
It is not a major part of the game - it can be edited up or ignored. But it works on a simple basis so we use it. It helps describe certain concepts at a 30,000ft level.

BTW I have often left alignment off my character sheet and filled it in later or never. Whatever tool you are using is your choice.

Liberty's Edge

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I hope alignment stays a staple of DnD descendants. In fact I think a game without alignment cannot really belong to that family.

And I feel alignment is a straightjacket only if you let it.

Not to mention it is an extremely letter-count efficient way of describing how a creature is likely to act.

And it sparks thought-provoking debates about whan Good and Evil, Law and Chaos mean. Which I think help us all learn and grow.

YMMV ;-)


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Leon Aquilla wrote:
Quote:

It'll continue to be a pair of lead shoes on this hobby until it finally stops being used for mortal beings, IMO. Keep it the domain of weird cosmic beings, creatures who embody fundamental concepts and alien ideologies, but being able to say "that human is Good, that human is Evil" will literally always cause hiccups.

I don't recall appointing you to speak for me or my game. Regardless, it doesn't "cause hiccups" in mine.

This is a bizarre response to a post that literally says “in my opinion.”


I'm fairly ambivalent toward alignment in my games, though I also recognize this is largely because I've been in games where people didn't think about it too much and it's never come up as a major question at the table. The most we've ever interacted with the system was when one player in my Tyrant's Grasp game made an evil NPC, Dondun the Wizard from I think book four, into their character and we had them trying to become a good-er guy through the story a bit of their backstory. They'd just been saved from certain death by a bunch of goodly strangers while their fellow theives had left him to rot, after all.

If I was thinking about it, however, I'd use the Moral Intentions subsystem in my games. It strikes a nice balance between decoupling alignment from binary notions of good and evil while still allowing alignment damage and alignment-based effects to work as intended, and each character having to write down a few things they deeply care about helps facilitate roleplay, which I'm all for as well.


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The Raven Black wrote:
I hope alignment stays a staple of DnD descendants. In fact I think a game without alignment cannot really belong to that family.

D&D launched without Good and Evil alignments, I believe, originally sticking to Chaos and Law. Most OSR systems that I’ve seen do away with Alignment, while 13th Age replaced it instead with your Relationships to a number of major Icon characters in the world.

There’s lots of d20 fantasy gaming out there without Alignment, so it feels strange to me to declare all of those somehow illegitimate when 99% of their bones is D&D.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I don't mind alignment narratively, there are some cool stories centered around the outer planes as they are, and alignment can be a quick and dirty way of summarizing a character in a very easy to understand fashion or serve as a springboard for character ideas.

I do think Paizo made a mistake tying as many mechanics as they did to it though.

keftiu wrote:
The Raven Black wrote:
I hope alignment stays a staple of DnD descendants. In fact I think a game without alignment cannot really belong to that family.

D&D launched without Good and Evil alignments, I believe, originally sticking to Chaos and Law. Most OSR systems that I’ve seen do away with Alignment, while 13th Age replaced it instead with your Relationships to a number of major Icon characters in the world.

There’s lots of d20 fantasy gaming out there without Alignment, so it feels strange to me to declare all of those somehow illegitimate when 99% of their bones is D&D.

Or 5e, which does have an alignment grid, but almost completely divorces it from actual mechanics. They even crossed the dreaded rubicon of letting paladins be whatever and it turns out it wasn't a big deal and nobody cares and the game was better off for it.


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keftiu wrote:
The entire Champion class?

One more thing. Have you seen my suggestion that we need another defender/tank style character that isn't a Champion? Monks are tough, a grapple control character can be useful, and you can make other characters relatively tough. But the ability to defend others is so far tied to Champions. Do you have another concept that would work in this space that is not tied to Divine?

I think it is a gap in the game.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Generally I'm not a fan of alignment, even if I find it a somewhat helpful reference point. I think 5e did a good job moving away from it having mechanical impact, personally.

One thing I will say in favor of it: I'm glad we got rid of LN clerics of Asmodeus by setting alignment restrictions on gods. And I do think it is a useful shorthand for gods. You might be able to accomplish much of the same through edicts and anathema, but I haven't looked closely enough to see if the current versions cover enough without alignment.

Travelling Sasha wrote:
keftiu wrote:
Keep it the domain of weird cosmic beings, creatures who embody fundamental concepts and alien ideologies, but being able to say "that human is Good, that human is Evil" will literally always cause hiccups.

