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Alignment

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world+mechanic = game
2007-03-15 10:32:12

For those of you who have cracked D20 modern (and actually an increasing number of other D20 derived systems/worlds), alignment seems to be going away. I don't know what to think about that.

I don't miss it in D20 modern since it allows for moral gray areas without anything as tepid as "true neutral", but I think it may be a necessary feature of sword and sorcery. Has anyone tried running a sword and sorcery game without alignments?

I've seen alignment pop up in a few modern games. If any of you have seen the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game from...Palladium, I think...it had an interesting alignment breakdown. They also had it in Ninjas and Superspies (a game that never got its due, and could probably serve as a good mechanic for a G.I. Joe game).

Any thoughts on the pros and cons of having (or not having) alignments?

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chronic game designer
2007-03-15 17:21:36

I -loved- the old Palladium system and ran several two/three session games using the TMNT rules in specific (it's probably the only RPG core rulebook that I've purchased more than 3 times). Their alignment system included such general mental state guidelines/options as 'miscreant' and 'anarchist' and 'principled'.

It was pretty neat, but in a world where everyone's a 5" talking giraffe with opposable thumbs who knows how to pilot military aircraft... alignments are very very hard to control/justify outside of a very loose framework of "Bob's a good guy, but not that good" or "Frank's a bad guy, eats kittens for breakfast".

Alignment in D&D and other fantasy systems is simply a way of determining valid targets for spells and effects. It's a status flag on your character, just like 'elf' or 'divine spellcaster'. It works for what it works for and is simple enough that it doesn't get in the way very often.

But if you're doing a less hack and slash sort of game and are going to track alignment at all, I like it as a scalar stat. Earn negative/positive karma type points for doing particularly strongly aligned things. Eventually, when forced with a particular moral situation where the player may feel inclined to act differently than the character has become accustomed, make them perform a check against their earned history.

I'm sure there are several systems out there that do this sort of thing, I just can't name any off the top of my head right now.

— i can still kill you with my brain
world+mechanic = game
2007-03-15 23:52:56

I knew a GM who used a system kind of like that. He'd start you off at neutral and then slowly move your character in whatever direction. However, I never saw a case where a player suddenly acted drastically against alignment. If it happened, a will roll or sanity loss would have made sense though.

2007-03-18 13:58:49

How about GURPS? No alignment, no classes, no levels. You can even download GURPS Lite . It's PDF format and it's FREE; so you can try before you buy.

Others RPGs where the PCs have the same alignment:

Dogs in the Vineyard

Kill Puppies for Satan

My Life with Master

Kobolds Ate My Baby

— Don't stop where the ink does.
inveterate gamer; prolific GM; world designer
2007-03-18 14:28:49

Yes, I've played heaps of sword & sorcery campaigns without alignment, mostly using ForeSight/HindSight, DragonQuest, and teh HERO System. It works perfectly well. In fact, I think it works better than with alignment, especially if you want to add elements of mystery, suspense, or intrigue. After all, most sword and sorcery and swashbuckling stories do very well without any objective way of determining what and who is good and evil. Characters being able to disagree about good and evil actually adds something.

world+mechanic = game
2007-03-18 22:21:17

I think you may be onto something there. Personally, I'm inclined to say that good and evil are too poorly defined to use in any kind of system, but there are a lot of players who like the white hat/black hat simplicity of it. There's something refreshing about knowing exactly who your enemies are and going after them knowing it's part of a universal struggle between cosmic ideological forces...but it's probably only refreshing because it's so flagrantly unrealistic.

inveterate gamer; prolific GM; world designer
2007-03-21 22:33:38

"It's probably only refreshing because it's so flagrantly unrealistic". Yep. It makes a change from experience, and so it's refreshing. But it can only stay refreshing while it stays fresh. After a while it gets familiar itself, stale: and then you can find it limiting.

I prefer universal struggles between ideological forces (or whatever) to be part of the world, not built into the game rules.

-Brett

world+mechanic = game
2007-03-21 23:59:13

Well, I haven't seen anything too promising as far as ideological alignments. D20 modern tried, but I don't think it worked well. Spycraft's 60's expansion wasn't bad, but it linked ideological alignment to feats (e.g., you would have varying degrees of feats that made you more and more...ideologically pure, for lack of an equally descriptive euphemism).

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