Posts Tagged ‘game knight reviews’

This started as a reply to Brian’s comment on my last post, but quickly ballooned into something too big for a comment thread.  Brian said he likes my notions on the 3×3 Alignment (thanks, so do I) but he feels like there really needs to be consequences for breaking alignment — “If you’re a lawful good paladin and you strike down an enemy out of anger instead of in the name of your deity, there should be repercussions.”

Generally I agree, but I need to do a lot of unpacking to get at what I mean. There are a lot of things going on with that deceptively simple question.  First, yes, there should be repercussions for acting out of alignment; but there should be repercussions for any meaningful action, so this doesn’t really tell us much.  What I think Brian means, though, is that D&D has traditionally had mechanical and class-based penalties for breaking out of alignment, and this has traditionally meant that a Paladin can not lie for fear of losing their powers and being reduced to less-than-a-Fighter — how would I deal with that actuality?

I think that there are a few things going on here.  There’s how how Alignment affects a class, Alignment affects a character, and how Alignment affects the world.  I’ll address them in reverse order.

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here: it gets long.

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I like alignment systems.

I think the D&D Nine get a short shrift by most people, who’ve decided they don’t like a game that tells them what they can and can’t do.  (I think that’s a misunderstanding of the system.)  But there’s also the various Morality scales in White Wolf’s World of Darkness (Morality, Humanity, Clarity, etc); the Palladium Seven (two Good, two Selfish, and three Evil), though they strike me as much more prescriptive than D&D; and a variety of similar “this is how my character thinks and perceives the world” systems in other games.  I think they’re very useful tools for Role Playing and give a quick handle for internal and external conflicts.

One gripe I have with the D&D Nine is the choice of Good vs Evil as an axis.  It’s a reasonable choice to make, and like many things in D&D I’m pretty sure it developed organically over decades, but it seems to me that there’s a lot of baggage that comes with those terms.  After all, no one gets up in the morning and thinks “I’m going to be evil today” (with the possible exception of cosmic forces, I guess).  No one thinks of themselves as a bad person (even if they do bad things, it’s always justifiable, at least in their minds).  The catch, of course, is that the definition D&D gives these terms doesn’t line up with the baggage they come with — Good talks about putting the needs of others above your own needs, even to the point of risk to yourself; Evil talks about a willingness to hurt and enslave others if it is convenient or expedient, essentially putting your needs above anyone else’s.  It could be properly recast as “Altruistic vs Egoistic,” but that’s hardly as approachable as “Good vs Evil.” It’s also a lot less vague.

Yesterday, the Gassy Gnoll proposed that “Holy vs Unholy” should replace “Good vs Evil” and that it should be relative to the character, so what’s Holy for a follower of Pelor is very different from what’s Holy for a follower of Nerull.  Brendan commented that he liked the idea of Holy vs Unholy, but that it shouldn’t be relative, so Holy meant the same thing whether you followed Pelor or Nerull, it’s just Nerull’s followers oppose the Holy.  I don’t think that fixes the problems I have with Good vs Evil, and in fact it probably makes them worse, but it struck me that it could be an interesting addition to alignment, a Cubed Alignment instead of 3×3.

But what would that look like? What’s the difference between Lawful Good Holy and Lawful Good Unholy? Wait, scratch that.  Saying someone is Good Unholy or Evil Holy is going to quickly turn in to nonsense, so let’s start by replacing the current Good and Evil with Altruistic and Egoistic.  So what’s the difference between Lawful Altruistic Holy and Lawful Altruistic Unholy?  Can we even make sense of what this third axis could be?

Let’s look at the Axises we currently have, first.  In Law vs Chaos, Law represents order, honor, tradition, and authority; Chaos represents individualism, freedom, and impulse.  Neutral characters are neither particularly bound to honor or tradition, but also don’t chafe under it or feel a need to resist or rebel.  In Altruism vs Egoism, Altruism is about putting the needs of others before your own, even to the point of sacrifice; Egoism is about putting your needs above the needs of others, to the point of being callous or cruel.  Neutral characters try to be good neighbors, but generally are neither willing to sacrifice themselves nor victimize others.