Hard, hard agree. I've been running a campaign with a homebrew alignement rule that more or less does this, and it's been great. Only creatures native to the alignement planes have actual alignements, and alignement damage hurts anyone but the creatures aligned to that sort of damage (i.e Angels are still immune to Good damage, as typical). A human Cleric of Iomedae can absolutely be hurt by the good or lawful damage of an Archon or an Angel, for example.

It's not only been a smooth experience mechanically wise (Never seen a Cleric using Divine Lance so often!), but it has really grounded the characters in an odd and interesting way. This same set of players tended to really tie their characters into their alignement — and that's fine, they've always came out spectacular! But they're so interestingly nuanced, right now, it's been great!

Ultimately, I do feel like the cosmic scale that the setting has is helped by the existance of an alignement system, but I don't think it needs to limit certain aspects of the game in the way it does currently. Imo, making alignement a force mostly alien to PCs is the way to go.

I rather like this solution.


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Gortle wrote:
keftiu wrote:
The entire Champion class?

One more thing. Have you seen my suggestion that we need another defender/tank style character that isn't a Champion? Monks are tough, a grapple control character can be useful, and you can make other characters relatively tough. But the ability to defend others is so far tied to Champions. Do you have another concept that would work in this space that is not tied to Divine?

I think it is a gap in the game.

I would be all over this, as a child of 4e. That game had no shortage of exciting tanks with incredibly varied playstyles and thematic fantasies across its Defender Role: purely-Martial Fighters, Divine Paladins (who, uniquely, got access to some healing), Wardens (Primal Defenders, essentially as to Paladins what a Druid is to a Cleric; their mechanical niche was big, flashy self-polymorphs), Swordmages (Arcane Defenders, very similar to Magi but with an absurd amount of mobility), and Battleminds (Psionic Defenders, whose abilities were fueled with a modular points pool).

Each of them was built to draw heat away from other members of the party, but they all felt distinct at the table. I've been missing that variety (and the same for Leaders, the support Role) ever since.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

So I think I'm going to open up on those personal reasons. I like alignment as an escape. My identity and the life that we have lived has had us deal with the great moral complexities in the world. I've had to deal with abusive people who were also sometimes the only person me and my partner has had to continually depend on, and I held my partners hand as that woman passed away. A lot of my life has been balancing the way people can be cruel to me while also recognizing the cruelty that has been done to them, that has made them that way. Left that impact.

While a lot of my games deal with these nuances, our characters are pieces of ourselves and thus reflect experiences. There is a fantasy that is freeing, that if you actually do good things the world/universe acknowledges that. That there can be people who are cruel and vile and sometimes that is just who they need to be. But I also have room for those complex characters that exist as well. I enjoy being able to escape where the people who did awful things can be called evil or cruel.

Now I can probably tell those stories without the alignment system, I will admit maybe it might even be better(I'm not sure). I hold no nostalgia for the creator or the legacy of it, i hold no love for some of the arguments made for its existence, or the idea that there are ancestries with inherent alignments.

I even love games without alignment, they can be fun and provide their own experiences. But I do like them, I do think it is easier to remove it then try to add it back in if people want it. I think maybe I won't be to upset if it faded away. But I do enjoy it's presence.

We are sorry if this seems long-winded or like nonsense.

And as a side-note I would love some more defensive themed classes that weren't divine based.


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Captain Morgan wrote:
Generally I'm not a fan of alignment, even if I find it a somewhat helpful reference point. I think 5e did a good job moving away from it having mechanical impact, personally.

You know that D&D5 went back to alignment after D&D4 went to a weird 5 spot alignment system. I think they thought D&D4's approach was simpler. It is not as the nine alignments only have 2 axes. But it also lost something as well. I think it is much more satifying to have multiple buckets for team good as well as for team evil.

D&D5 tries to give it two roles. A rough take on disposition, but also as extra planar essence. The main interaction points for it are:
* Detect Evil and Good
* Dispel Evil and Good
* Protection from Evil and Good
Which is balanced I guess. I think a fair portion of people will agree with the aim. But to me it complicates things, and isn't a good direction.


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So for what IMO are the cons.

- Too absolute of a system. What's really the difference between a LG and a NG character when both respect the law? Why an actual devil and a corrupt politician are treated as equals by the aligment system?

- Too big of an element in the game. Almost all the offensive potential of a whole spell list, 2 classes and 4 damage types seems a bit too much.

- It can end up having a negative impact on character portrayal, specially for new players. I've seen people using the aligment of their characters as the motivator for their actions, or worse, being used as an excuse for bad behavior (I also think trully evil PCs are a nightmare to GM for and play with unless everyone is doing the same, and I think the aligment system kinda reinforces this as well).

As for the pros, and this is my biggest problem, I don't think it has any. At least none that cannot be better expresed by another system (I apreciate having a way to know in a really broad sense how a creature I'm just going to use for a single combat is or what may be their motivators, but I think aligment has to be one of the worst systems for it).

I prefer as a player to fill 2 or 3 "edicts" and "anathemas" (or "beliefs I support" and "beliefs I don't support" or "ideals" and "oposed ideals", or whatever you want to call them) than use aligment as a quick abstract of my character. That's also simple and I think it leads to a better experience roleplaying for everyone involved.

I'm with Travelling Sasha here, I prefer to treat aligment as something only planar creatures actually have and make aligment damage just damage. When I'm GMing, I'd rather get to know PCs by some short of written backstory or by making a few questions during session 0 and by just seeing them in play. I'd also rather have them know my NPCs by words and deeds, not by the 2 big letters they have on their sheet.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

The alignment system doesn't preclude having written backstories or motivations though, there's not really an either or here.


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Alignment exists to enable a system of justice where government-sanctioned lvl 1 clerics with divine lance walk on the street randomly blasting people every 6 seconds to weed out anyone with the inherent inescapable propensity to do evil.


It doesn't preclude them, that's for sure, but it also does not add anything that I could not infere from them. Even for creatures, I would much rather know that a creature is wild, cunning or sadistic in a descriptors table than seing a CE tag on it.

I've seen players writing or just coming up with wonderful character concepts and then just limiting themselves due to the aligment they chose (For example, I just heard a player say a session ago something on the line of "my character is evil, I don't know if she should feel bad about this").

So what I tried to say is that if it adds nothing and it can end up substracting from the experience, it should just not be there.


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roquepo wrote:
So for what IMO are the cons.

Thank you for actually providing an answer

roquepo wrote:
- Too absolute of a system. What's really the difference between a LG and a NG character when both respect the law? Why an actual devil and a corrupt politician are treated as equals by the aligment system?

I am not sure people need to distinguish between the devil who wants to steal your soul, from the politician who will take a bribe to poor toxic waste into the river you drink from, or steal the money you set aside to buy grain for the winter. All of them are going to kill people. Evil works as a description here. But really you get to set the boundary. You can have the lines pretty soft if you want. There is nothing stoping you from making 99% of people neutral.

roquepo wrote:
- Too big of an element in the game. Almost all the offensive potential of a whole spell list, 2 classes and 4 damage types seems a bit too much.

Not seeing it. It is a very minor part of how both champions and clerics play. I have a storm god cleric in my current game. Plently of lightning bolts, zero alignment effects so far. Yes I am fan of Divine Wrath as an effective spell. I don't seem to be able to convince many others of that.

roquepo wrote:
- - It can end up having a negative impact on character portrayal, specially for new players. I've seen people using the aligment of their characters as the motivator for their actions, or worse, being used as an excuse for bad behavior (I also think trully evil PCs are a nightmare to GM for and play with unless everyone is doing the same, and I think the aligment system kinda reinforces this as well).

No it doesn't. I'm going to assume you are an experienced RPG gamer - if you are letting Alignment define your character that is a problem with how you are running your game.

What affects this is that Paizo haven't lent into this space with a list of suggested behaviours, ideals, and quirks like D&D5 did. They should have. Instead we have just a few anathemas for a small number of cases. That is the problem - not alignment.

roquepo wrote:
As for the pros, and this is my biggest problem, I don't think it has any. At least none that cannot be better expresed by another system (I apreciate having a way to know in a really broad sense how a creature I'm just going to use for a single combat is or what may be their motivators, but I think aligment has to be one of the worst systems for it).