So what about Holy vs Unholy? I’m honestly not really sure how we should cast the terms.  In some cases, Holy refers to association with or supporting the gods, and unholy would be anything aimed against them.  I don’t think that’s what we’re aiming for.  In other cases, Unholy is the same as wickedness, and Holy is some combination of Lawfulness and Altruism.  I don’t think that’s what we want either.  We could put it in terms of suffering, where Holy creatures strive to decrease suffering and Unholy creatures strive to increase it; or we could put it in vague terms like Good and Evil, or Light and Dark, where Unholy creatures strive for negative ends and Holy creatures strive for positive ends.  But the more I think of it, the less I feel it really adds anything.

Maybe I just need to give it more thought.  Anyone out there have ideas I might be missing?

There are a couple posts I read today about alignment, and since alignment is something I care about quite a bit, I wanted to toss my two cents in.

Alignment in 4th Edition

The first post is from the Dungeon’s Master, where he questions the importance of Alignment in 4th Edition.  He notes that 4E pared down the long-held Nine Alignments to five, and that two of those five are explicitly barred from Player Characters.  He goes on to note that there are no penalties to changing alignments, and that the alignments that remain are so broad and all-encompassing that it’s unlikely that a character would stray from them any ways.  He wonders if alignment even matters in 4th Edition.

To that I think I would respond that no, alignment doesn’t matter in 4th Edition.  That’s not to say that I think it can’t matter in a campaign using the 4E system — it can, and like the Dungeon’s Master I think it should — but it’s my opinion that 4th Edition has a drastically different perspective on what D&D is than it’s predecessors did, and that different perspective doesn’t care much about alignment.

D&D has grown and changed over the years; this becomes more and more apparent as I read up about Chainmail and OD&D compared to the 3.X that I was introduced to.  It was a war game that turned into an adventure game that became a role playing game.  And as a role playing game, alignment aid the player in getting into they’re character’s head.  It informs the player what their character’s morals and values are, and that should be used to inform the decisions and actions he makes.  Why must a Paladin be Lawful Good?  Because those are the values someone must hold before they would take up such a calling.  Why must a rogue be non-Good?  Because you can’t burglarize people on a regular basis and hold values focused on “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”  These aren’t straight-jackets or lists of things your character can’t do, they’re things your character wouldn’t do and the perspective he has on the world around him.  I believe the penalties associated with changing alignment in 1e and 2e are just ways of making the game care about alignment; they look like pretty ham-fisted ways from my point of view, but they’re the proverbial stick to encourage the player to consider his alignment before acting.

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I’ve been putting off writing a D&D Next post, partly because I still feel like I haven’t fully digested the materials, partly because my group only got a half-hearted playtest in, and partly because I’ve been interested in pursuing other things, like hexcrawl mechanics and fixing feats.  On Friday, though, my post on DCs got mentioned on Friday Knight News, and I figured I should go ahead and address 5E directly. (As an aside, the FKN posts look to be neat aggregate posts, and I think I’ll keep a closer eye on Game Knight Reviews generally, as some neat thoughts are floating around there.)

So, what are my thoughts on 5E?  Firstly: this. This a thousand times.  I don’t think anyone wants or needs a 5th Edition, and the genesis of one is something of an ill-conceived reaction to the fact that 4E lost a lot of players and Retro-clones and Pathfinder has been eating WotC’s lunch for several years now.  The answer is not to give us another franken-system, the answer is to give us what we want, and produce new and updated material for the four systems everyone’s already playing.  We don’t all have to buy the same product, and WotC should be more concerned that we’re buying their product than which product we’re buying.  I’m no publishing industry insider, but it seems to me that the realities of publishing have changed a lot, and I for one would be likely to buy material for each D&D system if WotC would let me (ask my wife: I’m still buying 4E producats and I don’t even like that system).

Anyways.  On to the actual 5E stuff. It gets long.

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Just a quick plug here — the role of women in RPGs is a pretty… energetic topic of discussion.  I stumbled upon an interesting article on the subject from Game Knight Reviews, and though I’m still making my way through it I wanted to toss up a link to the Women Fighters Tumblr page they pointed to.  They post pics of women in “reasonable armor,” the sort of stuff that’s feminine but functional.  Just a useful source of inspiration for players and DMs.