It is a very convenient framework to hang a few mechanics off, and to define a couple of sides Evil vs Good, Law versus Chaos. It is totally optional to engage with that if it is not the theme of your game.

roquepo wrote:

I prefer as a player to fill 2 or 3 "edicts" and "anathemas" (or "beliefs I support" and "beliefs I don't support" or "ideals" and "oposed ideals", or whatever you want to call them) than use aligment as a quick abstract of my character.

... When I'm GMing, I'd rather get to know PCs by some short of written backstory or by making a few questions during session 0 and by just seeing them in play. I'd also rather have them know my NPCs by words and deeds, not by the 2 big letters they have on their sheet.

That is exactly what I am saying to do. Alignment stops none of this, unless you choose to stop your character development at that point.

We all want these extra role playing aids and prompts in the game.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Vodalian wrote:
Alignment exists to enable a system of justice where government-sanctioned lvl 1 clerics with divine lance walk on the street randomly blasting people every 6 seconds to weed out anyone with the inherent inescapable propensity to do evil.

Not only is there no country with a system of justice that follows those rules, alignments are also not inherent or inescapable. Your actions decide your alignment, your alignment doesn't decide your actions. And flinging offensive magic to weed out others who you have no knowledge of doing harm to you or others would at least imo not be a good act because that is acting unnecessary violence towards others. That person would probably be swiftly losing their powers to use divine lance, or at the very least the good variant of it.

Good and evil are not teams and they are not inherent. The actions ones do arent justified by alignment(neither the actors alignment or the one being acted upon).


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pixierose wrote:
Vodalian wrote:
Alignment exists to enable a system of justice where government-sanctioned lvl 1 clerics with divine lance walk on the street randomly blasting people every 6 seconds to weed out anyone with the inherent inescapable propensity to do evil.

Not only is there no country with a system of justice that follows those rules, alignments are also not inherent or inescapable. Your actions decide your alignment, your alignment doesn't decide your actions. And flinging offensive magic to weed out others who you have no knowledge of doing harm to you or others would at least imo not be a good act because that is acting unnecessary violence towards others. That person would probably be swiftly losing their powers to use divine lance, or at the very least the good variant of it.

Good and evil are not teams and they are not inherent. The actions ones do arent justified by alignment(neither the actors alignment or the one being acted upon).

It is likely that Vodalian was being facetious in their analysis.

---

I've been meaning to comment but I don't feel there's a lot I can add to this discussion that hasn't been said (and said). I'm personally a fan of alignment in theory for similar reasons to what Raven Black said about thought-provoking debates and the philosophical tension between good and evil, law and chaos.

On the other hand, in practice while I have engaged in a few alignment debates I would actually consider thought-provoking, this interaction has by far been the minority. It is telling that these discussions all played out away from the table, and away from the game. More typically, alignment either doesn't come up in the games I'm playing, or when it comes up it's too blunt of an instrument to foster philosophical discussion, either because the players don't particularly care about alignment, or because bickering about alignment definitions is detracting from the game rather than adding to it.

On some levels, I still love alignment. When I was playing my Liberator of Shelyn, I ended up in the situation where I had to take an enemy prisoner. Naturally since I didn't want to keep the prisoner but neither did I want to turn them loose in case they might hurt somebody else, I found myself enthralled trying to sort out for myself what a CG Champion would do in this situation--the default answer of turning them over to an appropriate authority immediately falls flat because by definition my character didn't consider arbitrary or hierarchical systems inherently just. Ultimately the situation resolved itself, but the solution I was narrowing in on was to hand the prisoner over to somebody whose judgement my character personally respected. It was riveting trying to work into the ways that character would approach the situation based on their beliefs and worldview.

At the same time, I also spend some time thinking about ways to remove alignment from my next game (it's a touch trickier than I initially expected from how few words the alignment variant rules devote to the sundry mechanics that tie into it) just so that the next argument at the table isn't about what a Good character would do vs. a Chaotic Good vs. a Chaotic, with no two people able to even meet the same definition or scope of what any of those terms mean, much less what acts are objectively or subjectively part of each category.

(Bonus round: Actually one of the more amusing confusions came up when a character wanted to harvest a recently slain demon's horn to use as a walking stick. An objection came up from another player that the character was a good-aligned priest--but of a neutral goddess of death, plus an ex-bounty hunter who happens to think that a demon horn walking stick would be wicked.)


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Gortle wrote:
No it doesn't. I'm going to assume you are an experienced RPG gamer - if you are letting Alignment define your character that is a problem with how you are running your game.

There is only so much you can control about a game, both as a GM and as a player. My main dislike of the aligment system comes from the lens of other, mostly newer, players. Seen it either bring frustration to them or act as a barrier for them to develop the idea of a character they have in their heads quite a few times.

I also dislike the discussions aligment brings, but that one is completely on me and not a fault of the mechanic. I just grew tired of them.


I think the primary reason alignment survives intact is for setting continuity. Most D&D settings arose in days where aligned planes, the war between demons and devils, etc, were assumed setting elements, and to keep them going forward, Good, Evil, Law, and Chaos as axiomatic forces had to continue to exist. After that, any new setting would probably do something similar, because stories about such things are fun, and easy to use across settings. Plus, the mechanics are already there, so the game designers have a choice of utilizing them or not in a given setting, and "yes" is the obvious answer.

Obviously, when Pathfinder first came out, they weren't going to entirely throw out any huge concepts. They kept alignment because they were out to revise and upgrade D&D into their own thing, not apply the chainsaw. Now, it's hard to back out of, because Good and Evil, Law and Chaos are established to be important in the setting.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Sibelius Eos Owm wrote:
pixierose wrote:
Vodalian wrote:
Alignment exists to enable a system of justice where government-sanctioned lvl 1 clerics with divine lance walk on the street randomly blasting people every 6 seconds to weed out anyone with the inherent inescapable propensity to do evil.

Not only is there no country with a system of justice that follows those rules, alignments are also not inherent or inescapable. Your actions decide your alignment, your alignment doesn't decide your actions. And flinging offensive magic to weed out others who you have no knowledge of doing harm to you or others would at least imo not be a good act because that is acting unnecessary violence towards others. That person would probably be swiftly losing their powers to use divine lance, or at the very least the good variant of it.

Good and evil are not teams and they are not inherent. The actions ones do arent justified by alignment(neither the actors alignment or the one being acted upon).

It is likely that Vodalian was being facetious in their analysis.

---

I realizied that might be the case after the fact. But i have people use that argument(perhaps not that exact woridng before) or at least assumed they were being genuine. We can have trouble with that at times.

But a lot of the points used in it i most certainly have seen people used both in favor and against alignment, and they are such baffling and confucing comments. I just dont get it.


pixierose wrote:
Vodalian wrote:
Alignment exists to enable a system of justice where government-sanctioned lvl 1 clerics with divine lance walk on the street randomly blasting people every 6 seconds to weed out anyone with the inherent inescapable propensity to do evil.

Not only is there no country with a system of justice that follows those rules, alignments are also not inherent or inescapable. Your actions decide your alignment, your alignment doesn't decide your actions. And flinging offensive magic to weed out others who you have no knowledge of doing harm to you or others would at least imo not be a good act because that is acting unnecessary violence towards others. That person would probably be swiftly losing their powers to use divine lance, or at the very least the good variant of it.

Good and evil are not teams and they are not inherent. The actions ones do arent justified by alignment(neither the actors alignment or the one being acted upon).

Tell that to all the spell effects and creatures with the respective alignment traits. Look at fiends and undead, they are almost always shown as Evil by default, by the rules. Spells like Final Sacrifice are also considered Evil if used on sentient/living beings, even if the decision is consensual by the target. I could go on, but the idea that alignments aren't absolutes, or that they can't be, is debunked by that logic.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Spell effects are actions. Did i not say actions determine your aligment? That an action done by someone of a good alignment does not make it good. I dont get why you are bringing them up. What you do is what matters. That was my entire point.

As for fiends and undead. There are wxamples of non evil fiends and undead within the world of golarion. This maybe a small case but it does suggest that these things arent completly inescapable which was my own point.

If i had been more clearer in my post I might have suggested mortals, as the planar energies of the universe do exist and strongly influence planar and supernatural entities as undead. But I would not even have to go back as there are examples of even those who may appear to be completely shackled by their alignment escaping it.

You not only seemed to misinterpet my point about it is what you do that defines your alignment, not the other way around. You also brought an example that is simply not true in the main setting of the game.(even if it could in theory be broadly applied.)

edit: i would like to apologize if that sounds too agressive. I am quite sick today, and i have a small pet peeve about being misunderstood. I cant quite tell if i sound aggressive but if i do I apologize. I dont mean to be.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Alignment hasn't been an issue at all for our table, and it's a useful tool for the GM to see what the general intention a player has going into a game. If a group rolls up full CG the GM is likely not going to assume immediate cooperation with the local fuzz, and if someone says they're playing LE the GM has an opportunity to check in with them about their intentions vis-a-vis the rest of the group.

It's very much shorthand, not taken as prescriptive, and otherwise only comes up with, like, demons and evil deities. Once in a while a GM might say "Hey, that goes pretty hard against what you told me your alignment was and I kind of planned around that so, just so you know there might be some pretty big consequences if you go through with it"

That being said, I recognize the consternation it gives some groups, and wouldn't really mind if it became not the default in the future.


I have a certain fondness for alignment, but I don't blame people for disliking it. I think sympathetic and relatable villains shouldn't be over used. There are a lot of bad dudes in the world that are just bad dudes. It's nice to have fiction that doesn't always split hairs and throw Poison Ivy at me to make me question what I'm doing.

Sometimes there are folks that need their butts kicked, and those people tend to have a capital E. Real life 'villaims' have shifted my perspective a bit.


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pixierose wrote:

Spell effects are actions. Did i not say actions determine your aligment? That an action done by someone of a good alignment does not make it good. I dont get why you are bringing them up. What you do is what matters. That was my entire point.

As for fiends and undead. There are wxamples of non evil fiends and undead within the world of golarion. This maybe a small case but it does suggest that these things arent completly inescapable which was my own point.

If i had been more clearer in my post I might have suggested mortals, as the planar energies of the universe do exist and strongly influence planar and supernatural entities as undead. But I would not even have to go back as there are examples of even those who may appear to be completely shackled by their alignment escaping it.

You not only seemed to misinterpet my point about it is what you do that defines your alignment, not the other way around. You also brought an example that is simply not true in the main setting of the game.(even if it could in theory be broadly applied.)

edit: i would like to apologize if that sounds too agressive. I am quite sick today, and i have a small pet peeve about being misunderstood. I cant quite tell if i sound aggressive but if i do I apologize. I dont mean to be.

Yes, and I gave examples where, no matter your intentions behind the spell effect, the spell itself determines the alignment of the effect. Casting Animate Dead to shield innocents from a rampaging monster is still Evil, no matter if it's done to protect innocents. Heck, some people would rather be eaten by the monster than be protected by the undead. If a noble Familiar wants to give their life to save people via Final Sacrifice, it's still an Evil action to do, even if it saves innocents. The idea that "there's always another way besides sacrificing yourself" comes to mind on this one.

Consequently, using Good spells to do Evil simply doesn't work as well, and the Divine Lance argument is a prime example of this, because the spell possesses the Good trait from the Good alignment of the caster. Even if it's being used "unjustly" against commoners, for example, this is essentially saying "You can't go out and weed away Evil everywhere you go." Which is absurd: If Evil is so bad to have around, why have it around anywhere, much less in the sanctity of town, the one place where people want to call home? And if doing Evil is so bad, then there's one simple solution to it: Stop doing Evil. Once you stop doing Evil, you have nothing to fear.

And honestly, it feels like it's more of an abusive/Chaotic action than it is an Evil one; which has its own issues. But that doesn't make it Evil. There's also the factor of how practical this is, given that NPCs whom either don't actively worship deities, don't register as any sort of alignment, or simply aren't powerful enough, won't register anything on the alignment scale, so the idea that it's even efficient enough to do anything other than annoy people 95% of the time is absurd. (Though the idea of a town whom checks its inhabitants by way of Divine Lance to ensure its town does not carry evildoers is probably more effective and forthcoming with its promise to protect the people than the lack of said righteous enforcement to begin with.)

I know what you're saying, you couldn't have been more clear. And it makes sense from a grounded, mor(t)al standpoint. From a meta, subjective standpoint, though, it falls apart. Pathfinder and its developers have made it clear that there are certain things that cannot ever be justified as being something other than Good, Evil, etc. And the traits on spells and creatures are proof of this. The actions only matter for alignment if the effect or creature does not have the trait in question. Once those traits get put on the effect or the creature, it doesn't matter: It's that alignment, period. If it walks around with the Evil trait, it's Evil for it to walk around. If it casts Final Sacrifice on a willing target, it's still Evil.


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Animate Dead doesn't have the Evil tag in 2e.

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